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Red Sox GM Ben Cherington, scouting director Amiel Sawdaye break down draftees 06.05.12 at 1:12 am ET
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The Red Sox made Arizona State shortstop Deven Marrero their top pick in the 2012 draft. (Photo courtesy Arizona State)

The Red Sox acquired three college players on the first day of the 2012 draft, grabbing Arizona State shortstop Deven Marrero with their top pick (1st round, No. 24 overall), following that with left-hander Brian Johnson of the University of Florida (1st round, No. 31) and finishing the day by grabbing Monmouth flamethrower Pat Light with the team’s third selection (1st round supplemental, No. 37 overall). Here’s what Red Sox GM Ben Cherington and amateur scouting director Amiel Sawdaye had to say about the three picks:

DEVEN MARRERO, SHORTSTOP, ARIZONA STATE, 1ST ROUND (NO. 24)

Cherington on whether the Sox thought Marrero — who was slated in some mock drafts as a top-ten selection — would be available when they picked at No. 24: “There were a couple of teams we thought might be a spot where he’d go, and he didn’t. We were happy he got there. We look forward to trying to get him into the Red Sox organization. He’s a talented shortstop who’s been a good player at a major program and a good player at Team USA and a guy we liked a lot coming into the spring and like a lot moving forward.”

Sawdaye on his offensive ability: “He has a very quiet swing — functional. He’s a guy that sprays the ball around the field. He has what we call sneaky power — a guy that obviously doesn’t look like the biggest player on the field but can definitely juice the ball out of the stadium. He’s certainly somebody who we feel like has a chance to impact the baseball.”

Sawdaye on how Marrero’s offense compares to his defense: “We think he’s advanced on both sides of the baseball. Certainly I think he’s probably a better defender. We don’t see him moving off shortstop. We think he’s a guy that in the long term is going to be a shortstop. I don’t think the question of moving him to a different position is even one we’re going to tackle right now.”

Sawdaye on the idea that Marrero had a down year as a junior: “I didn’t actually the offensive decline was as much of a worry for us. He showed us some things in the box that we really liked and some things that we really look for. Certainly, I think he expected to have a better year statistically but it’s not something that is a concern for us either from injury or physical play.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 MLB Draft, amiel sawdaye, arizona state, ben cherington
The Red Sox’ approach in the draft: What best player available means 06.04.12 at 4:58 pm ET
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Red Sox director of amateur scouting Amiel Sawdaye

Red Sox GM Ben Cherington had a straightforward answer when asked what type of player his team might pursue with its top draft picks. His response was broad.

“Get the best players,” said Cherington. “We’re not going to go after need. We’re going to target the best player available at each pick, looking for the best total return on this draft class. The key with any draft is to again do more with your picks than the 29 other teams do. The nature of the draft is you don’t get all the players you want and you don’t hit on every player. But our job is to do more with our picks than our competition does. If we do that, more often than not, over a period of years, we’ll be building an advantage for the Red Sox.”

The idea is that the Red Sox do not want to confine themselves to a specific category of player or position. A look at the top overall selections in each of the last 10 drafts by the Sox suggests as much:

2002 – Jon Lester, high school left-hander

2003 – David Murphy, college outfielder (Division 1, large conference program)

2004 – Dustin Pedroia, college infielder (Division 1, large conference program)

2005 – Jacoby Ellsbury, college outfielder (Division 1, large conference program)

2006 – Jason Place, high school outfielder

2007 – Nick Hagadone, college left-hander (Division 1, large conference program)

2008 – Casey Kelly, high school right-hander

2009 – Reymond Fuentes, high school outfielder

2010 – Kolbrin Vitek, college infielder (Division 1, mid-size conference program)

2011 – Matt Barnes, college right-hander (Division 1, large conference program)

That’s six college and four high school top picks; two-left-handed pitchers, two-right-handed pitchers, four outfielders, two infielders. While the team hasn’t selected a catcher with its first overall pick, it is worth pointing out that the team took Blake Swihart last year with its second first-round pick and gave him the biggest bonus ($2.5 million) of any of its picks last year.

