The first-year player draft starts tonight at 7 p.m. The Red Sox will make three selections on the first day, Nos. 24, 31 and 36.
The first is their pick and the second is compensation from the Phillies for signing free agent Jonathan Papelbon. The third pick is part of the compensation round and was for the loss of Papelbon.
(Why are there 31 picks in the first round? The Blue Jays were given a second pick, No. 22, for failing to sign their first round pick last year. That was Tyler Beede of Lawrence Academy.)
Given the wide range of players who are available and the differing philosophies of each team, predicting who the Red Sox will take is a difficult exercise.
In the past, it was a good bet they would gamble at some point on a talented high school player seemingly intent on going to college, knowing they could overwhelm him with a high bonus offer. That was how they ended up with Casey Kelly in 2008 and Blake Swihart last year.
But under the new draft rules, teams have a set cap on bonus payments based on the number of picks they have.
For the Sox it’s $6,884,800. To put that in perspective, they spent $6.65 million on their first four picks alone last year.
This particular draft class is not considered an inspiring one. One of the top prospects is shortstop Gavin Cecchini of Lake Charles, La. He is the younger brother of Red Sox prospect Garin Cecchini, a third baseman with Single A Greenville who was taken in the fourth round in 2010.
The Sox would welcome the chance to take Cecchini, but he may not slide that far. Baseball America predicts the Sox will take Duke RHP Marcus Stroman, then California high school shortstop Tanner Rahier.
In the past few years, the Red Sox have used their early picks to select players who would sign for reasonable bonus amounts and then used their financial muscle later in the draft.
To a lesser degree in terms of the numbers, that could happen again this year. The Sox could take signable college players with their first two picks, save some money from their pool, then use that money on a high school player at No. 36.
Florida high school pitcher Lance McClullers, a righthander, is that sort of player.
Check back around 7 p.m. and we’ll let you know what happens. The baseball draft isn’t as celebrated an event as the NFL draft or even the NBA draft. But for a team that selects wisely, it can be the most important day of the season.