Given that the Red Sox are selecting 20 spots lower with their first pick (No. 24 overall) in this year's Draft than they did last year, when they somehow got five-tool stud Marcelo Mayer at No. 4, you’d think they wouldn’t have access to the type of premium prospect the industry has been aware of for years.
But there is a wrinkle that could change that.
It just so happens that righty Kumar Rocker and his high 90s heater could be there for the taking when the Sox are on the clock.
This is the same Rocker the Red Sox had on their board last year. The same former Vanderbilt stud who slipped to No. 10, where the Mets took him but didn’t sign him over concerns about his health.
What has happened since then? According to a recent report by ESPN, Rocker had arm surgery last September. He spent this spring dominating for the Tri-City ValleyCats of the independent Frontier League.
The Red Sox could have interest if Rocker is still there. He is a player that Boston has followed closely for years.
“It is valuable, and honestly it dates back to high school. We liked him a lot as a high schooler,” said Red Sox director of amateur scouting Paul Toboni. “We liked him last year, and we like him a good amount this year. So just a tremendous kid, a tremendous talent, player. Obviously [there were] unique circumstances last year, but we're going to kind of put our board together and see where he falls, and then we'll address it from there.
“Honestly, whether the Red Sox select him or not, I think he's gonna have a wonderful career and I hope the best for him, especially just because of how it played out last year. I don't think really any team would hope it would play out that way."
And it could represent a tremendous opportunity for the Red Sox to secure a talent like that at No. 24.
If not Rocker, which direction could the Sox go in?
Shortstop Jett Williams, an intriguing shortstop out of Rockwall-Heath High School in Texas, is the target of MLB Pipeline guru Jim Callis in his latest Mock Draft. Callis adds that if Williams is off the board, the Sox could pivot to a college bat like Jordan Beck or Drew Gilbert (both went to Tennessee), as well as Dylan Beavers (Cal), Sterlin Thompson (Florida) or Jacob Melton (Oregon State). Callis adds that Rocker, whom he projects as going to the Phillies at No. 17, is “an intriguing possibility.”
For the second straight year, the Draft will be part of All-Star Week. Sunday's action begins at 7 p.m. ET, with Round 1 (including two compensation picks), Competitive Balance Round A (seven picks), Round 2 and Competitive Balance Round B (eight picks) and six second-round compensation picks.
MLB Network will provide complete coverage of Sunday's picks, and the first round will be broadcast on ESPN. The remaining picks will stream on MLB.com.
Day 2 gets underway at 2 p.m., with Rounds 3-10 on the slate. The final day, featuring Rounds 11-20, begins at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.
Here is some other relevant info for the Red Sox as it pertains to the Draft.
First pick and bonus slot: $2,974,900
Additional first-day picks: Second round (pick No. 41). Compensation for unsigned 2021 second-rounder Jud Fabian
Compensation pick: No. 79 (Compensation for Eduardo Rodriguez, who signed with the Tigers. Detroit forfeited its third-highest pick.)
Total bonus pool: $8,078,300
Last three first picks:
2021: SS Marcelo Mayer
2020: 2B Nick Yorke
2019: 2B Cam Cannon
Best pick of the last 10 years, per MLB Pipeline:
Andrew Benintendi, OF (2015, first round)
After Benintendi topped NCAA Division I with 20 homers and won the Golden Spikes Award as a sophomore with the University of Arkansas, Boston ranked him No. 2 on its Draft board behind only Dansby Swanson and landed him at No. 7 overall. He joined the Red Sox 14 months later and helped them win the 2018 World Series with his bat and glove before going to the Royals in a three-team trade in February 2021. He's currently enjoying his best season since that '18 campaign and is an All-Star for the first time.