BOSTON -- The Red Sox are going to have a happening war room on Monday's opening day of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. By losing Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre to the Tigers and Rangers, respectively, Boston is in the enviable position of selecting four times in the first 40 picks.
With Major League Baseball's current Collective Bargaining Agreement expiring at the end of the 2011 season, there is talk that compensation picks could become a thing of the past.
The way the Red Sox look at it, that is all the more reason for them to seize the moment.
"Well, we can only operate under the system that exists now, so we've tried to make the most of the current system," said Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. "That's always been a factor in some of our free-agent decisions, trying to accumulate picks, because that is one of the best ways to create an advantage is accumulate sandwich picks. We recognize that's a system that exists now, so we should take advantage of it while we can, and we're in a wait-and-see approach.
"Who knows what the next CBA might look like. Because of the uncertainty, it puts an emphasis on the moment, now. Taking advantage of the system that exists now, knowing that, 'Let's work extra hard, let's get an extra look, let's do everything we can to make the right selections now that we can.' There might be a day we wake up and we're talking fondly about bygone days when we had four of the first 40 picks in the Draft and no team will ever have that again. Who knows what the next system will be. We have to take advantage of this one."
Live coverage of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft begins with a one-hour preview show on Monday at 6 p.m. ET on MLB.com and MLB Network, followed by the first round and supplemental compensation round. MLB.com will provide exclusive coverage of Day 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player. You can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following@MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
Success in the Draft has been vital to the recent success of the Red Sox. Jacoby Ellsbury ('05), Dustin Pedroia ('04), Kevin Youkilis ('01), Jed Lowrie ('05), Jon Lester ('02), Daniel Bard ('08) and Jonathan Papelbon ('03) all serve as living proof of how impactful Draft picks can be at the Major League level.
Red Sox's recent top picks
Salem (Class A)
Lake Elsinore (Class A Padres)
San Antonio (Double-A Padres)
Columbus (Triple-A Indians)
"We've built much of this team through the Draft and also used the Draft for prospects to trade for other important members of this team," Epstein said. "If you have bad Drafts two out of three years, three out of four years, that's going to be reflected in a downturn of the success overall of the organization four or five years down the line, so the work that our scouts are doing now will play an important role in how we all feel about the Red Sox as an organization four or five years from now."
Amiel Sawdaye is in his second year as Boston's director of amateur scouting.
"I think any time you walk into a new role, there's going to be that stress of just making the first pick," said Sawdaye. "As many of you guys know, last year we selected Kolbrin Vitek, and it was a nailbiter until the end. We didn't know if we were going to get the player we really liked. We did, in the end. He was the guy we coveted, and I think it helps calm the nerves a little bit this year. Experience in anything will always make you feel a little more comfortable."
Here's a glance at what the Red Sox have in store as the Draft approaches:
In about 50 words
With so many picks during the meaty portion of the Draft, the Red Sox are determined to bring home some impact players. The last time they were this well positioned was 2005, the Draft that landed them Ellsbury and Lowrie.
"It's always a great feeling to have extra picks. I think it energizes the scouting staff the whole year because they know going in and seeing players, there's a much better chance you can actually get a guy. You know when you rank the first 40 guys, you know you're getting four of them. That's a nice feeling. We just have to do our job and get them in the right order and see how things break." -- Epstein
The Red Sox have never been a team to provide leaks on who they might be seeking. They also don't draft based on position. In other words, be prepared for just about anything, particularly with the flexibility that so many early picks provides.
"You want to get good players. You want to combine upside and probability, but when you don't have extra picks, it's sometimes hard to take that extra risk with the very high upside," Epstein said. "You can diversify your portfolio a little more when you have more picks and take that chance."
Pitching, pitching, pitching. As always, the Red Sox will try to keep their farm system stocked with top arms, particularly after they traded Casey Kelly to the Padres as part of the Adrian Gonzalez deal. Power bats are also something Boston eyes.
Boston's first four picks last year were all college players. And traditionally, the best Draft picks the Red Sox have had were college products. But there are always exceptions. See Jon Lester.
Recent Draft History Rising fast
Anthony Ranaudo's stock had dropped entering last year's Draft and the Red Sox pounced because they were confident his struggles in 2010 were health-related. At this point, it appears the Sox were absolutely right. Ranuado is thriving at Class A Greenville.
Josh Reddick, who is on the Major League roster as an injury fill-in, was a 16th-round pick in 2006. He appears to have all the athleticism to be a solid Major Leaguer. The final piece Reddick is trying to attain is consistent plate discipline.
In The Show
Papelbon made it to the Majors two years after he was drafted. The same was true for Bard and Pedroia. The Red Sox have a solid track record not only when it comes to drafting, but also in development.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.