The Red Sox have signed fifth-round draft pick Nathan Hickey, according to MLB.com’s Jim Callis.
Per Callis, Hickey — a catcher — has signed with the Sox for $1 million, which is well above the recommended slot value of $410,100 for the 136th overall selection in this year’s draft and is tied for the highest bonus total given to any prospect taken in rounds 4-10.
Hickey, 21, was the first and only catcher taken by Boston in the 2021 amateur draft and was regarded by Baseball America as the No. 131 prospect in this year’s class, ranking 10th among eligible backstops.
A sophomore out of the University of Florida, Hickey — a native of Jacksonville, Fla. — posted an impressive .317/.435/.522 slash line to go along with 15 doubles, three triples, nine home runs, 50 RBI, 40 runs scored, one stolen base, 42 walks, and 40 strikeouts over 60 games (278 plate appearances) with the Gators this spring.
While he is listed as a catcher, the 6-foot, 210-pound left-handed hitter also played four games at first base and five games at third base this season, leading to him drawing comparisons to newly-acquired Red Sox outfielder Kyle Schwarber.
According to his pre-draft scouting report from MLB Pipeline, “Hickey has raised his offensive profile to the point where he’s now being considered to be one of the best bats in Florida. He has a solid approach at the plate, drawing a ton of walks. He’s been tapping into his power and while some scouts see a bit of a max effort swing, he’s cut his strikeout rate down considerably this year. Hickey lost 20-25 pounds when he first got to Florida and has kept the weight off, making him more athletic in the box.
“The bat is going to have to play because few scouts believe he’ll be able to catch long-term. He has more than enough arm for the position, but lacks the agility or the hands to deal with high-octane pitching. The best possible defensive outcome might be for him to move to left field and let the bat carry him to the big leagues in a Kyle Schwarber type of trajectory.”
In signing Hickey to an over-slot deal, the Red Sox have now locked up 14 of their 20 draft picks that were made earlier this month. They have also signed Clemson University outfielder Kier Meredith and Western Oklahoma State College right-hander Jhonny Felix as undrafted free agents.
With less than 48 hours to go until the draft signing deadline (5 p.m. eastern time on Sunday), the most prevalent Boston draft pick who remains unsigned is Hickey’s college teammate in Florida outfielder Jud Fabian, whom the club took in the second round at No. 40 overall.
As noted by SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall, “the maximum the Red Sox could offer Jud Fabian without exceeding the bonus pool by more than 5% is [approximately] $2.1 million,” though that number would decrease if “if they sign any of their remaining draftees for over $125,000.”
Earlier this week, The Athletic’s Peter Gammons tweeted that Fabian would not be signing with Boston since the Sox were not willing to offer the 20-year-old sophomore a signing bonus of $3 million.
Of course, that could just be a negotiation tactic on the part of Fabian’s camp, and the Red Sox could counter by daring Fabian to turn down what is essentially late first-round money and return to school for his junior season.
If Fabian, who turns 21 in September, were to not sign by Sunday’s deadline, the Sox would be compensated by receiving the 41st overall pick in next year’s draft in addition to their own second-round selection.
The Red Sox have signed sixth-round draft pick Daniel McElveny, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.
Per Cotillo, McElveny — who is listed as a utility player — has signed with the Sox for approximately $200,000. He is currently on his way to the club’s spring training complex in Fort Myers.
McElveny, 18, was selected by Boston out of Bonita Vista High School (Calif.) with the 166th overall pick in the 2021 MLB first-year player draft last week.
The recommended slot value for the 166th overall selection in this year’s draft was $306,800, which means the Sox will save approximately $106,800 in signing McElveny to an under-slot deal.
Listed at 6-foot and 190 pounds, the right-handed hitter and thrower was committed to play college baseball at San Diego State University, but instead opted to go pro out of high school.
In his senior season with Bonita Vista, which is just down the road from where Red Sox first-round pick Marcelo Mayer played his high school ball, McElveny posted a .435/.580/.764 slash line to go along with nine doubles, two triples, five home runs, 22 RBI, 37 runs scored, 23 stolen bases, 20 walks, and 15 strikeouts over 29 game played (119 plate appearances) this past spring.
As noted by MLB.com’s Ian Browne, the Southern California native was the only one of 612 prospects taken in this summer’s draft who was designated by their respective team as a utility player.
That being the case because the Red Sox worked out McElveny, who primarily played shortstop in high school, at a plethora of different positions at Fenway Park in the weeks leading up to the draft, as the club’s director of amateur scouting Paul Toboni explained to reporters (including Browne) last Tuesday.
“We worked him out at Fenway and he hopped in at right field, he hopped in at second base, third base, shortstop, he was catching,” Toboni said of McElveny. “I don’t know how that’s going to play out in the long term, but for now, he’s going to have a lot of ways to keep his bat in the lineup and hopefully string together some really quality at-bats.”
