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, then moved on to 2012 and its trio of future big-league players from the first round and 2013's mix of high ceilings and high floors. Now it's 2014's turn, and while it was just one June ago, there is still plenty to see already.
1. Michael Chavis, 26th overall
Chavis is just 19, so don't pay too much attention to his .203/.254/.361 line for Low-A Greenville. He's only 80 games into his professional career, and unlike the last third baseman they drafted in the first, Chavis was coming out of high school, not underperforming in the low minors following three years in college. The initial scouting reports knew Chavis had a long way to go to reach his ceiling, but that his ceiling was as a regular on a winning team: it'll take years before he's at that point, but he's got the years to spare.
Chavis has plus bat speed, the potential for above-average power, and defensive skills that should translate to either third base -- his new and current position -- or eventually to second or the outfield. He's something of a project, but that's what most high schoolers are. Unless they're elite, they tend to have some learning to do, especially when they get tossed into full-season ball less than a year after they are drafted.
1. Michael Kopech, 33rd overall
Kopech also has a whole lot of developing to do, but Boston's second of two first-round picks -- earned when Jacoby Ellsbury signed with the Yankees after receiving the qualifying offer from the Red Sox -- from 2014 has taken to Low-A faster than Chavis. The righty has a 2.62 ERA, and he's earned it, too, as he's striking out 10.7 batters per nine, helping him to 3.4 times as many punch outs as walks. His innings are being limited since he's also just 19, but he's made the most of the workload he's been given, and Low-A's older opponents don't seem like a problem.
Photo credit: Kelly O'Connor
The ceiling here is a number two starter, but Kopech is a long, long way off from it, even if his early performance makes it seem attainable. As he moves up the ladder, his repertoire will be tested, as will his ability to sequence and locate it, and how he reacts to his first real struggles will be a decent indication of where he's at. That might not come until next year, though, since there is little reason to bump him to High-A if the innings and pitch count aren't also going to see a bump.
2. Sam Travis, 67th overall
Travis is a fascinating prospect, as he's stuck at first base defensively and might only have average power. However, he's shown some plate discipline and an ability to make quality contact, so there could still be a big-league regular here. Just how good of one is the real question that his time in the minors is meant to answer. At present, he's batting .290/.352/.414, which doesn't seem like much for a first baseman, but he's also 21 years old and in High-A already -- there are older players than Travis who will be drafted on June 8, and they'll begin their pro careers a few rungs on the organizational ladder lower than this.
As is, Travis is about two years younger than your average High-A player, so his performance is not only a little better than it looks, but he also has plenty of time to improve upon it. If he can get more consistency in his performance, he'll find himself in Double-A, and then we'll start to see some answers as to what he might grow up to become.
3. Jake Cosart, 103rd overall
Jake is the brother of Marlins' starter Jarred Cosart, and he's very new to the mound. In fact, the Sox don't even have the 21-year-old pitching in a full-season league yet, despite time at college and his being drafted a year ago, but he'll take the mound in games that count soon as the short-season leagues begin to open up.
Cosart might be a mid-rotation starter, but that's if his fastball develops to be a plus pitch and his curveball comes along with it, along with at least one other offering being a useful, big-league pitch. He is a long way from all of that occurring (or not occurring, either way), so even though he's 21, think of him as a long-term project. You know, more so than usual, given he began his college career in the outfield. Still, he's one to watch.
Photo credit: Kelly O'Connor
4. Kevin McAvoy, 134th overall
McAvoy's season numbers, ERA aside, don't look great. Much of that has to do with his April, though, in which he struck out just seven batters in 15-2/3 innings. Since that time, McAvoy has whiffed 22 in 32 frames, good for 6.2 per nine, but he's also walking far too many batters, both in May and on the year as a whole. A lot of that has to do with his extreme ground ball tendencies: McAvoy traded in some grounders for more strikeouts in May, but still induced balls on the ground at a 64 percent clip.
