2005 Amateur Draft Preview

The Amateur Draft is looming – it is but just next week. Last year, the Boston Red Sox selected 2B Dustin Pedroia with their first pick (second round overall) and judging by the fact that some Sox fans are starting to scream for Pedroia this year, let alone next, sure shows how effective the Red Sox were in scouting, and ultimately picking, Pedroia, who has more extra base-hits than strikeouts so far in his career. Dustin even has the best SLG on the Sea Dogs! Alas, this is not a Pedroia article like many I have written in the past. This is about this year. Who could the Red Sox select?

With the #23, #24, #42, #45, #47 and #59 picks in this year’s draft, the Red Sox are primed to do some damage and vault their farm system up some rankings. Thanks to the Sox Prospects message board, “NHsoxfan4,” “newcastle74,” and “carolinasox” offered up their mock draft picks which allows me to learn about possible players that could end up in Red Sox uniforms. I won’t be mock picking here, rather this is a list you ought to familarize yourself with – these players could be stars in Sox uniforms two to four years down the road.

Let’s start backwards with what carolinasox came up with. He says that Reese Havens, Colby Rasmus, Justin Smoak, and Jon Egan are coming to Fenway Park for a workout either the 2nd or 3rd of June. This helps give us a good base of who the Red Sox are interested in, so let’s look at them. All the writeups are from NHsoxfan4, posted on the SoxProspects board. A big cheer for NHsoxfan4, and now:

Reese Havens, SS, Bishop England High (SC) (hits L/throws R) – Another possible English target, and is known to have drawn some Sox interest (Reportedly will work out at Fenway on June 2nd). This 6’1″, 180 lb SS has the hands and arm strength to play 2B or 3B, which is where he could be moved, due to his average range and speed for a middle infielder. Has a real smooth swing from the left side, which scouts like as a source for power potential. Possible interest at 59. BA has him ranked as the #96 prospect overall, his blurb: “Some scouts have compared him to David Wright and Hank Blalock.” Very interesting…good bat control also, as he’s hitting .530 (44/83) w/ 5 HR, 2 3B, 17 2B, 45 R, 41 RBI, 21 BB(as of April 25th), 2 K, 13 SB as of May 26th.

Colby Rasmus

Colby Rasmus, OF, Russell County High (AL) (L/L) – The speedy and powerful Rasmus (6’2″, 185) has elevated his draft status by having a 23 HR year, and led his team to the #1 ranking in the country, and won the state title. His very strong arm (touches 90 as a pitcher) and speed/range project Colby as a RF or CF, though most think he’ll be a RF. Competition level very strong, facing some of the best pitchers in the country. Also a slight possible Rob English target. BA ranked him the #30 prospect overall, and the 5th Best Power Hitter in high school. From perfectgame.org: “well built, lean…very good athlete, 6.82 in the 60 [yard dash], strong arm, swings the bat well, shows power, projects nicely…excellent student.” From brewerfan.net: “very good bat speed and a sweet lefty stroke.” Numbers: .487 (58/119), 13 2B, 3 3B, 23 HR, 66 R, 62 RBI, 21/9 BB/K, 18 SB as of May 26th.

Justin Smoak, 1B, Stratford High (SC) (S/L) – (Reportedly will work out at Fenway on June 2nd, Theo was seen at one of his games, when he hit two HR) Another possible Rob English target, and like Reese Havens, Smoak (6’2″, 175 [BA also has him at 6’3″, 195]) is committed to USC (South Carolina). Rated by BA as having the 3rd Best Strike-Zone Judgement in high school (no wonder, his BB/K is 47/3), and the #95 prospect overall in the draft. As of May 25th, BA has him on their High School Player of the Year Watch (Don’t know how this works, but he is the only one on there). BA’s blurb: “Switch-hitter’s swing, ability around bag have evoked Mark Grace comparisons.” BA: “Smoak’s solid switch-hitting bat and premium glove at first base have earned him comparisons to J.T. Snow, and he could get drafted in the first three rounds if his Gamecocks commitment doesn’t scare off scouts.” Went 11/15 with 7 HRs and 23 BB in state 4A playoffs, in which his team won the championship. From brewerfan.net: “amazingly clean stroke from both sides of the plate, with very sound and natural hitting mechanics.” “Projects to hit for both power and average, has good plate coverage and he rarely swings and misses.” “Very good side and athleticism, and should grow as a defensive player as well. He has a very good work ethic, and his character is considered a strong plus.” Numbers: .558 (48/86) w/ 5 2B, 0 3B, 18 HR, 48 R, 49 RBI, 47/3 BB/K, 6 SB.

