06/04/2002 9:35 pm ET
Red Sox go for pitchers
Boston picks Neighborgall in the seventh round
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
Red Sox round-by-round picks
BOSTON -- Though they didn't have the benefit of a first-round selection, the Red Sox managed to grab one of the most highly touted prospects in the country in the seventh round (208 overall).
Yes, Jason Neighborgall, a 6-foot-4 right-hander who was rated fifth in Baseball America's top 100 prospects, was there for the taking.
So the Red Sox snapped him up with their most intriguing and potentially rewarding pick in Tuesday's Day 1 of the First-Year Player Draft.
Now, there's the matter of whether a contractual agreement can be reached with Neighborgall, and his notoriously tough negotiator of an agent, Scott Boras.
With a fastball close to 100 miles per hour and a scholarship waiting for him at Georgia Tech, signing him will be no easy task.
Medium, slender frame. Roger McDowell-type body. Lightning-quick arm. High-90s fastball with tail and sink, occasional hop. Three-quarter curve features solid, average break. Fastball in zone, but curve getting more strikeouts. Limited use of change, but has third-pitch potential.
"I think that's accurate," said David Chadd, in his first season as Boston's director of amateur scouting. "We know what we're up against, but we look forward to challenge of getting this guy signed."
Chadd didn't think Neighborgall's back, which prevented him from pitching his junior season in high school, was much of a risk.
"That may have played some part (in the slippage in the draft)," Chadd said. "But he was cleared medically for us, and he didn't miss a beat this spring."
Neighborgall was one of 12 pitchers the Red Sox selected in their 21 picks. The remaining 28 rounds of the draft will be Wednesday.
The Red Sox were also ecstatic that Jonathan Lester, a left-hander from Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma, Wash, was still on the board when they made their first pick of the day. Lester was the 57th overall pick.
"He uses four pitches and can command all of them," Chadd said. "His velocity for us anywhere from 86 to 93. His command is fine and his control is good. We
are just ecstatic to get him ..."
Chadd was asked if Lester reminded him of any current Major Leaguers.
"You don't want to put too much pressure on these kids," Chadd said, "but Mark Mulder is one that comes to mind. But who knows, these guys have a lot of minor league innings ahead of them."
Though some have compared Neighborgall to Josh Beckett, the prized prospect Chadd's scouting team signed when he was with the Marlins, Chadd likens him more to A.J. Burnett, who threw a no-hitter last season.
The Red Sox didn't have much of a local flavor to their draft, but they did take Tyler Pelland, a left-hander from Bristol, Vt., with their ninth-round selection.
In what may ultimately wind up a great sleeper pick -- in round 21, pick No. 628 -- the Sox snagged 220-pound catcher Alberto Concepcion. The University of Southern California catcher has power to all fields, and was the Pac-10 Player
of the Year this season.
"We like his bat, and his ability to move around a little," said Chadd. "He can play third and first too."
The other picks
In the third round, Boston took third baseman Scott White. He is a right-handed hitter out of Walton High School in Marietta, Ga. He hit .533 (48-for-90) with 12 homers and 50 RBIs in his senior season.
Up next was Chris Smith, the right-handed pitcher selected with the 118th pick. He was 9-8 with a 2.91 ERA, including eight complete games, at the University of California-Riverside. He has a sneaky fastball that sinks.
In the fifth round, the Sox took shortstop Charles Spann, a high schooler from Albany, Ga.
They continued their run on high school players in round six with Barret Browning, a left-hander from Jesup, Ga. Browning has a changeup, a tight curve, and a slightly side-armed fastball.
They went back to Georgia in the eighth round with the selection of shortstop Brandon Moss, out of Loganville High School.
With the 298th pick (10th round), the Sox took yet another shortstop in Greg Stone, a left-handed hitter who played at Bacone College (Oklahoma).
Speed and leadoff potential was the main motive in round 11, as the Red Sox grabbed left fielder Michael Goss from Jackson State.
They stayed in the outfield for round 12, with Dustin Majewski, a left-handed hitter and thrower out of the University of Texas.
In round 13, they snagged Clay Stone, a 6-foot-5, 180-pound right-hander from Ruston High (La.).
It was back to pitching in the next round, with the selection of right-hander John Priola (Faulkner University, Ala.)
The Red Sox went to Oklahaoma for another center fielder in the 15th round, taking Ian Cronkhite, a left-handed hitter and thrower from Moore, Okla.
They stayed in the Northeast for round 16, selecting high school shortstop Peter Ciofrone from Long Island.
It was back to the south in round 17, as the Sox took St. Thomas University (Miami) third baseman Arian Alcala. He is an aggressive hitter, with power to all fields.
With overall pick No. 538, the Red Sox grabbed right-hander Brandon Smith (Southeast Missouri State).
The Red Sox got left-hander Thomas Maclane (Florida Atlantic) in the 19th round. They stayed with the southpaw theme in round 20, taking Luis Villareal.
With their final pick of the day (22nd round), the Sox got right-hander John Anderson from Arkansas State.
Ian Browne, who covers the Red Sox for MLB.com, can be reached at
Ian.Browne@mlb.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League
Baseball or any of its clubs.