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Red Sox 2012 draft review: Ben Cherington's first draft has been a successful one

Ben Cherington's first draft as Red Sox general manager looks like it's stuffed with future big-league players.

Brian Johnson pitching for the Red Sox in spring training.
Brian Johnson pitching for the Red Sox in spring training.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

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 already started things with a look at the 2011 draft, which has produced five major-league players and counting, so now it's time to review the 2012 draft, which featured three first-round picks and the introduction of the draft budget, as well as general manager Ben Cherington's first draft in that role.

First Round

1. Deven Marrero, 24th overall

Marrero entered the spring of 2012 as a potential top-10 selection, but a slow year with the bat in his junior season saw him fall all the way to the Red Sox at 24. It was something of a blessing for Boston, with Marrero having a glove that would make him a big-league shortstop, so long as his bat was even okay. While he hasn't made the majors yet, Marrero is right on schedule, sitting in Triple-A at age 24 with the time for his bat to catch up to the glove that's pushed him through the system.

There might not be space for Marrero in Boston in the short or long run, not with Xander Bogaerts at shortstop -- and finally looking like he belongs there defensively. There doesn't have to be, though: a draft pick is not successful only because they make it to the majors wearing your uniform. Marrero could be an intriguing trade piece for a team in need of a young shortstop who can field, and if his bat continues to come around as it has been in 2015 -- excepting one horrid, nine-game stretch that has tanked his line completely -- then there might be a whole lot of teams asking about him.

Photo credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

1A. Brian Johnson, 31st overall

While 2012 introduced the draft budget and revamped rules for compensation picks, the Phillies signed Jonathan Papelbon away from the Red Sox before those were implemented. That means that the Sox earned two picks for losing Papelbon rather than the one, and the first of those selections was used to select lefty Brian Johnson out of the University of Florida.

Johnson was expected to fly through the system thanks to a polished, four-pitch repertoire that wouldn't be truly challenged until the high minors or later. While a liner to the head and a shoulder injury briefly delayed that, Johnson is now in Triple-A and looking major-league ready: he led the Eastern League in ERA at 1.75 in 2014, and now he's at Pawtucket sporting a 2.60 ERA with 3.4 times as many strikeouts as walks over his first 10 starts. He might just be a back-end starter, though, his ability to properly sequence and command his pitches gives him room to be more than that. For the 31st pick overall, "only" a back-end starter is a success, so more than that would make this more of a rousing one.

1A. Pat Light, 37th overall

At this time last year, Light was looking like a disappointment. He was starting, and not starting well, and there was only one thing keeping the dream alive for this first-round selection: Light's future was always expected to be relief, so it was going to be impossible to make final judgments on him until he was placed in that role. To start 2015, the Sox promoted Light to Double-A in spite of his uninspiring 2014, then bumped him to the bullpen full time: here was that chance to finally get things right.

Kelly O'Connor
Photo credit: Kelly O'Connor

Light has used that chance to his advantage, especially since he stopped pitching three innings at a time as he did over his first few appearances. In his 13 games and 16-2/3 innings since his transition to more of a traditional reliever, Light has posted a 0.54 ERA with a 2.3 strikeout to walk ratio. His four walks per nine on the season aren't great, but it has helped that Light is inducing plenty of grounders to help make up for it. He's missing bats, getting grounders, and finally looks like the pitcher the Red Sox thought they were getting when they drafted him.

The Rest

2. Jamie Callahan, 87th overall

Callahan had success as one of the New York-Penn League's youngest arms the summer after he was drafted, but the right-hander has been a disaster since. In 140 innings for Low-A Greenville, Callahan owns a 6.94 ERA, and while he's shown flashes of being a far better pitcher, they're still few and far between. The main issue has been that Callahan is too hittable: he's throwing strikes -- okay, he's throwing strikes more often than he did -- but they aren't necessarily good ones. They are the kind that hitters can get their bats on and make solid contact against, and until Callahan's command improves, he looks like a lost cause.

He isn't a lost cause, not yet, not at 20 in Low-A, but he has some obvious work to do before he can shed that appearance.

