Over the past week, we’ve taken a look back at the last four Red Sox drafts and how they’ve worked out for the organization. If you missed those, check them out here: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016. Today, I want to look and see if there are any overarching themes that we can gather as we look ahead to this year’s draft. At the same time, I also want to look at a few of Dave Dombrowski’s last drafts at the head of the Tigers’ front office.
I think it’s worth it to look at both instead of one or the other, because both Dombrowski and the old Red Sox regime will have influence in the upcoming draft. Obviously, Dombrowski will play a prominent role in the decision making process once the draft starts on June 12. He is the head of the front office, so I’m not sure this one requires much explanation. Despite that, you can expect to see a lot of influence from those that were involved with the old Red Sox strategy. Guys like Ben Crockett and Mike Rikkard, two of the top members of the amateur scouting/player development departments, have been with the organization far longer than Dombrowski and came up under the influence of Ben Cherington.
So, with all of that in mind, let’s first look at how Dombrowski approached drafts with the Tigers. The one major theme that appears to be clear is that the current Red Sox president loves pitching. Specifically, he loves big pitchers who throw at even bigger velocities. If there was a 6’3” righty who was throwing in the high 90’s, you could bet Dombrowski would be interested regardless if it seemed clear they would end up in the bullpen. The clearest example of this came in 2013, when Detroit’s first seven picks were pitchers. That’s....bananas.
Another theme amongst recent Dombrowski Tigers drafts is that he likes college players. It’s not that he won’t draft high schoolers, of course. Including last year’s draft with Boston, each of his last three first round picks were selected out of high school. However, after that, Dombrowski hasn’t taken a high schooler earlier than the seventh round. Unless there is a high-upside high schooler early, you can expect the Red Sox to lean on the college class in the draft.
As for the recent Red Sox history, there are fewer discernable trends. The Red Sox have long been known to prefer up-the-middle talent, particularly early in drafts. However, that’s true of most teams and we’ve also seen them abandon that when it feels right with guys like Sam Travis, Josh Ockimey and Bobby Dalbec. They’ve also had a nice mix of high school and college draftees up and down the draft.
The one useful piece of information to keep in mind is that the Red Sox may not pick the most toolsy or athletic player at every turn. Or, at least not the most visibly athletic. We’ve seen them take and succeed with shorter players in both recent and not-so-recent history with guys like Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi and Dustin Pedroia. They won’t necessarily target small players, but if one happens to fall because of their size don’t be surprised to see the Red Sox jump on the opportunity. The same can be said for players falling due to signability or makeup concerns.
The MLB draft is always kind of a crapshoot, even more so than other drafts due to the delayed impact made by the draftees. The Red Sox are in a particularly hard team to figure out given the two factions that join to form the front office. We’re only a few weeks away from knowing the next wave of prospects to help the organization build its future.