While McElveny was not regarded as one of the top draft-eligible prospects by industry publications such as Baseball America, he was listed by Perfect Game USA as the No. 52 prep prospect in the state of California going in to the draft.
That being said, the Red Sox got one of their first looks at McElveny during a Perfect Game showcase event last summer, and they got additional eyes — including those of area scout J.J. Altobelli — on him when he and Mayer’s schools played one another on a couple of occasions this spring.
“Daniel McElveny is a cool story. I think he probably first got on our radar in June of last year at an event called PG National,” Toboni said. “We liked his feel to hit. He was kind of a grinder that we thought played the game the right way. We just followed him along the way.
“He played in a couple more events,” added Toboni. “We saw him in the spring, scouting him and only him, and we also saw him match up with Marcelo, which allowed us to see him a little bit more. We were just drawn to the competitor, the feel to hit, the feel for the stone, and the versatility he had on defense.”
Per his Perfect Game scouting report, which was written sometime in 2020, McElveny “hits from a straight stance with good balance and direction through contact” and “has loose fast hands through the ball and plenty of extension for future power,” which is something the Red Sox were clearly drawn to.
“We just saw him play so much. He’s got a really simple swing. He has really good barrel feel,” said Toboni. “Everything in both batting practice and games seems to find the barrel.”
The Red Sox managed to ink McElveny, who does not turn 19 until next April, to an under-slot deal with a little less than two weeks to go until the August 1 signing deadline.
Thus far, Boston has signed four of its 20 draft picks (Tyler McDonough, Matt Litwicki, Jacob Webb, and McElveny) to contracts, while they also signed Clemson University outfielder Kier Meredith as an undrafted free agent, according to SoxProspects.com.
In total, the Sox have approximately $11,359,600 to work with in regards to signing as many draft picks as they please, though they could bump that amount up by 5% (to $11,927,580) if they were willing to incur some tax-related penalties.
On that note, Toboni did say last week that he would expect 13-15 of the Red Sox’ draft selections to sign with the club, so there should be more announcements being made in the coming days.
(Picture of Daniel McElveny: Daniel McElveny’s Instagram)
The Red Sox have signed Clemson University outfielder Kier Meredith as an undrafted free agent, Clemson Baseball announced on Thursday.
Meredith, 21, is a redshirt sophomore who spent four years at Clemson after not signing with the Chicago Cubs despite being selected by them in the 28th round of the 2017 amateur draft out of Robert B. Glenn High School (N.C.).
This past spring with the Tigers, the North Carolina native slashed .283/.387/.422 with eight doubles, four triples, three home runs, 25 RBI, 33 runs scored, six stolen bases, 12 walks, and 28 strikeouts over 47 games spanning 218 trips to the plate.
Listed at 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds, Meredith — a left-handed hitter — has experience in both left and center field, though he missed a majority of the 2018 and 2019 campaigns due to a plethora of injuries.
Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, Meredith “has the speed and defensive profile you look for, but future potential will be determined by how much he hits. Has a knack for getting on base and solid feel at the plate. Strong makeup and work ethic. Strong leadership skills, leaves it all on the field night after night. Type of person every organization strives to have.”
While 15 total stolen bases over 86 career games with Clemson may not seem like much, Meredith is certainly well-known for his speed, as he explained to The Clemson Insider on Thursday.
“First of all speed has always been my best tool so in order for me to have success at the next level I need to utilize that as much as I can,” said Meredith. “I need to continue to develop as a better defender and continue to develop as a better hitter. If I do those three things it will help me have as much success as I’m going to have.”
A three-time ACC Academic Honor Roll member, Meredith graduated from Clemson with a degree in psychology this past May. He will report to the Red Sox’ spring training complex in Fort Myers next week.
At the moment, Meredith is the only confirmed undrafted free-agent the Red Sox have signed thus far, according to Baseball America. Undrafted free-agents can sign with clubs for up to $20,000.
Last year, Boston was one of the more active teams in the UDFA market at the conclusion of the shortened 2020 draft, as they signed a grand total of 16 prospects.
When speaking with reporters earlier this week, Red Sox director of amateur scouting Paul Toboni hinted that the club would once again be right in the thick of things when it came to potentially scooping up those prospects who were passed on during the draft.
“We are going to try to be active to the extent that we can and to the extent that we can accommodate whatever number of players there are,” Toboni said on Tuesday. “We think it’s a really good opportunity to find undervalued players on a market where maybe the value — for whatever reason — might be suppressed a little bit.”
(Picture of Kier Meredith: Dawson Powers/TigerIllustrated.com)
The third and final day of the 2021 MLB first-year player draft has come to a close following the conclusion of Round 20.
