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Introduction to Long-Term Draft Theory

Don't make Youk mad. Really, how could that be a good idea? (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
Don't make Youk mad. Really, how could that be a good idea? (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
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Tonight at 7 PM, the Rule 4 MLB Amateur Draft will kick off. For teams at the bottom of the standings, it marks a day of hope, their potential path to rebuilding and contention. For teams at the top, it's a time to restock the farm. For the rest of us, it's a time to dream a bit, to look at a collection of high school and college kids and imagine the next generation of All-Stars.

We've done a fair deal of draft discussion here lately. I looked at a decade of Red Sox drafts, Matt Kory delved into Boston's 2007 draft class, and Marc gave us a look at analysis of this year's top draft prospects. So continuing this roll, today I'm going to look at how the draft has contributed to the current lineup. We'll stick to the guys who ought to be starting in an injury-free world, at least in part because I'd much rather talk about Jacoby Ellsbury than Scott Podsednik. Also because given the way this season has gone, the outfield will be entirely different by the time I finish typing.

Let's take a look at how the starting nine got here.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
36th overall (1st round) by Atlanta in 2003
Acquired by Sox: 2010 trade from Texas for Chris McGuiness, Roman Mendez, and Michael Thomas

Salty, as discussed yesterday, was always at the top of everyone's catching prospect lists. He was Atlanta's second pick of the draft, a compensation pick for the loss of Mike Remlinger. After heading to Texas in the Teixeira megadeal, Salty found his way here in exchange for an international FA and Boston's 12th and 13th round picks from 2009. Rarely do the late-round picks pan out, but occasionally they'll turn into just enough to net you a catcher.

Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
1st overall (1st round) by Florida in 2000
Acquired by Sox: 2010 trade from San Diego for Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, Reymond Fuentes, and Eric Patterson

Gonzalez never played for Florida, he was one of three players traded to Texas for Ugueth Urbina in 2003. He then wound up playing second fiddle to Mark Teixeira in the Texas system, eventually getting passed on to San Diego, where he proceeded to hit astoundingly well, even within the cavern of slugging despair that is Petco. It cost Boston two first-round draftees (Kelly and Fuentes) and a sixth-rounder (Rizzo) to get him to Fenway. Patterson was the PTBNL in the deal. Kelly's had an up-and-down year in the minors, Fuentes is still a few years off, and Rizzo, now in the Cubs system, is absolutely destroying minor-league pitching and waiting for a call-up.

Dustin Pedroia, 2B
65th overall (2nd round) by Boston in 2004

Simple path for Pedey. Get drafted by Sox. Hustle and hit your way through minors. Get called up. Struggle for a few months. Turn into fan favorite, perennial All-Star, win World Series, Rookie of the Year, and AL MVP by the time you're 25. Easiest thing in the world.

Kevin Youkilis, 3B
243rd overall (8th round) by Boston in 2001

30 players were taken in the 8th round in 2001. 11 made the majors. Youk's the only one to put up more than 2.5 rWAR for his career. It's distinctly unusual for a player of his caliber to emerge from the later rounds, and it's worth recalling how long Youk spent on the Pawtucket shuttle. Even under the new, more saber-friendly regime, Youk wasn't a full-time starter until 2006. Now he faces the distinct possibility of losing his spot to Will Middlebrooks, Boston's 5th round pick from 2007.

Mike Aviles, SS
192nd overall (7th round) by Kansas City in 2003
Acquired by Sox: 2011 trade from Kansas City for Yamaico Navarro and Kendal Volz

Volz was a 9th-round pick, Navarro an international free agent. Aviles was apparently not a guy Kansas City thought would work out (in fairness, they did snag Alcides Escobar to play short, and that's working out OK). When Boston acquired him, I think we all saw it as fundamentally a depth move. With Youk banged up, Lowrie a constant injury question, and Scutaro showing a bit of age, Aviles provided an important extra infielder. Now he's starting and doing quite well, and the backup infielder torch has been passed to Nick Punto. So... Yeah, a bit of one step forward there.

Carl Crawford, LF
52nd overall (2nd round) by Tampa Bay in 1999
Acquired by Sox: 2010 FA signing (7 years/$142 million)

Finally, the first free agent. One of the crown jewels of Tampa's drafting system, Crawford spent a decade tearing it up in Florida before heading north to much, much richer lands. I'll leave it at that, lest we have to spend too long thinking about the returns to date on that rather impressive contract.

Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
23rd overall (1st round) by Boston in 2005

The draft class that gave us Ellsbury also produced Clay Buchholz and Jed Lowrie. And, I suppose, Craig Hansen and Michael Bowden, but why dwell on that? Always a speedster in the minors, Ellsbury spent his first few years in the majors oozing potential and selling unbelievable numbers of shirtseys. Having established himself with a terrific playoff performance in 2007, Jacoby always seemed to not quite live up to our image of him. Until, of course, last year, when he turned on the power and destroyed the entire league.

Ryan Sweeney, RF
52nd overall (2nd round) by Chicago (AL) in 2003
Acquired by Boston: 2011 trade (with Andrew Bailey) from Oakland for Josh Reddick, Miles Head, and Raul Alcantara

Head was a 9th round pick, Alcantara an international FA. Reddick, currently sitting pretty in Oakland with 14 home runs (sigh) was, would you believe, a 17th rounder. Together, they've given the Red Sox Ryan Sweeney, who's been cranking out doubles and playing solid D in a very tough right field. They've also given us Andrew Bailey, whose thumb injury spawned a billion video game jokes toward the end of spring training. And gave us Alfredo Aceves, closer.

David Ortiz, DH
International FA signing by Seattle, 1992
Acquired by Boston: 2003 FA signing (1 year/$1.25 million)

Ortiz wasn't a draft pick for the Sox, but he has to be one of the all-time scouting triumphs. After several years of injury-plagued underproduction in Minnesota, Papi found himself released. Boston liked the idea of his swing at Fenway, and took a flyer on him. Almost ten years later, he's got over 300 home runs in a Boston uniform, and is the only man other than Edgar Martinez with any claim on the "best DH ever" title.

And there's the Sox' ideal starting nine. Three drafted directly by Boston, four acquired for prospects, and two free agents (only one a giant deal). A reminder that even with Boston's monetary resources, there's simply no substitute for drafting and developing well. And this doesn't just apply to the players you see as potential franchise cornerstones, but to the ones you're willing to part with for the right price. So over the next two days, when you're watching the results come in, keep a close eye on those later rounds. They probably won't hold the next Sox superstar. But they might well provide the guys we trade for Giancarlo Stanton somewhere down the road.