We are now just a day away from the draft, which seems pretty wild considering *gestures at everything relating to the current state of baseball* but is somehow the truth. The Red Sox only have four picks in this weird five-round draft, but in the first round they are picking 17th overall. This is the highest initial selection they’ve had since they took Jay Groome 12th overall in 2016, which obviously means last season didn’t exactly go according to plan. It is also 26 picks higher than their first selection last year when they picked Cameron Cannon. With this in mind, I figured it would make sense to look back at what has happened at 17 overall in years past.
Red Sox History
This will be the fifth time in team history the Red Sox have made the 17th overall selection, with previous drafts at this spot coming in 1973, 1997, 1999 and 2003.
1973: Ted Cox, SS, Midwest City HS (OK)
Cox ended up being a very, very nice value for the Red Sox, though not really for his own personal impact on the field. He was the International League Player of the Year in 1977 and made his major-league debut for the Sox that September , hitting .362/.393/.500 in 13 games. After the season, he was traded to the Indians in a deal that brought Dennis Eckersley to Boston. Cox ended up playing five seasons (including that brief call up in 1977) for four teams and finished his career worth 1.6 wins by Baseball-Reference WAR.
1997: John Curtice, LHP, Great Bridge HS (WA)
Curtice was a highly-touted lefty coming into the 1997 draft and was, along with Michael Cuddyer, at the time half of the second pair of high school teammates to be selected in the same first round in MLB draft history. Cuddyer carved out a solid MLB career. Curtice did not. The southpaw battled injury after injury throughout his minor-league career, and ultimately declined a third shoulder surgery, instead opting to retire. He explains that decision here. The Red Sox did get a bit of major-league value from him, trading the lefty to Cincinnati for Dante Bichette late in 2000.
1999: Rick Asadoorian, OF, Northbridge HS (MA)
Asadoorian lived the dream in 1999, not only becoming a first round selection in the MLB Draft but actually getting picked by his hometown team. He was a defensive wizard in center field in his minor-league days, with a 2001 scouting report from Baseball America comparing his arm to that of Dwight Evans and calling his entire defensive profile major-league ready. Unfortunately, the bat never quite came around. Asadoorian was traded by Boston in 2002 for Dustin Hermanson (I haven’t thought about that name in quite some time) and hung around in the minors until 2008 and played Indy ball through 2011.
2003: David Murphy, OF, Baylor University
The only college player the Red Sox have ever picked at this slot, Murphy also had the best career of any of the four players on this list. Murphy struggled to get going over the first couple of years of his professional career, but started to show improvements in 2005 and eventually made his major-league debut in Boston just a year later. After spending most of the first half of 2007 in Pawtucket, Murphy was eventually traded to Texas that summer in the Eric Gagne trade. The outfielder spent seven very solid years with the Rangers, and over his ten-year career he was worth exactly ten wins above replacement by Baseball-Reference WAR
The Red Sox have never drafted any stars at the 17th overall slot, but there have been three players who have reached the 30 WAR mark, which is a totally arbitrary number I came up with. That includes one Hall of Famer and another guy who could eventually be on that bubble.
Roy Halladay, 1995
The Blue Jays had the 17th overall pick in 1995, and little did anyone know they were about to select one of the most dominant pitchers of his era with their first rounder. Halladay retired being worth 64.2 WAR by Baseball-Reference WAR. Red Sox fans know just how great he was at his peak with so many of those years coming in Toronto. Over a ten-year stretch from 2002 through 2011 he pitched to a 148 ERA+ while averaging 219 innings per season. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2019, two years after he tragically passed away in a plane crash.
Cole Hamels, 2002
One of Halladay’s teammates on the early-aughts Phillies teams was, of course, Hamels, who has carved out quite the career for himself to this point as well. By Baseball-Reference WAR the southpaw has already been worth 59.5 wins above replacement, which could put him on the Hall of Fame bubble already. He’s not throwing the innings he once did, but entering his age-36 season he is still getting good enough results and could very well add another couple of solid seasons to his resume and get into Cooperstown.
Gary Matthews, 1968
To find the best position player ever taken with this selection, you have to go all the way back to the ‘60s to find Matthews. Although he never was quite a great player, he was very good for a long time, including his rookie season with the Giants in 1973 when he won Rookie of the Year. He would eventually land in Atlanta as well, where he made his only career All-Star team, as well as Philadelphia, Chicago and Seattle. Matthews ended up playing 16 years in the bigs, finishing his career worth 30.4 wins above replacement by Baseball-Reference WAR
2019: Jackson Rutledge, RHP
The Nationals picked 17th last year, which means the Red Sox are destined to win the World Series this year if there is a season. Don’t fact check me on this. As for Rutledge, he was a college arm and had a really solid showing in his professional debut last year over ten starts. He was ranked 14th on Baseball America’s rankings heading into the draft.
2018: Jordyn Adams, OF
The Angels had the 17th pick in 2018 and picked an extremely athletic prep outfielder, a strategy that worked quite well for them with Jo Adell the year before. Adams was an aggressive pick here coming in ranked number 45 on Baseball America’s list, but the Angels believed in the athleticism. He’s been solid but unspectacular early in his career and was ranked number 72 on Baseball Prospectus’s top 101 this spring.
2017: Evan White, 1B
White is a fascinating player right now, and it was interesting to see a likely first baseman be selected this high. He was, to be fair, also seen as a possible outfielder, though he’s sticking at the cold corner as an extremely good defensive player there. His name was in the news this past offseason, too, having agreed to a six-year, $24 million extension before playing a game in the majors. He is a consensus top 100 prospect right now, with most lists having him just outside the top 50.