With 10 more selections to make on Tuesday, the Red Sox wound up taking three college position players, three college pitchers, one junior college position player, one junior college pitcher, and two high school position players.
Here is a rundown of each of the 10 prospects Boston selected, starting with their 11th-round pick.
Niko Kavadas, 1B, Notre Dame
The Red Sox selected University of Notre Dame first baseman Kavadas with their 11th-round pick at No. 316 overall.
Kavadas, 22, was regarded by Baseball America as the No. 158 prospect coming into the draft. Listed at 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds, the left-handed hitting and right-handed throwing senior has experience at both corner infield positions.
Over 47 games (220 plate appearances) with the Irish this past spring, Kavadas hit .302/.473/.767 with eight doubles, 22 home runs, 64 RBI, 42 runs scored, two stolen bases, 50 walks, and 55 strikeouts.
To summarize the Indiana native’s Baseball America scouting report, Kavadas has limited defensive range and is a below-average runner, but his power potential certainly appealing despite his age (turns 23 in October) and peripherals.
The recommended slot value for the 316th overall pick, as well as the remainder of the picks, in this year’s draft is approximately $125,000.
Christopher Troye, RHP, UC Santa Barbara
The Red Sox selected University of California, Santa Barbara right-hander Christopher Troye with their 12th-round pick at No. 346 overall.
Troye, 22, was not ranked by Baseball America — or any other major publication for that matter — heading into the draft.
At 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, Troye, a senior, split time between the starting rotation and bullpen in his four seasons with UCSB.
Most recently, the California native posted a 4.50 ERA and 1.83 WHIP in addition to a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 29:25 over 15 appearances (four starts) spanning 18 innings of work for the Gauchos this spring. He also spent part of his summer on Cape Cod with the Cotuit Kettleers.
Zach Ehrhard, SS, Wharton (FL) HS
The Red Sox selected Wharton High School (Tampa, Fla.) shortstop Zach Ehrhard with their 13th-round pick at No. 376 overall.
The first prep prospect taken by Boston on Day 3, Ehrhard is an 18-year-old high school shortstop who is currently committed to play college baseball at Oklahoma State University.
Listed at 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, the right-handed hitting Florida native slashed .438/.562/.700 with 12 doubles, three home runs, 21 RBI, 29 runs scored, 26 stolen bases, 23 walks, and 10 strikeouts over 26 games (106 plate appearances) during his senior season at Wharton, per his MaxPreps page.
According to Perfect Game, Ehrhard was the No. 500 prep prospect coming into this year’s draft, ranking 177th among all high school shortstops and 29th among high school shortstops in his home state of Florida.
Jacob Webb, RHP, Miami (OH) University
The Red Sox selected Miami (Ohio) University right-hander Jacob Webb with their 14th-round pick at No. 406 overall.
Webb, 22, is listed at 6-foot-5 and 246 pounds, and is the fourth of six seniors Boston took in this year’s draft.
The Ohio native began his collegiate career at Sinclair Community College in Dayton before transferring to Miami for his junior season in 2020.
This past spring, Webb posted a 2.08 ERA and 1.00 WHIP to go along with 59 strikeouts and 14 walks over 18 relief appearances spanning 39 innings of work for the RedHawks. He also spent part of his summer pitching for the Willmar Stingers of the Northwoods League.
Payton Green, SS, Green Hope (NC) HS
The Red Sox selected Green Hope High School (N.C.) shortstop Payton Green with their 15th-round pick at No. 436 overall.
Green, 18, was regarded by Baseball America as the No. 113 prospect heading into the draft. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, the right-handed hitting infielder is committed to play college baseball at North Carolina State.
According to Baseball America’s Carlos Collazo, Green “seems very unlikely to sign” with the Red Sox on account of where he was taken in the draft as well as his strong commitment to play college ball for the Wolfpack.
Per his BA scouting report, “Green has solid actions and should be able to play either second or third base if he outgrows the position. The teams that like Green are buying into his improved swing this spring and believe he has the skill to turn into a solid-average or better hitter, while those that are more skeptical saw a lot of swing and miss last summer on the showcase circuit, with a bat path that was too steep at times.”
B.J. Vela, 2B, Reedley JC (CA)
The Red Sox selected Reedley College (Reedley, Calif.) second baseman B.J. Vela with their 16th-round pick at No. 466 overall.
Vela, 21, is listed at 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds, and he played his high school baseball at Pleasant Valley High School in Chico.
Per Reedley College’s website, the right-handed hitting freshman posted a .481/.560/.821 slash line to go along with 11 doubles, two triples, seven home runs, 35 RBI, 47 runs scored, nine stolen bases, 15 walks, and four strikeouts over 27 games played for the Tigers this spring.
While there is not too much information available pertaining to Vela’s peripherals or anything of the sort, he did attend the same junior college as Buffalo Bills star quarterback Josh Allen, so there’s that.
