BOSTON -- Entering the 2013 MLB draft, the Boston Red Sox were sitting on a potential gold mine with the No. 7 pick.
Consider the following list of recent No. 7 picks: New York Mets ace Matt Harvey (2010), Los Angeles Dodgers two-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw (2006) and Colorado Rockies MVP-caliber shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (2005). In 17 combined major league seasons, these three players have seven All-Star appearances among them.
The Red Sox defied mock draft projections by taking high school left-hander Trey Ball with the seventh pick. In six starts with Single-A Greenville this year, Ball has gone 1-4 with an 8.55 ERA.
Now to the 2014 MLB draft, which begins Thursday night. The Red Sox will hold the 26th overall pick and 33rd overall pick, which is compensation for losing Jacoby Ellsbury in free agency to the New York Yankees.
“It’s fairly different, but it’s the place we like to be,” Red Sox director of amateur scouting Amiel Sawdaye said Tuesday in a pre-draft conference call held with general manager Ben Cherington. “We like to make sure our pick begins with a two or three because that means our major league team is winning.”
In his fifth draft as director of amateur scouting, Sawdaye will again join Cherington at the helm of this year’s draft. The first phase will be held Thursday starting at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast live from the MLB Network studios in Secaucus, N.J. Day one will include the first, compensation, second and competitive balance rounds.
Day 2 (rounds 3-10) and Day 3 (11-40) will take place Friday and Saturday.
In addition to picks 26 and 33, the Red Sox will hold the 67th overall pick on Thursday as part of the second round. Their position in the draft was determined by their record last season, which, at 97-65, was tied with St. Louis for the best in the league.
“We’ve picked in the 20s before. It’s harder to actually pinpoint the person you think you’re going to get,” Sawdaye said. “Think of the worst-case scenario -- you throw 26 names up and you say, ‘These 25 guys are gone, this is going to be our pick.’
“You have to line the board up exactly how you see it and just hope that you get a guy a little bit higher than you anticipate.”
According to Cherington, this year’s draft is one of the more balanced in recent memory.
“To be honest with you, this draft is pretty deep,” Cherington said. “It’s hard to say that there’s one clear strength.”
As is said every year, Sawdaye affirmed that the Red Sox’s strategy will be to take the best player available. Instead of paying attention to any of the organization’s needs at a certain position or previous draft history, the Red Sox will take who they have ranked highest, whether it is a college player, high school player or a high-rated player whose stock was hurt by an injury, as was the case when they selected outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. in the supplemental first round of the 2011 draft.
“It really all depends on who’s there,” Sawdaye said. “Clearly, in this landscape, the more money you have in your bonus pool, the easier it is to have some flexibility. It’s hard to see how we’re going to behave right now three days before the draft.”
The Red Sox 2014 bonus pool cap is set at $6,373,300, the 17th highest total in the league.
Under the sport’s collective bargaining agreement, each position in the first 10 rounds of the draft is allotted a bonus value to deter big-market teams from overspending on high-upside players with large bonus demands. If a team goes over its cap by five percent or less, a luxury tax of 75 percent on the amount over the threshold is assessed. If a team goes more than five percent over the threshold, forfeiture of a future first-round pick serves as part of the punishment. Since the new CBA was put in place in 2011, no team has gone more than five percent over its threshold.
In the third version of his mock draft, ESPN’s Keith Law has the Red Sox selecting Stanford third baseman Alex Blandino with the 26th pick.
“We know that ultimately it’s going to come down to our judgment,” Cherington said. “Even if we know there’s going to be some players off the board, [we have] a lot of choices, and if we have the best process possible we have a better chance to make choices in the right way.”