Major League Baseball’s first-year player draft is set to get underway Thursday night at 7 p.m. ET. The draft will take place over the course of three days again this year, with Thursday night’s phase covering the first, supplemental, second, and competitive balance rounds. Day Two will start at 1:00 pm on Friday, covering rounds three through 10, and Day Three will kick off at 1:00 pm on Saturday, covering rounds 11 through 40.
For the Red Sox, this will be the fourth draft led by Director of Amateur Scouting Amiel Sawdaye. Sawdaye’s 2011 and 2010 daft classes look quite impressive at this point, featuring multiple potential impact players in Jackie Bradley, Matt Barnes, Garin Cecchini, Anthony Ranaudo, Henry Owens, Bryce Brentz, Blake Swihart, Brandon Workman, Sean Coyle, and Mookie Betts.
On the other hand, the 2012 draft class -- the first draft class capped by a signing bonus pool system under the new CBA -- has looked comparatively poor at this stage. Admittedly, it's too early to draw any conclusions, but not one player from the class has thoroughly impressed a year removed from the draft. This year, Boston’s signing bonus allotment will be capped at $6,830,200, which is a shade lower than last year's cap, given that last year's bonus pool was bolstered by two additional compensation picks.
Sawdaye certainly has options to add some high-end talent this draft, as the Red Sox have three selections in the first 81 picks, including the seventh overall pick -- the highest selection the club has had since 1993 when they picked outfielder Trot Nixon out of New Hanover High School in North Carolina. It’s worth noting that #7 overall selection has produced some impressive talent over the last ten seasons, almost all of whom are now top-rated prospects or established major leaguers: Max Fried, Archie Bradley, Matt Harvey, Mike Minor, Yonder Alonso, Matt LaPorta, Clayton Kershaw, Troy Tulowitzki, Homer Bailey, and Nick Markakis.
Beyond the seventh overall pick, the club will be selecting at #45 (2nd round), #81 (3rd round), #113 (4th round), and the #7 pick in rounds 11-40.
Since 2005, the club has had some noticeable draft strategy trends, some of which were slightly modified in 2012 to conform to the new bonus pool restrictions. If these trends keep up, look for Boston to select a diversified mix of high-ceiling, higher risk talent and high-floor college prospects with its first four or five picks. Thereafter, look for the team to pick some low bonus, high makeup college players in the sixth through tenth rounds. The front office might then pick some high-ceiling high schoolers with signability concerns in round eleven through fifteen. The remainder of the draft will likely comprise of players needed to fill out the minor league affiliate rosters and a few lottery ticket draft prospects. (Last year’s trend was to draft a handful of supremely athletic football players who might consider baseball as a second option). Two other continuing trends are the team’s adoration for veterans of the USA Baseball National teams, and for college relievers with “low mileage” arms who can convert to the rotation at the professional level.
With that said, here’s a list of potential Red Sox draftees:
First Round (7th overall)
Clint Frazier, OF, Loganville High School (Ga.) -- An athletic center fielder with the best bat speed in the draft class, Frazier is one of Boston’s top targets. Recently named the Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year, he has plus-plus raw power, an easy swing, and an aggressive approach. The high-energy 18-year-old also has solid makeup, above-average speed, and an above-average arm. He has the tools to stick in center field, although he needs some fundamental development on defense. Even if that does not pan out, Frazier has the bat to stick in a corner outfield spot. Overall, his ceiling is an All-Star center fielder and a number four or five hitter for a first division team. He is committed to play for Georgia in the fall, but is expected to go pro if drafted in the top ten as projected. (Video: ESPN Insider Keith Law's scouting report on Frazier)
Kohl Stewart, RHP, St. Pius X High School (Texas) -- The top high school pitcher in the draft, Stewart is reportedly Boston’s top target at #7 overall, although it appears unlikely that he makes it past the Twins at #4. An extremely athletic right-hander with a projectable frame and ace potential, his arsenal is highlighted by a plus fastball and a plus-to-better slider. His fastball sits in the 91-96 mph range with excellent movement and impressive command, while his slider sits in the mid-80s with solid drop. He also mixes in a changeup and a curveball, both of which have the potential to be above-average major league pitches. Also a quarterback recruit, he is committed to play both baseball and football at Texas A&M, but like Frazier is expected to sign if he is picked in the top ten.
Austin Meadows, OF, Grayson High School (Ga.) -- Another high-ceiling potential perennial All-Star, Meadows is a large-framed center fielder with an impressive bat from the left side. He has a good approach for a prep player with a nice looking swing, projecting to hit with average-to-plus power. While he could stick at center, he may project best as a corner outfielder who has the ability to play in center field when needed. He is currently a plus runner, but profiles as a sold-average runner as he fills out. Meadows and Frazier are friends and high school rivals, so it will be interesting to follow their respective development paths. (Video: ESPN Insider Keith Law's report on Meadows)
Trey Ball, LHP, New Castle High School (Ind.) -- Ball, the top lefty in the draft, has a lanky frame with room to fill out. Despite that he’s still not full physically matured, he already throws his fastball in the 91-94 mph range with a clean motion. He also possesses an above-average curveball and a developing changeup. He compares favorably to current Red Sox prospect Henry Owens, as Ball has a better fastball. An excellent athlete, Ball is also a draft-worthy outfielder, although most teams prefer him on the mound. He is committed to Texas.
Colin Moran, 3B, North Carolina -- Moran is a polished contact hitter with an advanced plate approach, average-to-better power potential, below-average speed, and good makeup. He projects as an average defender at third base, with an outside chance that he needs to move to corner outfield. Moran posted solid numbers in the Cape Cod League last summer, and continues to post good numbers with North Carolina this season (.348/.478/.557 with 13 home runs and an NCAA-leading 85 RBI). He has a very high floor, easily profiling as an average major leaguer, although his ceiling is not as high as some of the other top players on Boston’s board.