Luis Guerrero, RHP, Chipola College (FL)
The Red Sox selected Chipola College (Marianna, Fla.) right-hander Luis Guerrero with their 17th-round pick at No. 496 overall.
Guerrero, who turns 21 next month, is listed at 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, and he played his high school baseball at Juan Pablo Duarte Bani School in the Dominican Republic.
This past spring with the Indians, Guerrero produced a 3.72 ERA while striking out 96 over 14 appearances — five of which were starts — over 58 innings of work, per his school’s website.
In addition to his college work, the young righty also pitched in the MLB Draft League this year, where he posted an 8.59 ERA to go along with 21 strikeouts to 17 walks over five outings (four starts) and 14 2/3 innings with the Frederick Keys.
On top of that, Guerrero spent part of last summer with the Brockton Rox of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League.
Per a Prep Baseball Report spotlight from May, Guerrero’s pitch arsenal consists of a 93-96 mph fastball, a 78-81 mph curveball, a mid-80s slider, and a low-80s splitter that sits between 82-84 mph.
Phillip Sikes, OF, TCU
The Red Sox selected Texas Christian University outfielder Phillip Sikes with their 18th-round pick at No. 526 overall.
Sikes, 22, was regarded by baseball America as the No. 463 prospect coming into the draft.
A former 33rd round selection of the Diamondbacks out of Pima Community College in 2019, the 6-foot-2, 190 pound right-handed hitter — who began his collegiate career at the University of New Mexico — opted to transfer to TCU prior to the start of the 2020 season.
This spring with the Horned Frogs, Sikes, a native of Texas, slashed .329/.427/.620 with 19 doubles, five triples, 11 home runs, 63 RBI, 56 runs scored, 12 stolen bases, 26 walks, and 45 strikeouts over 58 games and 255 plate appearances.
According to his Baseball America scouting report, the senior outfielder “has a solid, well-rounded tool set,” as he is “a plus runner who has demonstrated that he can catch up to a good fastball, although he can be enticed to chase a tantalizing slider.
“Sikes has a short, direct swing that is geared more for hitting for average than power, but he has enough strength to drive balls to the right field power alley as well. Sikes is a well-rounded outfielder who can play center field in a pinch and is average in the corners. His arm is fringe-average but accurate.”
Tyler Uberstine, RHP, Northwestern
The Red Sox selected Northwestern University right-hander Tyler Uberstine with their 19th-round pick at No. 556 overall.
Uberstine, who turned 22 last month, also participated in the MLB Draft League this summer after wrapping up his senior season in Evanston.
With the Wildcats this spring, the 6-foot-1, 200 pound righty pitched to the tune of a 5.90 ERA and 1.84 WHIP while striking out 38 and walking 20 over nine starts spanning 39 2/3 innings of work.
With the Williamsport Crosscutters of the Draft League, Uberstine yielded a total of four runs on 10 hits, nine strikeouts, and zero walks over four appearances and nine innings pitched. That’s good for an ERA of 4.00.
A native of California, Uberstine attended Chaminade College Preparatory School in Los Angeles, the same school that has produced major-league talent such as Kevin Pillar and Dan Runzler, both of whom spent time in the Red Sox organization in some capacity over the course of their respective careers.
Josh Hood, SS, Pennsylvania
The Red Sox selected University of Pennsylvania shortstop Josh Hood with their 20th-round (and final) pick at No. 586 overall.
Hood, who turns 21 next week, came into the draft regarded by Baseball America as its 453rd-ranked prospect.
Listed at 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, the right-handed hitting infielder did not play collegiately this spring on account of there being no Ivy League season. He did however play for both the Holly Springs Salamanders of the Coastal Plain League and Harwich Mariners of the Cape Cod Baseball League.
With Harwich specifically, Hood has slashed .194/.257/.258 over nine games (35 plate appearances) for the Mariners so far this summer.
Per Baseball America, the New Jersey native is transferring to North Carolina State next season and could take over as the Wolfpack’s starting shortstop, meaning he could improve his draft stock for 2022 if he opted to remain in school.
Between Days 1, 2, and 3 of the 2021 MLB first-year player draft, the Red Sox — whose drafting efforts are led by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and amateur scouting director Paul Toboni, among others — selected four high school position players, one high school pitcher, one junior college position player, one junior college pitcher, eight college position players, and five college pitchers.
It’s no guarantee that all 20 of these players will sign (Toboni said he expects 13-15 draftees to do so), but Boston will have approximately $11,359,600 in total bonus pool space, though they could surpass that limit by 5% ($11,927,580) if they are willing to incur some tax-related penalties, as noted by SoxProspects.com’s Mike Andrews.
That being said, the deadline to sign drafted players arrives at 5 p.m. eastern time on August 1, leaving clubs slightly less than three weeks to work out deals with their draftees.
