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OTM Roundtable: Who should be Boston’s first pick?

A simple question ahead of a big weekend.

2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Baseball Championship Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

As this publishes at noon Eastern on Friday, we are just 55 hours away from the start of the MLB Draft. It is obviously a big year for the Red Sox, who should be able to walk away from this with a big-time talent added to their organization with the fourth overall pick. It’s the highest they’ve picked in over half a century, and there are a lot of different roads they can take. Some of that depends on the roads taken by the teams ahead of them, of course, but Chaim Bloom and company will have their choice at one of the top players in the class.

This is a strange year to be picking so high, though, coming off a year in which there was virtually no amateur baseball. The summer prior to the draft year is often a big one for prospects, either playing in wood bat college leagues like the one on Cape Cod or participating in high school showcases around the league, it’s the best chance for players to get a lot of eyes on them against top competition. With that not happening last summer, this year’s draft is more of a crapshoot than usual.

For this week’s roundtable, we tried to work our way around the different routes, with the staff picking their preferred move for the Red Sox with their first selection.

Steven Brown

Given Boston’s rare position to select fourth overall alongside MLB’s loaded draft choices this year, I find them best suited to pursue Jack Leiter. The Red Sox pitching development has seen its fair share of ups and downs in the past decade, but a player of Leiter’s caliber could quickly make up for several hyped-up players that Boston has, in fact, landed in years prior. At the age of 21, and Boston still seemingly approaching its next window of a youth movement, Leiter could be a fast-riser through the system and potentially don a Red Sox uniform by 2024.

Notably, Leiter himself had apparently expressed hope in being selected by the Red Sox in this year’s draft, and while that might not dissuade other teams from selecting the right-handed ace regardless, it certainly puts Boston in a good spot ahead of Sunday’s draft. A recent participant in the College World Series, Leiter has one thing many other of the projected top-10 selections do not have: experience beyond high school.

Michael Walsh

I want the Red Sox to take either of the two Vanderbilt pitchers. Leiter is my preference and is the safer of the two, but (unfortunately) I think he’s likely to go before the Red Sox selection comes up. If that’s the case, Kumar Rocker is my second choice. There have been concerns about his velocity fluctuations and command, but his upside is too big to pass up on in my mind. Having the fourth pick, the Sox are essentially guaranteed to have one of Leiter or Rocker fall to them, and they should take advantage.

2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Baseball Championship Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Shelly Verougstraete

The 2020 season was an awful mess, but there is one good thing that came out of it: The Red Sox have the highest pick in the draft since the 1960s. Following draft coverage has been fun this year, and with the fourth overall pick, I’d love for the Red Sox to draft Henry Davis. Sure, some of the college pitchers would be fun, but I’m still not bought in enough on the Red Sox pitching development to feel comfortable with an arm.

Keaton DeRocher

I would like either of the Vandy Boys, Leiter or Rocker. I really want the Red Sox to finally draft and develop a good pitching prospect, and these two are the most polished dudes to come out since maybe Stephen Strasburg. Jackson Jobe is also a wild card I would be into because he might have the highest ceiling of all the pitchers in the draft, but he has so much risk attached I wouldn’t feel great about the Red Sox ability to develop him correctly. I also love catchers so I’d be fine with Henry Davis, who can just hit the crap out of the ball.

Phil Neuffer

I can’t pretend to be a huge college baseball fan, but I’ve been known to watch some games from time to time, especially around the College World Series time. Very few games really stick out in my memory, but I still vividly remember watching Kumar Rocker carve up Duke to the tune of 19 strikeouts and, oh yeah, a no-hitter in the 2019 Super Regionals. Rocker’s stock seems to have dropped a bit this year, although he’s still definitely a top 10 guy, but when striking out 179 batters and posting a 2.73 ERA across 122 innings (as Rocker has done for Vanderbilt in 2021) is somehow seen as underperforming, then I’d love to see what overperforming or even meeting expectations looks like, especially if it’s for the Red Sox.

Mike Carlucci

Outside of the occasional Strasburg or Bryce Harper, there are no guarantees in the draft. Remember Trey Ball? Jason Place? Rick Asadoorian? Phil Dumatrait? Casey Kelly? No? All first-round draft picks of the Red Sox! On the other hand so were Nomar, Trot, Ellsbury, et cetera. Since rumors indicate that Jack Leiter would like to be on the Red Sox, I hope he’s the one they can select with the fourth pick. The draft doesn’t give players the opportunity to work and live where they want, so we might as well hope for a kid to sign in a place he wants to be. With any luck, he’ll be in Boston in three or four years.

Brady Childs

I’m not going to pretend like I know anything about this year’s draft. I live in a hotbed of college baseball, but by the time I was vaxxed up the season was virtually over! But from what I’ve heard from people I trust is that Jack Leiter is the 1:1 talent in this draft and you’re working yourself into a shoot if you don’t take him. So if he’s there at four, I’ll be elated if they snag him. Either of the two high school shortstops would be a good consolation prize, as would Henry Davis, but with as much heat as there is on Leiter to the Sox I will be a little chapped if they skip him even though the extent of my draft knowledge doesn’t go past reading Kiley, Keenan Lamb, and Matt’s previews.

Matt Collins

Over the last week or so, between reading some things on the interwebs and talking to people smarter than myself, I’ve started to come to the conclusion that there is a top tier of three in this draft. That’s not to say there’s a big drop-off after them, but to me, Mayer, Leiter, and Jordan Lawlar as the best in this class. So if one of those three is there, I take them in a heartbeat. Right now, though, it seems Lawlar is the only one who could be left, and it seems more likely the Red Sox will take Davis. I won’t be super upset if they take Davis and leave Lawlar on the board because the former looks like a potentially elite bat, but it’s not the road I’d take if I were in charge.