The 5 Biggest Draft Busts in Red Sox History
Since last August, the Red Sox have embraced the time-tested business model of developing young players in the minor leagues in order to win championships. The Red Sox have built one of the strongest minor league systems in baseball as a result.
Most of the notable players in Boston’s farm ranks were acquired through the draft. Although the Red Sox have been successful in this area in the recent past, there are some notable exceptions to this trend where Boston’s top draft picks have turned into massive flops.
Here are five such examples, in no particular order.
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Taken 27th overall back in the 2006 draft, Jason Place immediately garnered attention for his exciting blend of speed and power. He even flashed quality defense in the outfield, adding to a toolbox that excited Red Sox fans and scouts.
However, as he moved up the ladder, problems with his hit tool were magnified. Place started piling up strikeouts at an astronomical rate and began struggling to hit for average. His numbers become so horrendous later in his career that he never made it past the Double-A level. To make matters worse, Place became an increasingly unpopular player with his teammates.
Eventually, the Red Sox released the once-promising outfielder. He eventually retired from baseball after the 2011 season
Notable Players Drafted Shortly After Place
Daniel Bard (28th), Chris Coghlan (36th)
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Kris Johnson was a typical left-handed college power arm, standing at 6’4” and 200 pounds with a heavy fastball and smooth mechanics. His frame and stuff made him the 40th overall pick back in 2006. In his first taste of pro ball in Lowell, Mass., Johnson dominated, only allowing three earned runs in 30.2 innings of work.
However, it was an ugly downhill trip from there.
Johnson posted a poor 5.56 ERA in High-A Lancaster the next year,and only saw marginal improvements when he repeated the level the following season. While he did make it to Triple-A with the Pawtucket Red Sox, Johnson’s lack of a reliable third pitch prevented him from posting elite strikeout numbers.
The Pirates picked up Johnson last year as a reclamation project. He’s now serving as the swing man for Pittsburgh’s Triple-A affiliate. Not exactly the role you’d envision for a former first-round pick.
Notable Players Drafted Shortly After Johnson
Joba Chamberlain (41st), Chris Perez (42nd)
After dominating his high school league in Alabama, the Red Sox snagged Caleb Clay with the 44th pick in the 2006 draft hoping he would develop into a top rotation starter.
Much like Johnson, Clay rewarded Boston’s confidence at first. The tall, lanky right-hander fired 21 strong innings at Lowell shortly after the draft, posting a 2.13 ERA in the process.
Shortly after the season, however, Clay needed Tommy John surgery, and he hasn’t been the same since.
Clay’s stuff has been very weak since his return from surgery. As a result, he’s struggled to keep his ERA under control, even hitting rock bottom when he posted a 7.47 ERA pitching in relief at Double-A Portland.
Clay was released by the Red Sox after last season and is now pitching at Double-A Harrisburg for the Nationals.
And seriously, the Hollywood 'stache really needs to go.
Notable Players Drafted Shortly After Clay
Chris Tillman (49th), Brett Anderson (55th)
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There was a time when Craig Hansen was Boston’s closer of the future. His blazing fastball and quality slider made him an ideal candidate for a late-inning relief role.
However, Hansen’s ineffectiveness and the emergence of Jonathan Papelbon led the Red Sox to trade away their former first-round pick in the 2008 deal that landed Boston Jason Bay.
Since that trade, Hansen’s career has gone from bad to worse.
In his first stint with the Pirates, Hansen posted a 7.47 ERA, quickly earning a demotion to the minor leagues, where his numbers weren’t much better. He eventually retired from baseball, leaving the Pirates regretting their decision to let Bay go.
Hansen’s disappointing career is still a bit of a mystery. He did encounter command problems toward the end of his years on the field, but the more commonly held explanation for his demise is that he simply lacked the confidence and makeup to be a major league player, despite his immense talent.
Notable Players Drafted Shortly After Hansen
Colby Rasmus (28th), Luke Hochevar (40th)
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The Red Sox used their 15th overall pick in 1995 on Andrew Yount. The young, projectable righty enjoyed some success in rookie ball, posting an encouraging 2.76 ERA over 16 innings of work.
However, following along much the same lines as the previous pitchers on this list, Yount’s career only got worse from there.
In Lowell the following season, Yount posted a 6.29 ERA and walked more than a batter per inning, leading the Red Sox to eventually cut their losses and release him.
The Tigers let him dabble in the minor leagues into his early 20s in the hope that he would realize some of his potential. They even got so desperate that they let him try out hitting at one point. However, Yount did not excel in either facet of the sport and was out of baseball before his 30th birthday.
Notable First-Round Picks Taken After Yount
Roy Halladay (17th), Michael Barrett (28th)
Dishonorable Mention: Kolbrin Vitek
You may have noticed that all the previously mentioned players are no longer with the Red Sox, and many have been out of baseball for some time. In fact, the Red Sox have been very successful in the draft recently.
There is, however, one player currently with the organization who may, sadly, be headed for the walk of shame onto this list if things don’t turn around for him quickly.
While Kolbrin Vitek is far too young to be considered a bust just yet, his pro career thus far doesn’t inspire confidence.
The 24-year-old third baseman was drafted 20th overall in the 2010 first-year player draft, the same young crop that included young superstars like Bryce Harper, Chris Sale, Matt Harvey and Manny Machado.
Furthermore, highly regarded prospects like Christian Yelich, Aaron Sanchez, Noah Syndergaard, Taijuan Walker, Nick Castellanos, and Mike Olt were all chosen after Vitek in the first round.
Despite his elite company, Vitek has failed to produce at a high level. Since being drafted, Vitek has hit just .263/.334/.365 in 273 games of action. At Double-A Portland last season, Vitek only managed a paltry .623 OPS, striking 47 times in 46 games. Repeating the level this year hasn’t helped either, as he is currently struggling to stay above the Mendoza Line.
His defense has also been lackluster, as he is a converted second baseman who is having trouble handling duties at the hot corner.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not writing off Vitek as a bust right now. It’s entirely possible that he’s just experiencing growing pains from moving up the organizational ladder. He still has the athletic build and promising hit tool that made him a top talent.
But at the moment, his career is not trending in the right direction. He has a lot of work to do to reach his full potential.