Additionally, clubs can sign an unlimited number of undrafted free-agents for no more than $20,000, as was the case last year. The same August 1 deadline applies for that as well.
(Picture of Chaim Bloom: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
The Red Sox have selected Eastlake High School (Calif.) shortstop Marcelo Mayer with their top pick in the 2021 MLB first-year player draft at No. 4 overall.
Mayer, 18, was regarded by Baseball America as the No. 2 prospect headed into the draft, trailing only fellow prep infielder Jordan Lawlar for the top spot.
Listed at 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, Mayer is committed to play college baseball at the University of Southern California.
The California native hits from the left side of the plate, throws with his right hand, and was viewed as a potential fit for the Pirates, who wound up selecting Louisville catcher Henry Davis with the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft earlier Sunday night.
Mayer, who does not turn 19 until December, played his high school baseball in Chula Vista, Calif.
In his senior season for the Eastlake Titans, the young infielder slashed an impressive .392/.555/.886 to go along with six doubles, 14 home runs, 45 RBI, 46 runs scored, and 18 stolen bases over 34 games played this spring, per MaxPreps.
“He glides around the infield with silky smooth actions and has the hands, footwork and arm strength to stick at shortstop long-term,” his scouting report reads. “He slows the game down and has no problem throwing from multiple angles with an accurate arm. Though he is a below-average runner, he moves fluidly around the dirt and should be at least an above-average defender.
“He’s a plus hitter with excellent barrel control and extension in his swing and drives balls hard in the air from gap-to-gap. He can turn on good fastballs and drive them off the right-field fence or let pitches on the outer half travel deep and line them hard up the middle or the opposite way. He has fringe-average power now, but could tap into above-average power in the future as he fills out his projectable frame. He controls the strike zone and has a calm, steady presence in the batter’s box.”
By selecting Mayer with the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft, the Red Sox have made their earliest selection since 1967, when they took right-hander Mike Garman at No. 3.
This is also the second straight year in which the Red Sox, whose drafting efforts are led by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and amateur scouting director Paul Toboni, among others, have selected a prep infielder out of California with the club’s top pick, as Nick Yorke was taken off the board at No. 17 last year.
The recommended slot value for the fourth overall pick in the 2021 amateur draft is approximately $6.664 million, while Boston will have approximately $11,359,600 in total bonus pool space to work with when it comes to signing as many picks from Rounds 1 through 20 as they so choose.
While the Red Sox may be done drafting for now (Sunday), they will be on the clock once again on Monday for picks 40, 75, 105, 136, 166, 196, 226, 256, and 286, and then again on Tuesday for picks 316, 346, 376, 406, 436, 466, 496, 526, 556, and 586.
(Picture of Marcelo Mayer: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
While it certainly looks like the Red Sox are locked in on one of Vanderbilt right-hander Jack Leiter or Louisville catcher Henry Davis when it comes to who they will take with the No. 4 pick in the first round of the 2021 MLB Draft Sunday night, some recent speculation suggests that the club could go in another direction.
According to Baseball America’s Carlos Collazo, the Sox may have their eye on University of California, Los Angeles shortstop Matt McLain depending on who is still on the board by the time they are put on the clock.
“It sounds like UCLA shortstop Matt McLain could wind up being a bit of a wild card here and Boston might be a fit depending on who’s available for them,” Collazo wrote earlier Sunday.
McLain, who turns 22 next month, is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 10 prospect coming into this week’s draft, ranking seventh among all position players and third among college bats.
Listed at 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, the California native was originally selected by the Diamondbacks in the first round of the 2018 amateur draft (one pick before Red Sox prospect Triston Casas), but opted to honor his commitment to UCLA rather than go pro out of high school.
In his junior season with the Bruins, McLain slashed an impressive .333/.434/.579 to go along with nine home runs, 14 doubles, two triples, 36 runs driven in, 47 runs scored, nine stolen bases, 34 walks, and 34 strikeouts over 47 games (226 plate appearances).
A broken thumb forced the right-handed hitting, right-handed throwing infielder to miss nearly three weeks of time in the month of May, but he finished the year strong by hitting .379 (11-for-29) in his final seven games this spring.
Per his Baseball America scouting report, McLain — who spent the summer of 2019 on Cape Cod with the Wareham Gatemen — “is a dangerous hitter who is strong” despite his undersized frame.
“He has a short, direct swing and consistently lines balls hard from gap to gap. He has a knack for finding the barrel, separates balls from strikes and rarely chases outside the strike zone,” his scouting report reads.” He is a consensus above-average to plus hitter and projects to hit at the top of a lineup for a first-division team. The only question about McLain’s offensive game is how much power he will produce. Though he hit for power in college, his fringe-average raw power will likely translate more to doubles with a wood bat and limit him to 10-15 home runs per season. He has plus speed and consistently runs hard to beat out infield singles and leg out doubles and triples.
