The Red Sox added three new prospects into the fold Monday night during day one of the MLB first-year player draft, all college players: Ball State infielder Kolbrin Vitek at No. 20, Middle Tennessee State outfielder Bryce Brentz at No. 36, and Louisiana State righthander Anthony Ranaudo at No. 39.
Vitek, 21, possesses a solid all-around bat and is considered a safe bet to be an above-average major league hitter with average power and excellent plate discipline. He has a smooth swing with excellent mechanics and quick wrists. While his speed is only slightly above-average, he’s a smart baserunner. Due to his excellent instincts and high baseball intelligence, Vitek is a player that is able to play far above his tools. He played second base this past season, but will likely also see time at third base in the Red Sox system. Ultimately he should prove to be an excellent defensive third baseman with a plus arm. He already has a verbal agreement in place with Boston, meaning he should sign soon and begin his career with the Lowell Spinners later this month.
In three seasons at Ball State, Vitek hit .359 with a .440 on-base percentage and .664 slugging percentage. This season, he hit .361/.445/.691 with 17 home runs and 16 stolen bases en route to being named the Mid-American Conference Player of the Year and a Louisville Slugger First Team All-American. He is also currently on the Golden Spikes Award (top player in the nation) and John Olerud Two-Way Player Award watch lists. Vitek was also a weekend starter on the mound for the Cardinals, leading the team with a 3.28 ERA.
Entering the draft, Vitek was rumored to possibly be selected as high as No. 7 overall. He had long been seen as a possible pick by the Sox after Theo Epstein personally scouted him at the MAC conference tournament in late May. Assuming he will sign, Vitek will join the organization that drafted his college teammate, outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker, in the fourth round of last year's draft.
With the first of Boston’s two supplemental round picks, the team selected Brentz, a righthanded right fielder known for his high power potential and his aggressive approach at the plate. He is said to have tremendous makeup, and he has over his college career he has demonstrated raw power to all field and a plus arm from the outfield.
During the 2009 season at Middle Tennessee State, Brentz led Division I with a .465 batting average, 28 home runs and a .930 slugging percentage. In 2010, the 21-year-old outfielder missed some time with an ankle injury and his performance suffered, but he still managed to hit .348 with 15 home runs and a .636 slugging percentage for the Blue Raiders. Brentz was considered a top 25 player in this year’s draft class that could go as high as the top 10, so the Sox brass was likely ecstatic to see Brentz fall into their laps at No. 36. He should sign quickly and will likely begin his professional career in Lowell this summer.
Ranaudo, 20, was considered the top pitcher in the entire draft class and the second-best overall draft prospect heading into the 2010 season, this after going 12-3 with a 3.04 ERA and striking out 159 batters in 124.1 innings in 2009 on the way to leading LSU to a national championship. He flashed plus stuff in 2009, including a 91-94 mph fastball, a curveball with plus potential, and a developing changeup, all of which he threw with excellent control.
But the 6-foot-7 righthander missed time early in 2010 with elbow soreness, and that injury led to major mechanical issues throughout the season. He struggled to regain form throughout the 2010 campaign in many ways. His fastball never returned to form, losing its tail and its velocity; he never got his feel back for the strike zone, and he often tipped his pitches due to mechanical flaws. All of this resulted in inconsistent and often poor performances, ultimately going 5-3 with a 7.32 ERA over the course of the season. He’s presently still pitching with LSU in the NCAA regionals.
With Scott Boras as an agent, Ranaudo will likely demand a bonus as high as $2 million, and the big righty may stick to his guns on those high demands as he has the option to return to LSU for his senior season. Boston will have to bet on his performance from the previous seasons in order to give into those demands, but in the end look for the two to meet somewhere slightly south of those demands. Ultimately, Ranaudo should sign at the deadline on Aug. 15, head to the Fall Instructional League this September, and then start his professional career with Greenville in 2011.
The draft resumes Tuesday at noon with the commencement of the second round. Boston’s next selection will be at No. 57, a second-round pick that the Sox picked up as compensation for losing Jason Bay to free agency to the New York Mets. The best players left on the board as day two gets underway are RHP Stetson Allie of St. Edward High School (OH), RHP Brandon Workman of Texas, and OF Austin Wilson of Harvard-Westlake High School (Calif.). A few other players that the Sox may target on day two include RHP Chad Bettis of Texas Tech, OF Ty Linton of Charlotte Christian His School (NC), and IF Sean Coyle of Germantown High School (Penn.).
Mike Andrews is designer and developer of SoxProspects.com and a special contributor to ESPNBoston.com.