John Egan

Jon Egan, C/1B, Cross Creek High (GA) (R/R) – Possible Rob English target, with the East Cobb baseball program connection. Like, Sanchez, has great power potential from the right side, but could move from catcher to first or third because of size (6’4″, 210), not because of his gun or his good defense behind the plate. BA has him ranked at #143 overall, his blurb: “Plus raw power makes up for questions about catching tools.” perfectgame.org calls Egan “one of the best HS catchers available in the draft.” “strong…plus MLB power, good extension, moves well, MLB arm strength.” If the Sox are looking for some impact HS bats, Egan is a very likely and intriguing pick in the fourth round, if he makes it, and he is hitting .588 (40/68 ) w/ 16 HR, 5 2B, 0 3B, 40 R, 45 RBI, 3 SB, (29/9 BB/K as of May 12th) everything else as of May 26th.

These are the four coming to Fenway, but these are far from the only players the Red Sox are looking at. A lot of people believe that Matt Torra, a Massachusetts native, will go to the Red Sox with their first pick at #23.

Matt Torra

BOS – Matt Torra, RHP, Massachusetts – Pittsfield’s own 20 y/o, 6’3″, 225 lb strike-throwing bulldog is having an unbelievable year, and has full support from both scouts and statheads. His low-90s fastball can reach 95 late into games and his power curve (think low-mid-80s) provide one of the better 1-2 punches out there. Fastest rising stock in entire draft. BA thinks he’s polished enough to end this year in AA. Ranked #23rd overall prospect (college and high school, pitcher and position players all included) by BA. His blurb: “Better prospect than Bay State’s 2004 first-rounder, BC’s Chris Lambert”. BA also ranks his fastball as the 5th best in college, his breaking ball as the 5th best in college, and his command the 2nd best in college. He is the only college pitcher to rank in the top 5 in all three of these categories, and only Torra and Craig Hansen rank in the top 5 in both Best Fastball and Best Breaking Ball. His numbers: 1.14 ERA, 6-3, 13 GS, 8 CG, 3 SHO, 94.2 IP, 56 H, 17 R, 12 ER, 16 BB, 111 K, 0 HR, .172 BAA.

Now let me lead you through a blizzard of other names that NHsoxfan4 throws out there before I give my preferences to who is picked.

BOS – Trevor Crowe, OF, Arizona (hits S/ throws R) – With Ellsbury gone, Sox take the next best OF, the very speedy, switch-hitting Crowe (5’10”, 185~larger than this), who’s got some pop, and a crazy ability to turn doubles into triples. Having one of the best seasons in college baseball, playing in same conference as Ellsbury, with better power numbers. Also a Silver Spikes finalist, and one of 5 Golden Spikes finalists, and from Terry Francona’s alma mater. Sure that won’t hurt him. BA has him ranked as the #29 prospect overall, his blurb: “Speedy center fielder has been college baseball’s best hitter”. BA also ranks him as the #2 Fastest Baserunner in college, behind only Ellsbury. perfectgame.org believes Crowe is “fast and athletic enough to handle centerfield.” and had clocked him at 6.6 and 6.7 in the 60 yard dash as a high schooler. Has a great, competitive makeup and work ethic. Numbers: .427/.500/.759 in 50 G. 94/220, 72 R, 22 2B, 12 3B, 9 HR, 50 RBI, 33/27 BB/K, 22/26 SB. 4 E, .955 Fielding%.

