So much for no more mock drafts. Taking his final stab at the first round before the 2014 MLB Draft, Baseball America's John Manuel is predicting that the Red Sox will draft southpaw Kyle Freeland and power bat Braxton Davidson with picks no. 26 and 33 respectively.
These projections stand in stark contrast to what we've seen from most sources. The Red Sox have long been expected to take a college bat with their first pick, and here we see a college lefty and a high school bat! What gives?
In this case, it seems to be a matter of taking what comes to you. In his last mock draft, Manuel had Freeland going eighth to the Rockies. However, concerns over 2007 arthroscopic elbow surgery prompted Freeman's camp to produce a fresh MRI exam for teams. While their willingness to distribute these fresh exams would suggest that there are no huge red flags with said elbow, Manuel seems to think that the concerns could be enough to drive teams with less room for error away from him.
If they do let him fall this far, Freeland would seem like an excellent pickup. He has a diverse repertoire of pitches including a fastball that can touch 96 and a strong slider to go with a work-in-progress curveball and changeup, either one of which could wind up playing at the major league level depending on who you ask.
What's really impressive about Freeland, however, is his command. Say what you will about his 128 strikeouts in 100 innings of work last year, I'm more impressed by the 12 walks he offered up. That's a 1.08 BB/9 which, when combined with zero home runs, paints a pretty good picture. So long as the MRI didn't show anything too scary, the Red Sox would probably love to have this lefty in their system.
Manuel's second pick, Braxton Davidson, is perhaps a package deal with Freeland. Manuel justifies this selection by saying the Sox could opt for a safer pick following a potential health risk in Freeland, so if they end up going in another direction, who can say? Still, if Davidson is not the college bat we've been made to expect by so many projections, he is still the big bat Boston's system could really use.
The first baseman/outfielder is young, but he doesn't look the part. Davidson is surprisingly polished at the plate for all his inexperience, combining bat speed, a good eye, and solid present power. Unfortunately, this does not come with quite as much upside as you might hope--Davidson's power ceiling isn't as far removed from his current levels as might be expected for someone his age. He's not a defensive whiz either, but he's also not at all the disaster in that department that most players drafted as first basemen are, and if he can hold his own in any left field, it's Fenway Park's.
Frankly, I'd be surprised if this is how Boston's first round selections play out. It seems like a bit of hopeful thinking to see Freeland fall so far, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see them essentially fill Davidson's position with the likes of A.J. Reed with that first round pick instead. That being said, if Manuel turns out to be right on either count, both players would be strong additions to Boston's farm system.