|Remembering Anthony Rizzo’s Red Sox origins||06.09.11 at 1:43 pm ET|
The opportunity to acquire Adrian Gonzalez was almost too good for the Red Sox to pass up, and the reason for the club’s longstanding crush on the first baseman is now entirely evident. Gonzalez is a classic middle-of-the-order run producer. He’s a player with power and plate discipline who seems destined to put up huge numbers for several years as a member of the Red Sox.
Even so, the Sox were never under any illusions that they’d pulled a fast one on the Padres in sending four players to San Diego to acquire the superstar. The Sox sent three of their top prospects (pitcher Casey Kelly, first baseman Anthony Rizzo and outfielder Reymond Fuentes) along with utility man Eric Patterson to complete the deal, well aware that San Diego might be acquiring three players who can serve as key future contributors.
That future return starts now for the Padres. Rizzo, who slammed a remarkable 25 homers at two levels for the Sox last year, was off to an outrageous start in the Padres system, hitting .365 with a .444 OBP, .715 slugging mark, 1.159 OPS and 16 homers in 52 games for Triple-A Tucson. He has emerged as one of the best power-hitting prospects in the game and the Padres have summoned him to the majors for his big league debut. Rizzo will be unveiled against the Washington Nationals.
The timing comes as a slight surprise. One member of the Sox organization recently hypothesized that the Padres might wait until after they visit Fenway Park later this month before calling up Rizzo so that he would not have to be subjected to the compare-and-contrast game with Gonzalez (an exercise that would not have been unflattering to either — especially given that Rizzo’s performance in Double-A as a 20-year-old bore striking similarity to Gonzalez’ when he was in Portland as a Marlins minor leaguer at the same age).
Even so, that Rizzo is about to make his debut — even in another uniform — offers grounds for tremendous excitement among several members of the Sox organization on multiple levels. First and foremost, the personal relationship between Rizzo and the team that drafted him runs deep — not only with his teammates, but also with the many coaches, instructors, front-office members and scouts who became close to him when he was being treated in 2008 for Hodgkins’ lymphoma.
Yet while the team’s ties to the prospect deepened as he recovered from his illness — in the process, becoming an inspiring picture of strength — the connection with Rizzo started earlier, and helps to explain how it was that the Sox drafted a player who is now one of the top prospects in the game in the sixth round of the 2007 draft, after 203 other players had been selected.
The discovery of Rizzo, in fact, was somewhat accidental. Area scout Laz Gutierrez, like most scouts, had been more interested in Daniel Elorriaga-Matra at Douglas High School, which produced a somewhat incredible three draftees in 2007. Matra would end up being taken in the 26th round by the Braves.
Gutierrez saw both in the summer after their junior years and again in the fall. Rizzo did not jump out as a prospect. Read the rest of this entry »
|Felipe Lopez’ reported minor league deal with Rays bad news for Sox||02.01.11 at 8:39 pm ET|
According to a report from Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times (via twitter), veteran infielder Felipe Lopez is expected to sign a minor-league deal with the Rays in the coming days. If accurate, the report would represent a bit of bad news for the Red Sox, who signed Lopez during the penultimate weekend of the regular season (after he’d been released by the Cardinals and refused a waiver claim by the Padres) in part because of the possibility of netting a draft pick.
Lopez, who played on a one-year, $1 million deal last year, hit .233 with a .311 OBP, .345 slugging mark and .656 OPS for the Cardinals and Sox last year. He was a Type B free agent who turned down the Sox’ offer of salary arbitration, meaning that the Sox could have gotten a sandwich pick (around No. 55-60 in the coming draft) had he signed a major league deal with another club.
But, if Lopez signs a minor league deal, according to multiple major league sources, the Sox would not be entitled to any draft pick compensation.
In four games for the Sox, Lopez was 4-for-15. The Sox paid him approximately $50,000 (the balance of what he would have made on his 2010 deal had he not rejected the Padres’ waiver claim) during his brief time in Boston, and then declined an option on his services for the 2011 season, and instead paid him a $15,000 buyout.
|Picking a winner? A look at the draft picks gained and lost by the Red Sox||01.16.11 at 8:14 am ET|
It was not long ago that teams signed free agents without regard for the draft pick they would have to sacrifice to do so. Clearly, that has changed.
Indeed, the pick that a team must sacrifice to sign a Type A free agent who rejects salary arbitration from his former club has become so significant that it reportedly became the subject of significant contention in the Yankees organization. Earlier this month, New York GM Brian Cashman said the Yankees — after being spurned by Cliff Lee — wouldn’t sign a Type A free agent because they were unwilling to sacrifice their first-round pick. But he was reportedly overruled at the ownership level, resulting in the decision to give up the No. 31 overall selection and sign Rafael Soriano as the most expensive setup man in history.
