There is still work to be done to return to consistent title contention, and with the seventh pick in the draft—the highest and most important pick Boston has made in 20 years—the organization needs to draft a franchise cornerstone-type player.
With that seventh pick the Red Sox selected Trey Ball, a 6'6" LHP out of New Castle High School in Indiana.
The Red Sox second selection was Teddy Stankiewicz, a 6'4" RHP out of Seminole State Junior College in Florida.
Aside from making the selections, the next biggest job for Ben Cherington is to sign Ball and Stankiewicz, who are committed to play for the University of Texas and University of Arkansas respectively.
Assuming both sign, I have reviewed comparable players to determine arrival times for both Ball and Stankiewicz.
Red Sox Comparisons
The last two high school lefties the Red Sox selected high in the draft were Jon Lester (second round, 2002) and Henry Owens (first round, 36th overall, 2011).
Lester, like Ball, also won the Gatorade state player of the year award as a senior.
It took Lester just four years until he made his major league debut in 2006 at just 22 years old.
Part of the reason why Lester made the jump to the majors so soon was due to a lack of quality pitchers in Boston’s starting rotation.
Owens may be a better comparison to Ball since they are both 6'6" lefties who were drafted out of high school.
Owens was solid but not spectacular in his first season in the minors, but has turned it on in High-A ball in 2013 with a 3.21 ERA in 11 games and 68 strikeouts in just 56 innings pitched. Owens may get a promotion this year, but it is more likely that he won’t be promoted to Double-A until next spring.
If Owens continues on his path he could debut sometime in 2015, which, like Lester, would be just four years after he was drafted.
Aside from these lefties, Michael Bowden—a supplemental first-round pick who wasn’t nearly as touted as Ball—took three-and-a-half years to make his major league debut in 2008.
Bowden only made one appearance in his 2008 debut. He made eight appearances in 2009, but it wasn’t until 2012, seven years after he was drafted, when he became a regular contributor at the major league level.
Overall, the Red Sox are very deliberate when healing with high school pitchers and do not have a track record of rushing prospects.
Recent Seventh Overall Picks
While the Red Sox don’t rush prospects, other organizations are more open to the idea.
The Dodgers took a risk promoting Clayton Kershaw from Double-A straight to the majors in 2008, just two years after he was drafted seventh overall out of high school. Even though Kershaw was a top-10 prospect in spring training, he had yet to pitch in Triple-A.
Kershaw had a solid rookie season and ever since has been one of the best pitchers in all of baseball.
This would be a dream scenario for the Red Sox, but I doubt they push Ball in the same fashion that LA did with Kershaw.
The Red Sox have a better rotation and seem to have pitching depth at the upper minor league level that is poised to break out in the next couple of years. The Dodgers' major league team needed the boost, and Kershaw was the only option at the time.
Another player picked seventh overall out of high school was Reds pitcher Homer Bailey.
Bailey, like Kershaw, was highly touted, peaking as the fifth best prospect in baseball in 2007, the same year he made his major league debut.
Unlike Kershaw, Bailey struggled for two seasons before hitting a stride, and even still it took six years before he finally broke out and lived up to the early hype.
Ball and Stankiewicz’s Estimated Debut Years
Unless either Ball or Stankiewicz completely wows Red Sox management and player development staff, the Red Sox will take their time developing both of these pitchers.
Part of the timeline depends on how the major league rotation performs over the next several years and if the Red Sox make any major free-agent signings.
However, with that being said, Ryan Dempster and John Lackey could be gone by the start of the 2015 season, opening holes for Allen Webster and hopefully either Matt Barnes, Rubby De La Rosa, Anthony Ranaudo or Henry Owens.
History and general thinking will tell you that out of those five pitchers, at least two will fizzle out or be moved to the bullpen.
So, if there is a spot, both Ball and Stankiewicz project to make their major league debuts sometime in 2017.