The 2015 MLB Draft will begin on June 8, and the Red Sox pick seventh for the second time in three years. With that date coming up on us fast, it's time to take a look back to see how the last few drafts went for Boston. We'll kick things off with the 2011 draft, which you might remember as the one that brought the Red Sox Mookie Betts. It's provided more than just Betts, though, and there are still more future big-league players to come from it.
1. Matt Barnes, 19th overall
The Red Sox actually sacrificed their first-round pick by signing Carl Crawford, but since the free agent compensation system was different in 2011 -- it was the last draft before the collective bargaining agreement introduced the qualifying offer system in use today -- they were able to get replacement first-round selections back for the players they lost. Matt Barnes came Boston's way through the Tigers, who signed Victor Martinez away from the Sox during the offseason, and the next selection would come by way of the Rangers, who had inked a deal with Adrian Beltre.
Barnes was drafted with the idea being he could maybe start in the majors, possibly as a mid-rotation arm. That "maybe" is a key in figuring out who he was and who he could become, though: Barnes needed to refine his secondaries and his command enough that he could successfully start, and while both improved over time, they did not to the point where he appeared ready to join the Red Sox rotation coming into 2015. Now, Barnes has been converted to relief. It might not be permanent -- it's entirely possible that facing big-league hitters out of the pen for the year closes the gap between where Barnes is and where he needs to be to successfully start. Even if he never starts, though, there is big-league value in a live arm like his coming out of the pen.
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It might take some time to get there, but Barnes has back-of-the-bullpen potential: he didn't get bumped from his starting gig at Triple-A just to be another rando out of the pen. There is a potential setup man or closer here, and while that's not his best-case future from 2011, it's still something of value.
1. Blake Swihart, 26th overall
Swihart isn't major-league ready yet, but he's there anyway out of necessity. The 23-year-old backstop was just getting the hang of hitting at Triple-A when Ryan Hanigan's broken finger got him a free trip to Boston at least a half-season before expected, and the results at the plate have been predictably bad, with Swihart batting just .193/.220/.246. Defensively, however, he has been encouraging, as he's done a good job of handling the pitching staff and blocking the plate, though, he will need to work on throwing out big-league runners more effectively.
He's been wonderful at that in the past, however, so it's the kind of thing experience and coaching should help with, and the bat won't lie dormant forever. It might be too late to save his 2015 line when that happens, but the future of Boston's catching is in good hands, even if they showed up far too early.
1A. Henry Owens, 36th overall
Owens is now 22 and in his first full season at Triple-A, and the lefty is performing as you would expect him to. His strikeouts are down and his walks are up against these more experienced batters, but Owens is still proving hard to hit thanks to his change-up and the intelligent sequencing that helped him thrive in the lower levels. He's shown flashes of who he will become, but it's clear he's not part of the 2015 plans for improving the rotation, not while he's still walking almost as many as he's whiffing in some starts.
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That's okay, though: the plan was never for Owens to be in Boston's rotation right now. As said, he's 22, and he doesn't even have to be placed on the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft until after this season, so he has time to work things through and combine his typical, hard-to-hit results with the lower walks he flashed once he figured things out at the previous stops along the way. Owens is still looking like a mid-rotation starter, and that's what matters.
1A. Jackie Bradley Jr., 40th overall
Bradley was the first of this first-round foursome to reach the majors, but at this stage he looks like he'll be the last of them to secure a spot for good. Over 170 games dating back to 2013, Bradley is batting just .192/.266/.273 for Boston. His defense is incredible, to the point where he might be the top defensive center fielder in the entire game -- at the least, you could argue the point without everyone disagreeing with you -- but the bat is just not where it needs to be. At this stage, Bradley looks like a permanent bench player in Boston barring injury to one of the regulars, or like a minor-league outfielder waiting for someone else to trade for him and give him a shot.
He's still young, and there are reasons to believe a little more aggression in his approach would go a long way, but he needs a chance to prove that he's still valuable, and he might not get it with the Sox. Depending on what Boston gets back, that might not be such a bad thing, either.
2. Williams Jerez, 81st overall
Jerez was drafted as an outfielder out of high school, but batted just .221/.254/.275 over three seasons. He's still in the Sox organization, but now he's a pitcher: he spent 2014 in Rookie and short-season leagues, and has made his full-season debut as a reliever for Low-A Greenville. This might just be his calling: the 22-year-old southpaw has struck out 37 batters in 33-1/3 innings and has a 2.16 ERA thanks to a lack of walks and homers. He'll need time to figure out a complement to his fastball, which is still inconsistent in terms of velocity, but for a first real effort, this is an impressive career renaissance.
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4. Noe Ramirez, 142nd overall
Ramirez might be a big-league reliever, but it all comes down to whether he can keep his command in check. Ramirez has gone entire seasons without allowing homers -- no, seriously the last home run he allowed came in 2013 -- by keeping the ball down in the zone consistently, but he has his moments where that command vanishes and he leaves his average stuff tantalizingly up.
5. Mookie Betts, 172nd overall
Boston's starting center fielder of 2015 and the future, Betts shot up through the system after arriving seemingly out of nowhere in May of 2013. He has a 110 OPS+ in the majors over 96 games, is playing a far better center than someone who didn't even play the outfield until this time last year should, and while there remains work to be done, he's still all of 22 years old. Not bad for a fifth-round selection.
9. Travis Shaw, 292nd overall
Shaw is the fifth of the five major-league players this draft has produced for the Red Sox. While he was only there briefly for a one-game cameo during a David Ortiz suspension, getting to the majors is no small feat. Shaw might not get there again, not unless he can find the proper balance between patience and aggression against Triple-A pitching, but he's a ninth-round pick who made it to the majors at all. There's something enjoyable about that, for him and for us, even if he never becomes anything more.
Five of Boston's draft picks have reached the majors already, with at least one more -- Henry Owens -- still to come. Noe Ramirez very well might end up in a big-league bullpen, and while Williams Jerez is a ways off from being able to claim the same, his second career as a pitcher is going a whole lot better than what it looked like the Sox would initially get out of their second rounder. This draft produced some key pieces who could head up the core of the next great Red Sox team, as well as some secondary players who might assist either in Boston or by helping to acquire someone who can. We're still not so far removed from 2011 that this has all happened already, but it's close enough to feel real nonetheless.