Just how valuable is the No. 31 overall pick? The answer varies significantly by year.
In 46 June drafts, just 15 players taken at the No. 31 spot have reached the majors. (For the complete list, click here.) Only two of them emerged as above-average players. One was Jarrod Washburn, who won 107 games after being taken by the Angels in 1995. The other? Greg Maddux, whose 355 career wins are the most by a right-hander whose career started after the World War…World War I, that is.
The Red Sox‘ free-agent activity resulted in their losing their own first-round pick (No. 24 overall) while gaining two (Nos. 19 and 26). Under GM Theo Epstein, the Sox have used compensation draft picks to acquire a number of their key prospects. (For details, click here.)
But historically, what kind of players have been selected with the first-round picks gained and sacrificed by the Sox this winter? Here is a look at the history of the three first-round draft picks that were affected by the Red Sox’ free agent activity this offseason:
|Minor Details Ep. 6: Why the Red Sox draft football stars||01.07.11 at 5:03 pm ET|
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. 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
|Video: The Full Count Show||06.10.10 at 11:34 am ET|
|‘Spread out’ draft should help Sox||06.03.10 at 3:10 pm ET|
Usually, having the 20th pick in the first round of any draft leads to getting someone who may be a solid player but is not of the talent level of the player who went 11th or 12th. That may not be the case for the Red Sox as they approach Monday’s first round of the MLB draft, according to general manager Theo Epstein and first-year director of amateur scouting Amiel Sawdaye.
Along with picking 20th in the first round, the Sox will make the 36th and 39th picks in the sandwich round, so named for its place between the first and second rounds, as compensation for losing free agents Billy Wagner and Jason Bay in the offseason. The more picks the team has in the late first round and sandwich round the merrier, especially in this draft.
‘It’s not one of those drafts where there’s clear elite players in the top half of the first round,’ Epstein said. ‘It’s more spread out through the middle to the bottom and to the sandwich.’
In fact, the first-round talent in this year’s draft is so spread out that many teams that have early picks would be looking to trade down, if only they were able. However, because teams are not allowed to trade at all in the MLB draft, teams like the Red Sox who own those lower picks will have just as good a chance at a good player in a draft like this.
‘I’ve had a lot of people who are picking in the top 10 picks that say, ‘God, this would be the year we would love to trade a pick with you guys,’’ Sawdaye said. ‘I think we’re in a pretty good spot. Like Theo said, late end of the first round through the sandwich, if you have extra picks, you’re in a pretty good spot to get some players that may end up being just as good as you’re going to take in the top 10.’
|Red Sox finalize draft class of ’09 by signing Volz||08.18.09 at 12:16 am ET|
As first reported by Baseball America, WEEI.com has confirmed that the Red Sox signed ninth-round draft choice Kendal Volz for a bonus of $550,000. Volz, a right-handed pitcher from Baylor, was considered a likely first-round draft choice entering this draft season on the strength of dominating performances for Team USA last summer. But the junior struggled this year, and showed a decline in velocity. He had thrown a sinking mid-90s fastball, but he became more hittable this year as his fastball lost some zip and movement. Even so, the Sox were intrigued sufficiently by the potential to draft him and then to commit a bonus in line with the slot recommendation for a mid-second round pick to the right-hander.
“I saw him real early this year and he threw very well that night. It kind of tapered off very quickly for him,” Red Sox scouting director Jason McLeod said of Volz earlier in the summer. “If he can get back on track where he thinks he should be or the way he was throwing for Team USA last summer, that could get real interesting for us if we can sign him a little later this summer.”
The Sox signed 14 of their first 15 draft picks this year, the lone exception being right-hander Branden Kline, a sixth-round selection who will instead attend the University of Virginia. Some players with notable blood-lines decided against signing. Those included:
–16th rounder Luke Bard: the younger brother of the Red Sox reliever will instead go to Georgia Tech
–36th rounder Michael Yastrzemski: the grandson of Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski will attend Vanderbilt, fulfilling a promise to his father that he would attend school
–39th rounder Gavin McCourt: the son of the Dodgers owner will attend Stanford, and he plans to try out for the Cardinal as a walk-on
|Midnight Approaches: While Strasburg Looms for Nats, Red Sox Lock Up Top Picks||08.17.09 at 12:58 pm ET|
Midnight looms for major-league baseball teams to reach agreement with the players selected in this year’s June draft. And no issue looms larger than that of the future of top overall draft pick Stephen Strasburg and his negotiations — with the contributions of “adviser” Scott Boras — with the Washington Nationals.
