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Can they find the next Cy guy? A look at the history of Red Sox’ 2012 draft picks

06.01.12 at 6:55 pm ET

The idea behind the draft, and behind the changes to the Collective Bargaining Agreement meant to deter teams from signing players to bonuses above Major League Baseball’s slot recommendations, is to get the most talent to the worst teams. So, the best players are supposed to be at the top of the draft, with a progressive narrowing of the funnel the further down one gets in the draft.

But that’s not always how it works. Sometimes, the best picks in a draft are found late in the first round, or in the second round or the 10th (there’s a fellow named Pujols…). It’s both the challenge and fascination of the Major League draft, the most inexact of all of the professional sports due to the need in most instances for years of development in the minor leagues before a player is ready to contribute at the major league level.

The history of the spots where the Red Sox will make their early-round picks this year suggests as much. One can make the case that the pick with the least impactful history of the Sox’ top three (or even five) choices has been the team’s top overall selection at the No. 24 spot. After all, while a few All-Stars have been taken at No. 24, the Sox’ next three selections — No. 31, 37 and even 87 — have netted Cy Young winners and even a player whose spot in the inner sanctum of Cooperstown is assured.

In other words, the position of the pick doesn’t necessarily illuminate what kind of major league career a player will have. An obscure pick at No. 117 can have a greater impact that a player taken at No. 24. That is why draft rooms are filled with lively debate, round after round, with decisions made based on the area scouts who have seen an obscure later-round pick 10 times or more and become convinced that, while a player might not look like a big leaguer at the moment at which he is drafted, in three or five or seven years’ time, the players skill set and makeup will eventually yield a player who can help a major league team.

“The foundation for what we do is all based on our area guys, our area scouts. When you have strong area scouts that believe in certain players, it doesn’€™t matter if that player is in the second round, the ninth round, the 16th, 17th round, (a) Josh Reddick-type player. Our area scout really believed in Josh Reddick,” said Sox amateur scouting director Amiel Sawdaye. “To me, it’€™s about how strong your area guys are. We have a group that’€™s been together for a while where we feel really confident that the players we’€™re going to be talking about, whether it’€™s later on or early, there are big leaguers that are on the board.”

Here is a look at the types of players who have been taken with the selections at which the Sox will make their first five picks:

1st round — No. 24 (complete history)

All-Stars: Chad Billingsley (2003), Rondell White (1990), Terry Mulholland (1984)

Red Sox picks: Corey Jenkins (1995; never played in majors), Joseph McCullough (1966; never played in majors)

Big leaguers: 26

In addition to the All-Stars, a few other quality big league regulars have been selected from this spot, including longtime Orioles second baseman Rich Dauer, right-hander Joe Blanton and right-hander Alex Fernandez (who was drafted by the Brewers but did not sign with them in 1988). But the last impact player to be selected in this spot was Billingsley in 2003.

1st round — No. 31 (complete history)

All-Star: Greg Maddux (1984)

Red Sox picks: None

Big leaguers: 15

This has been a low-impact spot in the draft, particularly among position players. Only one position player (catcher Kirt Manwaring, selected by the Giants in 1986) played more than 30 games in the big leagues. No one taken at this spot since J.P. Howell was selected in 2004 has reached the majors. But there have been two impact players taken in this spot. One, Jarrod Washburn, won 107 games over 12 big league seasons. The other was the greatest right-hander of the post-World War II era: Greg Maddux.

Supplemental first round — No. 37 (complete history)

All-Stars: Adam Jones (2003), Troy Glaus (2007), Frank Viola (1981), Mike Scott (1976)

Red Sox picks: J.J. Johnson (1991; never played in majors); Rick Miller (1969; a 15-year big leaguer and sometimes regular with the Sox and Angels who played good outfield defense (he won a Gold Glove in 1978) and had good on-base skills);

Big leaguers: 20

This has been a surprisingly impactful spot in the draft, with the group of four All-Stars including a pair of Cy Young winners in Viola and Scott. There have also been several players who carved out meaningful big league careers from this spot, including Jacque Jones (1996), Mike Heath (1973), former Red Sox hitting coach Ron Jackson (1971) and Miller, the Red Sox’€™ selection.

Second round — No. 87 (complete history)

All-Star: Doug Drabek (1980)

Red Sox picks: Michael Moore (1975; never played in the majors)

Big leaguers: 10

Aside from 1990 Cy Young winner Drabek ‘€“ who did not sign and slipped to the 11th round of the 1983 draft ‘€“ there hasn’€™t been a lot to come out of this spot. Danny Espinosa, taken with the No. 87 pick in 2008, has emerged as a starting second baseman for the Nationals at age 25. Jack Hannahan, who has mostly performed as a role player during something of a journeyman career, has the highest WAR (7.1) of any player to sign after getting drafted from this spot.

Third round — No. 117 (complete history)

All-Stars: Bip Roberts (1981), Hal McRae (1965)

Red Sox picks: Mark Baum (1977; never reached the majors)

Big leaguers: 14

Roberts re-entered the draft and was taken by the Pirates in the first round in 1982, but he was still an interesting available talent at this phase of the draft. McRae ended up playing over 2,000 games in the majors. While most of the other selections from this spot ended up being fringe big leaguers, there were a couple of additional regulars, including Cody Ross, who was taken by the Tigers with the No. 117 pick in 1999.

Read More: Adam Jones, doug drabek, frank viola, Greg Maddux
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