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Red Sox made pitching a priority in Draft

Seven of first 10 picks and 18 of 40 overall were hurlers

BOSTON -- It was clear from the beginning that the Red Sox wanted pitching in this year's First-Year Player Draft.

From their opening selections of lefty Trey Ball and right-hander Teddy Stankiewicz, all the way through the later rounds of the Draft, Boston, like many teams often do, made sure to stock up on young arms.

Of the 40 players Boston selected over the three days, 18 were pitchers (five lefties, 13 right-handers), nine were infielders, eight were outfielders and five were catchers.

"We are excited with the players that we were able to draft over the past three days," said Red Sox Director of Amateur Scouting Amiel Sawdaye. "Our scouts did an outstanding job in preparation for the draft, allowing us to select a diverse mix of talented pitching and position player prospects. We look forward to adding this talent into the Red Sox organization and to beginning the players' development path in professional baseball."

Four of the Red Sox's first five selections were pitchers, as well as seven of their first 10.

The Red Sox selected their first position player, catcher Jon Denney, in the third round, and didn't select an infielder until the 11th round when they took Carlos Asuaje, a shortstop who will most likely play second base at the next level.

Ball, a 6-foot-5, 175-pound lefty from New Castle Chrysler High School in Indiana, headlines the class. Billed as a two-way player -- he also starred as an outfielder -- the Red Sox project Ball as a top-of-the-line starter. His fastball sits in the low 90s, and with room to fill out, his velocity could improve. Ball's changeup is a plus-pitch. The curveball is a work in progress, but has promise, according to scouts. In his senior season, he was 6-0 with a 0.76 ERA.

"Right now, I feel like my fastball is my go-to pitch," said Ball. "I need more development work with my changeup and my curveball. I've only been throwing a curveball for about a year and a half now. My father had restricted me on throwing a curveball to preserve my arm, so I didn't have to risk that injury. I see myself working on the curveball a lot, improving that."

Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said they weren't sure who they were going to take, but were pleased to see Ball still available.

"By definition, it's a last-minute decision, but he was certainly amongst a group of players who we had spent a lot of time on and we knew was a candidate for that first pick, and we were very comfortable taking him with that first pick," Cherington said.

Boston took the power-throwing right-hander Stankiewicz with their second selection. Stankiewicz was drafted by the Mets last season out of high school, but went to Seminole State, a junior college in Oklahoma, for another year of school.

He's just 19 years old, but with a year in college already under his belt, Sawdaye said Stankiewicz throws like a pitcher with more experience.

"He's a big, physical pitcher. He's got, probably for me, one of the best deliveries in the Draft," said Sawdaye. "His arm works really well. He throws three pitches, and he really commands his fastball.

"I think one of the interesting things about Teddy is he's 19-years-old as a junior-college pitcher, but you can kind of almost consider him pitching like a college junior."

Myles Smith, a right-hander, and Corey Littrell, a lefty, were selected in the fourth and fifth rounds, respectively. Smith is a prospect who, with a fastball that reached up to 97 mph at times last season, overwhelmed his opponents in the NAIA. Littrell, Kentucky's Sunday pitcher, relies more on his pitching savvy than his ability to get opponents out.

"I know how to pitch," Littrell said. "My dad played professional baseball with the Dodgers, and at an early age he instilled in me how to pitch. I'm not a guy that's going to overpower anyone or anything like that, but I can control four pitches and I know how to pitch and I'm very smart on the mound."

The Sox took their first position player in the Draft in the third round when they selected Denney, an athletic catcher with a high ceiling. Denney attended the MLB Draft telecast with the expectation of being taken in the first two rounds, but his name was never called. He didn't have to wait long on Day 2 to hear Boston call his name.

"For a little bit, I was surprised," CJ Medlin, Denney's coach at Yukon High School in Oklahoma, said of the wait to be selected, "But in the long run, this could be just a biased opinion, but I feel like he's going to end up being one of the top kids of the high school catchers taken this year, when it's all said and done. I think he's got plenty of tools, I think his upside is tremendous and his ceiling is pretty much untapped right now."

There were also some familiar names in the Sox Draft crop. Boston selected Florida Gator starting quarterback Jeff Driskel as an outfielder in the 29th round, and high school catcher Ryan Lidge, cousin of former closer Brad Lidge, in the 40th round.

Asuaje, a shortstop taken in the 11th round, was the first infielder Boston selected. He made a name for himself in the Cape Cod League last summer and continued playing well into his junior season at Nova Southeastern, a Division II school in Florida, where he batted .320 with 13 doubles, 33 RBIs and a .449 slugging percentage. He'll most likely play second base at the next level.

"I think he's a true leadoff, which is one of the hardest things to find these days," said his college coach Greg Brown, a former scout. "Red Sox Nation is going to love him."

Michael Periatt is an associate reporter for Follow him on Twitter @Michael Periatt.
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