Red Sox could be biggest losers in a revamped 2021 draft

The Boston Red Sox could be shut out of a top pick next year under a new draft process currently being discussed by MLB

The Boston Red Sox, winding down a disappointing 2020 season, are hoping to have a top pick in next year’s draft. But those hopes may be dashed.

Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reported on Thursday that Major League Baseball is considering revamping the draft process in 2021. Under this new proposal, draft picks would be allocated based on combined records from the 2019 and 2020 seasons, rather than just this season alone.

This remains only a rumor and nothing has been officially announced. The Detroit Tigers would get the top pick if this is implemented, followed by the Orioles, Royals, Marlins (despite being in playoff contention), and the Pirates. The Red Sox, meanwhile, would suffer the most from this plan.

Currently 18-32 and with the second-lowest winning percentage in the league at .360, behind only the Pirates, the Red Sox would be in prime position to take one of the top two prospects in the 2021 class: Vanderbilt teammates Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter, both right-handed pitchers. If MLB changes the process, though, they’ll be out of luck. The Red Sox only have the 14th-worst record over the last two seasons.

A top-two pick would be just what new Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom needs to rebuild a roster that won the World Series just two years ago but is now perilously thin. J.D. Martinez will turn 34 next season and is batting .208 with five home runs and a .664 OPS, his worst since 2013. With nearly $39 million left on the final two years of his deal, he’s a prime candidate to be dealt.

Nathan Eovaldi, the most established starting pitcher for the Red Sox, will be 31 and has a long history of injuries. The Red Sox have the second-worst ERA from their starting pitchers this season at 6.22, ahead of only the Tigers. That would be more than a run worse than the team record of 5.21 set in 1932. Only three times since World War II have the Red Sox finished a season with an ERA above even five from their starting rotation.

And there’s little hope of help on the way. Chris Sale will make his return next season, but he’s coming off Tommy John surgery. Their top pitching prospect, Bryan Mata, has never appeared above Double-A. Noah Song, a fourth-round pick in 2019 and their second highest-ranked pitching prospect, has only pitched in Single-A and won’t be able to join the organization full-time until 2022 due to military service obligations.

Rocker or Leiter would look good in a Red Sox organization. They hoped they would get a chance at one of them next June. Those hopes, though, are on the verge of crumbling.

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