Unless they are picking near the top of the draft, major league teams simply can’t pick according to big league (or even organizational) need, given the number of variables in play over the years-long course of a player development trajectory needed from the time a player is selected to when he reaches the big leagues. As such, the Sox believe in taking the best player available regardless of position, given that a team can always make a trade to clear a prospect logjam.

So, when the team talks about lining up its board, it is very literally an exercise in stacking up players in descending order of talent (regardless of position) to simplify the selection process.

A few other final thoughts on the Red Sox’ take on the Monday night draft: Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: amiel sawdaye, ben cherington,
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
The strange story of Darnell McDonald and the challenges of drafting two-sport stars 06.06.11 at 8:22 am ET
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Darnell McDonald offers insight into the challenges of scouting two-sport stars. (AP)

Judging whether or not a young man has enough potential for a future in Major League Baseball is hard enough. Judging whether or not he has the desire to pursue it and dealing with his family and agents takes it to a whole other level.

That’s what amateur scouts and big league executives get paid to judge this week as they deal with thousands of high school and college-age athletes and their representatives. The challenge of understanding a player’s makeup is viewed as almost as important — sometimes more important — than scrutinizing his tools on the field.

“It’s a huge factor. I remember when I first started in the draft room in San Diego in 1998, I was shocked how much of the conversation was about makeup and personality and a player’s background, talking about what his parents did for a living, if his parents were still together, what his guidance counselor thought, what this kid did off the field,” Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said. “It was at least 50 percent of the conversation and it still is.

“You have to think about, you’re drafting a high school kid and you’re making him a professional. He’s never been away from home before. So, you’re dealing with homesickness, and you’re dealing with how disciplined and independent an individual this person is, and whether he can survive off the field to put himself in a position to let his baseball ability manifest. You’re projecting a 17-year-old kid from a small town in the middle of nowhere and how he’s going to be 10 years later when he’s 27, pitching in a pennant race at Fenway Park with 40,000 people looking at him. You really have to figure out what makes a kid tick.”

That challenge is significant enough in its own right. It becomes even greater when it comes to the question of multisport stars who have scholarship offers to pursue a path in other sports.

The Sox have made such multisport talents a staple of their recent drafts. In 2006, they signed Ryan Kalish away from a football commitment at the University of Virginia. In 2007, one of their top prospects, Will Middlebrooks, passed on a two-sport scholarship at Texas A&M to begin his career with the Sox. In 2008, Casey Kelly walked away from the opportunity to quarterback at the University of Tennessee to sign with Boston. The following year, powerful running back Brandon Jacobs passed on a chance to play football at Auburn to start his pro career. And in 2010, the team signed Kendrick Perkins away from a football scholarship at Texas A&M to begin the long process of honing his baseball skills as a minor leaguer.

There is a concern about giving a player money to pull him away from a second sport only to have him second-guess the decision when he finds life in the minor leagues challenging. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: amiel sawdaye, casey kelly, darnell mcdonald, J.D. Drew
Epstein’s drafts in review: A year-by-year look at how drafts shaped the Red Sox 06.03.11 at 2:27 pm ET
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Dustin Pedroia is one of several All-Stars whom the Sox have drafted under GM Theo Epstein. (AP)

Next week’s Major League Baseball draft will be Theo Epstein’s ninth as the Red Sox general manager. He has worked alongside three directors of amateur scouting: David Chadd in 2003-2004, Jason McLeod 2005-2009 and Amiel Sawdaye in 2010. Epstein and his staffs have had very successful drafts in those eight years, with a number of players who are either still with the Red Sox today or who were used as trade chips to help improve the organization.

Epstein takes pride in his draft work and enjoys the challenge of the entire draft process.

“It’s one of my favorite aspects of the job and it is one of the most important things we do as an organization,” Epstein said.

“It is the ultimate challenge, really,” he added. “Anyone can go make a big league trade, based on a player’s track record and a major league scouting report. You see these guys play in perfect conditions, against the best players in the world and the best players rise to the top. Amateur scouting in baseball is much more difficult and much more complicated.”