4. Ty Buttrey, 151st overall

Buttrey was selected out of high school, but was already 19 years old at the time thanks to a late-March birthday. He showed promise in Rookie and short-season ball, but the introduction to the full-season format and its competition at Low-A Greenville proved problematic for Buttrey, who posted a 6.85 ERA over 11 starts at the level. He began there again in 2015, however, and completely reversed course by striking out over seven times as many batters as he walked while allowing a 2.45 ERA in his first four starts and 22 innings of work.

Photo credit: Kelly O'Connor

This got him promoted to High-A Salem, where he has continued to pitch well. Things started out a little tough as expected, but the transition to success was quick, with Buttrey striking out twice as many batters as he's walked over five starts, in which he's averaged six innings per with a 2.40 ERA. Suddenly, he's looking like the pitcher the Red Sox drafted, the one they organized the rest of the first round around: to get Buttrey his $1.3 million signing bonus in the fourth round, they selected a bunch of college seniors in the latter portion of the first 10 rounds, allowing them to hand out bonuses well under slot. This opened up space in the budget for Buttrey, whose slot was worth less than $300,000. There is still work to be done, but as of now, that plan looks like it was a good one, especially in concert with the three first-round picks.

5. Mike Augliera, 181st overall

Is Augliera a future reliever, or just a guy the Sox signed well under slot to help them get Buttrey? He might be neither of those things, as he could also serve as organizational pitching depth in the minors, but it's hard to say exactly what his future entails until he gets a chance to relieve, as that's always seemingly been his role if he had any at all.

Augliera has always been known for his control, and didn't strike many hitters out, but he's started to do so as a starter for Double-A Portland this year. Over seven per nine is only a big deal for a pitcher who didn't even get to five per nine the last two seasons, but in the pen, maybe what he's learned as a starter this year will help him succeed in a way that actually merits attention. He's a long shot, but he also cost $25,000 and we're still talking about him three years later, so it's not all bad.

6. Justin Haley, 211st overall

Haley could be a big-league starter. His chances aren't great, mind you -- he needs to stop having these runs where he forgets how to throw strikes, for one. But he is a potential number five, and that's obvious when you see how well he does when things are going right. They're finally going his way again after a rough start to 2015, with just six walks in his four starts and 21-2/3 innings, so when a permanent space opens up in Triple-A's rotation, we might see him fill it, as he's 15 starts in to his Double-A career after finishing up there in 2014.

15. Carson Fulmer, 481st overall

Fulmer didn't sign, and he might be a top-10 pick in the 2015 draft because of it -- in fact, the Sox could even select him, although it sounds as if they're thinking hitter. Fulmer was always a longshot to sign, which is how he ended up selected in the 15th -- where there is no draft budget penalty for failure to sign -- while Ty Buttrey and his signability issues were picked up in the fourth.

18. Shaq Thompson, 571st overall

Thompson had one of the worst -- if not the worst minor-league careers ever, going 0-for-39 with 37 strikeouts in the Gulf Coast League. We're mentioning that not to make fun of Thompson, but to point out that his failure seems to have worked out for him, as he was just picked in the first round of the NFL draft by the Panthers.

29. Alex Bregman, 901st overall

Bregman was another player who didn't sign, but the Sox have another chance at him in the 2015 draft. The LSU standout might be a top-five pick, but if the shortstop falls just far enough, the Red Sox will be waiting to snag Blake Swihart's former teammate once more. And this time, they'll have the draft budget to make him their guy.


This draft hasn't produced any big-league players yet, but that's not surprising: it just happened three Junes ago. Brian Johnson is knocking on the door and looks like he'll be a success as expected -- if not a little bit better than that. Deven Marrero might never play for Boston in a meaningful way, but his stock is high enough to do the other thing a team hopes its prospects can do, and that's to help bring in someone helpful. Pat Light's career seems to be on the rebound, Ty Buttrey's, too, and Justin Haley is still a potential starter in the bigs. Even if Jamie Callahan never gets it together or Mike Augliera never turns into anything besides a minor-league arm who lives in Maine for years, this is looking like a successful first draft for Cherington.