We are now inside a week until the MLB Draft, and the Red Sox projections have been somewhat all over the place at number 17. Sometimes it can be helpful to look back at previous drafts to get an idea of what could happen in the future, but that isn’t really the case this year for a couple of reasons. One, the front office has changed a bit. A lot of the key people are still involved and Chaim Bloom alone won’t change too too much in the draft process, but there is a difference in leadership. More importantly, this simply isn’t a normal draft year. That being said, it’s still always fun to me to look back at recent drafts and see how things look with a bit of hindsight. So, over the next five days we’ll be looking at the five most recent drafts, starting today with 2015. We’ll look at picks from the first five rounds, plus the three best hitters and pitchers from beyond those rounds.
Andrew Benintendi, University of Arkansas
The 2015 draft was a different one for the Red Sox because they had a pick inside the top ten, which typically has been a rarity for the franchise. Of course, they had one recently before that in 2013 as well, and they miffed that pick with the Trey Ball selection. They couldn’t make it two in a row. So, they went with an outfielder in Andrew Benintendi who had exploded onto the scene that spring and won the Golden Spikes award (top player in college ball) as a draft-eligible sophomore. The Red Sox have not regretted the pick, as Benintendi quickly elevated himself to the top prospect in baseball (in an admittedly weak class of prospects) and shot to the majors. He’s been more inconsistent than we’d like at the highest level, but there’s still plenty of time to grow and we’ve already seen that he can be a key contributor on a championship roster.
Austin Rei, University of Washington
The Red Sox didn’t have a second round pick in this draft, but they seemed to make up for it with their third round selection of Rei. At the time, this looked like a potential steal as Rei, ranked 68th on Baseball America’s top 500, was started to get some buzz later in that spring but it was too late to elevate him to a day one selection. The catcher had a hand injury that cost him time behind the plate in his final year at school, but he was known for his plus defense and there was hope for the bat as well. As it turns out, the bat has never really come along. Rei is still in the organization and there is still some hope for him getting to the majors at some point, but at this point his ceiling is a defensive-minded backup and more realistically he’s looking like a potential up-and-down third catcher.
Tate Matheny, Missouri State University
At the time of this selection it was hard not to see this as a bit of a nepotism pick, with Matheny being the son of then Cardinals manager and current Royals manager Mike Matheny, who had requested St. Louis not draft him like they had out of high school. That’s unfair to Tate, though, who at the time was ranked 107th by Baseball America and this pick was 111 overall. Matheny was one of those players who didn’t really stand out in any one area but rather was pretty good at just about everything and had plus makeup that helped him play above some of his tools. Fast-forward to the present day, and I kind of like Matheny more than it seems many others do. His hit tool needs to develop a little bit more, but he’s a good athlete who can play all three positions fairly well and I think he could have a future as outfield depth for a big league club if things break right.
Jagger Rusconi, West Ranch HS (CA)
Easily the best name in this draft, Rusconi was also the first prep player selected by the Red Sox in this draft as well. This was a little bit of a reach in terms of rankings, as Boston selected the utility man with the 141st overall pick and he was ranked 322 by Baseball America. Rusconi is still in the organization, but he’s never really been able to get going as he’s made his way up the ladder. He can play all over the diamond which is nice, but he’s had seasons decimated by injury and at this point he’s lost too much development time to really see a big-league future.
Other top hitters
Chad De La Guerra, Round 17, Grand Canyon University
Kyri Washington, Round 23, Longwood University
Jerry Downs, Round 15, St. Thomas University
This was a bit of a rough draft overall, but especially on the position player side of thing. They obviously got Benintendi early, but after that there wasn’t a whole lot else. De La Guerra is still someone I think is going to surprise people, but that’s more as a good bench player than a potential regular. He started making some waves a couple years ago before falling back into obscurity, but he’s recovered from that down year and in a normal year I think he would have played his way to the majors in 2020.
Washington is still in the organization, but as a scout. He was someone I always liked as a prospect despite him not really being the type of player I typically latch on to. Generally I gravitate more towards speed and hit tool oriented players, but Washington was a big power hitter. Unfortunately, injuried derailed his career and he ultimately retired at 25 and has since, as I mentioned, found his way back to the organization in a different role.
Downs is still in the organization as a player, though his brother is now the more famous minor leaguer. That would be Jeter, who was the main piece coming back in the Mookie Betts trade a few months ago. Jerry has had a couple of solid moments in the minors as well, though he is more organizational depth at this point.
Other Top Pitchers
Logan Allen, 8th Round, IMG Academy
Travis Lakins, 6th Round, Ohio State University
Trevor Kelley, 36th Round, University of North Carolina
All three of these pitchers are currently in other organizations. Allen was the first to be shipped off, and he has turned into a very solid prospect. He was originally sent to San Diego in the Craig Kimbrel trade, and has since been traded to Cleveland. He didn’t really spend any time at all in the Red Sox organization being traded the winter after this draft, but he has been on top 100 lists since leaving.
Lakins and Kelley, meanwhile, made their way up through the minors relatively quickly but have sort of settled in as reliever depth pieces who can put together some solid runs if needed. On good teams they are probably around eighth to tenth on the reliever depth chart, but on non-contenders both could feasibly settle into a major-league role for entire seasons.