The Red Sox have not used a first-round draft pick on a college pitcher since 2017. Could that change this summer?
In his first mock draft of the year for MLB.com, Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline has the Red Sox taking Florida right-hander Hurston Waldrep with the 14th overall pick in the 2023 amateur draft.
Waldrep, 21, is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as the No. 11 draft-eligible prospect, which ranks fourth among pitchers in this year’s class. The junior righty owns a 5.07 ERA and 1.45 WHIP with 102 strikeouts to 40 walks in 12 starts (65 2/3 innings) for the Gators so far this season. Opponents are batting .227 against him.
A native of Georgia, Waldrep began his college career at Southern Mississippi after going undrafted out of Thomasville High School in 2020. He compiled a 3.22 ERA in two seasons with the Golden Eagles before transferring to Florida last July.
Standing at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, Waldrep operates with “a legitimate three-pitch power mix, with all three offerings having the potential to be at least above-average,” per his MLB Pipeline scouting report. He sits between 95-99 mph with his four-seam fastball, which is complemented by a whiff-inducing split-changeup and an upper-80s slider.
Mechanically, there are some concerns when it comes to Waldrep’s delivery. MLB Pipeline notes that “while Waldrep is generally around the strike zone, there is a little effort in his up-tempo delivery, causing some inconsistencies with his command and control, which led to an uptick in his walk rate this spring.”
To that end, Waldrep had an uneven start for the Gators on Saturday. Going up against Texas A&M on the road, he allowed four earned runs on two hits and five walks to go along with a season-high six walks over three innings of work in a 15-2 loss to the Aggies.
Because of those aforementioned command issues, Waldrep could project as a reliever as opposed to a starter in the long-run. Even so, Waldrep will almost certainly come off the board early on account of his potential and arsenal. Whichever team drafts him will probably do so with the idea that they can help him throw strikes more consistently.
The last time the Red Sox took a college pitcher in the first round of a draft was 2017, when righty Tanner Houck was selected out of Missouri at No. 24 overall. Since Chaim Bloom took over as Boston’s chief baseball officer in late 2019, the club has exclusively drafted high school infielders (Nick Yorke, Marcelo Mayer, and Mikey Romero) with their top pick.
The Red Sox landed the 14th overall pick in this year’s draft in the first-ever MLB Draft Lottery back in December. It did not come as much of a surprise since Boston finished with the 14th-worst record in baseball last season.
The 14th overall pick in the 2023 draft, which takes place from July 9-11, comes with a slot value of $4,663,100 (up from $4,243,800 last year). The Red Sox as a team have a bonus pool of $10,295,100.
(Picture of Hurston Waldrep: James Gilbert/Getty Images)