Because MLB teams can't really draft for need, it's quite difficult for pundits to accurately predict which players will land where. Teams nearly always go with the best player available because of the time it takes draftees to develop. That being said, teams rank players differently, as there's a wide range of outcomes for what teenagers in high school or college juniors can become in several years' time.
To throw another wrench into the system, some organizations get creative with the financial aspect of the draft. They take lesser players early on in order to recoup draft-slot money and sign riskier prospects with later picks. The Kansas City Royals pulled this off last year, signing Hunter Dozier to an under-slot deal at No. 8 overall, then using the savings to nab Sean Manaea with the No. 34 pick.
Add in that many among this year's crop of top prospects are suffering through major injuries, and correctly predicting whom the Red Sox or any other organization will have available to them is even more difficult than usual.
Last week, I took a look at six first-round targets linked to Boston by many of the leading draft analysts around the web. Now, I'll break down the latest rumors surrounding the Red Sox and the draft from MLB.com's Jim Callis, ESPN.com's Keith Law, Baseball America's John Manuel, MLBDraftInsider.com's Chris Crawford and Bleacher Report's own Adam Wells.
Erick Fedde, RHP, UNLV
I covered Fedde briefly in last week's breakdown, as many analysts predicted that the Red Sox would be in on the college right-hander—as well as East Carolina product Jeff Hoffman—if either player happened to fall all the way down to No. 26. Both Fedde and Hoffman were once projected as Top 10 picks, but both are recovering from Tommy John surgery, which makes them riskier propositions than many of the other arms on the board.
But this week, both Wells and Callis projected Fedde to land at No. 26 and take the ultimate gamble on upside. As Callis noted, the Red Sox have another pick at No. 33, which means they can assume some risk at this pick. And as Wells stated, Fedde projects as a No. 3 starter with his mid-90s fastball and potential plus slider.
While many other mock drafts have Fedde off the board before the Red Sox's pick, Bleacher Report's Mike Rosenbaum lists the right-hander at No. 30 on his Top 100 list, so draft slot and talent match up here.
Casey Gillaspie, 1B, Wichita State
The brother of White Sox third baseman Conor Gillaspie, Casey's athletic limitations mean he'll likely be confined to first base at the professional level, according to ESPN (subscription required). Thankfully, Gillaspie is a switch-hitter with enough pop and a good-enough glove to make him a potential starter at the position, even if he doesn’t project as a star.
A switch-hitter, he has a fluid swing from both the left and right side with strong hands, and has shown above-average power potential from both sides, though he's more of a 18-20 homer guy than a 25-35 guy, which somewhat limits his offensive upside. – ESPN Scouts Inc
According to Law, Boston is heavily connected to many of the top college hitters likely to remain at No. 26, which makes sense given the rumors we've seen of Boston's interest in outfielder Derek Fisher here, too. The sense I get is that Gillaspie would be a rather safe pick, freeing the Red Sox up to take a bigger gamble with their next selection at No. 33.
Gillaspie ranks in at No. 25 on Rosenbaum's Top 100.
Nick Howard, RHP, University of Virginia
One of the draft's harder throwers and the University of Virginia's most recent closer, Howard has one of the best fastballs among this year's crop of pitchers. Taking him in the first round would mean the Red Sox would have to be somewhat confident about his ability to start professionally, one would assume, and according to Baseball America, that's likely the case.
Every big league organization has seen a lot of Virginia all spring. While outfielder Derek Fisher started the year as the top Cavalier on most boards, he has been usurped by closer Nick Howard, who has an outside chance to start. – John Manuel
With guys like Anthony Ranaudo, Brandon Workman, Matt Barnes and Pat Light, the Red Sox have shown an affinity for college righties with plus fastballs in the recent past. Whether they'll gamble on someone with Howard's profile is a different story.
Howard ranks at just No. 58 on Rosenbaum's big board, so some might feel as though this mock selection is a reach.
A.J. Reed, 1B, Kentucky
If the Red Sox miss out on college bats like Fisher and Gillaspie, they could turn to the power-hitting Reed at No. 26. Intriguing both as a pitcher and as a hitter—sort of like Brian Johnson, who the Sox nabbed in 2012—Reed's professional future is more likely to come at the plate, where he brings potential plus-plus power to the table.
MLBDraftInsider.com's Chris Crawford has Reed landing with the Red Sox with their first pick, while MLB.com has the Sox linked to Reed at No. 33. Either way, he'd add some pop to a system that lacks a ton of true power hitters, and his high floor as a college hitter would allow Boston to be aggressive elsewhere.
Reed ranks in at No. 35 on Rosenbaum's Top 100, which means he's likely to go in the late-first or early-first supplemental rounds.