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Nuggetpalooza: Off to Yankee Stadium

06.07.11 at 11:43 am ET
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Get ready for tonight’s Sox-Yanks tilt with some stats you probably haven’t seen from the rivalry and a breakdown of Yankees’ starting pitcher Freddy Garcia’s arsenal.

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* – The Red Sox pitching staff heads into Yankee Stadium having struck out at least eight in each of their last nine games there. It’s the longest streak of 8+ strikeouts in road games against the Yankees by any team ever:

9 – Red Sox (Aug. 7, 2010 – May 15, 2011)
5 – Rays (Sept. 8, 2009 – July 16, 2010)
4 – Three times (Last: Red Sox, April 22, 2001 – June 4, 2001)

Note this: Prior to the last two games in New York, where Red Sox hitters fanned eight and nine times, they had struck out six times or fewer in the previous 11 straight at Yankee Stadium, the longest such streak by the Red Sox at New York since a 12-gamer in 1977.

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* – The Red Sox have 27 stolen bases and have not been caught in their last 24 games against the Yankees regardless of site. At New York, they’ve stolen 16 without being caught over their last 17 games. Yankees baserunners, meanwhile, have 35 steals in 40 attempts over the last 27 games against the Red Sox (home and away) and 20 steals in 23 attempts over the last 15 against Boston at Yankee Stadium.

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* – In the Red Sox’ last 25 games at Yankee Stadium (since July 6, 2008), the Yankees have hit 40 home runs. That’s a pace for 259 homers over a 162 game season. The Red Sox have hit 29 in that same stretch.

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* – Since the start of last season (12 games in New York), Red Sox relievers have inherited 12 runners and none of them have scored. Over the previous 10 games at the Stadium, Sox relievers allowed 11-of-23 inherited runners to score.

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Comparing the Red Sox, Yankees lineups, Part II

06.07.11 at 11:37 am ET
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On February 24, I broke down the Yankees and Red Sox position-by-position and found that there wasn’t a whole lot of difference. Some people — the 100-win crowd, mostly — were outraged by this, literally could not understand how this could be possible. That, of course, is how it almost always goes in spring training, when most are convinced that everything is going to go right for their team and wrong for the other guys.

Well, we are now 59 games into the season (the Yankees have played 57) and the teams are separated by one game and a total of three runs scored. There have been surprises — a show of hands for those who had David Ortiz hitting .325 and Curtis Granderson with 17 home runs on June 7 — but there always are.

So as the teams prepare to start a three-game set in the House That Maas Didn’t Build, let’s take one more look at the lineups and see what has changed and what has stayed the same …

First Base

Advantage: Adrian Gonzalez. Two of the, what, 10-12 best hitters in the American League so far this season? Mark Teixeira is having a terrific year — ranked in the top 10 in slugging, OPS, RBI and is second with 18 home runs — but falls short when compared to Gonzalez, who leads the AL in hits (83), RBI (50) and has higher slugging and OPS numbers.

Second Base

Advantage: Robinson Cano. Look, I think Dustin Pedroia is playing hurt. He just is not the same hitter that we saw before he broke his foot in San Francisco last June. Fifty-nine games into the season — sample size enough, I think, to pass some judgement — and Pedroia is hitting .244 (55 points below his career average) and has an OPS of .688 (129 points below his career mark). He’s tied with Ryan Raburn for 77th place in AL slugging percentage. Pedroia has basically been Julio Lugo with nifty soundbites for the first third of the season. Cano’s numbers are down from 2010 but we are still talking about a guy with a .514 slugging percentage (Pedroia has never had a season with a slugging percentage higher than .493) and superior defensive numbers to Pedroia’s (Cano is second to Mark Ellis among AL 2B in Range Factor per nine innings).

Shortstop

Advantage: Jed Lowrie. After that eye-opening April (.368/.389/.574), Lowrie was just below OK in May, putting up a line of .261/.330./.359. Here’s the thing, though: That mediocre May was still better than Derek Jeter’s numbers for the season (.260/.327/.325). Lowrie still has a way to go to match El Capitano in the steely eyes and intangibles categories, though, and good luck getting close to Jeter in the fist-pumping department.

