Although the focus around these parts is undoubtedly the regular season, the MLB draft is just around the corner. The first round is only two weeks away, with things getting started on June 4. As we talked about earlier this past weekend, this is a big draft for Dave Dombrowski and the front office as they look to reset a farm system that was not super impressive heading into the year and has only gotten worse in terms of perception since that time. We’ll have plenty of looks at some specific targets and reports of who they have been connected to, but first let’s take this week to figure out how we got here. Over the next five days we’ll take a look at the five most recent drafts, not only looking for trends in the organization but also how well (or not well) they’ve done at this event. Today, we start with the 2013 draft.
This draft represented a rare chance at Boston to draft a legitimate impact talent early in the draft, as it was fresh on the heels of the horrendous Bobby V year. The team selected with the seventh overall pick in this draft, and with that pick they took Trey Ball, a pitcher/outfielder out of New Castle Chrysler High School in Indiana. There were some who believed he was a better hitter than pitcher, but the Red Sox opted to bet on his upside on the mound, hoping to give them an ace-caliber pitcher from their system. That....well, it hasn’t worked out. Ball has been one of the biggest busts in recent memory and represents a massive missed opportunity for the franchise. Ball was always going to be a project, but he was just never able to take the final steps required to succeed at this level, and after a solid start this year he’s back to struggling in a new role out of the bullpen. There’s a chance they’ll try him in the outfield again at some point, but with so many years since hitting regularly it’s hard to see him ever being anything other than a bust.
Boston stuck with pitching when they selected JUCO pitcher Teddy Stankiewicz in the second round. This obviously wasn’t as important of a pick as the Ball one, but this hasn’t quite worked out either. When he was drafted the righty was seen as a prospect with a big fastball and some secondaries that needed some work. That is still largely the case, and while he’s still throwing in mostly a starting role (he’s done some piggyback work this year as well) it’s clear at this point that he’s probably not going to succeed in this role. Stankiewicz, in this writer’s opinion, still has a chance to be a nice reliever, but it’s likely the Red Sox will get little-to-no value from this selection as well.
It’s wild that, after those first two selections, one could argue that the team’s third pick is actually the one that looks the worst at this point. Here, Boston selected catcher Jon Denney, and to say his career has gone up in flames would be an understatement. He was seen as a potential steal this late in the draft and a legitimate catching prospect in an organization that, at the time, had some interesting names behind the plate in the minors. Denney ended up missing all of 2014 and 2015 after some embarrassing and disappointing off the field incidents including driving on a suspended license after getting a DUI the previous year. The Royals tried to resurrect his career in 2016, but it never really came close to happening.
The hits kept coming for the Red Sox in this fourth round with another pitcher selection that never panned out. Myles Smith had impressive stuff heading into the draft but it was unclear if it would ever work as a professional. The Red Sox gave him two years and some time as both a reliever and a starter before trading him to Arizona for reliever Zeke Spruill prior to the 2015 season. Smith stayed with the Diamondbacks organization through the 2016 season before he was released. He hasn’t made it back to affiliated ball since then.
Well, at this point you might as well go 5-5 in missing on your first five picks. The Red Sox went with yet another pitcher with this selection, taking Cory Littrell out of the University of Kentucky. The southpaw was never seen as having a high ceiling, but scouts liked his pitch-ability and saw him as having a solid chance at becoming a midrotation arm while also potentially moving quickly through the system. Littrell actually did pitch fairly well for the Red Sox for a year-and-a-half before heading to St. Louis in the John Lackey/Joe Kelly deal. Littrell has been solid for the Cardinals since that trade, though he missed time last year after being suspended for a failed drug test and hasn’t pitched at all this year...for reasons I can’t seem to find.
Other Notable Selections
- Kyle Martin was Boston’s ninth selection in this draft, and their highest pick that has sort of panned out. The righty didn’t stick as a starter but his velocity has proved intriguing in short stints. That said, he’s found himself buried on the team’s depth chart and is no longer on the 40-man roster.
- With their eleventh pick the Red Sox took a small Division II player named Carlos Asuaje. The infielder quickly and efficiently made his way through the system before being sent to San Diego in the Craig Kimbrel deal. Now, he’s something close to a regular in that lineup though he’s better suited as a bench player.
- Down in the 26th round, the Red Sox selected a Honduras-born player named Mauricio Dubon with a similar profile to that of Asuaje. Those who read these pages often enough know I was (and still am) a huge Dubon fan. This was their best pick of the draft as he’s shown plus speed, solid bat-to-ball skills and good defense up the middle. Of course, he’s now in Milwaukee as being included in the Tyler Thornburg trade, though he recently got some bad news as Dubon will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL.
So, if you’re looking for what not to do in a draft, look no further than this 2013 class. It’s not all entirely the Red Sox’ fault — the Denney situation was absurd, though one could argue the team should have had a better vetting process. Still, they went pitching-heavy and it totally backfired. Their best two selections are probably my two favorite recent Red Sox prospects, but they are also players who best profile as super utility guys. This is not to say teams shouldn’t pursue pitching in the draft — every pick should be made on a case-by-case basis — but part of the reason the farm system is down right now is that they have gotten nothing from this draft class. It’s hard to recover from that kind of draft.