2020 Red Sox Draft Preview: Trying to Pin Down Who Boston Will Take With Top Pick

At long last, the 2020 MLB first-year player draft is finally here. The first round of the five-round event will begin Wednesday night on both MLB Network and ESPN, while rounds 2-5 will take place on Thursday.

The Red Sox, coming off an 84-78 2019 campaign, own the 17th overall selection in this year’s draft. It’s the earliest pick Boston has had since 2016, when prep left-hander Jay Groome was taken 12th overall.

In addition to that, while most clubs will be making five picks, the Sox will only be making four, as they were stripped of their second-round selection back in April as part of their punishment for illegally stealing signs in 2018.

The loss of the second-round pick brings Boston’s total pool value in this year’s draft down to just $5,129,900, ranking 26th among the 30 MLB clubs.

Because of that, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and amateur scouting director Paul Toboni seem poised to go all out with the team’s top pick. Or, in other words, take the prospect with the most upside regardless of what position he plays.

The most popular name that has been linked to the Sox in the weeks leading up to Wednesday is without a doubt Jesuit High School (Ore.) right-hander Mick Abel.

Abel, MLB Pipeline’s 11th-ranked draft-eligible prospect, turns 19 in August and is viewed by scouts as someone who is only “going to get stronger and throw harder as he physically matures.”

Another name to monitor on Wednesday is outfielder Pete-Crow Armstrong, another prep prospect out of one of the most prestigious baseball schools in the country in Harvard-Westlake (Calif.).

Listed at 6’1″ and 180 lbs., Crow-Armstrong is committed to play college baseball at Vanderbilt.

Described by MLB Pipeline as “a dynamic athlete who goes hard at all times,” the 18-year-old is someone the Red Sox have been “heavy” on, according to The Athletic’s Keith Law.

If it’s not Abel or Crow-Armstrong who the Red Sox take for whatever reason on Wednesday, other names to watch out for include Robert Hassell, Austin Hendrick, Ed Howard, Tyler Soderstrom, Jared Kelley, Garrett Mitchell, Garrett Crochet, Patrick Bailey, Cade Cavalli, Cole Wilcox, Ausin Wells, Tanner Burns, and Chris McMahon to name just a few.

Personally, I’d prefer to see the Sox lean towards taking a prep prospect with the 17th pick. Sure, in this scenario, that prospect would probably take more than the allotted $3,609,700 to sign, but whether it be Abel, Crow-Armstrong, Hassell, Hendrick, Howard, or Soderstrom, whoever they pick would certainly provide a boost to a poorly-regarded farm system even if no minor-league baseball is played in 2020.

Red Sox ‘Would Like’ to Take High School Position Player With Top Pick in This Year’s Draft

The Red Sox would ideally like to select a top prep position player prospect with their top pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, according to The Athletic’s Keith Law.

Harvard-Westlake outfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong, who Law has the Sox taking in his third and most recent mock draft, represents just one of the players Boston could be targeting with the 17th overall pick.

Taking the criteria of being one of the best draft-eligible prospects out of high school into account, other players who fit Law’s description include outfielders Zac Veen, Austin Hendrick, and Robert Hassell, shortstop Ed Howard, and catcher Tyler Soderstrom. A few of these names have been linked to the Sox in past mock drafts.

Speaking of mock drafts, last week, MLB.com’s Jim Callis had Jesuit High School (Ore.) right-hander Mick Abel going to the Sox, citing that the club is “focusing on ceiling with their top pick.”

Given the current circumstances as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, there is plenty of uncertainty heading into next week’s first-year player draft, which will consist of just five rounds, making it the shortest in MLB’s history.

To add on to that, the Red Sox were docked a second-round pick as part of their punishment for stealing signs in 2018, so only having four picks to make this year while the majority of other clubs have five adds even more stress to the job for amateur scouting director Paul Toboni, who was appointed to the position last September and will be running his first draft a week from Wednesday.

“From the standpoint of the fact that we were only able to scout for four college weekends and the high school kids, many of whom we didn’t see in their spring seasons, it’s difficult,” Toboni told The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey earlier this week. “A lot of uncertainty, more than there would be in a normal spring. From a standpoint of communicating with our staff, not being able to meet in person, having to overcome the learning curve of getting familiar with Zoom and these (video) calls, it’s just been different.”

