Red Sox alter Draft approach, take prep stars early
Top two picks, and 16 of 41 overall selections, from high school level
Historically, and in the last five years, the Red Sox have targeted top-end college talent early in the First-Year Player Draft. But in 2014, that wasn't the case.
"We take the best player on the board," director of amateur scouting Amiel Sawdaye said Thursday. "If the two best players are a high school pitcher and a high school middle infielder, then that's who we're going to take. We're not looking to diversify or draft for need. It so happened those were the next two players."
Those two players, in this case, were shortstop Michael Chavis from Sprayberry High School (Ga.) and 6-foot-4 right-hander Michael Kopech out of Mt. Pleasant High School in Texas.
"Those were players we're very excited about, have a lot of conviction on, scouted for a long time, had a lot of history with," Sawdaye said. "That's kind of how it shook out."
All in all, the Red Sox selected 16 high schoolers, five players from junior college and 20 from four-year schools in the First-Year Player Draft.
The club selected 15 righties, three lefties, seven outfielders, 10 infielders and six catchers.
Chavis projects more as a second or third baseman in the big leagues, and although he's committed to Clemson, said he's "fairly comfortable saying" he'll sign with Boston. Despite standing at just 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, he has impressive bat speed and power. He won the home run derby at the Perfect Game All-American Classic and batted 580/.663/1.197 as a senior at Sprayberry.
"Growing up, I always have hit home runs," said Chavis, the 26th overall selection. "I didn't realize that I was 'undersized.' Even being 5-11, 6-foot, [power] has always been a major part of my game. Hopefully it will just continue as a part in professional baseball."
Most of all, though, Chavis loves playing the game.
"We met with him about two [to] three weeks ago, and one of our scouts said, 'Why are you always smiling?' He said, 'You know what? Because I'm always happy,'" Sawdaye recalled. "That's kind of the way he plays. He plays with a smile on his face. He's a guy that has an infectious personality and hopefully it permeates in the clubhouse. A guy that I think fans in Boston will hopefully get to know and love up here in the big leagues."
Kopech is a lanky righty who has already touched the lower 90s with his fastball, and that velocity is expected to increase as he fills out and grows. He's got strong command of his slider, as well. The Red Sox received that pick, No. 33 overall, when Jacoby Ellsbury signed with the Yankees.
"As far as the mechanics, those of you guys that have seen it, he's got an electric arm," said Sawdaye. "We really like the way he commands his fastball. The delivery kind of reminds a little -- it's got a little Jered Weaver in it."
Boston picked up a few potential power bats early with the selections of first basemen Sam Travis of Indiana in the second round and Philadelphia-area high schooler Josh Ockimey in the fifth.
But the Red Sox went after college pitching on Day 2, selecting four right-handers, with just one coming straight from high school. Their third-round pick, raw but hard-throwing Jake Cosart, is the brother of Astros righty Jarred Cosart.
The Red Sox followed with Bryant University (R.I.) righty Kevin McAvoy, Ockimey, switch-hitting outfielder Danny Mars from Chipola College (Fla.), Cal Poly closer Reed Reilly, Alabama catcher Ben Moore and Oak Ridge High School (Tenn.) righty Kevin Steen.
Early in Day 3, Boston selected more college pitchers. The club picked Florida righty Karsten Whitson, the No. 9 overall pick in 2010 by the Padres, in the 11th round. He elected to honor his commitment to the Gators and his stock fell after he underwent shoulder surgery in 2013. Following that selection was Jalen Beeks, a lefty from Arkansas who suffered from elbow problems toward the end of this season and saw his stock drop, as well.
Boston hopes its 2014 Draft haul, full of raw but high projecting prospects, boosts its already deep farm system, which Baseball Prospectus ranked fourth among all teams. It ranked 16th in 2013.
"I'm extremely humbled and I'm really excited about the opportunity to play pro baseball," Karsten said. "And especially to start it with an organization like the Red Sox have. Just following them as a baseball fan, they have a great baseball fanbase and they do it the right way."
Steven Petrella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.