Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Boston's Best Late Draft Picks Part 2

Rounds 2-30 of the MLB draft occurred yesterday. I’m guessing less than 2 of you knew any of Boston’s first round picks so I’m not going to spend much time on any of these later round picks, though I will touch on a couple in a bit (one more note: in the 28th round the Sox selected RHP Brenden Shephard from my parents’ alma matter, Stonehill). So without further ado, here is Part 2 of the Boston’s Best Late Draft Picks…

5) Cecil Cooper, 1B, 1968, 6th Round, Brenham HS, 34.5 Wins Above Replacement

1968 was one hell of a draft for the Red Sox in the late rounds. The team whiffed on first rounder Thomas Maggard, who never played in the majors, but in addition to Cooper and Ben Oglivie, who was number 10 on our list, they also drafted All Star pitcher Lynn McGlothen in the 3rd round and Bill “Spaceman” Lee in the 20th. Cooper was the best of this class, though. He was actually selected by the Cardinals in the Rule V draft in 1970 but was returned to the Red Sox. He moved quickly through the minors and debuted with the Sox at just 21 years old.  He was a key contributor to the 1975 AL Pennant winners, getting most of the DH at bats in the second half of the season and playoffs. After a disappointing follow up campaign, Cooper was traded to the Brewers before the ’77 season for Bernie Carbo and George Scott. One season later was reunited with fellow ’68 draftee Oglivie. Like Oglivie, Cooper’s career took off when he went to Milwaukee. Finally given the chance to start full time at first, he made 5 All Star games in his 11 seasons with the Brewers and finished in the top 5 in MVP voting 3 times.

4) Mark Teixeira, 3B, 1998, 9th Round, Mount St. Joseph’s HS, 38.0 WAR

Tex is the second active player on the list and the second player drafted by the Sox who did not sign, choosing instead to go to Georgia Tech. Like Jack McDowell, the move paid off for Tex as he was also selected with the 5th overall pick by the Rangers. After a strong start to his career, he was traded to the Braves for a huge haul of prospects including Neftali Feliz, Elvis Andrus and Matt Harrison who make up the young core of the current Rangers. The Braves then traded him a year later at the deadline to the Angels for Casey Kotchman, which pretty much made their two trades (to get him and give him away) some of the worst in MLB history. Sox Nation knows what happens next: the Sox offered Tex a top free agent contract and he was about to sign when agent Scott Boras took the deal to the Yankees and asked them to top it, which they did, and the Sox failed to counter the offer. Now, he stars in the middle of the Yankee lineup and is second in baseball in homers so far this year with 18. Tex will be an interesting Hall of Fame case when his career is done. He has been a nomad to this point in his career, but now that he has settled in New York his profile has risen. However, with a huge pool of great first baseman in the game (Pujols, Votto, Fielder, Youk, Gonzalez, etc.), it may be tough for him to distinguish himself for voters unless he wins an MVP or two and leads the Yankees to another title.

3) Amos Otis, SS, 1965, 5th Round, Williamson HS, 40.4 WAR

In the first ever MLB draft, the Red Sox selected Billy Conigliaro, Tony C’s little brother, out of Swampscott, MA with their first pick. 4 rounds later, they found number 3 on our list, though he would never play a game for the club. The following year, the Mets drafted him in something called the minor league draft. I’m not sure exactly what this is and since I’m lazy and it wasn’t in the first 10 Google results, we may never know. Anyway, Otis got a couple cups of coffee with the Mets in ’67 and ’69, now as an outfielder, but was traded following the ’69 season. According to his Wikipedia page, Otis clashed with manager Gil Hodges back when the manager had a lot more say in who stayed and who went. He was traded to the Royals for Joe Foy and he became an instant star for one of the top AL teams of the 70's. Otis was one of the premier speed and defense players in a time when speed and defense was king.

