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Draft Preview

Postby ensanimal » Fri Jun 04, 2004 5:02 pm


BOSTON -- The Red Sox will wait it out for two rounds before making their first pick (65th overall) in the First-Year Player Draft, which takes place on June 7. But that fact will only make the Sox prepare harder.
It is their mission to find the player at 65 -- not to mention all the subsequent picks thereafter -- that should have gone sooner.

That is why general manager Theo Epstein, director of amateur scouting David Chadd and director of scouting administration Jason McLeod split to separate venues earlier this week, each scouring major college tournaments for the best players in the land.

Last June, the Sox were at the complete opposite end of the spectrum, with four selections in the first 54 picks.

"Obviously your strategy changes a little bit," said Chadd, who is entering his third draft as Boston's amateur scouting director. "Now you're in more of a guessing game. You just don't know [who will be there]. The one thing you do know is that someone will fall that you least expect. You can't eliminate anyone. We'll get to Boston Monday and start lining up the board."
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Until then, Epstein, Chadd, McLeod and the rest of Boston's draft gurus will get first-hand looks at players who could help form the next generation of the Red Sox.

Not picking until 65 only makes Epstein and Co. work harder.

"I think we still just do the best job we can," said McLeod, who is making his Boston draft debut after working in the war room of the Padres the last several years. "We still do need to see all the top players in the country. We don't want to leave any stone unturned. We as a group discuss who might be around. When you look at 65, including compensation, you're talking about the top of the third round. We try to gauge who will be there, gauge our coverage to that and make the best decision. You never know what will happen." Past five No. 1 picks
Year Player
2003 David Murphy, OF
2002 None
2001 None
2000 Phillip Dumatrait, LHP
1999 Rick Asadoorian, OF

The one thing that has become clear since the John Henry-Larry Lucchino-Tom Werner group bought the team -- and crystallized even more when Epstein took over as GM nine months later -- is that drafting and scouting of amateur players has become of tantamount importance to the Red Sox.

"John Henry and Larry Lucchino have given us all the resources we need to do our job," said Chadd. "We just have to go out and do it. We need to go out and draft the talent and sign it. They've been fantastic in all aspects."

Epstein has a passion for the draft that dates back to his years in baseball operations with the Padres. Though he has far more power now than he did back then, he remains in the trenches when it comes to draft time.

"It's nice to see that he cares as much as he does," McLeod said. "I wasn't here last year, but in San Diego, he wanted to know as much as he could about each player out there. Last week our scouts came in and talked to Theo and [assistant GM] Josh [Byrnes]. Theo is down at the SEC tournament right now. We're going to set up our board next week. He'll be in there every day all day. He's not just going to listen to every four rounds. He'll be in there every round. It's very nice he shows the commitment. It's not just lip service."

The Red Sox currently don't showcase much of a homegrown product on their Major League field. Of the team's mainstays, only Trot Nixon and Nomar Garciaparra are products of Boston's farm system. Rookie Kevin Youkilis (2001 Draft) is getting his opportunity with third baseman Bill Mueller on the disabled list.

In the coming years, the Sox hope to produce more players from the ground up.

"That's our ongoing goal," Chadd said. "We're just trying to bring in wave after wave of prospects."

But on a well-stocked team like the Sox, the more prospects you have, the better chance you have of making blockbuster trades.

"We're trying to do everything we can to win a World Series," Chadd said. "By us putting value in our system, that gives Theo flexibility as far as making trades."

Though it's too early to have a realistic projection, the Sox are pleased with the progress of outfielders David Murphy and Matt Murton, as well as left-hander Abe Alvarez.

Those were the first three players the Sox picked last June. In particular, Alvarez -- the former star at Long Beach State -- has risen fast. He is pitching for Double-A Portland.

Chadd also noted that two high school selections from Boston's class of 2002 (left-hander Jon Lester and shortstop Chad Spann) are doing well in the lower minors.

"We're looking for balance in the system," Chadd said. "In the first draft we took a lot of high school players. Last year we balanced it by taking a lot of college players. We're proud of what we've done the last couple of years. It's an ongoing effort. There's just that development process that has to take place. We see how kids will react to each level. The rule of thumb is that college guys take four years [to develop] and high school guys take five. Some guys will get there quicker. That's why you see Abe in Double-A, he's been able to handle that adjustment."

What qualities will the Red Sox brass be balancing when they are on the clock?

"It starts with tools and performance," said Chadd, "and you've got to calculate makeup and work ethic, the whole bit. That gets the ball rolling. That starts the evaluation process. Then, where do you take them? And if you take them, can you sign them? There's a lot of strategy involved. It's a chess match."

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