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Red Sox first-day draft wrap: GM Theo Epstein and Scouting director Amiel Sawdaye weigh in

06.07.11 at 12:44 am ET
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Red Sox GM Theo Epstein and amateur scouting director Amiel Sawdaye just took part in a conference call to discuss the first day of the Major League draft. The Sox selected a diverse group of players:

–A college right-handed pitcher in Matt Barnes of the University of Connecticut (1st round, No. 19)

–A high school left-hander in Henry Owens (sandwich round, No. 36)

–A high school catcher in Blake Swihart (1st round, No. 26)

–A college center fielder in Jackie Bradley of the University of South Carolina

Certainly, the Sox were pleased to emerge with four players whom they think can have a strong impact on their organization. They view both Barnes and Owens as future big league starters, and Swihart and Bradley as potential middle-of-the-field lineup members. That said, the team tempered its enthusiasm with the notion that it will require many years before the impact of the draft will be known.

“We’€™re real happy with how today went. I think 30 clubs feel that way coming out of the draft room,” said Epstein. “There’€™s a little bit of anxiety to see if the guys you like are going to be there. More often than not, you end up getting the guys you like because the reality is that all 30 clubs have these guys evaluated differently. We do our high fiving and feeling good coming out of the room, but I feel like 29 other clubs were doing it the exact same way. Then you circle back in five or 10 years and see how you did. Certainly we felt like some things broke our way and we were able to get four players we feel really good about.”

–Barnes had been scouted extensively by the Sox not just at the University of Connecticut, but also while pitching in the Cape League and for Team USA last summer. This draft season, he had been projected as high as a top five pick before slipping a bit among a strong class of college pitchers. Still, the Sox were elated that he remained on the board when they were picking.

Sawdaye said that the Sox view him as a “middle of the rotation guy” with “three plus pitches” (a fastball, curve and change).

“We were excited to get him,” said Sawdaye. “Given the fact that he was at 19, we got really excited. I’€™ll leave it at that.”

–Swihart represents the sort of player whom the Sox have rarely had the opportunity to draft, a powerful, athletic catcher who has a proven ability to perform against advanced competition as a young amateur. Swihart was a force for Team USA in 2010, hitting .448 with a .492 OBP and .845 slugging mark.

Swihart played many doubleheaders as a senior in New Mexico, catching for one game and playing in the field for the next. That schedule permitted the Sox to conclude that he has the attributes needed to remain at catcher.

“We got a really good chance to see him behind the plate but also to see his athleticism in the field, so a guy that we were really excited to get because the tool set and athleticism really fit behind the plate,” said Sawdaye.

Epstein, meanwhile, suggested that Swihart’s bat would have drawn the Sox to him regardless of his position. The fact that he does play a premium position made him even more appealing.

“Yes, he’€™s a catcher, but he’€™s also a very legitimate bat, a switch-hitting bat at that, and an excellent athlete with great baseball instincts as well. It was the whole package. It wasn’€™t so much what position he played. We certainly never draft for need,” said Epstein. “But he stood out for his bat, for his athleticism and the fact that he projects to be able to stay behind the plate and be a solid receiver back there, thrower back there only added to the attraction.’€

–Owens is a high school lefty who competed against advanced competition in Southern California, for Team USA’s 18-and-under group and on the showcase circuit. The Sox, said Epstein, saw him throw up to 94 with good feel for three pitches (fastball, curve, change). Couple that with his 6-foot-6 frame, and the Sox saw a package that they didn’t want to overlook.

“He throws three pitches for strikes,” said Sawdaye. “For a high-school kid, that’€™s unique and certainly something that we covet.’€

The Sox have drafted few high school lefties under Epstein, and none as high as Owens. But the team hasn’t simply dismissed a class of players — after all, without an openness to selecting high school lefties, the team wouldn’t have taken Jon Lester with a second-round pick in 2002, when Epstein was part of the draft room as Assistant GM. The right lefty simply hadn’t been available.

