Only a limited amount of colleges and universities field high-caliber football and basketball teams. As such, even a casual fan has a decent idea who the top prospects are for the NFL and NBA draft.
For instance, probably 95 percent of you knew who Cam Newton was before he went first in the NFL draft. But probably only a handful of you know that UCLA righthander Gerrit Cole or Rice infielder Anthony Rendon will likely be the top pick in the MLB draft tonight.
In baseball, the draft pool consists of every high school senior in the United States and Canada, every junior college player and every senior and junior at a four-year college, from NAIA to Division 1. There are thousands of players.
Some prospects go to big-time baseball schools like North Carolina or Florida. Or notable high school teams in Florida, Texas and California. But for every one of those guys, there are players like Bobby Jenks, who went to Inglemoor HS in Spirit Lake, Idaho.
Before the draft is over on Wednesday 1,530 players will be taken and most will never get beyond Class AA ball. Only a handful will become productive major leaguers after apprenticeships in the minors.
Theo Epstein said a few days ago that the draft is one of the more enjoyable aspects of his job because of the unpredictability of it and the process of rooting out players and learning more about them.
The Red Sox will make four of the first 40 picks — Nos. 19, 26, 36 and 40. All four picks were compensation for the loss of Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre. The Red Sox forfeited their first-round pick (No. 24) to Tampa Bay for Carl Crawford.
“It’s always a great feeling to have extra picks,” 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.”
Reading Baseball America's excellent web site or the work Keith Law does for ESPN.com is a good way to brush up on the draft. After doing that, here some players linked to the Red Sox who could get selected tonight:
Josh Bell (OF, Jesuit HS in Dallas): He's a switch hitter with power who is being advised by Scott Boras. Bell recently sent a letter to the MLB Scouting Bureau saying he planned to attend college. That could be a smokescreen to get a big-market team to pick him near the end of the first round.
Matt Barnes (RHP, UConn): Epstein has scouted Barnes personally. If he falls to 19, the Sox could snap him up.
Tyler Beede (RHP Lawrence Academy in Groton): The local entry has been heavily scouted by the Sox according to scouting director Amiel Sawdaye. He is committed to Vanderbilt and convincing him to sign will be costly.
Jed Bradley (LHP Georgia Tech): He is one of the better college pitchers. There's velocity, command and presence on the mound.
Blake Swihart (C, Cleveland HS, New Mexico): He's a catcher and the Sox need catchers, right?
Alex Meyer (RHP, Kentucky): He turned down $2 million from the Sox as a 20th round pick out of high school. So obviously they like him.
We'll have pick by pick coverage of the Red Sox draft tonight and report to you what the top pick says on a conference call. The draft starts at 7 p.m.
The Sox Prospects site has an in-depth draft preview if you're interested. Those guys do great work.