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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Boston Red Sox: The Prospects That Got Away

The Boston Red Sox have developed an excellent reputation in recent years for their ability to identify, scout and draft/sign top-notch amateur talent. As a result, current key contributors like Dustin Pedroia, Clay Buchholz and Xander Bogaerts are all products of their player development system. Despite such strong examples, the organization hasn’t nailed every player development move—nor should they be expected to.

Just because a player has been drafted doesn’t mean they are in the fold. It can be a difficult proposition to come to terms with the dozens that are selected annually, and there are always some that go unsigned—typically because they are going to college or because they want more money than the team is willing to give. For the fun (and agony) of it, let’s take a look at some of the best players the Red Sox have drafted over the past decade, did not sign but have gone on to have success with other teams.

Steve Pearce, First Baseman- Drafted 10th Round in 2004: 10 years and four organizations after being selected by the Sox, Pearce finally made a splash in the majors this season at the age of 31, hitting .293 with 21 home runs for the Baltimore Orioles. It took nine minor league seasons and parts of seven major league seasons before he was finally able to find a regular gig. However, he looks like he has finally stuck and may be a better-fielding Brian Daubach for a new generation.

Pedro Alvarez, Third Baseman- Drafted 14th Round in 2005: A major prospect coming out of high school, Alvarez passed on signing in order to attend Vanderbilt. The move paid off, as he polished his game enough to become the second overall selection in the 2008 draft. Although he has 104 home runs in five seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, he has also hit just a combined .235 with 678 strikeouts in 592 games. Nevertheless, now playing third base, he has few peers in the big leagues that can match his power at the position.

Charlie Blackmon, Pitcher- Drafted 20th Round in 2005: Boston thought enough of his pitching prowess to draft this future major league outfielder as a hurler. Electing instead to attend Georgia Tech, he ultimately became a 2008 second-round pick of the Colorado Rockies and developed into a starter for them midway through last year. This was a  breakout season for him, as he hit .288 with 19 home runs and 28 stolen bases, numbers that would have been a big help to the anemic production the Red Sox got from their outfielders in 2014.

Jason Castro, Catcher- Drafted 45th Round in 2005: The Red Sox appear to have their catchers of the future on the horizon in Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart, but if they had retained Castro they could have had real a log jam on their hands. A solid receiver, Castro is better known for his bat, which has launched 32 home runs over the past two seasons and helped earn him a 2013 All-Star nod.

Brandon Belt, Outfielder- Drafted 11th round in 2006: Passing up a chance to join Boston to go to school (community college and then the University of Texas), Belt became a fifth-round pick of the San Francisco Giants in 2009. Monster minor league numbers, including a collective .350 batting average have not yet fully translated at the big league level. Still, the large left-handed hitter is just 26 and has a career 125 OPS+ in his four seasons by the bay.

Yasmani Grandal, Catcher- Drafted 27th Round in 2007: Following a standout career with the Miami Hurricanes, Grandal was taken by the Cincinnati Reds with the 10th overall selection in the 2010 draft. He was then flipped to the Padres in a trade the following December. Sandwiched around a 2013 suspension for PEDS, he has managed a combined 120 OPS+ in parts of three seasons for the offensively-challenged Padres. On the other hand, his lack of defense has led to him seeing more time of late at first base where his bat doesn’t play up nearly as much.

Nick Tepesch, Pitcher- Drafted 28th Round in 2007: A career record of 25-12 with a 3.45 ERA in four minor league seasons in the Texas Rangers’ system carried the big right-hander to the majors in 2013. He is just 9-17 with a 4.56 ERA in 42 games (39 starts) over the past two years in the majors but is still young, and having already held his own, may see brighter days ahead.

Alex Meyer, Pitcher- Drafted 20th Round in 2008: Just 24, the right-hander has long been considered one of the top prospects in all of baseball, including placement in’s top-100 list in each of the past three years. Following a star turn at Kentucky, he was selected in the first round of the 2011 draft by the Washington Nationals but was traded to the Minnesota Twins following the 2012 season. He has struck out 10.4 batters per nine innings in his three minor league seasons, and having just completed a successful 2014 campaign in Triple-A should be a good candidate to join the Twins’ rotation in 2015. With the Red Sox in full rebuild mode—especially with their starting pitching, having a prospect the caliber of Meyer would be nice—even with the youngsters they already have competing for openings.

Yan Gomes, Catcher- Drafted 39th Round in 2008: Yet another catcher that couldn’t come to terms with the Red Sox. After being drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays and looking like a fringy prospect at best, he was traded with infielder Mike Aviles to the Cleveland Indians in November, 2012 for pitcher Esmil Rogers. Since then, Gomes’ emergence has been nothing short of amazing, as he has paired surprisingly solid defense behind the plate with impact offense. Playing full time for the first time in 2014, he batted an impressive .278 with 21 home runs and 74 RBIs in 135 games for a Cleveland team that was in contention until the final weeks of the season.

Statistics and draft information via Baseball Reference.

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