That makes it all the more impressive that the Sox have already been able to use each of the first seven drafts under Epstein to acquire All-Star caliber talent, whether a homegrown player who ended up performing at such a level or through a trade to net a player who was named to the Midsummer Classic for the Sox.

In 2003, the Sox’ early picks ended up being trade chips, as first-rounder David Murphy was part of the trade that landed Eric Gagne, while sandwich-round pick Matt Murton was involved in the four-team deal that landed Orlando Cabrera from Montreal and Doug Mientkiewicz from Minnesota while ending Nomar Garciaparra‘s Red Sox career at the 2004 trade deadline. But the most notable selection that year was closer Jonathan Papelbon, who was taken out of Mississippi State in the fourth round.

Chadd’s final draft was in 2004, and it, too, had a significant impact, as the Sox used their first pick (a second rounder — the team had given up its first-round pick to sign free-agent closer Keith Foulke) to take shortstop Dustin Pedroia out of Arizona State. Now a second baseman, Pedroia’s hardware — 2007 AL Rookie of the Year, 2008 AL MVP and a three-time All-Star — speaks for itself about his impact.

Also in 2004, the Sox drafted pitcher Cla Meredith, who was traded with Josh Bard in 2006 for catcher Doug Mirabelli. During his time in the Sox farm system Meredith was named the Red Sox minor league pitcher of the month in April of 2005.

McLeod and Epstein had an outstanding draft in 2005, selecting a number of players who remain on the big league roster in 2011. Jacoby Ellsbury (first round), Clay Buchholz (first round supplement) and Jed Lowrie (first round supplement) were all selected by the Sox, and are now major contributors to the team. Pitcher Michael Bowden was also drafted by the club in the sandwich round, and he has seen major league action with the club. While first rounder Craig Hansen didn’t live up to his billing as the most advanced college pitcher in the draft that year, he became a chip in the deal that landed Jason Bay.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 MLB Draft, amiel sawdaye, Dustin Pedroia, Jonathan Papelbon
Why the 2011 draft may represent an opportunity the Sox never have again 06.02.11 at 1:35 am ET
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The Major League Baseball amateur draft always represents a pivotal moment. The early-June process is always treated as a potentially franchise-changing moment, when teams lay the foundation of their future — for better or for worse.

That being the case, the 2011 draft could be particularly important for the Red Sox. The team has four of the first 40 picks in the draft — the first time the franchise has had four picks that high since 1982 — thanks to the departures of free agents Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre.

The Sox got the Tigers’ No. 19 overall pick as well as a sandwich pick (No. 36 overall) when Martinez signed with Detroit. Beltre’s signing, meanwhile, netted the Sox the No. 26 overall pick in the first round that had belonged to the Rangers, along with the No. 40 overall pick in the 2011 draft.

“It’s always a great feeling to have extra picks,” Epstein said. “I 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. They see someone they like, and realize he’s going to go before we pick or if we only have one pick before we get to the second round, we’re unlikely to get that guy.

“It energizes the whole staff and when you get in the room and put them all together, it’s exciting. You know when you rank the first 40 guys, you know you’re getting four of them. That’s a nice feeling. We just have to do our job and get them in the right order and see how things break.”

This could be the last draft where the Sox, or any team, has this many picks. A new compensation system for the departure of free agents could be put in place with the negotiation of a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). That being the case, the Sox know they have to make the most of the opportunity.

“There might be a day we wake up and we’re talking fondly about bygone days when we had four of the first 40 picks in the draft and no team will ever have that again,” Epstein said. “Who knows what the next system will be. We have to take advantage of this one.”

Since the Sox have so many picks, it could permit them to be flexible and take risks on some players. That was the prevailing philosophy of the club in the 2005 draft, when it started making the transition from low-risk college picks from prominent programs to players with less certainty but higher upside. The team took college stars Jacoby Ellsbury, Craig Hansen and Jed Lowrie, while also plucking junior college standout Clay Buchholz and high schooler Michael Bowden when they had five of the first 47 selections.

“You want to get good players,” Epstein said. “You 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.”

Epstein is quick to point out that the organization does not want to focus solely on the first four picks, as there is much more to the draft.