“We always take the best player available on the board,” said Epstein. “He’€™s always performed well against the best competition. Lefthanded or righthanded, he stood out as somebody we liked, and the fact that he’€™s lefthanded was an added bonus.”

–Finally, Bradley represents a player whom the Sox got with their fourth pick of the day in no small part because — after standout performances as a freshman and sophomore — he struggled this year as a junior, and then had to undergo surgery to repair an injured left wrist. When healthy, Bradley was a dynamic player for South Carolina, capable of impacting a game offensively and defensively. The Sox are confident that his long-term health is not an issue.

“He had the wrist injury. Jackie’€™s not officially part of the organization yet, so it wouldn’€™t be appropriate for me to comment in detail. But obviously we reviewed the medical file,” said Epstein. “It’€™s something our medical staff was really comfortable with, that he’€™ll be able to come back at 100 percent.”

–Epstein declined to address the question of signability. Swihart is viewed as someone who may seek a significant signing bonus in order to pass on a scholarship at Texas. He would be draft-eligible at the end of his sophomore year, thus meaning that he has greater leverage than some high school players in that he can return to the draft two, three and four years from now, with more leverage than most college players possess.

“We hope to sign all these guys and obviously every player has options,” said Epstein. “We always feel like the more we get to know the player, the more we get to present what the Boston Red Sox are all about, and the better chance we have of signing these guys. that’€™s the whole point.’€

Read More: 2011 MLB Draft, amiel sawdaye, blake swihart, henry owens

Red Sox round out first night of draft with college OF Jackie Bradley

06.06.11 at 11:09 pm ET
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The Red Sox rounded out their fourth pick of the first night of the draft by grabbing University of South Carolina outfielder Jackie Bradley. They took him with the No. 40 overall selection.

Bradley’s first two seasons at USC had him entering the 2011 season as one of the top college position players around. He was named the Most Outstanding Player of the College World Series last year in leading the Gamecocks to a college title, his most notable moment coming when — with South Carolina one strike from elimination — he delivered a game-tying RBI single against Oklahoma in the 12th inning, then scored the game-winning run. He hit .345 with two homers and nine runs batted in during the tournament in Omaha, flashing a diverse skill set — power, excellent defensive and average speed — that had established him as his team’s best player in his first two years — when healthy.

But Bradley has dealt with injuries throughout his college career. He required surgery to remove a rib in order to remove a blood clot in his freshman year, prior to the start of the baseball season. He injured his hamate (he wraps the knob of the bat) in his freshman year, and it broke during his sophomore campaign. Still, he returned quickly, was back in the lineup by the season’s second week and ended up being an everyday impact player straight through South Carolina’s title.

This year, his season was cut short when he required surgery after suffering ligament and tendon damage while diving for a ball. But even before the injury, his numbers had taken a hit — a .259 average, .361 OBP, .468 slugging mark and six homers in 37 games.

Much like Bryce Brentz a year ago, the Sox grabbed a player who entered his junior year projected to go in the upper half of the first round, but whose performance suffered during an injury-riddled junior year. And like Brentz, Bradley is considered to have the physical tools — not to mention the pre-2010 performance track record — that he could be a big league impact player.

Read More: 2011 MLB Draft, jackie bradley,

Red Sox take high school lefthander Henry Owens with third pick

06.06.11 at 10:37 pm ET
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One pick after they grabbed a high school catcher, the Red Sox targeted another demographic on whom they rarely use their top draft picks. The Sox took 6-foot-7 left-hander Henry Owens out of Edison High School in Huntington Beach, a pitcher with an impressive track record of success against advanced competition in the baseball hotbed of Southern California.

The last time that the Red Sox used a first round or sandwich pick on a high school left-hander? Until Monday, that would be 1997, when the team selected John Curtice with a first-round pick (No. 17 overall) out of Virginia.

It was a miss. Curtice went 4-10 with a 4.76 ERA in four years; he was done with affiliated baseball before he turned 21.