“McLain played shortstop the last two seasons at UCLA and is playable there, but he lacks the natural actions for the position and projects better at second base. Some teams prefer him in center field, where he played as a freshman, and others think he projects best as a multi-positional player who bounces around the diamond. He is an instinctive defender who positions himself well, gets good reads off the bat and has above-average arm strength at any position.”
Whoever the Red Sox, led by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and amateur scouting director Paul Toboni, do take with the fourth overall pick Sunday night, one thing is for certain: they will have approximately $6.664 million in slot money to spend on that particular pick.
With that in mind, however, it remains possible that Boston could select a prospect such as McLain, who is projected by Baseball America to go to the Brewers at No. 15, with the intention of signing him to an under-slot deal, which in turn would give the club more money to spend in Rounds 2 through 20.
It wasn’t too long ago that it seemed like the Red Sox landing Kumar Rocker with the fourth overall pick in this summer’s draft was a pipe dream at best.
The Vanderbilt University right-hander came into the 2021 season regarded by many as the consensus top amateur prospect ahead of the July draft and was projected to go to the Pirates at No. 1 overall.
Since Vanderbilt’s season began in late February, Rocker has seen his stock fall to some degree, while his fellow rotation mate, Jack Leiter, has seen his stock rise.
Rocker, a 21-year-old junior, has posted a 1.64 ERA and a 0.80 WHIP to go along with 81 strikeouts and 15 walks through his first nine starts and 55 innings pitched this year.
Leiter, meanwhile, turned 21 on Wednesday and is a draft-eligible sophomore. The son and nephew of former big-leaguers, Leiter has produced a miniscule 0.98 ERA and 0.70 WHIP while striking out 94 and walking 22 over nine starts and 55 1/3 innings of work. He threw a no-hitter against South Carolina on March 20.
The pair of Commodores are undoubtedly the top amateur pitching prospects in the country, but the two hurlers have seen their draft projections shift in recent weeks.
Alternating between picks, Callis had the Pirates taking Leiter with the top overall pick, writing, “It feels like a four-man race to go No. 1 right now, but give me the guy who’s dominating the Southeastern Conference and can pitch off his fastball like few can.”
After high school shortstops Jordan Lawlar and Marcelo Mayer were taken off the board by the Rangers and Tigers at picks Nos. 2 and 3, it was Mayo’s turn to pick for the Red Sox at No. 4. He went with Rocker.
“No way I was going to let Rocker go further than this,” Mayo wrote while explaining his pick, “not with that ridiculous fastball-slider combination that comes from his intimidating 6-foot-5 frame.”
Per his MLB Pipeline scouting report, Rocker “is a physical right-hander who can overpower hitters with his fastball and slider. He usually operates at 93-96 mph with his heater, which can reach 99 and features some run and sink but also can get flat at times. He notched all 19 of his whiffs in his no-hitter with his slider, a mid-80s beast with power and depth that grades as plus-plus at its best.
“Rocker hasn’t used his changeup much, and while his third offering has average potential and some sink, it gets too firm at times. He throws strikes but has just average command, and he’ll need more finesse for days when he doesn’t have his top-notch stuff. He has the makings of a frontline starter but isn’t a finished product and scouts would like to see him dominate more consistently this spring.”
Because the Red Sox will be picking so early in this year’s draft, the club has been able to hone in on a select group of prospects they may be interested in drafting “and scout those players really, really hard,” as amateur scouting director Paul Toboni told The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier in March.
Rocker and Leiter are surely two of the players the Sox have been monitoring closely this spring, and area scout Danny Watkins — who covers Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee for the team — recently provided some insight into what makes each of them so intriguing.
At the moment, the Red Sox taking either one of Rocker or Leiter at No. 4 would be pretty nice. But, as MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith notes, the 2021 Draft is not slated to begin until July 11, so there is still plenty of time for rankings and projections to change between now and then.
(Picture of Kumar Rocker: Peter Aiken/Getty Images)
The 2021 MLB first-year player draft is set to begin in just under three months. In case you haven’t heard, the Red Sox will be making their top selection in the draft with the fourth overall pick after finishing with the fourth-worst record in baseball last season.
In his latest 2021 draft prospect rankings, The Athletic’s Keith Law listed University of Louisville catcher Henry Davis as his No. 4 draft-eligible prospect.
“Davis has mashed all year, with huge power and a patient eye, and he’s got a plus arm and enough receiving skills to stay behind the plate,” Law wrote earlier Thursday. “Joey Bart went second overall with less bat and more glove; I don’t think it’s a stretch to think Davis could be the first college position player taken.”
