We are still waiting to see whether or not there will be baseball this season, with the coming week being the big step in that process. Either way, though, the MLB Draft is still coming, and in fact is quickly approaching. Scheduled for June 10 and 11, we are less than two weeks away, so it seems like it’s time to turn our focus at least partially towards what the Red Sox will do. Of course, it’s not a normal draft with only five rounds this year, and Boston also missing their second rounder. Over the next four days, we will be looking at some players who could be available for the Red Sox’s first pick. Today we move out to the outfield. This list was helped by the top draft prospect lists from Baseball America and FanGraphs.
Garrett Mitchell, UCLA
This one is, admittedly, a bit more pie in the sky as chances are Mitchell will be off the board by the time the Red Sox selection comes up at number 17. The UCLA center fielder is ranked all the way up at six on Baseball America’s rankings and 14th on FanGraphs. The good absolutely blows you away, specifically speaking about his plus-plus speed that plays both on the bases and the field. He should stick up the middle long-term with his athleticism and should make a legitimate, elite impact on the basepaths with his running ability. At the plate, he does a good job of making contact and scouts see the potential for big power, but the issue is they haven’t seen it in games. He has some mechanical issues that lead to him getting a bit choppy, and there are questions if he’ll be able to fix it. There is some chance he slips because of those offensive questions, and if so the Red Sox should be all over him. That said, the chances are certainly better than not that he’ll be off the board, and there’s a good chance it’ll be in the top ten.
Heston Kjerstad, University of Arkansas
The Red Sox have some recent history taking first round outfielders from Arkansas, and while Andrew Benintendi has been a little more inconsistent than we’d like, that’s been a solid pick to this point. Kjerstad, ranked 15th by Baseball America and seventh by FanGraphs, is a bit bigger than Benintendi. In fact, he’s a completely different kind of prospect altogether. Kjerstad is a big kid who plays in the corner outfield and isn’t expected to be better than average out there, and at Fenway he’d likely be stuck in left field most of the time. That is fine if his bat develops, though, because there is some massive power here and an ability to hit. He does strike out a lot thanks to his swing mechanics, which may not be able to be fixed, but we’ve seen plenty in recent years that strikeouts don’t necessarily hold you back any more if you hit for enough power, and with a potential 70 power tool, Kjerstad can reach that point.
Robert Hassel, Independence HS (TN)
The first prep player on this list, Hassel is one of the players perhaps most affected by not being able to play this spring. Ranked 16th by BA and 15th by FanGraphs, on pure tools Hassel is one of the top pure bats in the class and arguably the number one prep bat. He has performed in high school as well as on national stages, and he is more hit tool-oriented than one who relies on power. Defensively, he’s not a lock to be moved off of center field, though the chance is open, which would put a little more pressure on the development of his power. Still, BA gave him comps to recent draftees Jared Kelenic and Riley Greene, which is high praise. The issue is that teams simply didn’t see him much this year, which is the issue for all prep players. There’s still a good chance he’s off the board by the time the Red Sox come up at 17, but we really have no idea how high school players are going to be approached in this weird, weird draft. Hassel is committed to Vanderbilt for next spring.
Peter Crow-Armstrong, Harvard-Westlake HS (CA)
Crow-Armstrong seems to be the position player I’ve seen most connected to the Red Sox, and he was indeed slotted at number 17 in the latest Baseball America mock draft. He’s also ranked 17th on Baseball America’s top prospect list and comes in at number 26. He has a profile that reminds me of Benintendi’s coming out of the draft, albeit less polished coming out of high school instead of college like the current Red Sox left field. Crow-Armstrong has a sweet, sweet swing from the left side and has the potential for a plus hit tool. There is disagreement, however, about his future power potential, but I personally bet on the higher end for power when the hit tool is there. Defensively, Crow-Armstrong could have a better chance than Benintendi to stick in center field and do so well with a good arm and athleticism. Like Hassel, Crow-Armstrong is committed to Vanderbilt.
Daniel Cabrera, LSU
There is a long lull without outfielders in the rankings between the Crow-Armstrong range and Cabrera, who comes in at number 41 on Baseball America’s list and 38 for FanGraphs. That would put him, of course, as a reach for number 17, but again this draft is really weird. There are going to be surprises. Cabrera had come up as a prep player and started his college career as more of a gap-to-gap guy with a good hit tool, but he has been an example of one of those players whose hit tool helps the power play up a bit. There’s not a whole lot of defensive value to be had here, which puts some more pressure on that bat and will likely knock him beyond where the Red Sox pick, but there is plenty to like in this profile as well.
Isaiah Greene, Corona HS (CA)
Greene strikes me as the exact type of player who really could have used a full spring and if he slips far enough going to college could be the best route for him. He was a pop up player last summer on the scout team against the U18 national squad, so this spring was a big one for him. A big-time athlete, Greene also has a nice swing from the left side and got comps to Garrett Anderson and Michael Brantley on BA’s writeup. There are still questions about his power and defense, however, which is likely going to push him out of the first round and perhaps to his commitment to the University of Missouri.
Dylan Crews, Lake Mary HS (FL)
Crews might be a name to watch for the Red Sox’s third round pick if he slides, as he comes in ranked 54 on BA’s list and 45 on FanGraphs. The expectation right now, in fact, is that he is going to end up honoring his commitment to LSU, though some team might like the upside enough to convince him not to. The righty, as BA points out, has a righty-righty profile that just doesn’t normally get drafted highly out of high school, particularly when the player doesn’t project to stick in center field. On the plus side, Crews has a very good hit tool and good raw power, but the consistency with his swing just hasn’t been there and that has made the performance too up and down for some scouts’ liking. My guess is that he goes to college, but have I mentioned that this draft is going to be weird?