Strasburg has been described as a once-a-generation talent, a pitcher with a more explosive fastball than Daniel Bard or Justin Verlander, capable of complementing that pitch with above-average off-speed stuff (a curve and changeup — and good luck to batters who are geared up for a 100+ mph fastball if he can also sell a changeup). The Nationals have already leaked word that they have made a record offer for a drafted pitcher, exceeding the $10.5 million that Mark Prior got to sign with the Cubs.
Of course, Prior offers something of a cautionary tale. He was viewed as a perennial Cy Young contender with perfect mechanics that made him virtually injury proof. Instead, following a collision while running with the bases in 2003 and heavy usage by then-Cubs manager Dusty Baker, prior encountered shoulder injuries that derailed his career. He has not pitched since 2006, another example of a huge prospect taken near the top of the draft who never panned out.
Prior is not alone. Brien Taylor was taken as the top draft pick by the Yankees in 1991, a left-handed pitcher who had stuff out the wazoo (including a 99 mph fastball) when he was taken out of high school. But he ruined his shoulder in a bar fight, and never reached the majors. In 2004, the Padres took shortstop Matt Bush with the top pick of the draft. He was arrested shortly after his selection, never proved able to hit in the minors, was eventually converted to pitching and, after that experiment failed (he blew out his shoulder), is not even pitching in the minors.
There are cautionary tales, to be sure. That said, it is possible to exaggerate the dangers of the top draft pick.
Since the draft was implemented in 1965, 19 of the 44 top selections (not including Strasburg, who has yet to turn pro) have made at least one All-Star team. Former top picks Ken Griffey, Chipper Jones and Alex Rodriguez have all put up Hall of Fame numbers in their careers; Joe Mauer is in his fifth full season of doing the same.
The common denominator of those players, aside from their draft status, is that they are all position players. Pitchers, on the other hand, have been a riskier lot, with just three of the 13 pitchers taken first overall making an All-Star team. (Even the group of All-Stars is anything but illustrious: Floyd Bannister, Mike Moore and Andy Benes weren’t exactly annual Cy Young contenders.)
Will Strasburg be able to fulfill his potential in a fashion that would be unprecedented for a pitcher taken with the top of the pick? Will he even seek the opportunity to do so, or will he walk away from an eight-figure offer from the Nationals in an effort to use his singular talent to bring down the draft system? The answers will start to come by midnight. And the baseball world will be watching with considerable fascination to see what will emerge from the Bermuda Triangle of Strasburg-the Nationals-Boras.
The Red Sox will be no different. For months, team officials have wondered what the future might hold for Strasburg. But Boston has been in the rather enviable position of detachment while watching Boras’ tireless efforts to claim millions of dollars for his amateur advisees this year.
The Sox did not draft a single Boras client this year. And so, the team has enjoyed a relatively calm negotiation period, in which the team has locked up most of the top talents whom it selected.
To date, the one significant disappointment for the Sox has been the fact that sixth-rounder Branden Kline will not sign. The right-hander was viewed as possessing immense potential, with the frame and delivery that suggested the potential for a mid-90s fastball and a nasty curve. But Kline didn’t play in a summer league, and instead seemed intent on fulfilling his academic and athletic scholarship to the University of Virginia.
Otherwise, the Sox have reached agreements with a raft of high-end talents. The team has spent particularly aggressively to secure the services of top prep talents, and in recent days, the team has spent almost $4 million to secure the services of players who fell in the draft due to questions about their willingness to sign.
The most prominent players who have signed with the Sox in recent days include:
–3rd-round pick David Renfroe (signed for $1.4 million), a pitcher and shortstop who earned some comparisons to David Wright; he will be groomed as a position player with the Sox
–7th-round pick Madison Younginer (signed for $975,000), a right-handed pitcher with a fastball that touches the high-90s and a slider that made his high-school opponents weep
–10th-round pick Brandon Jacobs (signed for $750,000), a powerful running back and outfielder who has what Sox amateur scouting director Jason McLeod describes as ‘goofy power’
–11th-round pick Justin Thompson (signed for $300,000), a shortstop who can also play second and third and shows a solid all-around game
–18th-round pick Renny Parthemore (signed for $150,000) is a right-handed power arm who shows the potential for an above average fastball and curve
–26th-round pick Miles Head (signed for $335,000, according to Jim Callis of Baseball America) is a corner infielder who showed significant power in several high school showcase events
When the smoke clears on Aug. 18, the Sox will have added a number of young players (mostly high schoolers) whom they hope will one day make an impact at the major-league level. That impact, clearly, is coming at some cost, though clearly nothing like what the Nationals are spending ‘ in time, money and sanity ‘ with Strasburg and Boras.