It should also be pointed out that McAvoy is doing this at High-A: he's 21 like Cosart, but instead of working on drills and waiting for short-season ball, he's in High-A after skipping Greenville entirely. He needs to refine his control and command so the walks come down, but if the strikeouts continue to tick up and the grounders keep coming at his current extreme rate, then there is going to be a lot to like about him even as he works through the issues. The ceiling here is a back-of-the-rotation starter, and he's a ways from achieving it even with the start at High-A, but it's something to look forward to.
Before you disagree, please remember what the back-end of Boston's rotation looks like at present.
9. Kevin Steen, 284th overall
Steen is a project, one who will get going on his pro career with short-season Lowell once their season begins later this month. There isn't much to say about him at this stage, other than that he has the tools but needs to learn how to translate them into production. He's yet another intriguing pitcher from a Red Sox draft class full of them, though, and also hopefully an excuse for me to make "PITCH STEEN PITCH" shirts in a few years.
11. Karsten Whitson, 344th overall
Whitson is much more than an 11th-round talent, or, at least the Red Sox are hoping that's the case. He was drafted ninth overall by the Padres in the 2010 draft, but didn't sign the reported $2.1 million bonus offer. He attended the University of Florida instead, but then missed the entire 2013 season with a shoulder injury. The Nationals drafted him in the 37th round despite the shoulder, but he once again didn't sign and returned for his senior year, and then the Sox drafted him in the 11th round last June, with Whitson finally inking a deal for a $100,000 bonus.
He's thrown just seven pro innings since, and will once again report to short-season Lowell as the 23-year-old right-hander works towards the big-league career that seemed like a sure thing back in 2010. He's been enrolled in Boston's shoulder strengthening program and reports suggest he's getting back to his old self, but he'll need time to shake the rust off, and also to prove that his shoulder is actually fine. The Sox might not ever get the Whitson the Padres attempted to sign years ago, but if they get anything close, then that's a huge win all these years and 335 spots in the draft later.
12. Jalen Beeks, 374th overall
Beeks slipped in the draft thanks to a sore elbow in the spring, but in his time with the Sox, he's been very good. He's not inducing a lot of swings and misses, but he's throwing a ton of strikes -- he's walked one per nine over 51-2/3 innings this season -- and has made it through at least six innings in his last four starts, with three of them totaling seven frames each. He might not be a starter in the long run, not unless his secondaries improve, but with his ability to throw strikes, there could be a big-league career in his future in one role or another.
Sox 2011 draft review: 5 major leaguers & counting
We kick off our review of recent Red Sox drafts with a look at one that's powering the current (and future) Sox.
13. Chandler Shepherd, 404th overall
Shepherd was a potential top-100 pick entering last spring, thanks to a strong showing in the Cape Cod League. His last season in college wasn't convincing enough, apparently, and he slipped all the way to the 13th round and the Red Sox. Boston popped him into the bullpen, watched him dominate at Low-A for 14-plus innings, then promoted him to High-A.
He hasn't been quite as dominant there, thanks to a pair of homers in his 12-2/3 innings. He's still not walking anyone, though, and some failure is always a good thing for prospects, since it gives them something specific to work towards bettering. Shepherd can throw strikes, that much is obvious, but serving up a few dingers should lead him towards throwing better quality strikes against more advanced competition. Like with Beeks, Shepherd is probably a reliever in the long run, but those aren't a bad thing to have sitting around in the minors, either. Especially if they can throw strikes.
It's way too soon to make any harsh judgments -- or, really, judgments of any kind -- about the 2014 Sox draft. However, there is a whole lot of potential here, from a maybe number two like Kopech as well as a mid-rotation hopeful like Cosart, and the rest of the young, intriguing arms they drafted. Karsten Whitson is a huge wild card despite his age, and it'll be a long while yet before we know what Michael Chavis will grow up to be. It'll be a long while before we know what any of these players will become, but to this point, they've mostly given us reasons to hope that good things are in their future.
That's about all you can ask for a year out, at least when Carlos Rodon was already off the board by the time it was your turn.