The Red Sox will have four of the first 40 picks in the 2011 MLB draft, allowing them to restock the farm with high-quality prospects early and often, despite their recent success on the field. While the draft is meant to reward teams who perform poorly, in order to allow them first crack at the best potential baseball players that high school and college has to offer, the compensation system in free agency allows teams like the Red Sox to stockpile picks when their players leave.
Because of this, the Red Sox, despite not having a single pick of their own--they lost their first rounder to the Rays by signing Carl Crawford to a seven-year, $142 million contract this winter--still get four spots in the top 40. They lost Victor Martinez, giving them Detroit's first rounder in the #19 spot and also lost Adrian Beltre to the Texas Rangers, giving them the #26 pick in the draft.
For Type-A free agents--both Martinez and Beltre fit this category--the teams who lost the player also earn an additional compensation pick, at no cost to the team that signed the free agent. So, Boston also gets a bonus, or sandwich round, pick for both Martinez and Beltre. These come in at #36 and #40, respectively.
Some legitimately great prospects can be found in the sandwich round. Last year, the Red Sox selected Bryce Brentz and Anthony Ranaudo with their pair of sandwich picks, at #36 and #39, respectively. Sometimes players who fell out of the first round due to a poor spring or significant bonus demands are picked up in the sandwich round, and because of Boston's wallet (and a group of scouts that have done an excellent job under Theo Epstein and Co.) they are often scooped up by a team like the Sox.
The sandwich picks don't always work out, of course. The last time Boston had a pair of compensation picks in the sandwich round before 2010 was in 2007, when they selected Nick Hagadone and Ryan Dent. Hagadone was packaged in the Victor Martinez trade--you could argue his being good enough to be moved in that deal was a win--but Dent is 22 years old and has hit all of .225/.306/.346 in his five years of pro ball.
The draft is essentially a lottery. The more tickets the Red Sox have to play, the better the chances are that they will hit on one of them. Having four picks in the first round this year gives them four chances to succeed, when there are many teams who just have the one chance, or maybe even no chance. Since today is a day for optimism, we'll leave it at that.
For the full draft order, check out Baseball Nation's posting of the first and supplemental rounds.