New draft rules mean that Boston's 2013 second-round selection is in a weird place
The Red Sox were so awful in 2012 that they have a top-10 protected draft selection in the 2013 draft. They will pick seventh next June, their first selection that early since 1993, when Trot Nixon was taken seventh-overall. That stuff is all obvious, though. Where Boston is picking with their next selection, their second-round pick, is much more up for grabs.
When compared to their first-round pick, it's easy to say Boston shouldn't have a problem giving up their second-rounder as compensation for signing a free agent. Serious talents with high upside often come out of the first few picks in the draft, and Boston usually has to wait for someone like that to fall to them because of injury or ineffectiveness in their junior year in college. (Think players like Jackie Bradley, or Anthony Ranaudo. The potential positive and negatives of the strategy.) Of the nine players extended qualifying offers, eight were on teams other than Boston's, meaning there are eight potential candidates the Red Sox could sign, therefore forfeiting their second-round selection, the first unprotected pick in their draft.
Normally, because of compensation picks, the second-round pick would be pushed back deeper into the draft. The more compensation-eligible free agent signings, the later in the draft this pick would occur. And with Boston tending to pick towards the back of the draft, anyway, things would be even later on in a relative sense for them. For example, Boston's 2012 second-round selection was the #87 pick. This year, though, things are going to be very different, and much faster-paced.
Previously, a team would receive a sandwich-round pick for compensation on a Type-A player, the equivalent of today's qualifying offer recipients. There were far more Type-A free agents, though, and therefore more opportunities for sandwich picks. Other than the quantity, that part is the same. What's changed is that there are now fewer picks that occur before sandwich round. Rather than transferring the signing team's first-round selection to the club that lost the player -- as the Phillies had to do to the Red Sox last June, thanks to signing Jonathan Papelbon -- the signing team's pick now simply vanishes. The sandwich pick still exists, but everyone else in the order just moves up one.
Imagine that the eight remaining recipients of qualifying offers all sign with a team other than their original one. That's eight draft picks gone poof, replaced by eight compensation picks. That's not the only change, though, as there are now additional picks for small-market teams that slot in after the first and second rounds, six in each set. So, you get 30 first-round picks (including however many compensation picks), then six of these lottery picks for small-market clubs. Then, the second round begins.
For 2013, if we're assuming all eight remaining qualifying offer players merit compensation, that's 23 first-round picks (the Pirates get to pick at nine thanks to failure to sign Mark Appel last summer), and then eight compensation picks. Follow that with the six lottery ones, and the first pick of the second comes in at 38 overall. Boston, as the seventh team picking, would select at 44. Or, 43 spots ahead of where they did in 2012.
In that sense, with this new format (and at least in this particular season where Boston picks earlier than usual), the second-round selection they would lose has much more value than their past picks in the same area. In fact, it's much closer to some of the late-round sandwich picks they've made in recent years -- Jackie Bradley went at 40, Anthony Ranaudo at 39.
Then again, this also works to show us how sketchy things start to get in terms of ability and projection this late in the draft. Boston picked Bryan Price at 45 in 2008, Michael Bowden at 47 in 2005, Caleb Clay at 44 in 2006. What ends up available this late in the draft has a lot to do with how deep a particular draft class is, and the years that it was Bradley and Ranaudo were considered deep ones. Picking a Dustin Pedroia or Jon Lester in the second has a lot to do with availability as well as the ability to scout and discern talent. As the 2013 draft is not considered particularly deep, if Boston were going to pick a season to give up the #44 pick (or thereabouts) this one fits the bill well. And if not, then at least they have something that's the equivalent of a compensation pick, relative to past years.