The MLB draft, more than any other, should be taken in with a grain of salt. Most players drafted over the course of the 40-round event will not sign with the team that drafts them. The ones that do sign are hardly guaranteed to reach the majors in a short period of time, if they make it at all. That said, the draft can be, and often is, an avenue upon which franchises may find their new cornerstones or address organizational deficiencies. The Red Sox 2017 draft strategy focused on the latter goal.
The Boston Red Sox came into the draft in need of pitching. While the Sox farm system has produced great position players in recent years, and still features some up-and-comers, it has failed to develop starting pitchers. As a result, the major league rotational depth is lacking, to say the least. Entering the 2017 draft, the organization clearly had that on its collective mind. The Red Sox 2017 draft picks demonstrate an awareness of a team weakness and a desire to erase it sooner rather than later.
Boston Red Sox 2017 Draft Review: Top Six Picks
Round 1, Pick 24: Tanner Houck, RHP, Missouri
The Red Sox found good value with their first pick of the draft. Houck was ranked as the 17th-best prospect available by Baseball America. Standing at 6’5” and weighing in at 215 pounds, Houck certainly looks the part of a big league pitcher. Houck’s calling card is his elite control; in 301 college innings, he walked just 63 batters and allowed a paltry 19 home runs. While he does induce a decent amount of strikeouts, he’s not a strikeout-per-inning guy. He’s also seen a worrying drop in velocity, from the mid-90s as a sophomore to the low-90s as a junior. A major league strength program should fix that, and he should mid a solid, mid-rotation arm one day.
Round 2, Pick 63: Cole Brannen, OF, Westfield School
Brannen, a high school outfielder, is committed to Georgia Southern but should not be a problem to sign. A second round value is hard for any kid to pass up, especially one who wants to go pro. Brannen has solid control of his bat and good hand-eye coordination, and does a great job of getting the barrel on the ball. He best tool is his plus bat speed, and he now joins an organization known for developing outfielders with that quality (see: Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi). Brannen has dangerous speed on the basepaths and should add double digit homers, though is not a 20-homer guy.
Round 3, Pick 101: Brett Netzer, 2B, UNC Charlotte
Netzer was one of the best pure hitters available in the draft, and the Red Sox may have really scored with this one. He hit over .300 in each of his college seasons. This year, he hit .342 with a .934 OPS. In 2016, he recorded a .384 average and a 1.016 OPS. He even produced in the highly-competitive Cape Cod League, hitting .284 with a .784 OPS. Netzer has good bat speed, like Brennan, and an eye for the zone; he picked up more walks than strikeouts in his most recent season. He has gap power but isn’t a home run hitter. The drawback to Bennan is his defense. He’s not terrible and has a strong arm, but needs a lot of polish.
Round 4, Pick 131: Jake Thompson, RHP, Oregon State
Baseball America’s 83rd-best prospect in the draft, Thompson raised his draft stock a great deal in 2017. Last year, he went 3-3 with a 4.28 ERA. This season, he simplified his delivery and reaped the benefits. He went 14-0 this year and put up a 1.52 ERA, the fifth-best in the nation. He notched 113 strikeouts against just 36 walks. His fastball and slider are both plus pitches, but his change-up needs work. If he can maintain his new mechanics, he should be a solid reliever one day, if not a starter.
Round 5, Pick 161: Alex Scherff, RHP, Colleyville Heritate High School
If they can sign him, the Sox struck gold with Scherff. He’s a top-50 prospect who fell due to concerns about his command and mechanics, and the strange amount of transferring he did between schools. However, he features a plus fastball that reaches the upper-90s, and a plus change-up to compliment the heat. He has a breaking ball, but still needs time to develop it more. He’ll get that in the minors. The Red Sox will have to pony up some cash to pry him away from college, but should be able to work a deal out.
Round 6, Pick 191: Zach Schellenger, RHP, Seton Hall
The first thing that stands out about Schellenger is his size; at 6’6” and 215 pounds, he’s hard to miss. As Seton Hall’s closer in 2016, he threw 45.2 innings, struck out 70, and walked a mere 21. Unfortunately, a biceps injury kept him out of the majority of the 2017 season, and he just wasn’t the same when he returned. When he’s going strong, his mid-90s fastball and big-time slider make for a deadly two-pitch combo. However, in addition to health concerns, he’s had issues with his command and his violent delivery. If he can work that out and stay healthy, he’ll be a strong reliever one day. There’s little risk in this sixth round pick, and a whole lot of potential reward.