Second Round (45th overall)
Kevin Ziomek, LHP, Vanderbilt -- An Amherst, Mass. native, Ziomek is the ace of the Vanderbilt pitching staff, currently posting a 1.92 ERA with an 11-2 record and 111 strikeouts. He throws a 92-94 mph fastball, an average changeup with plus potential, and an average slider.
Bobby Wahl, RHP, Mississippi -- Wahl may be off the board by pick #45, but if he is still around the Sox will give him a long look. A closer for Team USA in 2012, he throws a 90-97 mph fastball, a solid-average slider, and a solid-average changeup. He profiles well as a closer, but certainly has rotation potential.
Aaron Blair, RHP, Marshall -- Blair is a large-framed righty with a 90-95 mph sinking fastball, a plus changeup, and two developing breaking balls. His ceiling is as a mid-rotation starter.
Rowdy Tellez, 1B, Elk Grove High School (Calif.) -- A lefty power bat with a great name, Tellez is unlike many prep power hitters as he has an advanced plate approach. While he has played outfield in high school, he should move to first base as a pro. Committed to USC, he might still be around at pick 81.
Dillon Overton, LHP, Oklahoma -- Overton is a smallish left-hander with a low-to-mid-90s fastball, a wipeout slider, and a plus changeup. The Red Sox picked him in the 26th round in 2010 but were unable to sign him away from his commitment to Oklahoma.
Third Round (81st overall)
Chris Okey, C, Eustis High School (Fla.) -- A veteran Team USA catcher committed to Clemson, Okey is an athletic backstop with offensive potential and solid fundamentals, but questionable power and size.
A.J. Vanegas, RHP, Stanford -- Vanegas impressed on the Cape last summer, but had an injury-prone season with Stanford in 2013. When healthy, he throws a 94-97 mph fastball and a solid-average to plus slider. He looks best suited for the bullpen unless he develops a changeup.
Cal Quantrill, RHP, Trinity College Prep High School (Ontario) -- The son of Paul Quantrill, Cal is an advanced right-hander with a projectable frame and a commitment to Stanford. He throws a low-90s fastball, a decent changeup, and a developing slider, all of which have plus potential as he fills out.
Stephen Gonsalves, LHP, Cathedral Catholic High School (Calif.) -- Another Team USA vet, Gonsalves has lots of projection, but has shown some makeup and inconsistency concerns despite largely dominating high school competition. He could still be around in the fourth round.
Cavan Biggio, IF, St. Thomas High School (Texas) -- The son of Craig Biggio, Cavan is a refined hitter with plus contact skills, average power potential, and top-notch fundamentals. His future position is a bit unclear at this point – he could end up at first base, second base, third base, or corner outfield. He’s rumored to be leaning towards honoring his commitment to Notre Dame if he’s drafted in the third round or later.
Garrett Williams, LHP, Calvary Baptist High School (La.) -- A former Little League World Series star, Williams is a first round talent with injury concerns. He’s committed to Vanderbilt, and may be best served playing college ball and re-reentering the draft in three years. If he’s not selected by the end of the second round, he’s a candidate to slide past the tenth round.
Dylan Covey, RHP, San Diego -- Covey is a former first round pick with tons of projection, but he hasn't shown much in terms of results during his college career. He’s projected to be drafted in rounds four or five.
Thomas Milone, OF, Masuk High School (Conn.) -- Milone is a toolsy outfielder with more football than baseball acumen at this point. The Red Sox gambled on a few such players in 2012, so maybe they will take a shot at this New England product. He’s committed to play for the University of Connecticut in the fall if he doesn’t sign a pro contract. He may not make it past the fourth round.
Dan Slania, RHP, Notre Dame -- Another former Red Sox draft pick, Slania fits the mold of the college reliever that Boston would slot back into the rotation in the minors. He’s on the hefty side, but he has shown results and has gotten his fastball up to 97 mph.
Jacob Hannemann, OF, Brigham Young -- A rare draft-eligible freshman, Hannemann is already 22 having gone on his traditional BYU mission. He’s a toolsy center fielder with tons of upside. He’s been quite productive, hitting .344/.415/.553 in 2013, but there’s still a lot of development needed.
K.J. Woods, OF/1B, Fort Mill High School (S.C.) -- Woods is an athletic prep player out of South Carolina with plus power potential. His hitting and defensive skills are questionable, but there is unquestionable value in his combination of raw power and athleticism. He also appears signable.
Mike Yastrzemski, OF, Vanderbilt -- Yet another former Red Sox draft pick and yes, the grandson of Carl Yastrzemski. He has average all-around tools but no elite tools, likely putting his ceiling as a fourth outfielder. A college senior, he could be an ideal pick for Boston in the sixth or seventh round range.
Ben Bowden, LHP, Lynn English High School (Mass.) -- A projectable left-hander committed to Vanderbilt and the top prep prospect out of Massachusetts, Bowden is a candidate to be drafted in the 11th-12th round.
Billy Nelson, RHP, North Pocono High School (Pa.) -- A 5’11” righty with a mid-to-high 80s fastball, Nelson is a late round candidate. He’s committed to play junior college ball with Indiana River State if he doesn’t sign.
Nick Zammarelli, 3B, Lincoln High School (R.I.) -- One of the best high school players in Rhode Island, Zammarelli is a versatile gamer with a commitment to Elon. He’s another late round candidate.
Mike Andrews in the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MikeAndrewsSP.