Davis, 21, is listed at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds. Through the Cardinals’ first 30 games of the season, the third-year sophomore is slashing an impressive .389/.514/.676 with eight home runs, 32 RBI, and an ACC-leading nine stolen bases. He has also thrown out 11 of the 20 baserunners who have attempted to steal against him.
In the history of the first-year player draft — which dates back to 1965 — the Red Sox have taken a catcher in the first round on just four separate occasions, most recently selecting Blake Swihart out of Cleveland High School (Rio Rancho, NM) with the 26th overall pick (compensation pick from the Rangers for Adrian Beltre) in 2011.
The last catcher who played his college baseball at Louisville to be selected in the first round of an amateur draft was the Dodgers’ Will Smith, whom Los Angeles took with the 32nd overall pick in 2016.
Since then, Smith has risen through the prospect ranks and has emerged as one of the top young catchers in the National League, if not all of baseball.
Coming into play on Thursday, the 26-year-old is slashing .261/.438/.652 with two home runs and four RBI through his first eight games of the 2021 campaign.
This is not to say that Davis should be compared to Smith at the moment. Both backstops may be right-handed hitters who attended the same school, but one is already establishing himself as an everyday big-leaguer while the other has yet to go pro.
That said, it is worth mentioning that the last University of Louisville catcher to be selected in the first round of the draft turned out to be someone with plenty of potential in the form of Smith.
As for how Davis — a native of Bedford, N.Y. who played for the Cape League’s Bourne Braves in 2019 — is viewed in the eyes of scouts, his MLB Pipeline scouting report goes as follows:
“Davis’ standout tool is his plus-plus arm strength, and he erased 34 percent of basestealers in his first two college seasons while also displaying quick footwork and good throwing accuracy. His receiving still needs a lot of work because it lacks consistency and he sometimes struggles to handle quality stuff, as evidenced by six passed balls in just 13 starts last spring. Though he has below-average speed and conceivably could try an outfield corner, his value comes from staying behind the plate, so he’ll have to improve.
“While he doesn’t have a pretty right-handed swing, Davis makes it work at the plate and has a higher offensive ceiling than most catchers. He manages the strike zone well and makes repeated hard contact, even if his stroke lengthens and he gets a bit pull-happy at times. His strength and controlled aggression could produce 20 homers per season.”
Whoever the Red Sox take — whether it be Davis, Marcelo Mayer, Jack Leiter, or someone else — with their top selection in this summer’s draft, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, amateur scouting director Paul Toboni and Co. will have approximately $6.64 million in recommended slot value to spend on the No. 4 pick.
On a somewhat related note, The Baseball Prospect Journal’s Dan Zielinski III wrote back in January that during the offseason, Davis caught bullpens for Red Sox relievers Matt Barnes and Adam Ottavino.
The 2021 MLB Draft is still over three months away, but with the college and high school baseball seasons in full swing across the country, some prospects are beginning to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.
The Red Sox will be making their top selection in this year’s draft with the fourth overall pick, marking the first time since 1967 that the club has made its first pick that early in a draft.
Because they will make their first selection so early on in the draft process this summer, the Sox will surely have their pick of prospects to choose from outside of the players who will be taken by the Pirates, Rangers, and Tigers at picks 1, 2, and 3.
Earlier this week, MLB.com’s Jim Callis wrote that “it’s very possible that” Vanderbilt’s Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter and Dallas Jesuit High School shortstop Jordan Lawler could be the first three players off the board in July.
That would lead up to the Sox making their first pick at No. 4, and the best player available in this scenario would be none other than Eastlake High School (Calif.) shortstop Marcelo Mayer.
“Mayer started getting attention from scouts at Eastlake as a freshman, where he showed a smooth left-handed stick at the plate and advanced defensive actions up the middle,” BA’s Carlos Collazo wrote of the 18-year-old infielder. “Mayer is arguably the top defensive shortstop in a class that is deep at the position. He glides around the infield dirt with silky smooth actions and has the hands, footwork and arm strength to stick at the position long term. He always seems to slow the game down, and has no problem throwing from multiple angles with an accurate arm.
“Mayer also has upside offensively,” Collazo added. “He has fringe-average power now, but evaluators believe he could tap into above-average power down the line and he controls the zone well with a swing that’s leveraged for fly balls.”
Mayer, who does not turn 19 until December, is listed at 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds. As of April 7, the Southern California commit was slashing .381/.600/.761 with two home runs, 11 RBI, and six stolen bases through his first eight games of the year for Eastlake, per MaxPreps.
As their fourth-ranked draft prospect, Baseball America also had Mayer going to the Red Sox at No. 4 in their most recent mock draft from March 29.