Other possible first round interests:

Jacoby Ellsbury, CF, Oregon State, (L/L) – Speed, defense, and getting on base is the name of the game for Jacoby Ellsbury (6’1″, 180), who may be the best college player in all of those disciplines. Ellsbury projects as a leadoff hitter, and has a good eye at the plate, while making good gap to gap contact. He reminds many scouts of Johnny Damon for all of these qualities, and it is a very merited comparison. Ellsbury lacks plus power, but is a very good athlete and projects to get stronger. His good contact (30/14 BB/K rate) only adds to his “future leadoff hitter” billing. Ellsbury often gets compared to Crowe as a possible OF target for the Sox in the first round (rightly so, their interest in both is widely reported), and if either one of them is available, it is very likely that the Sox will take one of them. BA ranked Ellsbury the #25 prospect overall for 2005. Out of all college players, Ellsbury has been rated by BA as having the 3rd Best Strike-Zone Judgement, the Fastest Baserunner, and the 3rd Best Defensive Player, behind possible future Gold Glovers Zimmerman and Teagarden. BA blurb: “Johnny Damon lookalike also has tablesetter tools, skills.” Numbers: .415/.504/.604 in 50 G. 86/207, 45 R, 17 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, 42 RBI, 30/14 BB/K, 21/29 SB. 0 E, 1.000 Fielding%.

Mark Pawelek, LHP, Springville High (UT) – Pawelek (6’2″, 180), a Boras client, is a rising prep lefty, the consensus top high school lefty in the nation. Has few question marks besides Boras factor, like the competition level in Utah, and his mechanics, which have been said to be correctable and not physically hurting him. BA claims he has command of his four pitches, fastball (it consistently sits low 90s and touches 95. velocity stays late into games, and he hasn’t dipped below 90 in a while), improving change, good curve, and a splitfinger. He is said to have good control of these pitches, as well as good movement, velocity, and command of his fastball. His character or makeup are also considered a plus. BA ranked him the #17 prospect overall, and had him at the 4th Best Fastball in high school, as well as the 3rd high schooler (pitcher or player) closest to the majors. BA’s blurb: “Best Utah pitching product since Bruce Hurst?” From perfectgame.org: “Steve Avery arm slot. Chg (75 mph) and SL (78-81) are good pitches. CB (72 mph) is erratic but projectable.” some scouts claim to have seen him “touch 96 mph and sit consistently at 93-95 mph with quality secondary pitches.” Numbers: 8-0, 0.00 ERA, 51 IP, 9 G, 12 H, 12 BB, 109 K.

Supplemental/second round (42, 45, 47, 59~)(in no particular order):

Daniel Carte, OF, Winthrop (R/R) – We know of the Sox need for OFs, and if Carte’s there they’ll look hard at him. Carte (6’0″, 190) had double-digit HRs and SB in the Cape Cod league last year, one of only 6 players in league histury to do so, and showed he could hit with the wood bat. Struggling this year, with a .33 BB/K ratio. BA has him ranked as the #46 prospect overall, his blurb: “Cape Cod’s top player in 2004 has battled through oblique strain”. Interesting possible cause for struggle. His numbers this year: .320/.380/.589 in 58 G. 77/241, 48 R, 14 2B, 3 3B, 15 HR, 71 RBI, 19/57 BB/K, 11/14 SB. 6 E, .947 Fielding%.

Henry Sanchez, 1B, Mission Bay High (CA) (R/R) – Played in same high school as Matt Bush last year. Another player the Sox would take quick if they needed an impact bat. Big slugger (6’2″, 260) has possibly the best power potential in the draft, can mash no doubt, defense is best at first, but very raw and instinctive. BA has him as the #31 prospect overall, his blurb: “Massive prep slugger has top-of-the-line raw power.” BA also ranks him as the Best Power Hitter in high school. Hitting .551 (38/69) w/ 11 HR, 9 2B, 2 3B, 32 R, 33 RBI, 24/11 BB/K, 5 SB on May 26th.

Chase Headley, 3B, Tennessee (S/R) – Headley (6’2″, 200) is having a great year, and will bring interest from the stat-oriented teams like the Red Sox, A’s, and Blue Jays. Could go at any of the supplemental picks. His defense is said to be average, as well as his power. He is known for his simply outstanding plate discipline, BA has him ranked as the #128 prospect overall, his blurb: “Vastly improved at plate since transferring from Pacific.” BA also ranked him as having the 2nd Best Strike-Zone Discipine in college. His numbers so far are .389/.538/.689 in 55 G. 75/193, 73 R, 18 2B, 2 3B, 12 HR, 56 RBI, 56/19 BB/K, 6/6 SB. 15 E, .917 Fielding%.

