The first day of the 2014 MLB draft is in the books, and the Boston Red Sox have added three more talented players to a very deep system. Owning the No. 26, No. 33 and No. 67 picks in the draft, the Red Sox bolstered both their minor league pitching and hitting with a mix of college and prep players, taking advantage of a deep draft class.
None of the players the Red Sox drafted have officially signed with the organization yet, but none were rumored to be difficult players to lock down, either. With that in mind, we can take an early look at where these new prospects should rank in a very deep, talented Red Sox system.
Ranking prospects always includes a level of subjectivity, and it's not an exact science. But in my opinion, you can break the prospects in the Red Sox farm system into tiers in order to get a better idea of where the recent draftees should be placed.
The first tier in the system consists of the four names you'd expect—Mookie Betts, Garin Cecchini, Henry Owens and Blake Swihart. They're all no-doubt top-100 prospects, and they're all in the upper minors.
Pitchers Matt Barnes and Allen Webster comprise a mini-tier all their own. You can easily make an argument for one over the other, but I think they're clearly behind the first four names and clearly ahead of any other prospect in the system.
After the two right-handers, ranking the players in this system gets a bit more convoluted. Right now, I have Christian Vazquez, Trey Ball, Anthony Ranaudo and Manuel Margot rounding out the top 10, but I think Deven Marrero and Brian Johnson belong in this tier, too.
It's within that final tier that we must begin to consider placing some of the Sox's picks from Thursday night. Without further ado, here's my initial reaction to where I'd rank Michael Chavis, Michael Kopech and Sam Travis in Boston's system:
12. Michael Chavis, INF, Sprayberry HS (Georgia)
Despite his modest size (5'10", 190 lbs) and physical projection, Chavis was considered one of the better pure hitters in the 2014 draft class and possesses some of the draft's best bat speed as well. He has above-average power and speed right now, with the former tool expected to improve and the latter expected to perhaps level off as he progresses through his developmental journey.
A high school shortstop, as many prospects are, Chavis' most likely home professionally is at third base. That being said, Clint Longnecker of Baseball America (via WEEI.com) cites catcher as an option for Chavis as well, and he might be able to handle second base, too. Still, he profiles best as a high-energy third baseman who can hit for average and power.
While none of the major mock drafts had the Red Sox taking Chavis, he was frequently cited as an alternative and a player Boston would consider. Some were surprised to see Chavis last all the way to No. 26, but it was a selection that was generally well received by those in the business.
Baseball America had Chavis ranked as its No. 26 prospect before the draft, while ESPN.com's Keith Law (subscription required) had him at No. 28, and Baseball Prospectus' Nick Faleris (subscription required) had him as the best corner infielder in the draft and a "potential Top-10 talent." He wasn't quite a steal for the Sox, but he was an excellent pick, and I'd rank him behind Marrero—a shortstop who's already in Double-A—but ahead of Johnson in the third tier of Boston prospects.
He could move up the ranks quickly.
15. Michael Kopech, RHP, Mount Pleasant HS (Texas)
The Red Sox had no shortage of talented options left on the board when they selected at No. 33. There were a bevy of talented high school arms—the greatest strength of this draft class—still on the board, as well as a few of the college bats that the Sox had been linked to in predraft days.
But the depth of Boston's farm system allowed it to truly gamble on upside, and it got upside in spades with the selection of Kopech. A big, 6'3", 190-pound flamethrowing Texan, Kopech is a prototypical power right-handed pitching prospect who's touched 98 mph. Scouts argue about whether his curve (via ESPN, subscription required) or his slider (via Faleris, subscription required) is more advanced at this point, but everyone sees promise in a breaking ball, giving Kopech a starter's tool kit.
Kopech is not going to move quickly through the system. His delivery is unorthodox and requires refinement, and he doesn't have much of a feel for a changeup or any other third pitch right now. Like the team's first pick from 2013, Trey Ball (No. 7 overall), Kopech is likely to face some bumps in the road early in his career, but the ultimate payoff could be significant.
I'd rank Kopech at No. 15, just behind Chavis, Johnson and Rafael Devers, but ahead of probable MLB role players like Drake Britton, Travis Shaw and the ever-popular Wendell Rijo. I like Kopech a good deal more than last year's second Red Sox pick, Teddy Stankiewicz.
22. Sam Travis, 1B, Indiana University
The Red Sox had been heavily linked to college hitters like Alex Blandino, A.J. Reed, Derek Fisher and Mike Papi in predraft days, so it was mildly surprising to see them take back-to-back prep prospects with their first two picks. But thanks to savvy drafting and a deep draft class, the Sox were able to land an intriguing college bat in Travis with their second-round pick, adding another high-probability bat to their system.
Travis' ultimate upside is limited by his defensive home, but he brings an intriguing hitting/power combination that should see him secure a major league future. ESPN (subscription required) put an above-average grade on his bat and an average grade on his power, while Faleris praised his "compact line drive stroke that plays well to all fields." He's not a masher, but he also has enough skill at the plate to hit for decent averages.
Everything would have to break just right for Travis to truly project as a first-division starter, but the underlying skill set is here for Travis to shoot through the low minors in short order. He's a safe bet to have an MLB future, even if he doesn't profile as a star.
I have him at No. 22 here, behind players like Stankiewicz, Bryce Brentz and Sean Coyle, but ahead of arms like Jamie Callahan or Cody Kukuk. If you want to argue he should be two to four slots higher, I think that's certainly reasonable—this "low" ranking says more about the depth of the Sox's system than it does about Travis' lack of skill.