Just a few weeks from the 2015 MLB draft, we have a decent idea of who it is the Red Sox would like to pick. LSU shortstop Alex Bregman seems to be the primary target, but he won't necessarily make it to the seventh pick in the draft, meaning the Sox also have to be prepared to choose between high school outfielder Daz Cameron -- son of longtime MLB outfielder Mike Cameron -- and Vanderbilt righty Carson Fulmer, whom the Sox drafted back in 2012 out of high school.
According to ESPN's Keith Law and his first mock draft of 2015, though, those are not the only options. While Law projects the Sox to take Cameron at seven, with Bregman going second overall and Fulmer going eighth, he also mentions that, should the medical reports check out, Boston might be tempted to select last year's first-overall pick, Brady Aiken.
Why is a pitcher of such high regard from a year ago still available? Because he's recovering from Tommy John surgery that he underwent this spring.
That makes Aiken sound like a crazy waste of a top pick, but his upside is greater than that of basically anyone the Red Sox could grab at seven -- we discussed as much back in early April, shortly after his procedure. Aiken has front of the rotation potential, and that's difficult to come by: there is one pitcher in the entire Red Sox organization at the moment with that tag attached to them, but it's blocked out by a much larger tag that states he'll be a mid-rotation arm.
To put it another way, the Astros were concerned about the possibility of Tommy John surgery (or, at least, elbow problems) down the line after selecting Aiken number one overall in 2014, but they still offered him a $5 million bonus on the last day picks could sign, just $1.5 million less than they had initially offered prior to his physical. Aiken was and is a risk, but one who could make a real difference for a team as a starter once he develops. Even knowing there was something wrong, the generally risk-averse Astros still wanted in because of that.
Aiken is injured but the Sox should draft him
The Red Sox have an opportunity to take a risky but worthwhile bet with the number seven pick in the 2015 MLB draft.
The problem, of course, is that Aiken's medicals might not check out: some in the industry are concerned that his smaller than usual ulnar collateral ligament will cause Aiken to never truly be as healthy or successful as he would be otherwise -- think of the players who have multiple Tommy Johns and never see their careers truly take off because the procedure just doesn't take with their specific ligaments -- while other teams don't seem to believe it will be an issue post-TJ. It's unclear which side of that divide the Red Sox are on, but we at least know more than we did previously, which is that they are considering making Aiken their first pick in the draft depending on how his elbow is looking.
The other issue is that Aiken might not sign: he might wait until the next time he is draft eligible and healthy, in the hopes of making 1:1 money again instead of seventh-pick money. That would be a different kind of risk, but more for Aiken and his betting on his health than for the Sox: if Aiken refused to sign, the Sox would have some accounting work to do thanks to the loss of $3,590,400 slotted for the seventh pick, but they would get a compensation pick eighth overall in the 2016 draft. And that draft might be a better one, if for no other reason than it hasn't been ravaged by injuries and ineffectiveness yet like the 2015 iteration has.
It might never happen, but at least it seems that if the Sox are passing on Aiken, it's because they fear what they are seeing in his medical reports. They're doing their due diligence, and are intrigued by the prospect of a pitcher as good as Aiken in their system, even if they have to wait a year for him to get on the mound. Whether they end up with him or not is another story, but this is positive news nonetheless.