We are now under a week to go until we get to this year’s MLB Draft, and the Red Sox are picking as high as they have in a half-century. With the fourth overall selection, the team has a chance to add real, premium talent to their farm system in a way that is just not common for them in their franchise’s history. With that in mind, in the six days leading up to the draft we are going to take a look at what seems to be a near-consensus on the top seven players for the Red Sox to consider with their first pick. We cover a high school shortstop for a second straight day, pivoting over to coverage of Jordan Lawlar.
MLB Pipeline: 3
This year’s draft class is all about the high school shortstops, with four of the seven players I plan on highlighting before Sunday’s first-round fitting into that category. Yesterday, we looked at my personal favorite of the group in Marcelo Mayer. But not everyone sees him as the top name, with Jordan Lawlar getting a lot of love as well and looking like a potential top-four pick in this draft.
Unlike Mayer, who was always liked but has seemingly jumped up the board since the spring, Lawlar has long been seen as being one of the top prospects in all of amateur baseball. He was the top high school player entering this draft season, and he’s at least in the conversation for that still. In fact, as you can see above Baseball America actually has him at the top of the entire class, regardless of age or position.
The 18-year-old — it is worth noting he turns 19 in just a couple of weeks, which makes him a bit older than the other prep players in the class — has long been on the radar of major-league scouts. He’s been the star at his high school in Texas pretty much his entire high school career, and has only heightened interest in his skillset in the various showcases in which he’s participated over the years. Lawlar is committed to play at Vanderbilt, but considering he’s basically a shoo-in for a top-five selection it’s almost impossible to see him going to play college ball.
As many of the scouting reports you’ll see on Lawlar point out, there is a natural connection everyone makes between him and Bobby Witt Jr., another Texas high school shortstop who was selected high in the draft. Witt is now one of the top prospects in all of baseball and at one point looked like he’d be a surprise name on Kansas City’s Opening Day roster, and they are not perfect comps. Everyone will point out that Witt had much louder tools coming out of high school, and the fact that his father was a big leaguer certainly gave him an edge. That said, some don’t see the overall separation in talent as being all that large.
Getting into the specifics of his game, like Mayer we have a potential five-tool shortstop here with Lawlar. At the plate, everything revolves around his hit tool. He has a quick bat that can cover the entire zone, and as Baseball America notes, while there was some concern over a rising strikeout rate earlier this spring, he finished out the season making a ton of contact without suffering any consequences to the quality of said contact. The question for Lawlar offensively is how much power he’ll be able to develop as he matures. There will be some just because of his ability to put good wood on the baseball, but it’s probably more likely the power settles into average territory rather than anything beyond that, though not everyone agrees with that sentiment. But even with a plus hit tool and average power, to go with his plus speed, Lawlar can be a very good offensive player.
And those skills with the bat become more enticing when you add in the defense. Mayer is the better defensive player which is really what puts him ahead for me, but Lawlar is still quite good and pretty much everyone agrees he will indeed stick at shortstop. That aforementioned athleticism certainly helps, and he has the instincts and arm to make it work up the middle on the left side of the infield. MLB Pipeline does mention some shortcomings with his consistency in the field, but that’s not an uncommon problem for someone at his age.
Overall, Lawlar is probably my second or third most-preferred player from this class, a step behind Mayer and right there with Jack Leiter, who we covered on Monday. For a while it seemed as though he was destined to land with the Rangers at number two overall given his Texas connections, but that feeling is no longer so strong. Ultimately, I think it’s still more likely than not he’ll be gone before the fourth pick, but if he is there while Mayer and Leiter are gone, Lawlar should be the guy the Red Sox are looking at.