With the 2013 Rule 4 draft finally in the books, I thought it’d be fun to take a look back at all of the drafts that have occurred during the John Henry ownership era. In this piece, we’ll review their successes, their failures, the trends they’ve followed, and their emergence as a true $100M player development machine.
2002 Draft: GM: Mike Port/Theo Epstein; Scouting Director – David Chadd
1st Round Pick: N/A (to Oakland as compensation for Johnny Damon)
Analysis: This was the last draft in the pre-Theo Epstein era, and it’s somewhat of a mixed bag. Losing the first round pick certainly hurts, but considering it brought in Damon, a key player on the 2004 championship run, that can be forgiven. The big fish the Red Sox landed in the draft was Lester, who is current the ace of the pitching staff. In many ways, that makes the 2002 draft a success. Additionally, they picked up Moss who proved to be a quality selection, but didn’t distinguish himself from other outfield prospects in the system; thereby, making him trade bait. He was moved in the deal that sent Manny Ramirez to Los Angeles, and brought in Jason Bay from Pittsburgh. They drafted both Ricky Romero and Brian Bannister, but neither signed.
2003 Draft: GM – Theo Epstein; Scouting Director – David Chadd
Analysis: This was Theo’s first draft, but yet again it was another mixed bag. Of the 51 players they chose, only four reached the majors, and only one made an impact with the Red Sox. Still, that one player turned out to be one of the most dominant closers of the past decade, and was a key player on the 2007 championship run. Considering they picked him up in the sixth round makes the pick a huge coup for the Red Sox. Additionally, first round pick, David Murphy, has turned out to be a solid major league outfielder; albeit for the Texas Rangers. Like Moss, he was a solid prospect, but one who hadn’t distinguished himself enough to justify clearing a spot in the lineup. He was moved in the good intentions/poor execution deal that brought Eric Gagne to Boston in 2007. Murton never put on the Red Sox uniform, but he was a key part of the trade that sent Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs at the 2004 trading deadline.
2004 Draft: GM – Theo Epstein; Scouting Director – David Chadd
1st Round Pick: N/A (to Oakland as compensation for Keith Foulke)
Notable Picks: Dustin Pedroia (2), Tommy Hottavy (4), Cla Merideth (6)
Analysis: Like in 2002, not having a first round pick hurts the 2004 draft for the Red Sox. Still, I think most of us would consider having Foulke on the 2004 club to be a smart tradeoff. What they lacked in a first round pick though, they certainly more than made up for it with their second round pick when they selected Dustin Pedroia. While I’m not one to champion a player as the “heart and soul” of the Red Sox, but it’s hard to describe him as otherwise. He leads by example, sacrifices his body, hits like a madman, and plays outstanding defense at second base. Outside of David Ortiz, he’s easily been the Red Sox’s most indispensible players. Other than Pedroia, the other notable players from this draft were Tommy Hottavy and Cla Merideth. Hottavy made a handful of low-leverage appearances for the Red Sox in June 2011. Merideth was moved to the Padres in the trade that brought Doug Mirabelli back to Boston. He had some success in San Diego for a few years before arm trouble forced him to retire.
2005 Draft: GM – Theo Epstein; Scouting Director – Jason McLeod
1st Round Picks: Jacoby Ellsbury (compensation for Orlando Cabrera), Craig Hansen (compensation for Derek Lowe), Clay Buchholz (compensation for Pedro Martinez), Jed Lowrie (compensation for Orlando Cabrera), Michael Bowden (compensation for Derek Lowe)
Notable Picks: Pedro Alvarez (14)
Analysis: Easily the most productive draft of the Henry ownership era. Armed with five first round picks after losing three key free agents, Theo and team really made this one count. They selected five outstanding players, all of whom reached the major leagues. While they each have had varying degrees of success, this is the only time in draft history where a team has graduated five of their first round picks in a single draft to the major leagues. The most successful of the five picks have been Ellsbury, Buchholz, and Lowrie. Ellsbury reached the majors in 2007, and seized the job as the team’s starting centerfielder during that postseason. He was a key sparkplug on the 2007 championship team. After a few hiccups, Buchholz has become the co-ace of the pitching staff with Jon Lester. He was an all-star and Cy Young candidate in 2010, and he looks like an early front runner for both in 2013. After several nagging wrist injuries and a bout with mono, Lowrie finally had a chance to play regularly starting in August 2010. He was traded after the 2011 season, but he’s been very productive for both the Astros and Athletics ever since. Pedro Alvarez will always be known as the “one who got away.” He was later chosen in the first round by the Pirates in 2009.
