The NFL and NBA drafts are interesting because we know the players from having watched them in college. Everybody can have a reasonable opinion on Tim Tebow or John Wall.
But the baseball draft is a mystery. The best 10 prospects in the country could walk down Yawkey Way 10 minutes before first pitch and it’s a safe bet nobody would know who they were. Amateur baseball just doesn’t have widespread appeal.
For major league teams, however, the draft is a Very Big Deal. Drafting players is the most economical way to procure talent and doing it well can fortify an organization for years to come. What the Red Sox spent to get Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Kevin Youkilis, Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard is far, far less than one year of John Lackey.
The Red Sox believe they had a good night tonight. Kolbrin Vitek, Bryce Brentz and Anthony Ranaudo are what scouting director Amiel Sawdaye called “impact” players for the organization.
“That was as excited as we’ve been in the draft room since I got here,” Theo Epstein said. “We felt the draft broke our way. … Hopefully in five years we can look back and still feel as good about this draft.”
These are not prospects who will need time to figure out the pro game. These are college juniors who could be in Double-A ball by 2011 and knocking on the door of the majors by 2012 or 2013.
Here’s what Sawdaye and Epstein had to say this evening:
On Vitek: They project him to play third base but Epstein said he has the athletic ability to go to center field. … “Very loose swing, above average bat speed, projects for plus-power, drives the gaps, we think can play average defense. Middle of the order bat,” Sawdaye said.
When a scouting director says “average defense,” that’s a good thing. They grade players rigidly and anybody who can play “average” major league defense is pretty damn good.
Vitek said he was looking forward to meeting Dustin Pedroia, who he called a “cool guy.” That got a laugh from Terry Francona. “He said that? He’s not starting off on the right foot,” the manager said. “He’s got to earn some respect in a hurry.”
On Brentz: Sawdaye said the 6-foot, 185-pound Knoxville native has “light tower power.” Epstein indicated that the Red Sox have a verbal agreement in place with him and project him to go to right field. … Sawdaye: “He was wearing out Landsdowne Street” when the Sox had him in for a tryout. … Brentz was a beast during his sophomore year and made Team USA. A high ankle sprain caused some slippage as a junior but he’s fine now.
On Ranaudo: This guy is a moose, a 6-7, 227-pound righthander from New Jersey who had a poor junior season (5-3, 7.32 ERA, allowing 60 hits and 27 walks over 51.2 IP) because of a “stress reaction” in his elbow.
Ranaudo missed three weeks and gradually built himself back up. The Sox were thrilled when he fell to them. “He was the top college pitcher coming into the year and he slid in the draft,” Sawdaye said. “He’s somebody we’re really excited to get.” … Ranaudo has Scott Boras as an agent (or his “adviser” as the NCAA calls it) and will be tough to sign. Indications are that he will play in a summer league and that’s likely a ploy by Boras to show the Sox that Ranaudo is healthy and should be paid like the top-10 pick he would have been. “Good ones are sometimes worth waiting for,” Epstein said. … Said Epstein: “He looked healthy in the (NCAA) regionals. Without a downturn in performance, he’s probably not available to us. He’s on the bounce-back.” The Sox have his fastball rated well above average and his breaking ball as a plus pitch.
The Red Sox have three more high picks on Tuesday, Nos. 57, 110 and 143. Industry insiders are already saying the Sox have had a terrific draft and they can add to it.
No. 57 is the seventh pick of the day, which starts at noon. Here are some of the players the Sox could be looking at:
Sammy Solis, LHP, San Diego … Jedd Gyorko, INF, West Virginia … Yordy Cabrera, SS, Lakeland (Fla.) HS. … Stetson Allie, RHP, St. Edward (Ohio) HS … The kid I like is Rob Aviles of Suffern, N.Y. He’s a righthander with a projectable frame and a good fastball. I had a chance to see him pitch a few times. He’s signable, too.
Anyway, that’s it for tonight. Hope you enjoyed the game/draft coverage. We’ll have more of the same tomorrow,