The MLB draft has far less hype and pomp than the NFL, NHL, and NBA drafts but that doesn’t make it any less important.
It only takes a glance at the teams having recent success to see the impact of the draft.
The AL East-leading Yankees drafted and developed baseball’s hulk, Aaron Judge not to mention their late 90s dynasty was built on the draft selections of Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams and Andy Pettitte.
The LA Dodgers seem to pencil in a rookie of the year candidate annually and the Rockies team that is challenging LA has a formidable feeding system of it’s own.
The Red Sox also owe quite a bit of their success to their draft and development system. The 2011 Red Sox draft that resulted in Matt Barnes, Jackie Bradley, Blake Swihart and Mookie Betts might go down as one of the best in franchise history. Most recently, the Andrew Benintendi pick in 2015 stands out as a top notch selection.
Unlike the Dodgers, Cubs, Astros and Rockies teams mentioned above, the Red Sox farm system has seen a rapid thinning out of talent due to Dave Dombrowski’s win now mantra.
Since arriving in Boston in 2015, Dombrowski has traded away Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Manuel Margot, Javier Guerra, Anderson Espinoza, Mauricio Dubon, Victor Diaz, Luis Alexander Basabe and Luis Alejandro Basabe.
These trades haven’t left the cupboard completely bare, however, the Major League club has a gaping hole at third base that needs to be filled in addition to a mash unit of a pitching staff that could use some duct tape. Filling these needs by dealing away more prospects will further thin out what was once a farm system plush with projectable talent.
The Red Sox window to contend for their next championship flag may only be 3-4 years which makes the prospect replenishment of paramount importance.
The crapshoot nature of the draft often forces teams to choose the best player available in the early rounds but team needs must be part of the plan.
The Red Sox biggest organizational need right now is in the pitching department, especially in the upper levels of the system. Luckily, the first round of tonight’s draft is loaded with college pitching arms.
Seth Romero, David Peterson, and Tanner Houck are three names to keep an eye for the Red Sox at pick 24 tonight.
Romero is a live-armed, southpaw from the University of Houston. He features easy velocity in the 93-95 range with an above-average slider as his second pitch., His changeup needs polish but is projected to be major league average.
Romero was suspended from his college team for weight issues so he does come with red flags. We wouldn’t be considering him this late in the 1st round if not for those red flags. We’ve seen Dombrowski ignore warning signs when drafting Jay Groome last year so I don’t think the issue will scare the Red Sox president away.
David Peterson is also a lefty. He’s already been drafted by Boston in the 2014 draft but chose to go play for Oregon instead. While there, the 6’6, 240 lb. lefty notched a 20 strikeout game. He also led Division 1 ball with an amazing 17.83 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Taylor Blake Ward of Scout.com breaks down his repertoire
Command will be the key to Peterson’s success at the next level, but in college, he’s been beating hitters with his low to mid 90’s fastball with plus sink and arm-side run, helping him work away from right-handed hitters. The southpaw likes to work inside on lefties with his fastball, allowing the run and sink to break back into the zone, jamming hitters or making them stare at strikes on the inner half. Working from a low 3/4 arm slot, Peterson has shown good movement on all his pitches, with his fastball being the best of his trio. His best off-speed offering is his above-average low 80’s changeup that he works against both righties and lefties. He works in a big-breaking curveball with a dipping break that he’s shown a feel for, but still needs to be refined.
Tanner Houck is a right-handed, Friday night ace for the Missouri Tigers. In 296 college innings over three seasons he has a 3.13 ERA with a 288/60 K/BB, including a 2.89 ERA in 90 innings this season with a 91/21 K/BB.
Houck is well built at 6’5, 220 lbs but he has a bit of an issue throwing across his body. This has drawn some comparisons to a young Jered Weaver. Houck fluctuates from 97-98 MPH on the gun all the way down to the 90-93 MPH range.
The concerns over his velocity dips lead many to believe he profiles as more of a late-innings bullpen arm or a back of the rotation pitch to contact sinkerballer. If Boston can tweak his delivery to get him closer to a 3/4 arm angle, we may see him find some consistency on the radar gun which could open up a slew of opportunities for Houck.
The Red Sox outfield depth has taken a bit of a hit in recent years but the major league roster is young and stacked at the position so the sense of urgency here is non existent.
There doesn’t appear to be much of a need at 1B/3B either. The Sox system shows plenty of depth at the corner infield positions with Rafael Devers, Josh Ockimey, Bobby Dalbec, Sam Travis, and Michae Chavis all ranking in Boston’s Top 15 prospects.
The Red Sox should stay in the arms race for a few rounds if possible while looking to beef up what is a thin middle infield group on the farm.
They drafted C.J. Chatham in 2016 but could use a viable second baseman in the pipeline to take the reins from Dustin Pedroia in the next few seasons.
Aside from the second base need the hope for Red Sox fans should be that Dombrowksi takes as many chances on arms as possible.
With bullpens being such a vital compinent for successful MLB teams and the cost of pen arms rising, it only makes sense to load up on hard throwing late inning pitchers.
That has always been an area of strength for Dombrowksi with previous teams. He may as well double down on that strength now.