The Boston Red Sox have been one of the most successful drafting teams over the past decade.
After years of trading away minor-league talent for veterans and favoring the free-agent process, Boston's whole philosophy changed when owner John Henry came in and installed his own brain trust. An emphasis on homegrown players acquired through the draft was instituted. While the Red Sox started off well in that department, they moved away over the intervening years from that philosophy, thanks to the successes at the major-league level, which had to be sustained.
The fried chicken and beer collapse in 2011, followed by the Bobby Valentine debacle of 2012, changed all that, and the team is back to emphasizing homegrown players acquired through the draft.
It's a good move, as an impressive 15 of 35 players drafted in the first two rounds over the past decade have debuted in the major leagues. These players are highlighted in bold in the following list of Boston's draft picks dating back to the year 2004. They comprise the first two rounds of each draft, including the supplemental first-round pick (denoted as "1s") gained as compensation to losing players to free agency. The "Overall" column is the overall number in the draft the player was selected, not the overall inside the specific round. Without further ado:
|2007||2||84||Hunter Morris (did not sign)|
|2011||1s||40||Jackie Bradley Jr.|
The 43 percent success rate in transitioning high-level draft picks to the majors is nothing short of astounding.
And even better, that figure should go up very shortly. As noted in italics in the table above, eight additional people are poised to make their debut in the major leagues in either 2014 or 2015. These are relatively "safe" picks—things would have to go dramatically wrong for these players to not debut in the majors. That would make Boston's success rate in 10 seasons worth of drafts a whopping 66 percent.
As Baseball America's Matt Eddy details, 57 percent of all first-, supplemental first- and second-rounders make the major leagues. This study was done through drafts of 2008, allowing for five full seasons in the minor leagues to give the draft's players ample time to make the major leagues. When you consider that 43 percent of Boston's top picks have already made the majors without controlling for this five-year window (which would have had a cut-off of 2009), the Red Sox's success is that much more acute.
(Controlling for this five-year window and cutting off at 2009 would give the Red Sox a 65 percent success rate with 13 major leaguers out of a possible 20, still besting Baseball America's finding of 57 percent across all teams.)
The five biggest scores in the past 10 years in Boston's draft are:
Dustin Pedroia: Drafted in the second round, the Red Sox were ahead of the curve in recognizing the second baseman's hand-eye coordination. ESPN's Keith Law, who worked for the Toronto Blue Jays at the time, said that Pedroia was a fourth-rounder in their eyes, while many probably did not even have him as a possible draft pick.
Jacoby Ellsbury: Ellsbury helped lead the Red Sox to two World Series alongside Pedroia, then bolted to become the latest Red Sox-turned-traitor to the Yankees, amassing a $153-million deal from New York. Unlike Pedroia, Ellsbury was a first-rounder and thus was not as large a surprise as Pedroia turned out to be.
Clay Buchholz: 2014's struggles notwithstanding, Buchholz has been a solid major leaguer. He's thrown a no-hitter, won two rings, won 17 games in a season (2010) and was well on his way to a Cy Young Award in 2013 before injuries struck. Buchholz was 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA in 16 starts in 2013, which makes his 7.02 ERA through 10 starts in 2014 that much more shocking to digest.
Jed Lowrie: No longer with the Red Sox, Lowrie has also played for the Astros and A's. He has fashioned himself into a quality hitter who can play second base and shortstop—and third base in a pinch. An impending free agent, Lowrie should get a solid contract this offseason.
Justin Masterson: Masterson was traded to Cleveland in 2009 after impressing Boston out of the bullpen. Boston has long wanted Masterson back and has made overtures to that effect, as Over the Monster relays, but Cleveland has hung onto the right-hander. Boston needed to give up Masterson to acquire catcher Victor Martinez, but Masterson has developed into a strong starting pitcher that could get a payday this offseason as a free agent.
As the Red Sox ready for the 2014 draft, only time will tell just how successful the draft ends up. If the last decade of top draft picks is any indication, Boston will be drafting someone that eventually turns out to be a bona fide major leaguer.