Who will the next Andrew Benintendi be for the Red Sox? (Steven Branscombe/USA Today Sports)

Red Sox minor league notebook: How will organization approach pick No. 12 in MLB draft?

Ryan Hannable
June 09, 2016 - 8:46 am
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1. The Red Sox will have the No. 12 overall pick in Thursday night's MLB draft and even though it is only five picks after they selected No. 7 overall last year, there is a little bit of a different mindset going in. For director of amateur scouting Mike Rikard, who in his second year leading the draft, he and his staff are prepared. Prior last year, Rikard was the national scouting director, but took over when Amiel Sawdaye, who led the draft's since 2010, was promoted to vice president of amateur and international scouting. "This year, I think we're trying to be as prepared as possible for several different scenarios, kind of being considerate of guys even past 12 that could evolve into maybe a strategy pick or something like that will be guys that we discuss as well," said Rikard on a conference call last week. "Certainly more broad ranging than last year." It is the Red Sox' first draft with Dave Dombrowski as president of baseball operations, but Rikard said he's no different than Ben Cherington or Theo Epstein. Dombrowski will likely not play much of a role in the draft, as he generally focuses on the major league club. General manager Mike Hazen may play a small role, but generally everything is led by Rikard. "It's very similar. Both guys empower us as a staff and allow us to do our jobs, so that part of it is very similar," said Rikard. "Both guys bring a very positive and enthusiastic and kind of encouraging approach to how we go about our business. More than anything the common denominator with the two is they allow me and our staff to do our jobs. That makes it easy, that's probably the ideal way to go about it. But it's been great." Things don't stop after Thursday either as Friday will feature rounds 3-10 and Saturday will be rounds 11-40. Like they have in the past, Rikard believes the Red Sox will be able to find some impact players even in the late rounds. "It does seem to be a fairly deep draft," Rikard said. "We're pretty excited about some of the possibilities a little bit deeper in the draft as well." 2. Looking at the depth of the Red Sox' organization, it would seem the system is in more need to replenish top pitching prospects opposed to positional players. Behind Anderson Espinoza and Michael Kopech, there really aren't many other high ranking arms in the system. MLB.com draft expert Jim Callis believes the Red Sox will take the best player available at No. 12, but seems like they would prefer to select a pitcher. Callis notes there should be a few high school pitchers available when it is their turn to pick. "Picking 12th, I think the Red Sox are going to take the best guy available," Callis said. "If it is a pitcher, great, and if it's not, I don't think they would pass on a positional guy available. At No. 12, you line guys up and you take the top guy on your board. I have had pitchers there, but I do think by the time they pick -- six of the top 13 prospects are high school pitchers, I don't think necessarily any of them are going in the first three or four picks  so you have five or six of the 16 prospects on the board are high school pitchers -- which means the Red Sox could look at those guys." Callis noted the Red Sox have been "all over the place" in terms of players they have been linked to, but he did note a few players to keep an eye on: LHP Braxton Garrett (Florence High School, Alabama), RHP Justin Dunn (Boston College), RHP Cal Quantrill (Stanford University), RHP Dakota Hudson (Mississippi State), RHP Zack Burdi (University of Louisville) and OF Blake Rutherford (Chaminade College Preparatory, California). 3. Burdi would be an interesting selection as many believe the Louisville closer can help a major league team at some point this season. The right-hander has a fastball that nears 100 mph to go along with an above average slider and changeup. Rikard noted drafting a player with the major league team in mind is something the organization discusses, but ultimately it doesn't play that big of a role as the team is going to take the best player available. "That will certainly be something we at least discuss, as far as how close certain players are to the major leagues and how quickly they can help us," Rikard said. "Again, I know we've talked about this before, we try to get the best talent regardless of the state of our farm system or our major league club. We just try to assess the talent and try to simplify it from that perspective and take the best player." Callis said the team does in fact like Burdi, but just because he could potentially help the Red Sox this year doesn't mean they would elevate him too far up their draft board. "I think they like Zack Burdi," Callis said. "If they picked him at 12 that would probably play into it because he could help the bullpen this year and then flip him around and make him into a starter next year. I think -- I don't know how their board is lined up -- if Zack Burdi is 19th on their board, I don't think they would jump him up to 12 because he's going to help him quicker. They will factor it in when they are doing their board and it may give him a little bit of a push, but I don't think you would elevate the guy dramatically, especially that high in the draft." 