Selecting at both No. 26 and No. 33, the Red Sox will have the chance to add talent to a farm system that's already considered among the game's best. They're in a much different situation than they were a year ago when they took Trey Ball with the No. 7 pick, but the Sox have been able to find excellent players late in the first round many times in the past.
Current prospects like Jackie Bradley Jr., Deven Marrero, Blake Swihart and Anthony Ranaudo were all selected in the late first or supplemental first-round in recent years. Major leaguers like Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jed Lowrie, David Murphy and Casey Kelly were drafted lower than you might expect, too.
In short, the Red Sox still have a great opportunity to find their next core contributor on June 5, and they'll get two chances to do so, thanks to the pick they gained at No. 33 when they lost Ellsbury to the Yankees this offseason. With that knowledge in mind, it's smart to take a look at some of the talent the Red Sox have been linked to in the weeks leading up to the draft.
The MLB draft is different from its NFL and NBA counterparts in that it makes no sense for teams to draft for need. A vast majority of the players selected will not see the major leagues at all, and those who do make it generally take between two and five seasons to reach MLB. Essentially, whatever your team's strengths and weaknesses are right now will likely be irrelevant by the time the talent drafted this June can make a difference.
That being said, we can still identify drafting patterns among organizations with consistent leadership and scouting departments. Those trends—along with an understanding of the "best player available" concept—can help us make educated guesses as to who each team will select.
Using recent mock drafts from ESPN.com's Keith Law, MLBDraftInsiders.com's Chris Crawford, MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo and Baseball America's John Manuel—plus general chatter from around the web—here are six players the Red Sox are linked to quite frequently.
Derek Fisher, OF, Virginia
Fisher is the draft prospect linked to the Red Sox most often to this point, as both MLB.com and Baseball America predict that Boston will draft Fisher in their latest mock drafts. A player with big upside as a hitter but some flaws as an all-around player, Fisher would add an element of power largely missing from the Red Sox system right now.
According to Nick J. Faleris of Perfect Game and Baseball Propsectus, Fisher is "a strong kid with a smooth barrel delivery that allows for hard contact from pole to pole," though scouts put varying grades on his run and glove tools. His athleticism may limit him to left field, but some think he has the arm to play right instead.
After turning down a signing bonus from the Rangers when they drafted him in the sixth round in 2011, Fisher attended Virginia and underwhelmed during his first two seasons. He impressed in the Cape Cod League last summer, according to MLB.com, but then broke his hamate and missed six weeks of the college season. That makes it a bit difficult to evaluate Fisher, but his talent would still be a nice get late in the first round.
Derek Hill, OF, Elk Grove HS, CA
Mocked to the Red Sox by Crawford, Hill is a potential four-tool contributor with plus-defense and speed, and above-average hit and arm tools. At 6' 2", 170 pounds, Hill is a lithe, athletic prospect who should be able to man center field. Law has praised Hill's willingness to go the other way and to hit and identify breaking balls.
The Oregon recruit also receives praise for his outstanding play on the showcase circuit last summer, but many sources—most notably ESPN—question his ultimate upside. While there's the potential for Hill to become a leadoff hitter and impact defender, his lack of power and non-elite hit tool could render him a down-the-order hitter instead.
The Red Sox haven't shied away from defense-first prospects with limited upside (Marrero, Bradley) in recent years, so Hill does fit their mold to a certain extent.
Marcus Wilson, OF, Junipero Serra HS, CA
If the Red Sox are going to take a shot on a player with high upside at 26, Wilson may be their best bet. A speedy center fielder who ESPN labels as "more athlete than baseball player right now," Wilson has made significant strides on the field over the past season. He features plus bat speed and a chance at hitting for above-average power, and his speed and defensive potential are evident right now.
Rated as MLB.com's 30th best prospect headed into the draft, the Arizona State commit profiles as a player who can add good weight to his frame as he ages, yet one who can still retain above-average speed. He won't be a fast-mover through the minors, but the ultimate payoff could be significant.
Chase Vallot, C/1B, St. Thomas More HS, LA
On one hand, Vallot is a backstop with big raw power, impressive bat speed and the type of arm that could let him control the running game with ease. On the other, Vallot's two weakest tools are his hit tool and his defense behind the plate, making him a high-risk proposition for whichever teams drafts him this June.
According to Faleris, Vallot's body profiles as that of a future first baseman, and both ESPN and MLB.com acknowledged those concerns with Vallot as well. While his bat could make him an excellent backstop, the profile loses much of its luster if it comes at first base. Vallot is frequently linked to the Sox as a possible supplemental first-round pick for them at No. 33, but if you're having unpleasant Ryan Lavarnway flashbacks, it's hard to blame you.
Erik Fedde, RHP, UNLV and Jeff Hoffman, RHP, East Carolina
I'm lumping Fedde and Hoffman together here because they face incredibly similar scenarios. Both right-handers were near locks for top-10 selections just a few weeks ago, but both have hit the shelf with Tommy John surgery since. Now, both pitchers figure to last until the middle of the first round, where teams willing to assume a little extra risk could gamble on their considerable talent.
The Red Sox are a good bet to grab any higher talent who falls because of concerns such as a high price tag or Tommy John surgery.
The Red Sox have shown a willingness to take this type of gamble on a player before (think Ranaudo), and they have the financial flexibility to make a deal work since they pick at both 26 and 33. The odds are both Fedde and Hoffman will be gone—none of the ESPN, MLB.com, MLBInsider.com or Baseball America drafts have either arm lasting to 26—but if either pitcher happens to fall, it would not be terribly surprising to see Boston pull the trigger.