The Red Sox usually spend the first round of the annual amateur draft crossing out names and patiently waiting for their turn. As future All-Stars and Cy Young winners are selected, they fidget.
Not since 1993, when the Sox picked seventh and took North Carolina high school outfielder Trot Nixon, has the team made a selection that was higher than 12th. That changes Thursday when once again they will have the seventh overall pick.
“It’s definitely exciting to not have to wait an hour and a half to make a selection,” said Amiel Sawdaye, the team’s director of amateur scouting. “However, it also reminds you that you are picking seventh for a reason.”
Last season doesn’t get mentioned very often at Fenway Park these days. But finishing 69-93 brought with it a chance to select a player who can change the future of the organization.
Matt Harvey, Clayton Kershaw, and Troy Tulowitzki are among the notable players who were taken seventh overall in recent years. This draft is not considered a particularly deep one, but Sawdaye is convinced the Red Sox will land a difference-making player.
“Most definitely,” he said. “We expect to take a player that will impact the organization.”
Most analysts believe the three top players in the draft are college players: Oklahoma righthander Jonathan Gray, Stanford righthander Mark Appel, and San Diego third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant.
Gray could drop with the news Monday that he tested positive for the stimulant Adderall during a predraft drug screening of the top 200 prospects.
There are roughly 10 players in the next tier of talent, which is expected to be the pool the Red Sox will choose from. Determining whom they pick has been an organization-wide endeavor.
The bulk of the work falls on Sawdaye and his scouts. The Red Sox bolstered the depth of their scouting acumen with the addition of veteran evaluators Eddie Bane and Tom Kotchman during the winter.
The organization also brought back the well-respected John Booher as a national cross-checker after he spent three years with Texas. Booher was with the Red Sox from 2003-09 as an area scout.
Jason Varitek, a special assistant to general manager Ben Cherington, scouted players in Georgia and will be in the draft room adding his opinions.
When Cherington was asked how much time the GM has devoted, he said, “Quite a bit. I can’t put a number on it. The last three weeks leading up to the draft, I spend more time on it than anything else.”
Starting in February, Cherington started his days reviewing reports on players filed the previous night by scouts on the road. He also personally saw “a handful” of players.
“My personal opinion on a player is less important than spending time with our scouts, asking questions, and being a resource for [Sawdaye],” he said.
But Cherington is ultimately responsible for the pick and does have a scouting background.
“I know, in talking to Ben, this decision is a big one,” manager John Farrell said. “We’ve got a chance to get somebody who could be a special player.”
It goes well beyond athletic ability on the field. Particularly for those players who will require the greatest financial investment, the Red Sox delve into their backgrounds and try to project their ability to come through the minor leagues successfully.
“I’d say of all the teams I spoke to before I was drafted, the Red Sox did the most work on that side of it,” said Jackie Bradley Jr., the 40th overall pick in 2011. “They really tried to get to know me as a person.”
This is the fourth draft Sawdaye will run for the Red Sox, and Bradley is part of a successful series of selections.
The Red Sox took five players in 2010 — outfielder Bryce Brentz, righthander Anthony Ranaudo, righthander Brandon Workman, infielder Sean Coyle, and infielder Garin Cecchini — who have emerged as future major leaguers.
The 2011 draft produced Bradley along with catcher Blake Swihart, lefthander Henry Owens, and righthander Matt Barnes.
The team’s top pick last season, shortstop Deven Marrero, earned an invitation to major league spring training.
“Every pick is extremely important,” said Sawdaye, “and sometimes the other picks are just as important as the first-rounder because it allows you to employ different strategies throughout the draft.”
But this season, that first-round pick is a little shinier.
“We have an opportunity this year to consider a different pool of players than we normally do,” Cherington said. “But our process hasn’t changed.”
The Red Sox have extensively scouted high school outfielders Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier, who play for different schools in Loganville, Ga.
Third baseman Colin Moran, who went to North Carolina, has the plate discipline the Sox value. College righthanders Braden Shipley (Nevada), Ryne Stanek (Arkansas), and Alex Gonzalez (Oral Roberts) are first-round quality.
Taking a high school pitcher in the first round is risky. But righthander Kohl Stewart of Houston is a possibility, along with lefthander Trey Ball of New Castle, Ind.
Stewart has a football scholarship to play quarterback at Texas A&M. In 1993, Nixon passed on a scholarship to play quarterback at North Carolina State to sign with the Sox.
The Red Sox took Hunter Renfroe in the 31st round in 2010 when he was coming out of Copiah Academy in Gallman, Miss. Then a catcher, he decided to attend Mississippi State and became an outfielder.
Renfroe is now one of the top 15 players in the draft and is being considered again.
Players picked at No. 7 in past drafts
If the last 10 years are an indication, the Sox should get a significant player at No. 7:
|2012||LHP Max Fried||Padres||19-year-old is in Single A this season|
|2011||RHP Archie Bradley||Diamondbacks||Dominant at two levels this season at age of 20|
|2010||RHP Matt Harvey||Mets||One of top young starters in the game|
|2009||LHP Mike Minor||Braves||Rotation mainstay in majors since 2011|
|2008||1B Yonder Alonso||Reds||Dealt to Padres in 2011, now their starting first baseman|
|2007||1B Matt LaPorta||Brewers||Traded to Indians in CC Sabathia deal|
|2006||LHP Clayton Kershaw||Dodgers||Two-time All-Star, Cy Young winner in 2011|
|2005||SS Troy Tulowitzki||Rockies||Two-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner|
|2004||RHP Homer Bailey||Reds||Has not reached expectations, but is in the rotation of a contender|
|2003||OF Nick Markakis||Orioles||Career .296 hitter with 124 home runs|