Saturday, February 27, 2016

Why I am Not a Prospect Collector (The Red Sox and the Draft)

I have been thinking about this quite a bit with the recent issues with players not getting signed who have qualified offers from their previous clubs.  Drafting players is such a crapshoot.  I have been thinking a lot about Boston's top picks in the draft over the years and there are only a handful of players that really panned out that well.  And only one of those top picks really stands much of a shot at a Hall of Fame career.

That has lead me to rank the top picks Boston has had from 1990 (the year before I started collecting) through 2012 by their contributions to the Red Sox, either through their own stats or the player they were traded for.  I did not rank the players since 2013 because none of them have made it to the Majors yet or been traded away.  Their records are too incomplete.  This is a completely subjective ranking based entirely on my own opinions.

1.  DUSTIN PEDROIA (2nd Round, 2004)
His stats may not be as gaudy as #2's, but Pedroia stands the best chance at being inducted into the Hall of Fame when all is said and done.  He has been with Boston since 2006, won the Rookie of the Year in 2007 and the AL MVP in 2008.  He has been to the All Star Game four times, won four Gold Gloves, and one Silver Slugger, and he has been a part of two World Championship teams.  He needs a few more good seasons but he looks to be on his way.  Pedroia, by the way, was a second round pick but was Boston's first pick because they signed Keith Foulke from the Athletics.  Sometimes those second-rounders are just as good as the first-rounders.

2.  NOMAR GARCIAPARRA (1st Round, 1994)
If only he hadn't completely broken down, Nomar might be looking at a better Hall of Fame argument.  He was a monster in Boston, winning two batting titles, the 1997 Rookie of the Year, and making the All Star team five times, but injuries decimated his career and he was traded a few months before Boston finally won the World Series.  The trade worked out well for Boston, getting Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz, who solidified Boston's defense.  He will always be a personal favorite of mine, but he falls just short of #1 on this list due to Pedroia's tenure and two World Championships.

3.  JON LESTER (2nd Round, 2002)
Boston lost their first round pick to Oakland in 2002 as well after signing away Johnny Damon.  Lester made it to Boston in 2006 and was instrumental in helping Boston win World Championships in 2007 and 2013.  Lester was a three-time All Star and finished in the top five in Cy Young Award voting in 2010 and 2014 (when he was traded to Oakland at the trading deadline).  Boston acquired Yoenis Cespedes in trade from Oakland for Lester.

4.  JACOBY ELLSBURY (1st Round, 2005)
Ellsbury was a monster in 2011 and probably should have won the MVP with his 30/30 season (the first ever by a Red Sox player).  But that was his only real great season, and most other years he was merely decent.  He did help Boston to two World Championships though and set a Red Sox record for stolen bases in a season with 70.  Ellsbury lead the league in stolen bases three times.  

5.  TROT NIXON (1st Round, 1993)
Nixon was actually a very good player for a number of years, but might have been better had he been able to hit left-handers and not been injured as often.  Nixon put together some terrific years in the early 2000's and helped Boston immensely in the postseason.  An underrated player, Nixon's contributions were often lost in the shadow of players like Garciaparra, Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, and David Ortiz.

6.  AARON SELE (1st Round, 1991)
You can tell we are already circling the drain here.  Sele finished third in the Rookie of the Year vote in 1993 and was an injury-prone and inconsistent starter for Boston through the 1997 season.  He looked like a star early on, but injuries derailed him in 1995.  He was traded to Texas for Damon Buford and Jim Leyritz prior to the 1998 season and blossomed into a pretty decent starter for Texas and Seattle.

7.  MATT BARNES (1st Round, 2011)
This is optimistic because Barnes has not done much, but he has done more than the next few guys and he is still with the team with the chance to make the bullpen in 2016.  Boston had four picks early in the 2011 draft and the worst of them was Barnes (the others were Jackie Bradley Jr., Blake Swihart, and Henry Owens).  Barnes made it to the Majors briefly in 2014 and then made it into 32 games in 2015 and showed flashes of brilliance.  He is a dark horse candidate to crack Boston's bullpen this year.

8.  KELLY SHOPPACH (2nd Round, 2001)
And now we are running into players who spent very little time in Boston before getting traded away.  Shoppach was Boston's top pick in 2001 because they lost their first-round pick to Cleveland after signing Manny Ramirez.  Shoppach made it to Boston for all of nine games in 2005 before being traded to Cleveland (oddly) in the Coco Crisp trade.  Shoppach though made it back to Boston after being signed as a free agent to be their backup catcher in 2012 and did fairly well before being traded to the Mets.