The Sox hope that they fare better with Owens, a pitcher with a low-effort delivery who reportedly works in the 87-91 mph range. That said, he flashed a velocity bump at times as a senior, hitting 94 mph. Based on the frame alone, his velocity would be projectable, and indeed, Baseball America said that he touched 94 mph as a senior, even if he typically sits at a more modest velocity. He also features a curveball, slider, cutter and changeup.

Owens was rated the No. 33 overall prospect in the draft this year by Baseball America.

Read More: 2011 MLB Draft, henry owens,

With second pick, Sox grab catcher Blake Swihart

06.06.11 at 9:33 pm ET
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The Red Sox made a bold move to add a young catcher, using their second first-round selection (No. 26 overall) to nab Blake Swihart out of high school in New Mexico. He is considered a catcher with terrific offensive potential, a switch-hitter with power. The Sox had an opportunity to evaluate him against advanced high school competition thanks to a stint with Team USA last summer, in which he was a standout performer, hitting .448 with a .492 OBP and .845 slugging mark, along with 11 extra-base hits (five homers).

He played both catcher and third in high school this year. While he is considered by some to have the athleticism to remain behind the plate, the potential of his bat would suggest that he could remain a prospect even if he has to move to an infield corner. Still, the Sox more likely envisioned him as a catcher to grab him with such a high pick. The team has struggled to develop a starting catcher from its own pool of draftees in recent years, with high picks such as Jon Egan (2005, second round) and Jon Still (2006, fourth round) never advancing through the upper levels. Meanwhile, the team has lamented some misses in past drafts, notably including Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta, who went to the Rockies in 2004. The Sox have not had a homegrown starting catcher since Scott Hatteberg, who was a sandwich pick selection in the 1991 draft.

Swihart reportedly is seeking a big signing bonus if he is to pass on a scholarship commitment to the University of Texas.

This is the highest that the Sox have taken a catcher since grabbing John Marzano with the No. 14 overall pick in the 1984 draft.

Read More: 2011 MLB Draft, blake swihart,

Red Sox go local, grab UConn’s Matt Barnes with No. 19 pick

06.06.11 at 8:56 pm ET
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The Red Sox grabbed University of Connecticut right-hander Matt Barnes with their first of two first-round picks. He went 11-4 with a 1.62 ERA, 111 strikeouts and 31 walks in 116 2/3 innings for the Huskies this year, following an impressive summer in which he rated as the No. 3 prospect in the Cape League. He also pitched against elite competition last summer for Team USA, going 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA and 26 punchouts in 19 innings.

Barnes has an easy delivery and a fastball that sits in the low- to mid-90s while playing up to the high-90s on occasion. He has a starting pitcher’s build (6-foot-4, 205 pounds), and he features both a fastball and curve as well as the makings of a usable curveball. If is changeup continues to develop, then he could have a future as a starter. At the least, his power arsenal suggests a late-innings reliever. Even so, the Sox almost certainly considered him to be a legitimate long-term rotation prospect to grab him at this spot in the draft.

The last time the Sox had the No. 19 overall pick in the draft, they also took a college pitcher: Roger Clemens, whom they grabbed out of the University of Texas in 1983.

Read More: 2011 MLB Draft, matt barnes,

MLB Draft, Picks 11-18: The build-up to Boston’s pick

06.06.11 at 8:45 pm ET
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The selections started to diversify in the picks leading up to Boston. Plenty of high-ceiling college pitching remains on the board for Boston, and well-regarded high-school catchers are also there for the taking. There’s greater certainty, of course, with college pitching (including right-hander Matt Barnes from UConn); high school catching is viewed as one of the riskiest, if not the riskiest, class of players. There are also some surprising high school pitchers still on the board.

NO. 11 PICK: The first New Englander is off the board, as UConn outfield standout George Springer was sprung by the Astros. He has bat speed and power rarely associated with center fielders who feature his defensive skills.

NO. 12 PICK: The Brewers grabbed right-hander Taylor Jungmann, the Friday night starter for the University of Texas. He looks the part of a Texas pitching standout, a 6-foot-6 hurler with a low- to mid-90s fastball who powers the ball down in the zone.

