Of the 15 college players the Red Sox selected in the 2021 MLB first-year player draft this week, 10 attended schools that are in Power Five conferences (the ACC, Big 12, Big 10, Pac-12, and SEC).
While the likes of University of Florida outfielder Jud Fabian stick out in regards to big names Boston took from the college ranks in this year’s draft, their 11th-round selection has garnered some attention as well.
To kick off the third and final day of the draft on Tuesday, Boston took University of Notre Dame first baseman Niko Kavadas with the 316th overall pick.
Kavadas, 22, was regarded by Baseball America as the 158th-ranked draft-eligible prospect coming into the week, and one BA writer in particular views the Fighting Irish slugger as perhaps the most underrated member of Boston’s 20-man draft class.
“Calling Kavadas underrated seems odd considering he was one of the best and most successful players in college this year,” Baseball America’s Ben Badler wrote on Wednesday. “But he was an 11th-round pick, so he fits the bill. Kavadas has massive power and he draws walks. That’s pretty much the extent of his plus tools, but it’s a very important skill and one that can carry a player all the way to the big-leagues.”
In his senior season for Notre Dame this spring, Kavadas — an Indiana native — produced a slash line of .302/.473/.767 with eight doubles, 22 home runs, 64 RBI, 42 runs scored, two stolen bases, 50 walks, and 55 strikeouts over 47 games (220 plate appearances).
While Kavadas is known for what he can do at the plate, there is some concern regarding the left-handed hitter’s defensive range as well as his speed on the base paths.
Per his Baseball America scouting report from earlier this year, Kavadas “is a well below-average runner with limited range who will be limited to first base or DH at the next level. He has the raw power to profile there and he can send the ball out of the park in any direction, and he did a nice job getting into hitter’s counts and then hammering fastballs this spring.
“He did struggle more against breaking and offspeed stuff and was also less successful than scouts would have liked to see against 93-plus mph velocity, which are valid concerns for his pure hit tool at the next level.”
On top of that, Kavadas turns 23 in October, so he is a bit older than the prototypical college prospect. That being said — or as BA noted, “there’s real power for a team that thinks he’ll be able to regularly get to it at the next level with a wood bat.”
Red Sox amateur scouting director Paul Toboni seems to buy into this philosophy as well, as he told reporters (including The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier) on Tuesday that Kavadas’ power tool is at “the top of the scale” already.
“If he were in the major-leagues right now, my guess is that the power would line up with the best of them,” Toboni said. “He’s an interesting player and a great kid.”
Listed at 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds, it’s safe to say Kavadas is an intimidating presence when he steps in the batter’s box.
By taking Kavadas in the 11th round of this year’s draft, the Red Sox can sign the slugging corner infielder for up to $125,000 without tapping into their bonus pool total.
If they do exceed the $125,000 limit in order to sign Kavadas (which seems to be a legitimate possibility based off speculation within the industry), or any other Day 3 pick, that would require them to dip into their bonus pool.
As things currently stand, Boston has $11,359,600 in total bonus pool space to work with, though that cap could increase to approximately $11,927,580 if the club was willing to incur some tax-related penalties by surpassing the limit by up to 5%.
The Red Sox, like all major-league teams, will have until 5 p.m. eastern time on Sunday, August 1 to sign as many of their draft picks as possible, though Toboni did say he only expects 13-15 of the club’s draftees to actually sign.
(Picture of Niko Kavadas: Michael Caterina/South Bend Tribune via AP)