9.  DAVID MURPHY (1st Round, 2003)
I grappled with the #8 and #9 picks quite a bit before deciding on their rankings.  Shoppach came back to Boston and played well, whereas Murphy only had his pre-trade stats to go on, and Shoppach's trade resulted in a better player coming to Boston.  Murphy made it into 20 games in 2006 and hit a home run with a .227/.346/.409 line and then came back for three games in 2007.  He was one of the pieces sent to Texas for Eric Gagne (ugh).

10.  DEVEN MARRERO (1st Round, 2012)
Marrero made his Major League debut in 2015 and played in 25 games.  He has a chance to make it back to Boston as a utility player, but is most likely blocked in that department by Brock Holt.  He is blocked around the infield at virtually every position.  He is most likely a defensive specialist, though he did hit a home run last year.  He has the potential to climb this list a little bit.

11.  FRANKIE RODRIGUEZ (2nd Round, 1990)
I remember Rodriguez being a huge deal when I started collecting.  He was supposed to be the next big Red Sox star.  Well, it did not quite work out that way.  Rodriguez made it to the Major Leagues in 1995 and pitched in nine games for Boston, going 0-2 with a 10.57 ERA in just over 15 innings.  He was traded at the trading deadline for Rick Aguilera, who helped solidify Boston's bullpen.

12.  CASEY KELLY (1st Round, 2008)
And now we are getting into players who never actually played for Boston.  Kelly was a very good prospect and looked ready to make the leap to the Major Leagues after the 2010 season, but then he was traded to San Diego in the Adrian Gonzalez trade.  The injuries slowed things down a little bit.  He has made it to the Majors finally but has failed to impress so far.  But he did get Boston one terrific season of Adrian Gonzalez and one half of another good season as well.  That trade also cost Boston Anthony Rizzo though.

14.  NICK HAGADONE (1st Round, 2007)
Hagadone was technically a supplemental first rounder.  Boston lost their top pick to the Dodgers for signing away J.D. Drew.  Not much was ever really expected of Hagadone but he has turned into a fairly reliable middle reliever.  Of course that has occurred after being traded away in midseason 2009 to Cleveland in exchange for Victor Martinez.  That trade also worked out pretty well for Boston.

14.  REYMOND FUENTES (1st Round, 2009)
I never really thought much of Fuentes.  I was taken aback when I saw that Boston drafted him with their first pick.  Unfortunately Mike Trout was taken just two picks ahead of Fuentes.  Tanner Scheppers, Chris Owings, Garrett Richards, and Brad Boxberger were all drafted after Fuentes.  But Fuentes was also used in the Adrian Gonzalez trade, which worked out reasonably well for Boston.  Fuentes made it to the Majors briefly in 2013 but has not made it back since and is now in the Kansas City system.

15.  ADAM EVERETT (1st Round, 1998)
Weirdly, Adam was traded for another Everett, Carl Everett, before the 2000 season.  He was never much of an offensive player, being an elite defensive shortstop, though he never won a Gold Glove.  Everett never played in the Majors before being traded to Houston, but spent several seasons in the big leagues.  Carl Everett though was an All Star in 2000 and then terrible in 2001 and was a bit of a distraction the whole time.

16.  PHIL DUMATRAIT (1st Round, 2000)
Dumatrait was traded to the Reds during the 2003 season in order to acquire Scott Williamson.  Williamson was lights-out in the postseason during the 2003 season, in particular against the Yankees in the ALCS, but had trouble staying healthy.  Dumatrait finally made his Major League debut in 2007 with the Reds and then spent some time in the Majors with the Pirates and Twins.

17.  RICK ASADOORIAN (1st Round, 1999)
Boston's first round pick in 1999 didn't last long in their system before being sent off to St. Louis in a trade for Dustin Hermanson.  Asadoorian was not exactly ripping the cover off the ball and never really came around.  He bounced around the minors for years and eventually started pitching.  But he never did make it to the Major Leagues.  Hermanson pitched in 12 games for Boston in 2002 with a 7.77 ERA.