Michael Bowden, RHP, Waubonsie High (IL) – Mentioned in an mlb.com article as having drawn serious interest from the Red Sox. Bowden’s got the 3rd best breaking ball in high school, according to BA. The RHP hasn’t given up an earned run since his very first start of the year, when he gave up three, and he’s got arguably the best numbers of all of the high school pitchers, with 20 K/9 innings. He’s got very, very similar numbers to Bryan Morris, and also to Mark Pawelek, though I have no idea what kind of competition the Aurora, Illinois area presents, compared to Tennessee and Utah. Relatively easily signable, especially for a high schooler. brewerfan.net says he is “well-built…has a strong, workhorse frame (6’3″, 210~215) and a polished overall repertoire.” “Over-the-top fastball sits 88-91, touches 94 on occasion…shows good, late life.” “has a very promising power curveball.” “works well down in the zone, and shows an advanced knowledge of his craft.” BA’s blurb: “Has impressed with consistent velocity and advanced changeup.” From the mlb.com article: “scouts have likened [Bowden] to a young Roger Clemens in terms of his body type and athleticism.” “90-plus fastball and three other Major League-caliber pitches.” perfectgame.org says Bowden “has been steadily in the 92-93 mph range with his fastball and has shown plenty of consistency with his secondary pitches.” “commands all pitches well.” “High 3/4’s release point.” “Slider 81, Curveball 74, Change 78-80” Has ability to maintain velocity around 93 late in games. Could draw interest in the supplemental or second round, especially as a relatively high upside/relatively low risk pick for a HSer. He’s gone 8-1, 0.46 ERA, 10 G, 61 IP, 18 H, 7 BB, 135 K as of May 26th.

Joey Devine, RHP, NC State – Devine (6’1″, 200) is having a great year as NC State’s closer, and could go anywhere in the Sox’ supplemental or second round picks. His low-90s sinking fastball can reach 95, and has a good, plus slider (some say his is better than Cox’s “flatter” breaking pitch), but scouts worry that Devine may face difficulties versus lefties in the future. He commands the strike zone well, gives up very few walks, and has very good movement on his pitches. BA has him ranked as the #35 prospect overall, his blurb: “Could be late first-round target as close-to-majors bullpen arm.” BA also ranked him as having the 3rd Best Fastball in college, and being the 3rd closest player (pitcher or player) in college to the majors. His numbers so far are 2.45 ERA in 24 G, 4-3, 11 SV, 40.1 IP, 36 H, 14 R, 11 ER, 6 BB, 64 K, 1 HR, .231 BAA.

J. Brent Cox, RHP, Texas – Like Devine, Cox is having a great year as the successor to Huston Street. Cox (6’3″, 200) is a bigger guy than Devine, and has a great fastball, one that runs in the low 90s and can touch 95 on occasion. It has great life, and late in the zone, as a sinking fastball. But, scouts question his breaking ball, saying it lags behind Devine and Hansen’s. Others have called it “pretty good” or even “excellent”, but he has solid, sharp command of his pitches. He has the makeup and mentality to close in the majors, and commands and controls the strike zone well. He is pretty polished and should reach the majors at one of the faster rates in this draft. BA has him ranked as the #45 prospect overall, his blurb: “Former Team USA closer has similar stuff to Huston Street.” His 2005 numbers: 1.86 ERA in 32 G, 7-2, 13 SV, 58.0 IP, 44 H, 14 R, 12 ER, 16 BB, 66 K, 1 HR, .212 BAA.

Other Sox interests at pitcher may include Jacob Marceaux (RHP, McNeese State) and Lance Broadway (RHP, TCU). Both are having outstanding years as starters, and if they’re available in the early supplemental, the Sox need to look into these less-known prospects.

Marceaux (6’2″, 195) is said to have a mid-90s fastball with late movement, and a good changeup, with a slider and curve as well. He has improved his control with all of his pitches. BA has him ranked as the #49 prospect overall, his blurb: “Comparisons to Roy Oswalt stem from body, heater, spike curve.” from BA’s pre-draft blog:

McNeese State junior righthander Jacob Marceaux struck out nine batters Thursday in a 6-1 complete-game victory against UT San Antonio. He allowed five hits and two walks in pitching his fourth complete game in five starts. He’s 5-0, 2.66 with a 47-16 strikeout-walk ratio and 35 hits allowed in his last 44 innings. His 6-foot-2 frame and repertoire of a low-to-mid 90s sinking fastball, power slider and hard downward-breaking curveball remind some scouts of current Houston righthander Roy Oswalt. Marceaux could pitch his way into the first round, but is more likely to go in the supplemental first round.

