Sox open Day 2 of Draft by taking Rei
BOSTON -- The Red Sox had a lengthy wait before being able to make their second selection in the Draft, but they were pleased that catcher Austin Rei was still there waiting for them.
The University of Washington product was Boston's third-round selection, and No. 81 overall. Rei likely would have gone sooner if not for a torn left thumb ligament that knocked him out of action in February and limited his season to 25 games.
"When I got hurt, it was a huge blow, just because I knew how big of a year it could be for me," said Rei. "Ever since the surgery, I was always pushing the limits. I know I kept my trainer on his toes, and he was a little upset with me sometimes, because I wanted to push it, but it ended up working out great. The rest is history now."
The Draft concludes on Wednesday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 on MLB.com beginning at noon ET.
"If this guy is healthy all year, and he puts up the kind of numbers he put up the last month of the season, he's a first-round Draft pick," said Lindsay Meggs, the head coach for the University of Washington.
Rei -- whose last name has a pronunciation of Rye -- is a versatile hitter and is well regarded for his defense, where he displays a plus arm and good hands. The junior led the Huskies in batting average (.330), slugging percentage (.681), on-base percentage (.445) and OPS (1.127). He added seven homers and 20 RBIs.
"Austin showed up here and he was already a pretty talented catch-and-throw guy," said Meggs. "It's the offensive guy that has really come on strong in the last two years. Last year, he was a first-team All-Pac-12 guy and hit over .300. And this year, he's showed the power that people thought might come later. He's really the complete package. He can catch, he can throw. He's hit for average and he's showed some middle-of-the-order type RBI power, so the Red Sox are getting a great player."
The Red Sox selected outfielder Andrew Benintendi at No. 7 overall on Monday, and sat out for 74 picks before taking Rei on Tuesday afternoon.
"[Austin] loves to play," said Meggs. "You're talking about a guy who can't get enough of it. In the Dustin Pedroia work ethic mindset, I think the people in Boston who appear to appreciate that kind of grit and attitude will love this guy."
Round 4: OF Tate Matheny, Missouri State
For the second time in their first three selections, the Red Sox wound up with an outfielder, taking Tate Matheny, the son of Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. The Missouri State junior doesn't have blazing speed, but his solid reads and instincts have made him a plus center fielder.
The right-handed hitter is known for a strong approach at the plate and being able to go to the opposite field. Matheny hasn't developed much power yet, but some scouts think it will come. Matheny hit .291 with five homers and 43 RBIs while making 61 starts this season. He added 18 doubles and a line of .417/.449.
Matheny was drafted out of high school by the Cardinals in 2012. Three years later, he wound up with the team that twice defeated his father's Cards (2004, '13) in the World Series.
Round 5: OF Jagger Rusconi, West Ranch High School (Santa Clarita, Calif.)
The Red Sox continued their early run on position players by taking Rusconi, a switch-hitting shortstop out of California. The Red Sox drafted the 5-foot-11, 165-pound Rusconi as an outfielder. Rusconi hit for the cycle in a game on Feb. 14 and was offered a scholarship to USC.
"He's very excited and very much is leaning toward signing vs. going to the University of Southern California, and we are thrilled for him," said Casey Burrill, Rusconi's coach at West Ranch.
Rusconi has played in 106 games for West Ranch High School, hitting .393 with a .458 on-base percentage. The Red Sox like his raw power.
"He's a tremendous athlete," said Burrill. "He plays great defense, switch-hitter, runs like the wind and he's got some power. For a guy who's not 6-foot-5 and 240 [pounds], the ball jumps into the gap and gets over the fence often."
And Burrill promises the Red Sox won't find any attitude issues.
"As good a player he is, he's a better person. First to practice, last to leave type of guy and a yes-sir, no-sir type of guy," said Burrill.