NO. 13 PICK: The Mets took high school outfielder Brandon Nimmo out of Wyoming, a state without much of a baseball pedigree. Nimmo projects as an athletic five-tool player whose overall combination of skills could turn him into a terrific two-way player.

NO. 14 PICK: The Marlins love taking high school right-handers in the draft, and they stuck to that philosophy in grabbing Jose Fernandez, a pitcher with four-pitch hurler with power stuff.

NO. 15 PICK: The Brewers grabbed one of the first players who had been linked to the Sox in the mock drafts, grabbing left-hander Jed Bradley out of Georgia Tech. He has a sturdy pitcher’s frame and a good idea of how to pitch, helping to explain how he led the Cape League in strikeouts.

NO. 16 PICK: The Dodgers typically go aggressively after players with the highest ceilings, often from high school or junior college ranks. They went against that approach this year, grabbing Stanford left-hander Chris Reed. He was something of a junior year pop-up guy, and this pick would appear to be the biggest surprise of the first round thus far. One wonders whether this pick of a guy who likely would have been available in later rounds might be a byproduct of the Dodgers’ financial issues at a time when owner Frank McCourt‘s hold on the club appears to be slipping.

NO. 17 PICK: Another player who had been connected to the Sox in at least one mock draft, first baseman C.J. Cron, was grabbed by the Angels. The University of Utah product is considered to have as much raw power as any college player in this year’s draft. Still, as a position player, his lack of athleticism would make him an unusual choice for the Sox with a first-round pick.

NO. 18 PICK: The A’s always grab college players with their top pick — though the degree to which they shy from high schoolers has been exaggerated — and continued that pattern this year, grabbing right-hander Sonny Gray out of Vanderbilt. Gray represents a high-ceiling, high-probability pitcher, who had a terrific career (culminating in an 11-3 record and 2.01 ERA this year) at one of the country’s best college programs. He had been connected to the Sox in several late mock drafts.

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MLB Draft, Picks 6-10: Anthony Rendon is off the board

06.06.11 at 8:03 pm ET
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Entering the draft, the Red Sox suggested that the opportunities presented in past drafts, in which a player’s asking price drove teams away from him, allowing him to sink in the draft below the spot that he deserved to be taken purely based on talent, were dwindling. Most teams, they noted, now let a player’s skills determine whom they pick (especially in the early rounds), rather than focusing on his price tag.

This year’s draft would appear to be matching up with that notion. Through the first 10 picks, most of the selections have represented the industry consensus on the draft’s top talents. Signability has yet to leave any top players tumbling towards a position that

NO. 6 PICK: The Nationals made a quick end of the Anthony Rendon speculation, taking the Rice University third baseman — viewed as the best pure college bat in the draft — with the No. 6 pick. For much of the draft season, he had been viewed as a likely top pick or at least a candidate for the top two or three picks. While he fell slightly, he did not slip so precipitously that it would impact the Sox’ selection.

NO. 7 PICK: The Diamondbacks had two of the top seven picks, and so they diversified their selections. After plucking Trevor Bauer with the third pick, they selected Archie Bradley out of Broken Arrow High School with their No. 7 selection. Bradley has a two-sport scholarship offer to play quarterback and pitch for the University of Oklahoma. Presumably, the Diamondbacks are not concerned about Bradley’s signability, since their pick (a compensatory selection for the team’s inability to sign injured pitcher Barret Loux last year) is unprotected. The right-hander is another power arm out of Oklahoma, capable of touching triple digits with his fastball.

NO. 8 PICK: The Indians went with shortstop Francisco Lindor, a high school shortstop out of Florida who is just 17 years old. He’s a switch-hitter with at least a line drive stroke who has advanced defensive skills. His power potential has been questioned, but a middle infielder doesn’t necessarily need to have significant power in order to be a well-above average prospect, and Lindor is so young that there is still time for his tools to develop as he gains strength and physical maturity.

NO. 9 PICK: The Cubs grabbed Javier Baez, a high school shortstop with tremendous right-handed bat speed and power. His defensive skills may not keep him at shortstop, but the Cubs have Starlin Castro at that position for years to come, so if Baez’ bat plays, he would be an intriguing complement on the left side of the infield at third base.