When it comes to the draft, it’s no secret that the Red Sox are serious spenders.
For years, the organization has capitalized on landing premium players who carry hefty price tags. Take 2005, for example. With the 26th pick, the Sox were able to select (and then pay handsomely in the form of a $4.4 million major-league contract) hard-throwing right-hander Craig Hansen out of St. John’s. Hansen was considered the best pitcher in the ‘05 draft class and a candidate to go first overall, yet it was Boston that was able to tab him thanks to their resources.
Since then, it’s been more of the same. Lars Anderson (18th round in ‘06, $825,000), Casey Kelly (30th overall in ‘08, $3 million), Ryan Westmoreland (fifth round in ‘08, $2 million) are just a few of those who have been paid considerably higher than slot value thanks to the Sox’ willingness to go above and beyond to secure elite talents.
Though they have forked over quite a bit to build their prized farm system (ranked in the top 10 in three of the last four years by Baseball America), they have their limits. The team has walked away from enormous talents in the past, Pedro Alvarez (2005, 14th round) and Matt LaPorta (2006, 14th round), two players who dropped due to signability concerns and who ultimately, in fact, proved unsignable within the parameters that the Sox considered reasonable for an offer. But the Epstein administration has never walked away from a first or second-round pick’ except for ‘07 second-rounder Hunter Morris.
After drafting left-handed pitcher Nick Hagadone (who was recently shipped to the Indians in the Victor Martinez trade) and middle infielder Ryan Dent with sandwich picks, the Sox were next on the clock with the 87th overall pick. With it they chose Morris, a left-handed-hitting first baseman out of Virgil I Grissom High School. The selection came after both Morris and his advisor had made it known that he was willing to sign for slot value, which at that point would be just under $400,000, according to major-league sources. At the time of the selection, it appeared a safe bet that Boston would be able to lure the Alabama native away from a scholarship to play college ball at Auburn.
‘For me it was a win-win situation,’ Morris said last month. Even if the two sides failed to agree, something that seemed highly unlikely when the Sox confirmed the asking price prior to his selection, Morris could still take his swings for at least three years in the SEC.
However, when Morris raised his asking price following the draft by $50,000-100,000, it was anything but a win-win situation, especially on Boston’s part. The heightened price tag led the Sox, who felt it was important to hold a player to his word and not let him squeeze them for more money after a deal had been agreed upon, to walk away from the draft pick. Morris, however, seems content with how his first foray at the negotiating table played out.
‘Obviously, there’s a dollar sign you can put on forgoing college, but I didn’t feel like it reached that,’ Morris said. ‘It definitely just worked out that, at the time, it was a better fit for me to go to college. I wasn’t ready to play professional baseball.’
The whole ordeal left the Sox burned, moving on without someone who seemed sure to be in the fold by the deadline for signing players. Though the Sox received an identical pick in ‘08 (RHP Stephen Fife, who has impressed at Lowell, Greenville, and Salem since his selection) for not being able to put Morris’ pen to paper, the negotiation process gave an indication that the Red Sox organization will not permit players and agents to take advantage of their willingness to spend aggressively to acquire talent.
What does this say about the organization? If anything, it makes the clear that, while the team does have money to spend in the draft, they peg each player at a number, regardless of the round in which they were selected. If the asking price surpasses the number, they will turn their attention and resources to other options, much like they have in recent years with the negotiations of free agents Pedro Martinez and Mark Teixeira.
In Morris’ case, money clearly proved to be the determining factor, yet the slugger respects what the Red Sox were willing to give.
‘The number that [the Red Sox] offered was very reasonable,’ Morris said. “It was a great offer, and it just wasn’t the right fit for me at the time.”
Two seasons and a stint with Team USA later, Morris has used his bat to back up — and likely increase — his asking price of ‘07. Morris has hit .318 at Auburn with 23 home runs and recently finished a summer playing for the Cape League’s Falmouth Commodores. Though he joined the team late because he needed to finish up classes, Morris still finished second in the league with eight homers.
He stood on the Fenway grass last month as he prepared to take part in the Cape League’s Home Run Derby. At that time, Morris reflected on the hectic process knowing full well that next June, following his junior year at Auburn, he’s set to be draft eligible for the first time since ‘07. While he said that he’ll be happy just to go between the first and the last pick, it was interesting to hear which team he’d like to play for.
