The 2021 Major League Baseball first-year player draft may still be seven months away, but the Red Sox already know they will be picking fourth in said draft thanks to finishing the 2020 season with the fourth-worst record in baseball (24-36).
Since the inception of the amateur draft in 1965, Boston has made its first selection within the top four on just two occasions in 1966 and 1967, so it goes without saying the upcoming draft will serve as an important hallmark for the franchise.
Though the 2021 high school and college baseball seasons are still a ways away from starting, next year’s potential draft class is already starting to take shape, even with possible COVID-19-related obstacles on the horizon.
That being said, MLB.com’s Jim Callis recently released his first round of predictions for which amateur prospects will be taken within the top-10 picks of July’s draft, and he has the Red Sox selecting University of Florida outfielder Jud Fabian at No. 4.
“Fabian might be the most polarizing prospect among the eight players who seem to have separated themselves from the rest of the Draft class at this point,” Callis wrote. “He could have the most usable power in the Draft and may stay in center field, but he also has hit just .250 with a 22-percent strikeout rate in two seasons at Florida.”
Fabian, who turned 20 in September, is about to embark on his junior season for the Gators this coming spring.
The right-handed hitting, left-handed throwing center fielder out of Ocala, Fla. came into 2020 as a preseason All-Southeastern Conference second teamer. He posted an impressive .294/.407/.603 slash line to go along with five home runs and 13 RBI over 17 games played before the ongoing coronavirus pandemic forced the SEC to suspend its baseball season in mid-March.
Still, Fabian managed to salvage the year by taking part in the Florida Collegiate Summer League, where he went 14-for-46 (.304) at the plate with a pair of homers and 11 runs driven in across 19 games for the Orlando Scorpions.
He also spent the summer of 2019 on the Cape with the Bourne Braves.
Listed at 6-foot-2 and 190 lbs., Fabian very well could have been drafted out of Trinity Catholic High School in 2019 had he not skipped his senior season in order to enroll early at Florida. He has the advantage over other college prospects on account of the fact that he will be younger than the average junior.
Per his FanGraphs scouting report, Fabian “has a rare, unfavorable ‘backwards’ profile — he hits right and throws left, limiting him to 1B/OF — but looks like he’ll hit enough for that not to matter. While his lower half has gotten a little heavier and softer since high school, Fabian still has a fairly athletic swing, and his hitting hands work in an explosive loop that give him low-ball power. His hands load deep and high, and Fabian’s bat path doesn’t always look like it’s going to work, but he still covers the zone from (nearly) top to bottom and can pull his hands in to get the barrel on inside pitches.”
In recent years, the Red Sox have leaned more towards taking high school talent — Nick Yorke, Triston Casas, Jay Groome, Michael Chavis, Michael Kopech — with their first-round selection.
As it turns out though, the last two college prospects Boston has taken in the first round have both come out of the SEC, as right-hander Tanner Houck was drafted out of Missouri with the 24th overall pick in 2017 and outfielder Andrew Benintendi was drafted out of Arkansas with the seventh overall pick in 2015.