Red Sox ready to restock farm system with Draft
Club doesn't mind lower pick this season following 2013 World Series title
The Red Sox are back in a familiar spot -- near the bottom of the first round in the First-Year Player Draft.
And you won't hear any complaints from the offices on Yawkey Way. The Red Sox recorded 97 victories in 2013 en route to a World Series championship. And if that means picking 26th overall when the Draft kicks off tonight, then so be it.
In 2013, the Red Sox had the seventh overall pick for the first time since 1994 -- the only perk from a nightmarish '12 season in which they lost 93 games.
"It's always good to be back at the end of the first round," said Amiel Sawdaye, the director of amateur scouting for the Red Sox. "I think the most important thing obviously is what happens on the big league field. When your pick begins with a 2, it's probably always a good thing. It means you had some success at the big league level."
Though losing Jacoby Ellsbury to the Yankees wasn't ideal, the Red Sox now get their reward for that when they get a compensatory pick -- No. 33 overall on Thursday.
Under the watch of Sawdaye and his predecessor and former boss Jason McLeod, Boston has had much success in recent years on Draft day.
Look no further than right-hander Brandon Workman, who was trusted enough to pitch setup relief in Game 6 of last year's World Series, and is currently filling in for the injured Felix Doubront in the rotation. Or Jackie Bradley Jr., who is the club's starting center fielder this season.
"It's nice to see the young guys coming up and helping," said Sawdaye. "As always, there's a good blend of veteran leadership, and hopefully some of the young guys can step in and do their job -- whether it's for a short two-week period or whether it's a couple of months. I think it's refreshing."
The 2014 Draft will take place tonight through Saturday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network tonight at 6 p.m. ET. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 6 p.m., with the top 74 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of the second and third days will begin with a live Draft show at 12:30 p.m. ET on Friday.
Red Sox bonus pool
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 200 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. Every selection will be tweeted live from @MLBDraftTracker, and you can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
Despite their recent success in the Draft, the Red Sox are always looking for ways to improve the process.
"The interesting thing is I don't think we ever kind of sit on our laurels," said Sawdaye. "We always realize we have to get better and we examine -- especially in the offseason -- we try to examine all parts of our operation and our process and see which areas we may be able to improve. I think every year we tend to look at it and say we're getting a little better, whether it's more experience on the scouting staff or more comfort with some analytical tools or whatever it may be."
In about 50 words
With picks No. 26 and 33, the Red Sox have some flexibility early.
"Just looking at the Draft board, you can strategize a little bit if you like two players and you say, 'You know what, maybe we can get this guy a little bit later.' It does offer a little more flexibility, and it's always nice to have an extra pick," said Sawdaye.
"Early on, I really thought it was going to be a pretty strong Draft. I still think there are a lot of big leaguers in the Draft, and there are impact big leaguers in every Draft. And believe it or not, they come in every round in different shapes or sizes. I think, as probably as a lot of people have seen, the Draft hit a little bit of a snag to some degree when some of the higher-end players have had some medical concerns. That doesn't mean those guys aren't good players still. It impacts the way some teams probably look at it, but I still think there's a lot of talent in this year's draft." -- Sawdaye
MLB.com draft guru Jonathan Mayo has the Red Sox taking Derek Fisher in his mock draft. The outfielder, who plays college ball at Virginia, missed a good chunk of the season with a broken hamate bone in his right wrist. He profiles as a corner outfielder who can hit for average and power.
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team has an alloted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of that club's selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. The signing bonuses for a team's selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any bonus greater than $100,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.
Any team going up to five percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75 percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75 percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100 percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100 percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.
The Red Sox have been assigned a pool of $6,373,300, which ranks 16th in the Majors. The value assigned to Boston's first-round pick is $1,870,500. The value assigned to the compensation pick for losing Ellsbury is $1,678,000.
"The good thing is that I do believe the kids who want to [play] sign and play pro ball, and now they're playing pro ball for the right reasons," said Sawdaye. "It's not because teams are throwing a ton of money at them. It's frankly because that's what their interests are. They want to play professional baseball. The kids that want to go to college go to college. It's still not perfect, but I think it's made the Draft as close to a meritocracy as we've seen, where the best players go at the top of the Draft. There's probably some tweaks that will be made in the future for those middle rounds, but I do think it's been a pretty good change."
Relatively stocked in their farm system at the position of pitcher and catcher, the Red Sox could be on the hunt for some corner infielders with power. Outfield could be another spot in which Boston tries to find some more difference-makers. But no matter how good the pitching looks at the upper Minors these days, the Sox are one of 30 teams always looking for more pitching.
"I think it's pretty balanced," Sawdaye said of this year's Draft. "There's a lot of high school pitching, and there's a bunch of good college players in the Draft. Do I still think we're feeling a little bit of the effect of the previous CBA? Probably. [Blake] Swihart, [Mookie] Betts, guys that we signed in 2011, would have been juniors in college. There are probably some of these high school kids that teams sign that would have gone to college or would have been in this Draft. But for the most part, I still think there's some pretty good players."
* RECENT DRAFT HISTORY *
Betts, taking in the fifth round in 2011, has been perhaps the most hyped prospect of the season for the Red Sox. An exciting athlete who can play a variety of different positions, Betts got off to a red-hot start at Double-A Portland. He could make his way to Fenway Park by next season, if not sooner.
"At the end of his  season in Lowell, he wasn't even on the [media's] radar," said Sawdaye. "A year later, he was starting to open some eyes. Two years later, he's pretty much a household name in New England."
Red Sox righty reliever Burke Badenhop was a 19th-round pick by the Tigers in 2005 and has gone on to have a solid, if well-traveled, career. Lefty Craig Breslow, a highly dependable reliever, was a non-prospect when he was taken in the 26th round by the Brewers in '02. Jonny Gomes, who has gone on to have a nice career as a platoon outfielder, was an 18th-round pick by the Rays in '01.
In The Show
Clay Buchholz, Rubby De La Rosa, Jon Lester, Brandon Workman, Dustin Pedroia, Will Middlebrooks and Bradley are all players on the 2014 Red Sox who were drafted and developed by the club. Xander Bogaerts was signed as an international free agent on Aug. 23, 2009.
Red Sox's recent top picks
2013: Trey Ball, LHP, Class-A Greenville
2012: Deven Marrero, SS, Double-A Portland
2011: Matt Barnes, RHP, Triple-A Pawtucket
2010: Kolbrin Vitek, 3B, Retired
2009: Reymond Fuentes, OF, Double-A San Antonio (Padres)