“It seems like Mayer is the clear No. 4 after the top trio of players on the board,” Collazo wrote of the California native. “Whether he is in the mix of the top tier or just on the cusp of joining that top tier is still to be determined. Some scouts believe he has a chance to be the best pure hitter in the draft — college or high school — and with an impressive glove at a premium position, that gives him a two-way toolset that shouldn’t last long on the board.”
Collazo added that “at the moment, it seems like the ‘place to pick’ in this year’s draft class is either No. 3 or 4.”
Last year, in Chaim Bloom’s first draft as Red Sox chief baseball officer, Boston had to wait until pick No. 17 to make their first pick. This year, that wait will be a lot shorter.
“You don’t have control over who’s picked ahead of you at 17,” Red Sox amateur scouting director Paul Toboni told The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier last month. “You’ve got to cover a wider pool of players. This year, we get to make the decision: Let’s figure out who is in our top five, six, seven, eight — whatever number you want to throw out — and scout those players really, really hard.”
The Sox will have more of a chance to get a look at Mayer — as well as the other top high school talent expected to comprise this year’s draft class — at the first-ever MLB Draft Combine, which is slated to take place in Cary, N.C. from June 20 through June 28.
Per Collazo, the combine will feature “the top 88 high school players eligible for the 2021 draft,” all of whom will partake in an eight-game tournament as well as a “pro-style workout.”
Also, for what it’s worth, the recommended slot value assigned to the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft is approximately $6.64 million.
(Picture of Marcelo Mayer: Bodie De Silva, SBLive)
Vanderbilt University right-hander and 2021 draft prospect Jack Leiter made history on Saturday, as he became the first pitcher in school history to throw a regular season no-hitter since 1971.
Making his fifth start of the season against South Carolina in Nashville on Saturday afternoon, the 20-year-old hurler walked the very first batter of the game before retiring the next 27 Gamecocks he faced in order.
In addition to yielding no hits and just one walk over nine nearly-perfect innings of work, Leiter struck out a career-high 16 batters while also inducing eight flyouts and three groundouts.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 124 (81 strikes), the New Jersey native improved to 5-0 on the season while the Commodores improved to 15-2 and 2-0 in Southeastern Conference play.
Through five starts now, Leiter owns a miniscule ERA of 0.31 over 29 total innings pitched since the college baseball season began last month.
The draft-eligible sophomore, formerly drafted by the Yankees out of high school in 2019, was already one of the hottest prospects at the top of this year’s amateur draft class, and his performance on Saturday highlighted just how high his ceiling is.
Baseball America has Leiter — the son and nephew of former major-league pitchers Al and Mark Leiter — as their No. 5 prospect headed into this July’s first-year player draft.
Per his Baseball America scouting report, “the 6-foot, 195 pound righty has an above-average fastball that gets into the mid 90s at its best, and he throws both four- and two-seam variations. On top of that, Leiter has a big, downer curveball with a high spin rate that projects as a plus offering, in addition to a slider and changeup that round out his repertoire.”
The Red Sox, coming off a 2020 season in which they finished with the fourth-worst record in baseball (24-36), own the fourth overall selection in this year’s July draft.
Because they will be picking so high this year (2021 will be the first time they’ve had a top-five draft pick since 1967), Boston is in more control of who exactly they want to select and who they will eventually be selecting at No. 4 — a potential franchise-altering pick — in just under four months.
“You don’t have control over who’s picked ahead of you at 17,” Red Sox amateur scouting director Paul Toboni recently told The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier. “You’ve got to cover a wider pool of players. This year, we get to make the decision: Let’s figure out who is in our top five, six, seven, eight — whatever number you want to throw out — and scout those players really, really hard.”
Along with Leiter, other college pitchers the Sox could target at No. 4 include fellow Vanderbilt right-hander Kumar Rocker and Louisiana State University righty Jaden Hill, though restrictions put in place as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic limit how thoroughly the club can evaluate these prospects.
“Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter, I won’t be at every game but I will watch every one of their starts [on video],” Toboni said. “We’ll probably have a scout at close to every one of their starts. That’s partly because they’re really good players and it’s also partly because Vanderbilt is only allowing one scout from each club at every game. In order to have seven or eight evaluations, we sort of have to.”
One scout in particular who will be monitoring Rocker and Leiter closely between now and July will be area scout Danny Watkins, who covers Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee for the Sox. He is probably most known for signing Mookie Betts out of high school in 2011.
“I’m a duck in water again,” Watkins told Speier. “I get to do all these things that kind of get me going… It’s exciting. You really get to kind of shoot for the moon a little bit.”
The college baseball season runs through late June, and the potential remains for the Red Sox to take a prep prospect — like high school shortstop Marcelo Mayer — at No. 4 as well, so this is not to say we know who exactly Boston will be taking with their top pick come July 11.
It’s just that, with the MLB Draft only being a few months away, “the process of identifying targets for the draft” — as Speier put it — “is well underway.”