(The 2021 MLB draft starts Sunday. The Red Sox hold the No. 4 overall pick, their highest selection since 1967. Leading up to the first round, the Globe will offer a closer look at some of the players in consideration for the team’s first selection.)
In a year in which shortstop Jordan Lawlar is one of the top high school prospects in the draft — a likely consideration for the Red Sox with the No. 4 overall pick — it’s hard for Brandon Agamennone to avoid playing the what-if game.
Agamennone scouted North Texas and North Louisiana for the Red Sox from 2016 through 2020. He was credited as the signing scout for some prominent picks, including 2018 third-rounder Durbin Feltman and 2017 fifth-rounder Alex Scherff, both now in Double A Portland’s bullpen.
But Agamennone never was the signing scout for a first-rounder with the Red Sox, and he won’t get an opportunity to do so this year. Agamennone said that he informed the Red Sox last September that he’d be unable to continue scouting due to a family medical situation.
The medical situation has been successfully addressed, and the scout is optimistic that he’ll soon return to work in the game. Still, it’s not lost on him that his year away from scouting may have cost him a chance to anchor the Red Sox’ scouting process with Lawlar, one of the most dazzling amateur players in the country.
“You wait and you wait and you wait and you wait and wonder, ‘Where will I have a shot at a first-rounder?’” said Agamennone. “This would have been the year.”
Lawlar, who played at Dallas Jesuit High School, had been on Agamennone’s radar since his freshman year. From that early age, Lawlar separated himself in every aspect of the game.
“His glove was very refined for that age. Just really good hands, he moved well laterally, and obviously the bat — he just had, for his peer group, power above and beyond what you normally see for a 14-year-old,” said Agamennone. “And it was consistent. That’s the big thing.”
In a strong baseball region, Lawlar dominated throughout his high school career. He hit .409/.534/.864 as a freshman, .485/.561/.848 in his pandemic-shortened sophomore season, and .425/.552/.713 with 27 steals this year.
Lawlar raised eyebrows when he struck out with unusual frequency to start the year, with 16 whiffs in 21 games. But he struck out just once in his final 15 contests while hitting four of his six homers, and reminded everyone why he’s viewed as a top talent.
“He just let himself play the game,” Agamennone said of that turnaround. “I think that’s a big thing that guys who really can be elite, that they can slow it down mentally.”
Agamennone also saw aptitude against advanced competition. In a showcase game with other well-regarded prospects last summer, Lawlar offered a glimpse into an unusually strong offensive approach.
“He came out and just put together a really good eight- or nine-pitch at-bat against a really good arm, fouling some tough pitches off, pulling his hands through some pitches. After that battle, he turned around and smokes a single,” said Agamennone. “You go, ‘It’s just a single.’ I’m going, ‘Man, how he worked through that at-bat to get to that single was phenomenal.’
“And then he comes up in the next at-bat and just launches one to left-center field. Now you’ve got, ‘OK, not only is this guy toolsy, but he’s really figured out how to use those tools.’ He’s figuring out the strike zone, his zone, he didn’t expand the zone at all against better pitches.”
Those two at-bats highlighted Lawlar’s rare combination of tools and skills.
While Agamennone had been following Lawlar informally for years — inviting him on occasion to his baseball facility for workouts with and against older competition — when he started writing reports last summer, he saw a player with extraordinary potential, an elite high school shortstop with five-tool ability.
With the Red Sox holding the No. 4 pick, it’s possible Lawlar will be on the board when they pick Sunday. The scout suggested his former team should be thrilled if it does indeed have an opportunity to take a player he views as a potential star.
Agamennone detailed the components of his evaluation of Lawlar using the 20-to-80 scouting scale, in which 50 represents a major league-average tool, 55 is above-average, 60 is plus, and anything above that is elite. For the former Red Sox scout, Lawlar projected to have a 55 or 60 hit tool in the big leagues, 60 power, 65 or 70 fielding skills, a 60 arm, and possible 70 speed.
“When you’re grading him out, you’re looking at probably a cumulative 65 grade on future grades on this guy,” said Agamennone. “I think he’s gonna be a superstar.”
It’s possible that Lawlar could already be selected by the time the Red Sox make their selection at No. 4. For that matter, it’s possible that the consensus view of the Red Sox amateur scouting department diverges from that of its former area scout.
All the same, if Lawlar is on the board, Agamennone would be both thrilled — and a bit jealous — if his former team lands him.
“I try not to think about it, honestly,” Agamennone said. “[The feeling] would be like, ‘Man, that stinks.’ But for [current Red Sox area scout] Chris Reilly it’s awesome. I hope he gets him.”