Note: A previous version of this post said this was Dave Dombrowski’s first draft. It was actually Ben Cherington’s last.
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 take a look at the 2015 class.
Picking in the top ten, this selection was Ben Cherington’s final draft with the organization. I’m pretty confident saying he did pretty alright with this pick. The Red Sox went with a college bat named Andrew Benintendi, a sophomore outfielder out of the University of Arkansas who had just been named as the NCAA college player of the year. Pretty good! It was clear from the very beginning of his professional career that this was a special player, and the Red Sox wasted no time getting him through the system. He flew level by level and eventually made it up to the majors just over a calendar year after he was drafted. In the blink of an eye, Benintendi was a key member of a division winner. There have been some ups and downs in his major-league career since then, but he’s already a big part of this roster and it’s clear that the plan is for him to be a centerpiece for years to come. This pick was good, is what I’m trying to say.
The Red Sox did not have a second round selection in this draft after signing Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez in the previous offseason, so they had to wait until the 81st overall pick for their next selection after Benintendi. They went back to the college ranks for their next pick, taking University of Washington catcher Austin Rei. This was a mildly intriguing pick at the time, as Rei had previously been rated more highly than this before getting hurt that spring and seeing his stock fall. It was possible the Red Sox were buying low on a second-round — or even late-first-round — caliber talent. Unfortunately, things have never gotten going for the back stop in the Red Sox organization. His defense has improved after a rough start to his pro career, but his bat as never caught up. Rei has solid plate discipline, and with the bar being so low for offense at that position he might get some run as a major-league backup. That’s his ceiling, though.
The Red Sox continued their trend of looking at college bats with their third selection in this draft as well, taking Tate Matheny out of Missouri State University. The son of Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, the outfielder was not simply the product of nepotism as he was seen as one of the better players in college during his junior year. The ceiling was never viewed as being huge, and his time around the game growing up was a big plus in his favor as it gave him an inherent advantage of knowing what it’s like to play as a professional. He’s methodically made his way through the Red Sox system since being drafted, and he’s currently playing center field in Double-A. The ceiling still isn’t huge and there really isn’t a standout tool, but he’s solid enough and I’ve heard enough positives about his makeup that I’d be surprised if he doesn’t at least get a little run as a bench outfielder at some point in the next few years.
Cherington and company finally got away from the college ranks with this pick, though they went with another bat in Jagger Rusconi, easily the best name of their draft class. This was a reach at the time as the high school outfielder was ranked as more of a mid-round pick than someone who would be selected in the top five rounds. Things haven’t really improved for Rusconi since that point, either. He’s struggled with injuries as a professional and when he’s been on the field he’s never really gotten going. That includes this season as he’s struggled down in Low-A Greenville. It’s unlikely he’s more than an organizational player.
Other Notable Selections
- The first pitcher selected in this draft came in the sixth round when they took Travis Lakins out of Ohio State University. There were questions about his viability to remain a starter, but he’s stuck with that role into Double-A, and while consistency has been an issue the righty has shown off impressive enough stuff that he’s one of the more intriguing arms in the system.
- Boston took another college arm in the seventh round with Ben Taylor. He was quickly converted to a relief role and made his way to the majors to begin the 2017 season. He’d eventually be designated for assignment by the Red Sox and is currently in the Indians organization. He’ll never be a star, but he’s a solid bullpen contributor.
- In the eighth round the Red Sox took high school pitcher Logan Allen, who was seen as one of the more polished high school arms in the draft. The righty didn’t last long in Boston’s organization, being sent to San Diego the following winter in the Craig Kimbrel deal. Since then, he’s emerged as a legitimate prospect and will likely be included on some midseason top-100 lists.
- The pitching run continued down in the 14th round when the Red Sox picked college senior Bobby Poyner. The lefty didn’t really make a name for himself until the 2017 season, but he quickly parlayed that into his current role in the major-league bullpen.
- In the 17th round, Boston took college infielder Chad De La Guerra. He’s not an incredibly exciting prospect, but he’s emerged as an organizational favorite. However, he did get off to a slow start in Triple-A and is currently trying to get things ramped back up in Double-A. He looks like a potential future bench piece.
Overall, this was a sneaky productive draft. Obviously, nabbing Benintendi with the seventh overall pick gives the class a huge piece at the beginning, but even beyond that there were some big picks in the later rounds. Lakins is really intriguing, Allen turned out to be a legitimate prospect (though obviously that’s not coming with Boston), Poyner and Taylor have already made the majors and Matheny and De La Guerra look like decent bets to get a shot at major-league bench roles. When you add that to a star-level talent at the top, you have a strong class that probably doesn’t get enough credit.