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Red Sox seek best total return from Draft class

BOSTON -- The Red Sox of the past decade-plus know all too well about waiting until the mid-to-late 20s to make their first pick in the First-Year Player Draft. And they will be glad to keep paying that price that comes with being a team that generally wins 90-plus games each season.

Even after last September's epic collapse, Boston still won't pick until No. 24 on Day 1 of the Draft on Monday.

After months of scouting and research, the Red Sox will be ready to pluck a player who fits their needs.

"Yeah, I think we're obviously accustomed to picking in this spot and we'd certainly like to be having the last pick in this round by obviously having the best record, but yeah, we're used to it," said Red Sox amateur scouting director Amiel Sawdaye. "There are some challenging aspects to it because as you go through the year, you try to set up your days and 'This guy's not getting to you,' so you don't want to waste a day going to see him.

"But you also have to make sure that you better be right. You have to [see] everybody that has a chance to get to [the big leagues], but I think we're at a good spot, where we can eliminate five or six guys maybe early on in the season because there's no chance of him getting here. We've had the luxury of having multiple picks, kind of clumped together, and it gives us a little bit of strategy also that we can use when we start selecting our players."

Though Theo Epstein will be absent from Boston's Draft room for the first time since 2001, most of the structure is still in place.

Ben Cherington, Boston's new general manager, always worked closely with Epstein in past Drafts.

"I guess every sort of event that happens for the first time is a little different, so this will be my first one, and I'll tell you next week how it feels," Cherington said. "But there's a lot of things that feel very similar. I'm in the room with a bunch of people that I've been in the room with for several years. We're using a lot of the same philosophy and the same standards to set the board up, talking about the same things that we care about -- ultimately with the same goal."

Recent Drafts have been fruitful for the Red Sox, as evidenced by players like Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Daniel Bard and the latest prospect to contribute at Fenway -- Will Middlebrooks.

Here's a glance at what the Red Sox have in store as the Draft approaches:

In about 50 words
The Red Sox are in a good place, picking at Nos. 24, 31 and 37. That could allow them to fill multiple key areas of the team in one quick sweep. It also means they could take a chance of going for a less polished player with big upside with one of those three picks.

The scoop
"We need to make more of our picks than our competition. That's the priority in every Draft. Guys have been working hard since, well, certainly since January, but longer back than that. We've built a lot of history on this Draft class and our scouts have been out working really hard to get as much information as they possibly can, so that now we can sit in the room and set up the board and try to get the board in a position to give us the best chance to take advantage of every pick." -- Cherington

First-round buzz
The Red Sox are notorious for playing it close to the vest with regards to their early Draft strategy. This year is no different.

"Well, we're not going to go after need," Cherington said. "We're going to target the best player available at each pick, looking for the best total return on this Draft class. The key with any Draft is to again do more with your picks than the 29 other teams do. The nature of the Draft is you don't get all the players you want and you don't hit on every player. But our job is to do more with our picks than our competition does. If we do that, more often than not, over a period of years, we'll be building an advantage for the Red Sox."

Money matters
Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team has an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of that club's selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. The signing bonuses for a team's selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any bonus greater than $100,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.

Any team going up to five percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75 percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75 percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100 percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100 percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.

Shopping list
The Red Sox don't draft according to a player's position. They try to stack their system with all the best athletes they can find. That said, pitching is always heavily prioritized.

Trend watch
Particularly in Epstein's earlier years, the Red Sox always prioritized college players. But they've taken more risks the last few years. In last year's Draft, the Sox took high school catcher Blake Swihart with their second first-round pick. With two picks in the first round again, Cherington and Sawdaye could deploy a similar strategy again.

Red Sox's recent top picks
Year Player Position Current team
2011 Matt Barnes RHP Class A Salem
2010 Kolbrin Vitek 3B Double-A Portland
2009 Reymond Fuentes OF Double-A San Antonio (Padres)
2008 Casey Kelly RHP Triple-A Tucson (Padres)
2007 Nick Hagadone LHP Cleveland Indians

Recent Draft History
Rising fast
The Red Sox took University of Connecticut righty Matt Barnes with their first pick last year, and that is already looking like a sound pick. Barnes dominated in his first five starts in the Carolina League this season, going 2-1 with a 1.93 ERA.

Cinderella story
The Red Sox didn't draft Scott Atchison, but his current dominance in their bullpen is a perfect example of what a team can find if they dig hard enough. The Mariners took Atchison in the 49th round of the 1998 First-Year Player Draft.

In The Show
There are examples throughout Boston's roster of the rewards of recent drafts. Kevin Youkilis, Pedroia, Middlebrooks, Jon Lester, Bard and Clay Buchholz are all players who have been drafted and developed the "Red Sox way," as Epstein used to put it.

Boston Red Sox