Under Toboni and chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, the Red Sox will have just $5,129,200 in total pool money to work with in regards to signing draft picks while also having the ability to sign an unlimited number of undrafted free agents for no more than $20,000 from June 14 through August 1.

 

Latest 2020 Mock Draft Has Red Sox Taking Pure-Hitting High School Prospect With Top Pick

Last week, I wrote about who the Red Sox could potentially target in the first round of this year’s amateur draft.

Since that time, it was reported by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich that the Major League Baseball Players Association rejected a draft-related proposal from MLB on Thursday.

In that proposal, the commissioner’s office suggested that the 2020 draft consist of 10 rounds and be split into two segments, with the picks from the first five rounds having the same assigned slot value as they did the year prior, and the picks from the last five rounds having about 50% of last year’s assigned slot value in addition to having a signing bonus hard cap.

Per Rosenthal and Drellich, “The players would prefer that the draft go as many rounds as possible, giving entry to more players into the sport,” but at the same time, MLB has leverage in that they could tell the players association: “Take 10 rounds, with restrictions, or else the draft will be shorter.”

As pressing as those obstacles may be for the MLBPA, the draft is still expected to be held on June 10th, and the two sides could still reach an agreement before then.

That said, another mock draft, this one consisting of three rounds, organized by the folks over at Prospects Live was live streamed over the weekend and its participants included analysts from various other prospect sites, such as Perfect Game, Rotowire, and Prospects1500 to name just a few.

Representing the Red Sox in this mock draft were Chris Hatfield and Ian Cundall of SoxProspects.com, one of the best places to go for coverage and analysis of the Red Sox farm system on the internet.

The Red Sox this year will be making their first draft selection with the 17th overall pick after finishing with the 17th-worst record in baseball last year.

College prospects such as Garrett Crochet, Patrick Bailey, and Tanner Burns have been linked to this pick recently, but Hatfield and Cundall went with a high school prospect here. His name?

OF Robert Hassell, Independence High School (Thompson’s Station, TN)

Ranked as MLB Pipeline’s No. 16 draft-eligible prospect, Hassell is regarded as the ‘best pure hitter’ in this year’s prep class.

Swinging from the left side of the plate, the 18-year-old led Team USA in hitting in last fall’s U-18 Baseball World Cup in South Korea, slashing .514/.548/.886 with two home runs and 14 RBI over 42 plate appearances.

From his Baseball America scouting report, Hassell is “one of the rare prep hitters who seems to be in control of an at-bat, regardless of the count or the pitcher on the mound facing him. There are few holes in his swing and he doesn’t miss often, hitting the ball hard whenever he makes contact with developing power.”

Hassell can also pitch, and he is currently committed to Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

Moving on to the third round now since the Red Sox will be without a second-round pick in this year’s draft, Hatfield and Cundall have Boston taking a right-hander out of the Big 10 with the 89th overall pick. His name?

RHP Jeff Criswell, University of Michigan

MLP Pipeline’s 58th-ranked draft prospect, Criswell was originally drafted by the Tigers in the 35th round of the 2017 MLB Draft.

Listed at 6’4″ and 225 pounds, the 21-year-old out of Portage, Mich. posted a 4.50 ERA and .205 batting average against over four starts and 24 innings pitched for the Wolverines before the 2020 college baseball season was shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Criswell is capable of pitching in the rotation and out of the bullpen. He even became somewhat as a weapon for Michigan as a reliever in the 2019 College World Series.

From his MLB Pipeline scouting report:

“He maintained his velocity while transitioning from reliever to starter, showing the ability to work at 93-96 mph with heavy sink for several innings at a time. Both his slider and his fading changeup are solid secondary pitches that arrive in the low 80s.”

If the 2020 draft is only five rounds, these two prospects could represent 40% of the amateur talent the Red Sox bring in domestically this year. If it’s 10 rounds, then 20%.

What will Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. have in store for us later in the year? We’ll have to wait and see when the draft happens for real.