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On draft day, Georgia on our mind

BOSTON -- The speculation that, with their earliest draft pick in 20 years, the Boston Red Sox are strongly considering one of two high school outfielders from the same small town in Georgia, Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows, brought to mind another small-town Georgia outfielder who once played for the Red Sox and was a scout's dream.

"Mature, long-muscled, well-toned athlete. Lean and trim. In top physical shape and takes care of himself.

"Legitimate major-league all-star center fielder with tremendous work ethic. A very smart, bear-down, old-fashioned player. Will reach the ML quickly. Is 90 percent sure of reaching his potential."

The report was filed by a longtime scout named George Bradley, who was working for the Chicago White Sox at the time, and can be found at Diamond Mines, the wonderful database recently started by the Baseball Hall of Fame to recognize the critical role scouts play in the game.

Frazier and Meadows both play high school ball in Logansville, a town with a population of approximately 11,000, or five times the size of the hometown of this earlier Georgia phenom, who was the No. 1 pick overall the year he was drafted out of college. A handful of years later, his brother, also a college boy, caught the scouts' attention.

"Very good hitting approach with solid all-around game. Square stance, wide set-up, hands back. Keeps weight balanced very well. Calm and easy swing. Patient approach. … Made all the plays defensively. Good feel. … Gliding, athletic actions.

"Very good overall instincts. … Not a physical marvel, but a baseball player. … Potential major league all-star."

That report was filed by another longtime scout, Jim Pransky, who was working for the Oakland Athletics at the time.
This player, too, was drafted in the first round, 15th overall, and he, too, wound up playing with the Red Sox. Plays for them now.

And if Frazier and/or Meadows develop into the kind of players the Drew brothers, J.D. and Stephen, became, any of 30 scouting directors would congratulate themselves for a job well done. J.D. Drew never became Mickey Mantle, which is how he was projected by one overzealous talent evaluator, but he had an above-average big league career. Stephen Drew is well on his way to having the same.

"As everyone knows, there are no guarantees in the draft," said Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington, echoing a sentiment expressed by anyone who has ever been in his position, as he and Sox scouting director Amiel Sawdaye discussed the Sox's highest draft pick since they took Christopher Trotman Nixon out of New Hanover High School in Wilmington, N.C., with the seventh overall pick in 1993.

"I think in any year, but particularly this year, we're going to take the player that we think impacts the organization the most," Cherington said. "The organizational needs or the player's position or anything like that won't come into play. [We're] looking for the best, as we always would, but in particular this year, the best combination of upside and probability of reaching that upside. The best talent."

There are rarely stone-cold locks in any draft. The first weekend of the college season in 2004, the Sox had a handful of scouts at Arizona State to see Stephen Drew, who was playing for Florida State at the time. Instead, they were mesmerized by a second baseman for the home team.

"Little chunky, didn't run very well," said Sox director of player personnel Dave Finley, then a special assignment scout, describing a kid named Pedroia. "He swung out of his ass but didn't swing and miss. Nasty stuff on the outer half, he'd just keep fouling off. Sunday morning, we're about the first ones in the ballpark, and there's Pedroia, and he was filthy dirty, diving and making plays. We never saw him miss one.

"I remember sitting in P.F. Chang's, and the conversation became, 'Why shouldn't we take him?' We thought he was at least Jody Reed, and Reed had what, 10 years in the majors? He'd probably be pissed at us now for comparing him to Jody Reed."

Whoever the Sox take at No. 7 on Thursday -- Frazier or Meadows, or a Texas high school pitcher such as Kohl Stewart, or a college right-hander such as Braden Shipley, Ryne Stanek or Alex Gonzalez -- they will do so based not solely on the opinion of Cherington or Sawdaye or Finley or a cross-checker or an area scout. It will be a consensus choice.

Conviction helps, though. And strong opinions. Like this one delivered by Luke Wrenn, the Arizona Diamondbacks scout credited with signing Stephen Drew but who was with the Red Sox when he filed this report about another shortstop.

"Knows how to play shortstop and can hit the ball to all parts of the park with line drive power. Made plays at ss that some big leaguers wouldn't make.

"He has made a believer out of me on the field and at the plate. Solid, all-around player at a premium position. Would like to have."

The Red Sox had the 12th pick that year, 1994. They took the player Luke Wrenn said he'd like to have.

They drafted Nomar Garciaparra.