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Baseball America Online - College

Everything Falls Into Place For Red Sox

June 7, 2005
By John Tomase

They never needed Plan B.

The Red Sox entered yesterdayís draft hoping to land Oregon State outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury or St. Johnís closer Craig Hansen with one of their two first round picks.

Instead they got both.

The 23rd and 26th picks, respectively, led a draft that saw the Sox deviate from their college-only philosophy of the past two years to select four straight high schoolers between the supplemental and fifth rounds.

They felt the college talent pool was being diluted by more teams going that route in the wake of successful drafts by the Aís and Blue Jays, among others. But prior to picking prep, they snared two players they coveted.

"Jacoby was a kid we really liked from the get-go, but with the performances he was putting up and a lot of teams valuing college athletes, we didnít think heíd be there for us," said Red Sox scouting director Jason McLeod. "We were surprised Craig got to our pick, but happy he did."

Ellsbury was the Pac-10 Co-Player of the Year after leading Oregon State to its first postseason appearance since 1986. He hit .415 with a .504 on base percentage, set a school record with 86 hits, and stole 21 bases.

Perhaps he had a premonition about his draft-day destination. He wore a Red Sox cap to an interview with an opposing scout last season and has been compared Boston center fielder Johnny Damon for his speed, glove and tenacity.

"Iím definitely aware of the comparison," Ellsbury said. "Johnny Damonís a great player. Any time you can be compared to a player of that caliber, itís an honor."

Hansen is considered the most major league-ready player in the draft after a dominating season at St. Johnís that had him in the mix to be the No. 1 overall pick of the Diamondbacks.

Represented by agent Scott Boras, Hansen slid because of worries over his bonus demands. The Big East Pitcher of the Year went 3-2 with 14 saves and a 1.68 ERA in 31 appearances, striking out 86 in 64 innings.

"Of course some teams were scared off by Scott," McLeod said. "But we looked at it as when Craig was there at our pick, he was the highest-rated guy on the board."

McLeod would not disclose the teamís policy regarding major league contracts for draftees. But he did say he thought it unlikely--not to mention unfair--to expect Hansen to pitch in Boston this season, a la Ryan Wagner with the Reds in 2003.

"In our market, I think that would be going overboard, somewhat," McLeod said. "Asking him to pitch for the Red Sox in September, thatís putting a lot of pressure on the kid."

Itís the kind of pressure Hansen welcomes, though.

"I keep it in the back of my head," he said. "But whenever the Boston Red Sox feel like Iím ready, theyíll make the move and bring me up."