‘I really am comfortable with the Red Sox and I got to know a lot of their guys throughout the organization and management, throughout the negotiations and whole draft process the first time, and I’m in no way opposed to being drafted by them again,’ Morris said. ‘I mean, they’re a great organization, and a great place to play. There’s nothing better I could ask for. Any of the teams would be great, [but] it would be awesome to play for Boston.’
As for the Sox, team sources suggest there is no lingering animosity towards Morris, whom their scouts encounter regularly in SEC play. It is far too early project a year down the road, but should the opportunity present itself, would the Red Sox really have no reservations about revisiting negotiations that turned so badly for them in the past? It certainly remains to be seen, but whoever the pick is, the Sox will undoubtedly approach negotiations with both deep pockets and the ability to draw a line in the sand.
Alex Speier contributed to this report.
|Red Sox Draft Update||08.10.09 at 4:27 pm ET|
One week remains until the Aug. 17 deadline to sign 2009 draft picks, and the Red Sox are working the phones to determine who will join a farm system that has proven remarkably productive in recent years. Here are updates on some of the most prominent of the players who were characterized as “signability questions” when they were drafted by the Sox.
3rd round pick: David Renfroe, South Panola HS (committed to Ole Miss)
Renfroe was a two-way star in high school, showing early-round talent as both a pitcher and a shortstop. The Sox drafted him with the idea of developing him as a position player. There were reports before the draft of extremely high bonus demands by Renfroe, who was said to be seeking something in the neighborhood of $3 million. The Sox are still talking to Renfroe’s representative. If he does agree to terms with the club, it would likely be just before the Aug. 17 deadline.
6th round pick: Brandon Kline, Gov. Thomas Johnson HS (committed to the University of Virginia)
Kline will not sign, and instead plans on honoring his academic and athletic scholarship at UVA. The Sox were very high on Kline, believing that his intelligence, athleticism and frame offered a vast array of projectable tools. But Kline, an excellent student, felt strongly that he wanted to become the first person in his family to attend college. Moreover, he did not pitch in a summer league, and so the Red Sox did not have the opportunity to evaluate him fully in hopes of making an offer to convince him to begin his professional career. Kline will become the second-highest draft pick (after 2007 second-rounder Hunter Morris) not to sign with the Sox under the current baseball operations department.
7th round pick: Madison Younginer, Mauldin HS (committed to Clemson)
Younginer is described as roughly a 50/50 proposition as to whether he might sign with the Sox. The right-hander featured high-90s velocity and an advanced breaking ball as a high school closer. But with a commitment to play college ball near his hometown, it remains to be seen whether he can be convinced to begin his professional career.
9th round pick: Kendal Volz, Baylor University
After showing electric stuff while pitching for Team USA last summer, Volz had a disappointing junior year at Baylor. The Sox drafted him with the intention of monitoring his work over the summer to see what kind of offer to make, and whether they should offer a bonus commensurate with the elite potential he demonstrated a year ago, or more in line with his 2009 college season. Volz pitched just nine innings for Brewster on the Cape this summer, allowing two runs and striking out nine while walking two. The Sox continue to talk with the right-hander’s representatives, but it can often prove tricky to reach an agreement with a player whose past performance suggested upper-round talent but whose recent performances have created grounds for more limited expectations.
10th round pick: Brandon Jacobs, Parkview HS (committed to Auburn)
A two-sport high-school star, Jacobs was recruited to Auburn to play both running back and baseball. Auburn anticipates that he is virtually certain to begin his baseball career in the coming days – the powerful outfielder is not listed in the newcomers section of the football media guide, and he has not been a participant in the first week of Auburn’s football practices. It seems safe to assume that Jacobs’ signing will be announced in the next week, likely for second-round money.
11th round pick: Jason Thompson, Germantown HS (committed to Louisville)
Thompson, a switch-hitting shortstop, has signed with the Sox for $300,000. He played in his first Gulf Coast League game on Sunday, drawing a walk in his only plate appearance.
16th round pick: Luke Bard, Westminster Christian Academy (committed to Georgia Tech)
Daniel Bard said recently that his brother was open to discussing turning pro, but the younger brother of the Red Sox reliever seems likely to follow his sibling’s career path and head to college.
20th round pick: Alex Hassan, Duke University
Hassan, a native of Milton, Mass., signed for a shade under $100,000 after the Sox watched him play in the Cape League to start the summer. Hassan’s career took a rather unexpected turn with Orleans.
The Sox drafted the two-way player (he was both an outfielder and closer for Duke) as a pitcher, but were more impressed this summer by his performance as a position player. And so, the team signed him as an outfielder, and the early returns in Lowell have been extremely impressive. The 21-year-old is hitting .444 with a 1.001 OPS, and has struck out just once in 38 plate appearances.
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