In the last 46 years, the Boston Red Sox have had exactly one pick in the top seven of the MLB Draft. They made the most of that one, drafting the legendary Trot Nixon.
While a run of good play through 2011 meant the Sox have been picking further back in the first round, a silver lining to last year’s horrible season is that they now have the opportunity to grab a top-tier prospect. Many talented players who could help bolster the Sox’s farm system will be available for GM Ben Cherington to choose from, and the challenge for him will be to figure out which needs the Sox need to fill most urgently.
Here’s a look at five players the Sox will target in the first round:
School: Loganville High School (Georgia)
Clint Frazier is a dynamic outfielder who is regarded by many as a five-tool player, although his power numbers have not come around as quickly as hoped. Considering he is just 18 years old and already has the “best bat speed I have ever seen from an amateur prospect” according to ESPN’s Keith Law, Frazier would be hard to walk away from given his upside.
Of course, there is a lot of volatility in taking such young players, and projecting what an 18-year-old is going to become is a lot harder than with a 21-year-old. Sports Illustrated’s Dave Perkin compared Frazier to Andrew McCutchen in his most recent mock draft, high praise for such a young player.
If the Sox agree with this comparison, they’d be fools not to select Frazier.
School: University of North Carolina
Colin Moran has great power from the hot corner, and many scouts think he will end up as a first baseman before too long. That arrangement would certainly benefit the Sox, who have a dearth of first base prospects.
Moran’s got the size (6’ 3”, 215 pounds) and the pedigree (his uncle is B.J. Surhoff and his brother Brian is pitching in the Mariners’ farm system) that point to someone who will be successful on the MLB level. He was the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Freshman of the Year last season, and was the only first-year player named to the All-America team as he led the Tar Heels in most offensive categories.
He has hit 13 home runs so far this season, so he’s got plenty of power. If he is still available at No. 7, he will be a tantalizing option.
School: Grayson High School (Georgia)
Like Clint Frazier, Austin Meadows is a young high school outfielder from Georgia who has incredible tools and tremendous potential. He has tremendous size as well, standing at 6’ 3” and weighing in at 200 pounds.
While he possesses the kind of athleticism you love to see out of a potential middle-of-the-order hitter, he also has the raw tools to be a huge success. Of course, plenty of players have had the same tools and seen their careers completely fizzle.
Less of a “sure thing” than fellow outfielder Frazier, if given the choice the Sox would probably take the former over Meadows. However, as a fallback plan, this is pretty darn good.
School: University of Nevada
A former shortstop, Braden Shipley is still developing his craft as a pitcher but has flashed signs of someone with serious potential. His fastball comes in at 98 MPH and is complemented by a curveball and a changeup that (at a minimum) will be serviceable pitches on the professional level.
His numbers this past season (3.03 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 84 strikeouts, 31 walks and 92.1 innings) show a player on the rise, and one perhaps worth taking a gamble on in the first round. What the Sox have to ask themselves, though, is whether the potential Shipley has flashed is really worth the No. 7 overall pick.
While it may be tempting to take Shipley, the Sox may look at a more proven commodity with this pick. However, if Ben Cherington wants to make a splash, this would be the player to do it with.
School: Indiana State University
If the Sox were to draft Sean Manaea, fans would surely hope he fares as well as the last big-time Boston athlete to come out of Terra Haute. His performance this past summer in the Cape Cod League caught a lot of people’s attention, where the left-hander hit 96 MPH on the gun and posted a 5-1 record with a 1.22 ERA.
He’s still considered a bit raw mechanically and has been battling a hip injury lately that has given some teams pause. His velocity and command have also lacked consistency from past years.
However, there’s no arguing with his success this season; with a 1.47 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 73.1 innings, Manaea showed that his performance over the summer was no fluke.