The draft is somehow under a week away, and it’s arriving with little-to-no fanfare in the Red Sox market, albeit for an understandable reason. As most know by now, after exceeding the luxury tax threshold by over $40 million last season — totally worth it, of course — they watch their top draft pick fall down ten spots into the second round at number 43 overall. They will also be picking in the number 69 spot towards the end of the first day of the draft.
There is still talent available at the spots the Red Sox will be picking, of course, as every year top MLB talent emerges that was once a later pick in the draft, even much later than where Boston will make their first selection. At this time, though, it makes it harder for fans to get excited as the top prospects aren’t going to be available at this time. Hell, it’s hard to even get a real feel for who will be at the top of boards around this pick as pretty much every mock draft stops about ten selections before the Red Sox make their first.
Even so, we are going to spend the time leading up to Monday’s Day One of the draft looking at guys the Red Sox could potentially target on that first day. Jake got us started on Monday with a look at high school infielder Gunnar Henderson. Then, yesterday I talked about pitcher Drey Jameson. Today, I’m going to talk about a different college pitcher in Ethan Small.
As I discussed in yesterday’s pick, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the Red Sox are looking heavily at college players with this selection in order to potentially save money for a draft in which they won’t have much available. With Jameson on Tuesday, I talked about an undersized pitcher from a small school, but also a redshirt sophomore with a bit more leverage than a typical college player. Today, I’ll look at a more traditional potential selection in Small.
Small is a left-handed pitcher from Mississippi State, which means he has pitched against top competition in the SEC. He was a 26th round selection last year as a redshirt sophomore but declined to sign. Heading into this season, according to Baseball America the southpaw was seen as a fourth or fifth round pick but he’s slowly risen up draft boards after consistently solid performances. He’s made 15 starts this year for the Bulldogs in which he’s pitched to a 1.80 ERA with a whopping 150 strikeouts in 90 innings with 24 walks. He is second in Division 1 baseball in strikeouts per nine innings.
Despite that, the scouting report isn’t really that of a player who blows guys away. Small doesn’t have a big fastball, as he sits in the 89-92 range. He combines that with a slow curveball and a changeup that, again according to Baseball America, was better last year than this year. Still, there is reason to believe in his three-pitch mix and it plays better than it should on pure stuff. Small has strong control and command which has allowed him to dominate college hitters, possesses great movement on his pitches and he also deceives hitters with his delivery. Baseball America compares his delivery to Mariners starter Yusei Kikuchi and they say he varies the amount of time he spends at the top of his delivery before sending the pitch to the mound, which messes with a hitter’s timing.
Ultimately, this would not be the most exciting possible selection the Red Sox could make as Small’s ceiling is not all that high given his relative lack of pure stuff. He’s also not the typical type of college pitcher target the Red Sox make as he isn’t the type of pitcher who can be converted to relief if things don’t work out. His profile is not that of a guy who would excel in shorter outings. However, Small gives the Red Sox a Denyi Reyes-type starting pitching prospect who could move somewhat quickly in the system if things go well as his profile is one that typically doesn’t get truly tested until the high minors. The big thing here would be his bonus demands. If he could sign for under slot value, I could see him as a very legitimate target. If not, he probably won’t be under consideration for this front office.