2006 Draft: GM – Theo Epstein; Scouting Director – Jason McLeod
Analysis: If 2005 was the most productive draft of the Henry era, then 2006 is the most disappointing. Armed with four first round picks (and seven of the first 103), the Red Sox had a chance to take their $100M player development machine to a whole other level. Instead, they ended up with only one player from their four first rounders, Daniel Bard, reaching the major leagues. The other three flamed out pretty quickly. While Bard is something of a mess right now, he provided a ton of meaningful, high leverage innings from 2009-2011; that is something that can’t be overlooked. The Red Sox may not have captialized on their four first round picks, but they certainly made an impact later in the draft. Masterson, a player most would love to see return to Boston, has blossomed into a top of the rotation starter for Cleveland. He’d be an ideal #3 starter behind Lester and Buchholz Also, Kalish, Reddick, and Anderson all developed into top prospects in the Red Sox system, and had varying levels of success before departing. Reddick has turned out to be the best of the bunch, and helped bring Andrew Bailey to Boston.
2007 Draft: GM – Theo Epstein; Scouting Director – Jason McLeod
Analysis: This draft served as a shift in philosophy for the Red Sox scouting department. Where they had previously focused on safer college athletes in previous drafts, the 2007 draft placed heavier emphasis on high school prospects. Considering how stacked the farm system was in the upper levels of the minors, it certainly made sense to take some risks with high ceiling players that carried a significantly higher risk. Hagadone was their lone first round pick. He started out well enough, but underwent Tommy John surgery in 2008, and was shipped out with Masterson in the Victor Martinez trade in 2009. Ryan Dent, on the other hand, stalled out quickly in A-ball and never recovered. The Red Sox hit in later rounds though with Middlebrooks and Rizzo, both who look like they could be starting major league players for the next 5-10 years.
2008 Draft: GM – Theo Epstein; Scouting Director – Jason McLeod
Analysis: For a second straight year, the Red Sox focus primarily on high school players. They certainly made some smart looking picks. Casey Kelly quickly rose to being the Red Sox’s top pitching prospect after an impressive 2009 season. While he suffered through some growing pains and a trade to the Padres, it still looks as though he could become a successful major league starting pitcher. Perhaps the biggest coup of the draft (and subsequently, the biggest disappointment) was nabbing Westmoreland in the fifth round. Clearly, a supremely talented prospect, his career was cut short when he discovered a cavernous malformation on his brain stem. In rounds 6-9, the Red Sox picked up three very good catchers. Two of them have already reached the majors, and Vazquez looks like he’s a solid season away from being the “catcher of the future”.
2009 Draft: GM – Theo Epstein; Scouting Director – Jason McLeod
1st Round Pick: Raymond Fuentes
Analysis: While it’s still probably a year too early to call it, this is probably the worst draft of the Henry era. Fuentes, dealt to the Padres with Kelly and Rizzo in the Adrian Gonzalez deal, has done little justify his first round selection, and is currently repeating double-A. Hazelbacher was left unprotected in last fall’s Rule 5 draft, and wasn’t selected (that’s pretty telling considering he was in AAA last year). Jacobs is repeating high-A ball after a rough go of it last season, and hasn’t played well. Wilson is the only player that has reached the major leagues, and I wouldn’t be surprised that remained the case. Even with Wilson, his role is likely to be nothing more than a middle reliever. All around, this was a pretty forgettable draft. No one from this draft would make my top 15 prospect list.