NO. 10 PICK: The Padres took Cory Spangenberg, a potentially versatile second baseman or third baseman who has a solid swing and terrific speed. He’s an athlete who was projected to go in the top half of the draft.

RED SOX IMPLICATIONS: A number of college players to whom the Sox have been connected remain on the board. Both first-round talents from the University of Connecticut — pitcher Matt Barnes and outfielder George Springer, who were both scouted this spring by Sox GM Theo Epstein — are still there for the taking. Georgia Tech left-handed pitcher Jed Bradley, a 6-foot-4 hurler who led the Cape League last summer in strikeouts, is still there as well, as is talented right-hander Sonny Gray out of Vanderbilt and right-hander Alex Meyer of Kentucky.

The top catchers in the draft — high schoolers Blake Swihart and Austin Hedges — are still on the board as well.

Read More: 2011 MLB Draft,

MLB Draft, Picks 1-5: Pirates take Gerrit Cole with first pick of draft

06.06.11 at 7:34 pm ET
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NO. 1 PICK: With the first overall pick of the 2011 draft, the Pirates selected right-hander Gerrit Cole, a pitcher with a fastball in the high-90s, a swing-and-miss slider and a solid changeup. He went 6-8 with a 3.31 ERA as a junior at UCLA this year, striking out 119 batters and walking just 24 in 114 1/3 innings. In a draft that is deep in college pitching, Cole was viewed as a consensus elite arm who projects as a top of the rotation starter.

RED SOX IMPLICATIONS: None this year, since Cole was certain to be snapped up long before the first Sox pick at No. 19 overall. However, the fact that Cole was taken in this year’s draft was significant in its own right.

After all, the Yankees took Cole with their first-round pick in 2008. They were stunned when he refused to sign, instead honoring a scholarship commitment to UCLA. Instead of ending up with another top pitching prospect, the Yankees were left with a compensatory draft pick in 2009. They ended up taking outfielder Slade Heathcott, a player with terrific physical tools but whose performance has been mixed (he is playing well this year while repeating in the Low-A South Atlantic League as a 20-year-old) and whose makeup has been questioned (he recently got in a brawl in a game against the Sox’ Greenville affiliate).

NO. 2 PICK: The Mariners grabbed left-hander Danny Hultzen from the University of Virginia, a bit of a surprise given that many expected Seattle to pluck the top college hitter, Anthony Rendon. Hultzen had a 1.49 ERA and 131 strikeouts in 90 innings as a junior.

NO. 3 PICK: True to a draft that was supposed to be rich in college arms, the Diamondbacks took Trevor Bauer, a right-hander out of UCLA who set a PAC-10 record for strikeouts in a season with 203. Like his teammate Cole, Bauer was expected to go high, so his selection has no real significance for the Sox.

NO. 4 PICK: The draft was also considered to have a short list of elite high school pitching prospects, but none attracted the kind of attention that Dylan Bundy received. He can touch 100 mph, even though he lives in the mid- to high-90s, while also featuring an above-average curve and cutter, along with an average changeup. He is a conditioning freak who is viewed as having terrific makeup, and the Sox expected him to be gone by the first 10 picks in the draft.

NO. 5 PICK: The Royals, who are loaded with what is considered the best farm system in the game, grabbed the first position player in the draft, taking high school outfielder (and Nebraska two-sport recruit) Bubba Starling. Starling was considered the top high school position player in this year’s draft, and some thought that he could go in the first couple picks. It will prove costly for the Royals to sign Starling away from Nebraska, but the franchise will almost surely continue to invest in talented young players in order to build a budding contender in the AL Central.

Of the top five picks, all were expected to go early. The biggest initial surprise is that Rendon hasn’t been selected; the degree to which he slips will ultimately have the greatest impact on the Sox of the first five picks.

UPDATE: Rendon was taken with the No. 6 overall pick by the Nationals, so while the order of the first six picks came as a minor surprise, the effect on the Sox was negligible.

Read More: anthony rendon, bubba starling, danny hultzen, dylan bundy
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