2) Dwight Evans, 3B, 1969, 5th Round, Chatsworth HS, 61.8 WAR

We’ve already discussed Evans at length. So I want to take a quick time out from the list before we reveal number one. In the spirit of this list, I want to choose a few late round Red Sox draft picks from this year to follow their progress and see if the team has struck gold as they have so many times in the past. Assuming my three picks sign, this will be a recurring theme for as long as I have this blog. My picks, with analysis from ESPN Boston writer Chris Hatfield are as follows:
5th Round: Markus “Mookie” Betts, SS, John Overton HS (TN) 

Betts was the first multi-sport athlete picked by the Sox. He was also all-state in basketball and -- get this -- named the state’s best bowler as a junior during high school. He is committed to Tennessee, noteworthy because the Vols just fired head coach Todd Raleigh in May. He played shortstop in high school, but was going to move to second base in college. The 5-foot-9, 160-pounder has plus bat speed and is very athletic. 
6th Round: Miguel Pena, LHP, San Jacinto College North (TX) 
Pena has been drafted twice before, in the fifth round by the Nationals out of high school and in the 13th round last year by the Padres, from whom he reportedly turned down between $150,000 and $200,000. He went 10-3 this year for San Jacinto with a 1.91 ERA, 93 strikeouts and 24 walks in 85 innings. He throws a low-90s fastball with a sharp mid-70s curve, as well as a slider and changeup, and has outstanding command of his pitches. Pena was reportedly sent home from the Cape Cod League last summer for disciplinary reasons. He is headed to Lubbock Christian if he does not sign.   
8th Round: Senquez Golson, CF, Pascagoula HS (MS)  
Golson is committed to the University of Mississippi to play both football, at cornerback, and baseball, and could prove to be a very difficult player to sign. Golson possesses great speed (4.0 seconds to first base) and was considered one of the best athletes in the entire draft. He is no project though, as he has great bat speed and raw power potential. He hit .345 this spring for Pascagoula with 3 home runs and 16 stolen bases. 
I think this is a good mix of picks. Golson looks like he won’t sign, but he seems like the most intriguing prospect to me with his speed and strength. Pena could be a big surprise as well with his height and mix of pitches, plus being drafted 3 times means 3 teams saw serious potential in you. Finally, rooting for a 5’9’’ dude named “Mookie” is just fun.

1) Wade Boggs, SS, 1976, 7th Round, Plant HS, 89.7 WAR

The top player on our list is Hall of Famer Boggs. The Red Sox actually did well in their first round pick this year, drafting Bruce Hurst, but in the 7th round they found one of the greatest hitters of all time. It actually took Boggs 6 years to reach the bigs, but once he did he never stopped hitting. This fried chicken eating mother f*&^er led the league in batting in just his second season (his first of 5 batting titles). He would go on to make 12 All Star teams and win 8 Silver Slugger awards as the best hitting third baseman. He was a Boston cult hero, apparently drinking upwards of 50 Miller Lites on a cross country team flight and eating fried chicken before every game. Unfortunately for us, he signed with the Yankees in 1992 and we all had to watch with mouths full of vomit as he clutched a New York policeman on the back of a horse celebrating the 1996 World Series win.

The baseball draft is as much of a crapshoot as anything in this world, save for probably marriage. Albert Pujols was drafted in the 13th round of the 1999 draft, a year in which 4 of the top 10 players selected never sniffed the freshly washed jock straps that big leaguers get to wear. In 45 years of the draft, there have been 0 number 1 selections to make the Hall of Fame (though Ken Griffey Jr., Chipper Jones, Alex Rodriguez are all likely to make it and Josh Hamilton, Adrian Gonzalez, Joe Mauer and Justin Upton are on the right path). As much as our knowledge of baseball has advanced through improved scouting and understanding of statistics, we still really have no idea when it comes to the draft. The next person to really figure out how to consistently look at some skinny 18 year old kid and project a future All Star will be the first and will always have a job in Major League Baseball. Until then, like with marriage, we can enjoy the honey moon of the draft and hope for the best five years from now.

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