4. There is always a debate in the first round of whether it is better to select a high school player or a college player. Most recently the Red Sox have gone the college route as since 2010, the Red Sox have selected four college players and two high school players with their first pick. But, the Red Sox have made 10 picks in the first round or supplemental first round since 2010 and six of them were college players. While they haven't sided one way or another, some teams are hesitant to take high school players so early in the draft, but the Red Sox aren't one of them. "I just think they are more open-minded than some teams and as a result the high school guys could rise on their board," Callis said. 5. Callis believes there is some talent to be found in the middle rounds of this draft, which the Red Sox have done a decent job of finding over the years. In 2011, Mookie Betts was a fifth-round pick and Travis Shaw was a ninth-round pick. In 2014, the Red Sox took first baseman Josh Ockimey in the fifth round, who is tearing it up with Single-A Greenville. Hidden gems can also be found in the late rounds, which the Red Sox did in 2013 taking Mauricio Dubon and Nick Longhi in the 26th and 30th rounds respectively. Both are currently with High-A Salem. "The one thing this draft is strong in his high school arms," Callis said. "It's interesting because it is also the demographic the industry regards as the riskiest. They tend not to go as high as they are ranked year in and year out. Overall, I think it is kind of a weak draft at the top and more depth as you get down late in the first round. Picking at the top is not the best thing." 6. As mentioned, Longhi was one of the steals of the 2013 draft as he is currently batting .294 with 38 RBIs in 53 games with High-A Salem. This comes after he hit .281 with Greenville last season. The first baseman was born in Springfield, Massachusetts but moved to Florida before he turned one. He still remains a huge Boston sports fan and noted if any other team drafted him that late in 2013 he wouldn't have signed and instead gone to college. Longhi still uses being passed up so many times as motivation. "Of course I use that as my motivation and my fuel to push harder and maybe prove some people wrong that see me as a 30th round pick," he said. "If it was any other team, I certainly wouldn't have signed. I would be in college. I had this opportunity with my favorite team and I figured I would make the most of it." Having such passion for the Red Sox and Boston in general, it would mean a lot to him to one day be able to play at Fenway Park. "It does have special meaning because that is the uniform I dressed up in when I was a kid because I wanted to be a Boston Red Sox player and now I have a real opportunity to wear that uniform for real," Longhi said. 7. Kopech continues to rehab from a broken hand suffered during spring training in an altercation with a teammate by throwing in extended spring training games in Fort Myers. He is working his pitch count up and getting acclimated to a five-day routine. He's getting closer and closer to joining an affiliate, but it's unclear what team that will be. The organization is seeing how the draft goes and how rosters look afterwards. The hard-throwing right-hander hasn't pitched in a live game since July 12 of last season as he was suspended 50 games for using a performance-enhancing drug. In 16 games with Single-A Greenville before the suspension, Kopech was 4-5 with a 2.63 ERA, while racking up 70 strikeouts in 65 innings. 8. After suffering a left thumb injury just 15 games into the season and missing just more than a month of action, Michael Chavis returned to Single-A Greenville this week. In three games the right-handed hitter is 1-for-9 with one strikeout and a walk. There was a possibility of surgery when the injury first occurred, so him returning to the team after just over a month is positive. The Red Sox' first-round pick in 2014 out of Sprayberry High School in Georgia was repeating a year in Greenville and off to a great start as in the 15 games he was hitting .356 with three home runs and 14 RBIs. The Red Sox are hopeful he can pick up where he left off before the injury and earn a promotion to High-A Salem. 9. High-A Salem right-hander Ben Taylor is another Red Sox pitcher who once was a starter and is now in the bullpen. He was selected in the seventh round of last year's draft out of South Alabama. Like many others in the same boat, the move came because of his electric fastball and the ability to perhaps use that pitch better in the bullpen. "I think the organization puts a lot of emphasis on those guys," Taylor said. "I think the transition goes pretty easy. I think being a reliever in this organization is a good thing." His last relief appearance was his best as he went four scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and striking out 10. Taylor said everything was working for him. "My fastball was working really well and my changeup was working pretty well too," he said. "Locating my fastball and throwing a slider in there that looks like a fastball, most guys were chasing it. I had everything working for me and got a lot of strikeouts." In 13 games (three starts) with High-A Salem this year, the 6-foot-3 righty is 0-1 with a 2.20 ERA with 51 strikeouts in 41 innings. 10. There were two All-Star teams announced this week. Five Greenville players will play in the South Atlantic League All-Star Game in Lexington, Kentucky on June 21. They are: Josh Ockimey, Luis Alejandro Basabe, Tate Matheny, Jake Cosart and Roniel Raudes. "We are incredibly proud to be sending five players to this year's South Atlantic League All-Star Game," said Drive Manager Darren Fenster via the team website. "Amongst our own players and staff here in Greenville, we have been privileged to watch Josh, AJ, Tate, Jake, and Roniel perform over the course of the past two months, and it's great to see that other league coaches and personnel have taken notice as well, having voted them in to the game. We congratulate them all, and are excited for them to represent us in Lexington." With High-A Salem, two players were named to the Carolina League All-Star team -- Yoan Moncada and Dubon. The 2016 California-Carolina League All-Star Game will be held June 21 at The Diamond in Lake Elsinore, California.