By Jim Callis
August 24, 2004
For the third time in four years, the Red Sox forfeited their first-round pick to sign a free agent. On Tuesday, they compensated by landing what they believe to be a first-round talent to a record bonus.
Boston signed 12th-round pick Mike Rozier, a lefthander from Henry County (Ga.) High, for $1.575 million. That’s the most money ever given to a non-draft-and-follow taken after the 10th round, surpassing the $1.425 million the Angels gave 18th-rounder Mark Trumbo 10 days earlier. The overall post-10th-round record is $1.701 million, which the Yankees gave draft-and-follow lefthander Sean Henn in 2001 after taking him in the 26th round a year earlier.
Earlier in the summer, the Red Sox set a bonus record for the eighth round when they gave Central Florida righthander Kyle Bono $432,000.
“We’re excited about this,” Boston scouting director David Chadd said. “We didn’t have a first-round pick, but we value this guy as a first-round arm.”
Rozier might not have lasted past the third round had he not accepted a football scholarship from the University of North Carolina. A mid-level quarterback recruit, he passed for 3,054 yards and 22 touchdowns in his last two seasons at Henry County, where his football coach was his father Mike. Rozier wasn’t expected to compete for playing time this fall for the Tar Heels, and declined his scholarship shortly before they began football practice on Aug. 7.
Because Rozier is a two-sport athlete, draft rules allow the Red Sox to spread his bonus over a five-year period. He received the third-largest bonus in franchise history, trailing only first-round picks Rick Asadoorian ($1.7255 million in 1999) and Adam Everett ($1.725 million in 1998).
Six-foot-five and 210 pounds, Rozier is a very physical, projectable lefty. He has a consistent 88-92 mph fastball that touches 94 and a curveball that shows flashes of becoming a well above-average pitch.
Chadd said the Red Sox had coveted Rozier since last summer. He was highly recommended by Rob English, the club’s area scout in Georgia who has signed several of the organziation’s best prospects, including third baseman Chadd Spann and outfielders Mickey Hall, Brandon Moss and Matt Murton (traded to the Cubs in the Nomar Garciaparra deal).
When Boston’s scouts followed Rozier this spring, he kept reminding them of one of their system’s top arms, lefthander Jon Lester. Lester was the Red Sox’ top pick in 2002-in the second round, because they again gave up their first-rounder-and signed for $1 million. His fastball reached 95 mph in his most recent start for high Class A Sarasota.
“There are a lot of similarities with Lester,” Chadd said. “Size, velocity, athleticism and secondary stuff, and Rozier’s curveball is better at times. Mike never has committed full-time to baseball, and we started dreaming of what he can be if he did dedicate himself full-time to baseball.”