2010 Draft: GM – Theo Epstein; Scouting Director – Amiel Sawdaye
Analysis: After a three year stretch of focusing on high school players, this draft suggestions a shift back toward college prospects. It’s too early to say, but so far, this draft is looking very good. Brentz has established himself as a top power hitting prospect; one who could potentially become a starter in Boston. Ranaudo has rebounded from a disastrous 2012 season, and has re-entered the discussion as being one of the Red Sox top pitching prospects. Brandon Workman has perhaps been the most impressive of all, having recently been promoted triple-A while staying under the radar. In Salem, Cecchini has turned a major corner by setting the Carolina League afire with the bat. He was recently named Keith Law’s #23 overall prospect in his mid-season update. Vitek is the one real disappointment from this draft. He’s stalled out in double-A, and hasn’t done anything to give us hope that he’ll be ready for triple-A in 2014. Five players from this draft would make my top 15 list.
2011 Draft: GM – Theo Esptein; Scouting Director – Amiel Sawdaye
1st Round: Matt Barnes (compensation for Victor Martinez), Blake Swihart (compensation for Adrian Beltre), Henry Owens (compensation for Victor Martinez), Jackie Bradley, Jr. (compensation for Adrian Beltre)
Analysis: This was the last draft with Theo Epstein at the helm. Again, it’s too early to call just yet, but this draft might be the best since 2005 simply because of the quality players they selected in the first round. Bradley is poised to be a major league regular, and looks like a lock to be Jacoby Ellsbury’s replacement in centerfield next season. Barnes is arguably the best pitching prospect in a system that is chock full of pitching prospects. Owens currently sits a notch below Barnes, but he might have the higher upside. Lastly, there’s Swihart. He had an up-and-down season for Greenville in 2012, but that’s to be expected for a switch hitting catcher that was selected out of high school. He seems to have turned a corner this season, and might blossom into an impact prospect over the next few years. Overall, this is an outstanding collection of players. All four first round picks would place among the top seven prospects in the system. Betts would make my top 15 list.
2012 Draft: GM – Ben Cherington; Scouting Director – Amiel Sawdaye
Analysis: This is the first draft with Ben Cherington as the General Manager. My early analysis of this draft is less than favorable, especially when viewed through the lens of the 2010 and 2011 classes. While they selected some quality players, most of their choices were of the low ceiling/high floor variety. Part of that was due to the quality of the draft, and another part was due to the new slotting/compensation system that was put into place after the new CBA that had been approved. (Luckily, the Red Sox netted an additional compensation pick for Papelbon that they wouldn’t have gotten had Ruben Amaro waited another week to sign Papelbon.) Still, Marrero looks like a solid defensive shortstop, but his bat has been called into question several times. Johnson’s considered to be a polished pitcher who could move up through the ranks quickly. Still, as the seventh or eighth best pitching prospect in the system, that may not end up being too much of a benefit. Then, there’s Pat Light who has done a Jeckyl and Hyde routine in Greenville–well, when he’s not suffering from repeated hamstring injuries anyway. The real value in this draft could come from rounds 2-5. Buttrey might end up being the best selection of the group, and is certainly one to watch down the road. Only, Marrero would make my top 15 prospect list.
2013 Draft: GM – Ben Cherington; Scouting Director – Amiel Sawdaye
1st Round: Trey Ball
Notable Picks: Teddy Stankiewicz, Jon Denney
Analysis: And the pendulum swings back toward high school prospects. Like it did when the Red Sox had a stacked farm system in 2007, it makes sense now. Ball is a raw pitcher, but certainly could project out to be a top of the rotation starter down the line. He’s still 18, and already has a fastball sitting 91-94. As he grows into his body, he should add more velocity. Plus, he has a solid change-up and a curveball in his arsenal that could use some additional development. Stankiewicz is a bit of a risk because of potential signability issues, but he projects to be a solid mid-rotation starter. Lastly, Denney looks like he could be the steal of the draft. The Red Sox already have a few solid catchers in the system, but you can never have enough catching prospects. So many catching prospects exist, but so few ever reach the big leagues.