We all know that this year’s MLB draft, which is scheduled to take place on June 10 and 11, is going to be unlike anything we’ve ever seen from this sport. It wasn’t all that long ago that teams could just pick players until they felt like stopping, and more recently there have been a full 40 rounds, plus some compensation rounds and things like that. This year there will be only five rounds. That’s weird enough before you even get into the parts about sports being put on hold close to the start of amateur seasons and teams having less scouting information than ever before.
Every team is going to have some trouble in this year’s draft, and the Red Sox have an extra wrinkle thrown in having lost their second round selection as a result of their sign-stealing scheme (if you can call it that) in 2018. They do have their first round pick, though, and that is up at number 17. We’re now less than a month away from the draft, so let’s take a look at what the experts are thinking the Red Sox will do by looking at a few of the latest mock drafts from around the interwebs.
Austin Wells, Catcher, University of Arizona
Carlos Collazo over at Baseball America has the Red Sox going behind the plate for their first selection with Wells. Boston hasn’t taken a catcher in the first round since Blake Swihart in 2011, and they haven’t taken a college catcher that early since way back in 1991 when they took Scott Hatteberg. They could use some minor-league depth at the position, though, even with the acquisition of Connor Wong. More importantly, Wells is just a good player. He is a sophomore so he has a good amount of leverage — though basically everyone does with the NCAA giving the extra year of eligibility for the missed season — and the Red Sox do have some bonus pool things to worry about given the loss of their second rounder. That said, Wells ranks 21 on Baseball America’s list of top draft prospects and 44 on FanGraphs’s, and is a bat-first player with a hitting profile that can play in the majors and could potentially move quickly in the minors. There are questions with his glove, but there are a couple reasons not to be worried about that. Firstly, the implementation of robo umps that could potentially be on the horizon may make up for some of his deficiencies (but not all). Secondly, his bat could still play at first or in a corner outfield spot, though obviously it’d be tougher.
Mick Abel, RHP, Jesuit HS (OR)
One of the side effects of how different this draft is shaping up to be will be found in the class of high school pitchers. These are always risky picks, of course, but it is especially risky in a year in which we didn’t get to see much of anything from them in the spring leading up to the draft. That is a crucial time for scouts to get eyes on these players, and they lost out on that chance. That leads to situations like this, when the Red Sox could be in a position to take the first prep pitcher of the draft all the way down at number 17, as is projected by Jim Callis. Abel is ranked up at number 11 by Baseball America and eight for FanGraphs, making this potential pick reminiscent of Jay Groome, albeit with the falling coming for a different reason. Abel is committed to play at Oregon State this year, and has a wildly intriguing profile including a big starter’s frame, a fastball that has gotten up to the high 90s at times, plus a curveball/changeup combination that could develop into a nice arsenal of secondaries. He didn’t get to play a high school game this spring, which could be a boon for the Red Sox if he does fall this far. Callis also mentioned high school outfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong and high school shortstop Ed Howard in this spot in his write up as well.
Mick Abel, RHP, Jesuit HS (OR)
I’m, uh, not going to re-write everything I said above, though I will mention that Kiley McDaniel echoes Callis not only in the specific pick but the general idea that Chaim Bloom will be aggressive with his first pick.