Broadway (6’4″, 185~195) is more polished than raw stuff, has a good pitcher’s frame, and uses a low-90s fastball effectively along with a good, hard curve, his K pitch. The scouts like Marceaux better, but the statheads prefer Broadway, who shut out the #2 team in the country, Tulane, in a CG victory on 5/20, with 4 H, 1 BB, and 10 K. BA has Broadway ranked as the #48 prospect overall, his blurb: “One of draft’s best curveballs has made him TCU’s consistent ace.” perfectgame.org says he “pitches in the upper 80’s and low 90’s with an excellent curveball, good change up and precise command.” The Red Sox have also been known lately to have been going hard on Broadway.

Broadway’s numbers: 1.76 ERA in 14 GS. 13-1, 4 CG, 1 SHO, 102 IP, 74 H, 27 R, 20 ER, 31 BB, 135 K, 2 HR, .193 BAA.

Marceaux’s numbers: 3.05 ERA in 14 GS. 6-5, 4 CG, 0 SHO, 100.1 IP, 85 H, 43 R, 34 ER, 29 BB, 105 K, 3 HR, .223 BAA.

There! So who do I like out of all this bunch? Matt Torra, Matt Pawlecek, and Michael Bowden for pitchers. Justin Smoak and Jacoby Ellsbury add depth to 1B and OF in the Sox system, and that’s five out of the six picks the Red Sox have. It’s probably a long shot, but if we can grab everyone on this list, I’ll be very happy. What the Red Sox should do is concentrate on pitching (as always) and then turn their attention to 1B and OF because we have pretty good depth in the middle infield while we don’t really have any answers at 1B and OF, at least not as many as there are for the middle infield. Perhaps you round the draft out taking another pitcher or outfielder, but at the very least, out of the first five picks, I would want three to be pitchers with the two others at 1B and OF. Torra looks like a stud and could advance rapidly through the system. I love Pawlecek’s statistics – a 0.00 ERA, a lefty, 51 IP, 12 H, 12 BB, 109 K. Ellsbury is just fascinating, but as is said, could be gone before the Red Sox can nab him, at which point we could have Crowe. Smoak is a basher with defense at first.

Matt Torra is probably the most intriguing here because of his potential talent, his current talent, the fact that he’s been in college, and a native of Massachusetts, which the Red Sox certainly know about (and based on previous reports, factor into their picks). The only problem is that Torra might be gone before then, so it’s wait and see. If you’re looking for a mock draft in this space, I offer up newcastle74’s picks:

#23-Matt Torra, RP, UMass (Though it looks like Torra may be gone, the good news is it looks like a high-ceiling pitcher, like McCormick or Weaver, if he’s in the draft, may drop to here. I think the Sox take the best college pitcher available.)

#26-Colby Rasmus, OF, HS (No concrete reason, but I really like a HS bat here. I like Rasmus more than Drennen, though if Ellsbury or Crowe are available, which I don’t expect them to be, I think they get the nod. Sanchez also possible.)

#42-Joey Devine, RP, NC St. (If he lasts this long)

#45-Jed Lowrie, 2B, Stanford (Bat too good to pass up)

#47-Daniel Carte, OF, Winthrop (Bat too good to pass up)

#59-Reese Havens, SS, HS (This pick could be anybody, but I tend to think it’ll be another HS player. I don’t think the Sox will be as college-heavy as everyone thinks they will be.)

4th/5th rnd-Ideally, it’ll be Jon Egan & Justin Maxwell (or Jeremy Slayden), but not bloody likely.

Bloody good, newcastle!

One thing’s for sure, the plunder the Red Sox have this year will go a long way in determining the future of the Red Sox. If we have a horrible draft, our minor league system still stays pretty bare. If it’s a great draft, we have tons of trading chips and contributors down the line. This draft with its number of picks will affect the Red Sox for years (or decades) to come.

When the draft finishes, I’ll put a list right here of who was picked. Check back then.

This column was all about youth, so let’s throw some age in. Out of the oldest players to pitch in the major leagues this year (Roger Clemens, David Wells, Jeff Fassero, Jamie Moyer, all 42) all of them have in one point in their career pitched for the Red Sox. Very odd.