The 2016 MLB draft begins Thursday. We've already reviewed four of the last five Red Sox drafts for you, which you can find here:
- 2011, the draft that powers the 2016 Red Sox
- 2012, a work in progress
- 2013, where we asked what makes for a successful draft
- 2014, the one with Sam Travis
Now, we come to Boston's most recent draft, 2015, the one in which Andrew Benintendi was taken with the seventh-overall pick. There is more to this draft than just Benintendi, though: he's just the most easy to spot at this point, since the lot hadn't even debuted by this time last year. We'll get to all that, of course, but not before taking a look at Benintendi.
1. Andrew Benintendi, 7th overall
Benintendi crushed every level he reached until he was promoted to Double-A Portland. That last bit sounds worse than it is for a couple of reasons: one, Benintendi was promoted to the high minors less than a year after debuting in the pros in the first place, and second, he's only been in Double-A for a few weeks. These kinds of struggles were going to hit him eventually, and he's shown himself to be smart and capable of adjusting in the past. This is just the greatest challenge of his young career to date.
About all these last few weeks have done, though, is remind people that he's not automatically a savior for the Red Sox in left in September just because he ruined High-A pitching. He still has things to learn, and he might not have them figured out as fast as your most optimistic outlooks would like. There's still a very good chance he can finish 2016 at Triple-A, though, setting himself up for an eventual spot in 2017's lineup in Boston, and that's pretty great.
3. Austin Rei, 81st overall
Rei fell to the third round -- where Boston had their second pick of the draft -- thanks to an injury that limited his bat and kept him at DH last spring. The catcher has tools and skills that prospect analysts like, but he obviously hasn't translated all of that into on-field production in the pros just yet. Still, his approach is improving, and he's starting to draw some walks while bringing up his batting average. He's also got plenty of time as a 22-year-old backstop to work on both his swing and his defense behind the plate, so there isn't the same rush on him that there was with, say, Blake Swihart.
4. Tate Matheny, 111th overall
Matheny -- yes, the son of Cardinals' manager Mike Matheny -- has had a pretty decent first full season in the pros so far. He's batting .288/.326/.429 in his 41 games and 180 plate appearances, and while there are problems -- Matheny didn't draw a walk during the entire month of May, for instance -- you can see the good outweighing the bad so far.
The Sox have him playing the outfield, but there is a potential future at second base for Matheny as well. It all kind of depends on his bat, which will be tested more at higher levels given his college background and your evidence here that his approach isn't punishing him just yet in Low-A.
5. Jagger Rusconi, 141st overall
Rusconi is just 19, and his 2016 hasn't started yet. He debuted in the Gulf Coast League last summer, so he's likely set for a stint in short-season Lowell once that season begins later this month. The second baseman is a switch-hitter who is more advanced from the left side than the right, according to Sox Prospects' report on him. He was also ranked number 322 on Baseball America's pre-draft top-500, so while there isn't a future top prospect here, he was someone worth knowing heading into the event.
6. Travis Lakins, 171st overall
Lakins is trying to make it as a starter, and he just might! He might also fail at that and be sent to the bullpen, but he should be a successful and valuable arm in that role, too. He's been having some real issues lately in High-A, with 24 runs allowed in his last 23 innings after a promising start to the year. Maybe that switch to the pen will happen sooner than expected, but if it does, Lakins' development will also move at a quicker pace. Given he was taken in the sixth round, it's not exactly a loss if he "only" makes it to the majors as a reliever.
7. Ben Taylor, 201st overall
Taylor didn't impress much during his time with Low-A Greenville following a quick promotion from Lowell last summer, but he has been on his game after another quick bump to High-A Salem. The 6-foot-2, 225 pound right-hander has struck out 51 batters in 41 innings, and against just eight walks. He's entering games in relief, but pitching anywhere from two to four innings at a time in those games, so the Sox are trying to keep his workload up even as they set him up for a life in the pen.
8. Logan Allen, 231st overall
Allen isn't in the Sox organization anymore, as he was dealt for Craig Kimbrel this past offseason. There is a lot of talent here, and there were many who based the success of Boston's draft on their ability to grab him in the eighth round and then sign him. That's all still true, and the Sox might miss Allen someday, but you hope they also fill whatever hole he might leave in the interim, in much the same way Kimbrel is filling a hole for Boston now.
16. Marc Brakeman, 471st overall
Brakeman is another late pick who could help change the perception of the draft, though, like Lakins, he's going to need to improve on the start of his pro career for that to happen. The big worry with Brakeman is his durability, though: will he break down and need a move to the bullpen because of it? If so, his performance as a starter in the low minors isn't as significant of a problem as it seems. It's a different kind of problem, sure, but if he's healthy enough to contribute out of the pen, then that's something.
23. Kyri Washington, 681st overall
Washington is all tools at this point, with reminders of what those tools might produce when he's a fully operational baseball player. He's currently batting .293/.310/.567 with eight homers and 21 extra-base hits in 38 games for Low-A Greenville. It's an impressive showing for a 21-year-old who is more of a project than his age suggests, and while it has had its ups and downs -- Washington was great in April, struggled in May, and seems to be heating back up again -- there is no rush here.
Washington could very well end up looking like a great pick down the road if he keeps on adjusting and improving, because the tools are very, very real. If they translate into production, we'll wonder why it took until the 23rd round for him to come off the board.