“This 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,” he said. “At the same time, you don’t want to ignore the rest of the draft just because you are picking so often in the first round. You often make or break your draft later on.”

According to Sawdaye, who is heading his second draft after replacing Jason McLeod, this year’s draft class is pretty solid, especially with an impressive crop of college pitching.

“It’s a pretty talented class … Nothing historically great, but a good draft,” he said. “You see most of the depth probably in college pitching … there’s a good group of high school pitching. I’d say the top five to 10 picks in the draft [will be pitchers], guys that we probably aren’t going to get.”

The importance of the draft is well known to Epstein and he enjoys being involved in the draft process.

“It’s one of my favorite aspects of the job and it is one of the most important things we do as an organization. I am here with [amateur scouting director] Amiel [Sawdaye] and supporting him any way that I can,” said Epstein.

“I have seen a lot of the players for the first four picks, so I will give my input over the week to 10 days leading up to the draft,” he added. “I think our process is for everyone to speak their mind, have an opinion about the player and develop a consensus as we rank the players on the board and make sure we stay true to our principals in what we believe in a player.”

“It’s been probably the biggest factor of this organization from a baseball operations standpoint over the past 10 years. We’ve built much of this team through the draft and also used the draft for prospects to trade for other important members of this team,” Epstein added.

How a team drafts one year can have a major affect on the organization four or five years down the road.

“If you have bad drafts two out of three, three out of four years, that is going to be reflected in a downturn of the success overall of the organization four or five years down the line so the work that our scouts are doing now will play an important role in how we feel about the Red Sox four or five years from now,” Epstein said. “It is really hard, pretty fascinating and really important.”

Read More: 2011 MLB Draft, amiel sawdaye, Theo Epstein,
Minor Details Ep. 6: Why the Red Sox draft football stars 01.07.11 at 5:03 pm ET
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Brandon Jacobs chose to do his running on the bases and in the outfield for the Red Sox, instead of in the Auburn Tigers backfield. (John Corneau/Lowell Spinners)

An emerging Red Sox prospect just as easily could have been playing in the college football BCS championship game.

Brandon Jacobs was recruited to play football and baseball at Auburn, but the Red Sox drafted him in the 10th round of the 2009 draft and convinced him (with the aid of a $750,000 signing bonus) to start a baseball career. Jacobs isn’t alone.

In recent years, the Red Sox have drafted a number of players who were viewed as outstanding college football prospects and convinced them to hang up their pads in order to begin their professional careers. Ryan Kalish, Will Middlebrooks, Casey Kelly and Jacobs are among the many two-sport athletes whom the Sox drafted and paid dearly to sign. (And, of course, three-sport high school star Carl Crawford just signed a seven-year, $142 million deal to come to Boston.)

Why do the Sox pursue these sorts of players? How is their development affected by their two-sport status in high school?

To answer those questions, Minor Details was joined this week by outfielder Brandon Jacobs as well as Red Sox amateur scouting director Amiel Sawdaye to discuss the phenomenon of baseball players who were multi-sport stars.

To listen to the podcast, click here.

Previous episodes of Minor Details:

Ep. 5: The human side of the Adrian Gonzalez trade, with Padres (and former Red Sox) prospect Anthony Rizzo, Sox scout Laz Gutierrez and Sox farm director Mike Hazen. The episode also includes a discussion with Baseball America’s Jim Callis about the state of the Sox farm system following the trade for Adrian Gonzalez

Ep. 4: Evaluating prospects and making blockbusters, with former Diamondbacks GM/Red Sox Assistant GM Josh Byrnes and former Red Sox manager Butch Hobson (who was Jeff Bagwell‘s manager in the Red Sox system when he was traded to the Astros)

Ep. 3: Red Sox catching prospects, with Sox roving catching instructor Chadd Epperson, as well as a conversation with Arizona Fall League manager Mike Sarbaugh about the Sox’ prospects in the AFL

Ep. 2: Red Sox trade chips with Keith Law of ESPN.com

Ep. 1: Baseball America’s list of the Top 10 Red Sox prospects, with Mike Hazen and Jim Callis

Read More: amiel sawdaye, auburn, bcs, brandon jacobs
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