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Rays’ Austin Meadows is one that got away for Red Sox

Austin Meadows entered the weekend hitting leading the AL with a .349 batting average and also has an OPS of 1.069.Make Carlson/Getty Images/Getty Images

Another draft is now in the books, which means that it is now just five to eight years until the impact of the players who were — and were not — selected will become clear. That long road to judgment is highlighted by the meeting between the Red Sox and Rays at Fenway Park this weekend.

Austin Meadows has emerged as one of the top players in the American League to start the year. The 24-year-old — acquired by the Rays from the Pirates last summer in the Chris Archer deal — entered Friday hitting .349/.424/.645 with 12 homers, emerging as a multidimensional force. His impact?


“Indescribable. It’s been huge,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “In every situation he’s been, he has risen to that challenge.”

His emergence offers the Red Sox a reminder of a missed opportunity. In 2013, the Sox held the No. 7 overall pick in the draft. Of particular interest at the start of that scouting process in the summer of 2012 were two Georgia high school outfielders, Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows.

“I put in my reports [that] Frazier might win a home run title and Meadows might win a batting title,” recalled Red Sox hitting coach Tim Hyers, who was the team’s area scout in Georgia through the summer of 2012. “They were two guys so close together, going to be first-round draft picks, who will be at the top of that draft class. They were totally different players but both really good players.”

Over their senior years, Frazier excelled as a prospect with rare power. Meadows, a two-sport athlete who had dazzled Hyers with his “hitterish” tendencies in the summer of 2012 — particularly at the East Coast Pro Showcase, where the lefthanded hitter showed a startling ability to handle lefthanded pitching — had a less impressive senior spring. Moreover, there were questions about whether he’d sign or go to college.


The Sox hoped Frazier would get to them. Frazier — who grew up down the street from Hyers, and is close friends with his son, Zach — hoped he’d get to the Sox.

“All along, I thought that I was going to go to the Red Sox,” Frazier, now a Yankee, said in New York last weekend. “It kind of felt like it was going to be something that came to fruition. The night that I got drafted, the background on my phone was the Boston Red Sox.”

Cleveland, however, took him at No. 5.

“All of a sudden, I was like, ‘Oh, gosh,’ ” said Frazier. “I changed it to just a normal black background.”

The top six players on the Red Sox board, in fact, came off with the first six picks of that draft, as Mark Appel, Kris Bryant, Jon Gray, Kohl Stewart, Frazier, and Colin Moran all went to teams picking in front of the Sox. And so, at No. 7, the team considered several players. Meadows certainly thought there was a chance he could be a Sox.

“We knew the Red Sox could have been an option,” said Meadows. “[But] we really weren’t sure what was going to happen in the draft. My mom got 10 hats, one of every team I talked to. We really had no clue.”

Meadows — to the Sox’ eventual regret — wasn’t a consideration due to questions about his underwhelming senior season where he exhibited little power and the signability questions; he got scooped up by the Pirates at No. 9.


Several other players were, including another player eventually taken by the Rays, hardthrowing Arkansas righthander Ryne Stanek, though some health questions hurt his stock and left him on the board for Tampa Bay with the 29th pick.

For one fleeting moment during the draft, the Sox were prepared to take power-hitting first baseman Dominic Smith. But in the end, the team chose lefthander Trey Ball, a pitcher whose athleticism and stuff as a high school senior offered daydreams of top-of-the-rotation potential.

Ball has not panned out. After years of stalled development on the mound, he is expected to play outfield for the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League Red Sox this summer, essentially restarting his career as a position player at the same level where he started his pro journey as a pitcher six years ago.

There is, of course, cause for regret with the Red Sox regarding some of the players who were available in 2013 (generally a draft viewed both at the time and now as short on standout prospects), while the Rays – thanks to their selection of Stanek, the Rays’ hard-throwing opener, and the trade for Meadows — have been beneficiaries of it. Yet stories of such draft misses reflect less on individual decisions than on the nature of the draft itself.

After all, in 2011, the Rays had a historic opportunity to shape their franchise for years to come, with 10 of the first 60 picks in the first and supplemental first rounds. Yet of those 10 selections, just one — lefthander Blake Snell — went on to become a major contributor for the Rays. Six of the 10 picks never reached the big leagues.


By contrast, the Red Sox not only got Matt Barnes and Jackie Bradley Jr. from their four picks among the first 40, but also later nabbed Mookie Betts in the fifth round. The Red Sox’ preeminence in the division since 2016 — and the Rays’ need to rebuild before emerging as contenders last year — owed to those choices, reminders of how three days in June can impact an organization years down the road.

Alex Speier can be reached at Follow him on twitter at @alexspeier.