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What history says about the Red Sox’ opportunity in this year’s draft

06.04.11 at 2:11 pm ET
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The Red Sox have four of the first 40 picks in next week’€™s Major League Baseball draft. It’s a rare situation for any team to be in, as only eight times since 2000 has a team had four of the first 40 picks. Those include the 2010 Angels, the Athletics in 2002 and 2004, the Braves in 2000, the Cubs in 2002, the Giants in 2007, the 2005 Marlins and 2004 Twins.

Having such a high number of top picks allows the organization to possibly take chances on guys whom they might otherwise shy away from if they did not have as many top picks. The Sox often refer to using top picks as a stock portfolio, using some to acquire high probability guys but for whom the payoff is capped, and others on higher risk players (whether due to makeup, signability, or tools that remain in the early stages of development) who can also offer huge returns if everything clicks.

‘€œYou want to get good players,’€ general manger Theo Epstein said. ‘€œYou want to combine upside and probability but when you don’€™t have extra picks, it’€™s sometimes hard to take that extra risk with the very high upside. You can diversify your portfolio a little more when you have more picks and take that chance.’€

Teams that have had such a large number of top picks haven’€™t fared as well as one might think:

–The Marlins had four of the first 40 picks in 2005, a draft that was renowned for its depth of impact players. Yet only two players selected by Florida that year (Chris Volstad, Ryan Tucker) have made it to the big leagues, and they have seen limited action.

–In 2004, the Twins had five of the first 40 selections, but only three made it to the big leagues, with Trevor Plouffe failing to take advantage of a shot at being Minnesota’s starting shortstop, Glen Perkins making his impact as a left-handed setup man (a capacity in which he has been admittedly terrific this year) and Matt Fox now existing as a tweener in the Red Sox system.

–The Cubs had four of the first 40 picks in 2002 and none of the players made it to the majors. (Rich Hill was a fourth-rounder for the Cubs that year.)

There were, however, a few teams that had success with being in this position.

–The 2002 Athletics had seven of the top 40 picks in the famous Moneyball draft. While some of the players never panned out, they produced three big league regulars — outfielder Nick Swisher, jack-of-all-trades Mark Teahen and starter Joe Blanton — who became established big leaguers.

–The 2004 Athletics received limited return from three of their four picks, though they did select an All-Star in closer Huston Street with the No. 40 overall pick.

–The Braves had four of the first 40 in 2000 and drafted Adam Wainwright (a future All-Star who was used to acquire outfielder J.D. Drew in a trade) and Kelly Johnson.

–In 2005, the Red Sox were in a similar position as they are now. They had five of the first 47 (23, 26, 42, 45 and 47) selections. It was a very successful draft as they drafted quality players who are having success at the major league level, including All-Star pitcher Clay Buchholz, current lineup regulars Jacoby Ellsbury and Jed Lowrie, and a pair of pitchers who have contributed at different points in Michael Bowden and Craig Hansen.

Epstein says the Sox will approach this draft like they did in 2005.

‘€œIt’€™s pretty similar,’€ he said. ‘€œYou can cast a wider net of talented players, there is kind of a sweet spot in the draft. You know you’€™re not going to get the top 10 guys in the draft, we’€™re not picking quite that high, but that next tier of guys who might be mid-late first rounder’€™s we could get repeated looks at those guys and try and get them in the right order.

‘€œThis year we are spending a lot of time on players 10-40 on the list because we will probably end up getting four of those players.’€

Having such a high number of top picks has energized the scouting staff and the organization is looking forward to next week’€™s draft.

‘€œIt’€™s always a great feeling to have extra picks,’€ Epstein said. ‘€œI think it energizes the scouting staff the whole year because they know going in and seeing players, there’€™s a much better chance you can actually get a guy.’€

‘€œYou know when you rank the first 40 guys, you know you’€™re getting four of them,’€ he added. ‘€œThat’€™s a nice feeling. We just have to do our job and get them in the right order and see how things break.’€

Read More: 2011 MLB Draft, Theo Epstein,
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