2017 MLB Draft Grades: Boston Red Sox
Best Pure Hitter: OF Cole Brannen (2) has to adjust to pro ball, but he’s an advanced hitter for his age who uses the whole field, recognizes pitches and works counts. 2B Brett Netzer (3) is a more polished and advanced hitter right now and hit .286 in 182 pro at-bats.
Best Power Hitter: OF Tyler Esplin (7) shows plus raw power with the ability to hit the ball out to left or right field. The Red Sox were impressed with his ability to drive the ball the opposite way, a healthy indicator of future productive power.
Fastest Runner. Brannen is at least a plus runner who will turn in times that rate as a 70 on the 20-to-80 scouting scale on his best days.
Best Defensive Player: Like many young outfielders, Brannen takes inconsistent routes and his reads should get better as he matures, but he’s already a true center fielder with the speed to stay there. He’s a potentially plus defender in center.
Best Fastball. RHP Alex Scherff (5) can regularly get to 95-98 mph with a fastball that has plenty of life. RHP Tanner Houck (1) has also touched 98 and his fastball generates plenty of swings and misses.
Best Secondary Pitch: RHP Zach Schellenger (6) gets plus grades for his low 80s slider because of a funky delivery, plus tilt and its hard and late movement.
Best Pro Debut: Netzer hit .286/.350/.341 between short-season Lowell and low Class A Greenville. RHP Jake Thompson (4) impressed in his 11.1-innings stint as his fastball sat 94-95 mph. It touched higher and he showed improved command on his way to a 0-3, 3.18 stat line.
Best Athlete: OF David Durden (20) was slated to head to Mercer to play wide receiver if he didn’t sign with the Red Sox. He’s an excellent athlete with speed, strength and body control.
Tanner Houck Rebounds With Huge Second Half
The 2017 first-rounder reverted to his old arm slot and repertoire after a new approach produced a lousy first half in the Carolina League.
Closest To The Majors: Houck should move quickly as an experienced college pitcher with a track record of success and a plus fastball. The Red Sox watched his innings very carefully in his pro debut, but he will likely be moved aggressively in his first full pro season.
Best Late-Round Pick: Durden has a good swing to go with plenty of athleticism. He just needs time to catch up to more advanced pitchers. The Red Sox were happy to land NDFA Brendan Nail as they signed him after seeing him pitch effectively with a 91-93 mph fastball, plus breaking ball and a deceptive delivery in the Cape Cod League all-star game.
The One Who Got Away: OF Marcus Ragan (15) is the only player the Red Sox failed to sign in the top 20 rounds. The athletic, speedy outfielder is expected to return to East Mississippi JC for his sophomore season.