CLEVELAND -- They had already taken two big bats. So by the time the Red Sox made the last of their three picks on Monday, the opening night of the First-Year Player Draft, they were all too happy to snag one of the elite power arms in college baseball.
Getting right-hander Anthony Ranaudo with the 39th overall pick is something that would have been unthinkable at the start of the season. But that was before Ranaudo dealt with elbow issues early in 2010, ultimately leading to a sharp statistical decline in his junior season for Louisiana State University.
By the end of the season, the Red Sox were convinced that Ranaudo was healthy again, and that's why they swooped in and drafted him.
"Obviously, Anthony Ranaudo is probably the most high-profile of the three guys we selected," said Red Sox director of amateur scouting Amiel Sawdaye. "He was arguably the top college pitcher coming into the year. For one reason or another, we believe he slid in the Draft. He's someone we're really, really excited to take and hopefully can come to an agreement with him
Another reason Ranaudo might have slipped a bit lower than expected? Perceived signability issues. He is represented by Scott Boras.
The Red Sox must sign Ranaudo by Aug. 16, otherwise he can return to LSU and enter the Draft again next year.
"We'll see," said Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. "We'll sit down with Anthony and with his advisor, Scott Boras, and talk about why we think the Red Sox are a good fit for him, and we'll just have to see how that process goes.
"Sometimes they go quickly. Sometimes they take longer. Sometimes there's a chance to evaluate the player further. It's not every day you can sign a player immediately after the Draft, and sometimes they're worth waiting for, so we'll see what happens."
With their first two picks in the Draft, the Sox got second baseman Kolbrin Vitek (No. 20) and outfielder Bryce Brentz (No. 36). Both of those college sluggers are already close to contracts with the Red Sox.
The case of Ranaudo figures to be more protracted.
The 20-year-old Ranaudo, who is 6-foot-7 and 231 pounds, went 5-3 with a 7.49 ERA in 45 2/3 innings this past season. He made 14 appearances, including 10 starts.
The 2009 season was a completely different story. Ranaudo earned the win in the clinching game of the '09 College World Series. In that season, his sophomore year, Ranaudo went 12-3 with a 3.04 ERA and reeled off 159 strikeouts to finish third in the nation. He was taken by the Rangers in the 11th round of the 2007 Draft out of high school but opted to attend LSU.
Ranaudo throws in the mid-90s and has decent command of his secondary stuff.
"He has a chance to really repeat his delivery and pitches with a plus fastball, a plus breaking ball and an average changeup," Epstein said. "He's someone who obviously went through a little bit of adversity this year, but he bounced back and started to really put it together at the end. He's somebody we really think is on the come and went into the year as one of the top college pitchers in the Draft."
And the elbow? The Red Sox were told that the injury was a stress reaction and is no longer an issue.
Sure, having three out of the first 39 picks -- two of whom are all but signed -- might have made it a little easier to take a gamble on Ranaudo.
"I think that -- like Theo said in the past -- we line our board up and just take the next player on the board and the highest-impact [player], and that was Anthony," said Sawdaye. "That's kind of where he lined up, and that's what we did."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.