Happy to get extra crucial at-bats
Sox have 4 of 1st 40 picks in draft
The Red Sox focused their offseason efforts on trading for Adrian Gonzalez and signing Carl Crawford with the obvious intent of adding two star players to the roster.
A side benefit was that by letting Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre leave via free agency, four high draft picks would be gained as compensation.
The fruits of that strategy will be realized tonight when Major League Baseball conducts the first round of the amateur draft in New Jersey.
The Sox will make four of the first 40 picks, Nos. 19, 26, 36, and 40. All four were compensation for the loss of Martinez and Beltre. The Sox forfeited their first-round pick (No. 24) to Tampa Bay for Crawford. The first round and the supplemental first round will be held tonight. The remaining 49 rounds will be completed tomorrow and Wednesday.
“It’s always a great feeling to have extra picks,’’ Sox general manager Theo Epstein said. “I think it energizes the scouting staff for the whole year because they know going in and seeing players that there’s a much better chance they can actually get a guy.’’
Extra selections could be especially significant this season. The ongoing negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement could lead to changes in the draft, including a strict slotting system for bonus payments or the elimination of compensation picks.
Under Epstein, the Sox have used their financial might to manipulate the draft by selecting high-caliber players who fell out of the early rounds because of high bonus demands and offering them contracts well above MLB’s recommendations.
“We recognize that’s the system that exists now, so we should take advantage of it while we can,’’ Epstein said. “Because of the uncertainty I think it places an emphasis on the moment now.’’
Having four picks in the first round could allow the Sox to take a chance with a player such as power-hitting high school outfielder Josh Bell of Dallas, who recently sent a letter to the MLB Scouting Bureau saying he had no plans to sign and would play at the University of Texas.
The letter could be a ruse. Bell is advised by Scott Boras, who has been successful at matching his amateur clients with certain teams.
“You want to get good players,’’ Epstein said. “You want to combine upside and probability. When you don’t have extra picks, it’s sometimes hard to take that extra risk for the very high upside [player]. You can diversify your portfolio a little bit when you have more picks up high, take that chance.’’
Epstein personally has scouted University of Connecticut standouts George Springer and Matt Barnes. Springer, an outfielder, is not likely to be available by the time the Sox pick. But Barnes, a righthander, could be.
Another first-round possibility for the Sox is righthander Tyler Beede of Lawrence Academy in Groton.
“Excellent pitcher. Guy we scouted for a long time and we had a chance to see him over the summer and see him this year,’’ Sox amateur scouting director Amiel Sawdaye said.
Three other Massachusetts righthanders, John Magliozzi (Dexter School), Pat Connaughton (St. John’s Prep), and Adam Ravenelle (Lincoln-Sudbury High) are expected to go in the early rounds.
Another intriguing player is Alex Meyer, a 6-foot-9-inch 220-pound righthander from the University of Kentucky. The Sox took him in the 20th round three years ago and offered him $2 million to sign. He elected to go to school and has emerged as a first-round talent.