18.  JOSH GARRETT (1st Round, 1996)
And now we get to players who never played in the Majors, but were not traded before stagnating.  Garrett pitched for several seasons in the minor leagues with Boston but never made it above AA ball.  He also never won more games than he lost and other than a short time after he was drafted, never had an ERA below 4.50.  The best Red Sox player Boston drafted in 1996 was Shea Hillenbrand and Jason Marquis, who had a long career in the Majors, was picked after Garrett in the first round.

19.  JASON PLACE (1st Round, 2006)
Despite some impressive power numbers, particularly in 2008, Place just never developed enough as a hitter to make it past AA ball.  Injuries may have played a role.  Place was eventually released and picked up by the Yankees but continued to struggle and was out of baseball by 2012.  Justin Masterson and Daniel Bard (another first-rounder) are two players from the 2006 draft class that made more of an impact in Boston.  I personally wanted Boston to draft Joba Chamberlain because he was from Nebraska, but Chris Coghlan was a first-rounder who was more successful in the Majors drafted after Place.

20.  KOLBRIN VITEK (1st Round, 2010)
It is hard to imagine now but Vitek was considered an elite prospect when he was drafted.  He was one of the top college hitters available that year.  Unfortunately, after a very good season in Class A in 2011, Vitek stagnated and never made it past AA.  Boston's most successful draft pick from 2010 is Brandon Workman so far, though Sean Coyle has been impressive in the minors.  Boston missed out on Christian Yelich, Taijuan Walker, and Noah Syndergaard in picking up Vitek, though they had two other first-round and supplemental picks.  Bryce Brentz and Anthony Ranaudo have both made it to the Major Leagues, albeit not as full-time Major Leaguers, yet.

21.  JOHN CURTICE (1st Round, 1997)
Curtice was a bit of a wild child and a free spirit when he was drafted out of high school.  He also never progressed above High-A ball despite encouraging seasons in 1997 and 1998.  Injuries probably played a part in this.  He was out of baseball by 2001 at just 21 years of age.  This was a bad draft class for Boston.  Only Angel Santos spent any time with the big league club, although David Eckstein was the most successful draftee of the year for Boston.  They were pretty foolish in letting him go on waivers.  Players picked after Curtice in the first round included Adam Kennedy, Jayson Werth, and Jack Cust.

22.  TONY SHEFFIELD (2nd Round, 1992)
No relation to Gary, Tony Sheffield never made it above High-A ball.  He never stole more than 11 bases, nor hit better than .263.  He was a complete bust.  Boston lost their first-round pick to the Mets due to the free agent signing of Frank Viola.  Lou Merloni was probably Boston's best draft pick that year, which really shows how bad this draft was for Boston.  Jason Giambi was picked just two spots behind Sheffield.  Ouch.

23.  ANDY YOUNT (1st Round, 1995)
Yount might have made it, but we will never know.  After visiting the grave of a friend who died senselessly in an accident, he squeezed a bottle in anger so tightly that it shattered lacerating several tendons in his pitching hand.  Several surgeries later and Yount was eventually released.  He attempted a comeback a few years later in the Tigers system, but never made it above High-A.  He pitched in just 13 games in the Red Sox system.  Boston's most successful signee in 1995 was Paxton Crawford, so yet another bad draft.  Juan Pena looked to be a star but injuries ended his career.  Boston drafted Pat Burrell but he did not sign.  Roy Halladay was picked just two places after Yount.

Since 2012, Boston's top picks were Trey Ball, Michael Chavis, and Andrew Benintendi, respectively.  Ball and Chavis have struggled, though it is still too early to give up on them entirely.  Benintendi, on the other hand, looks like he could make it to the Majors sooner, rather than later.  It is obvious that a variety of things can happen to make drafting top talent an iffy proposition.  That is why I think teams frequently over-value their draft picks and why I don't spend a ton of time and money collecting players before they make it to the Major Leagues.


  1. One of the more interesting developments with Boston's farm system in recent years has been their acquisition of top tier international free agent prospects from Latin America.
    It remains to be seen what happens but as of right now Yoan Moncada, Rafael Devers and Anderson Espinosa look like they're going to be fairly impressive in the future.

    1. I absolutely agree. They have some very good international signees. I just wanted to limit this post to their top pick in the draft.

    2. I see. BTW, I agree with your notion that the second rounders are just as good as the first rounders. Sometimes the best players in a draft come from the later rounds.

  2. Pretty cool post. I have to embarrassingly admit the only players I remember from numbers 12 to 22 are Kolbrin Vitek and Tony Sheffield (only because a have a million of his 1993 Topps card).