With the 2015 Major League Baseball draft less than two months away, it's the season for predictions and mock drafts. The latest comes from Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis over at MLB.com, predicting Brady Aiken and Alex Bregman to the Red Sox, respectively.
Most of you should know who Brady Aiken is by now. Not only was he last year's first overall pick by Houston, but he's one whose contract negotiations with Houston collapsed in an explosion of drama. Normally, Aiken might be in line for the first pick once more, but between then and now the 6'4" lefty underwent Tommy John surgery, raising plenty of injury concerns.
For the Red Sox, then, a pick of Aiken would be almost entirely speculative. They won't be given the chance to see him pitch post-surgery, but that won't stop someone from picking him in the first round. It's no. 7, or not at all.
Marc has already made the case for why the Red Sox should consider picking Aiken, but I'll add my own two cents all the same. Historically, there's a pretty steep drop off in expected value after the first few picks in any given draft. Picking seventh is certainly nice (if you ignore how we got to this point), but the difference between seventh and third is far greater than it might seem for being just four spots removed. The gap between third and first? Perhaps greater still. Add to that a relatively weak 2015 draft class, and the first overall pick in 2014 starts looking very, very good.
Does he come with injury risk? Absolutely, but Tommy John surgery is not what it once was. It seems like just about every young (and old) pitcher winds up going under the knife these days, but most of them come out the other side looking just fine. All things being equal you'd greatly prefer that Aiken had never had to undergo the procedure, but the risk we're talking about here isn't as great as it used to be.
On the other hand, the risk incurred with any draft pick is huge. Tons of first rounders, even high first rounders, flare out and never make it to the majors. But that's far less likely with top, top picks. Better than a third of first overall picks since 1965 have been All-Stars, and the last 16 years have produced Josh Hamilton, Adrian Gonzalez, Joe Mauer, Justin Upton, David Price, Stephen Strasburg, and Bryce Harper. Only three of the last 50 have failed to reach the majors before retiring. The risk incurred by taking a typical seventh pick seems greater than the risk of taking a pitcher fresh off Tommy John surgery, to say nothing of the upside involved.
Still, if the Red Sox do shy away from Aiken--or if someone else snags him before they can--the possibility of Bregman is not a bad consolation prize. The Red Sox have already been linked to him before, and even drafted him in the late rounds out of high school a few years back. He's a middle infielder with some power, and if he's a bit taller than the Red Sox like those guys to be, there's enough talent there that some (Mayo included) project him to be taken before the Sox even get a chance. He's also friends with Blake Swihart, which can hardly hurt.