Red Sox draft the next Papelbon
Rookie closer's younger brother selected in 48th round
NEW YORK -- Rookie closer Jonathan Papelbon has been a dominant surprise this season. Though it might be a while before the Red Sox find the next Papelbon, they at least did so in a literal sense in the second day of the First-Year Player Draft.In Round 48, the Sox nabbed reliever Josh Papelbon -- yes, he's the younger brother of Jonathan. Josh is a submarine-style right-hander who has a year of eligibility left at the University of North Florida. The drafting of the younger Papelbon at pick No. 1,443 comes three years after the Red Sox selected their now-star closer in the fourth round out of Mississippi State. "Josh is a right-handed sidearmer with a pretty good sinking fastball," said Ben Cherington, vice president/player personnel for the Red Sox. "He has been a successful college pitcher and has a healthy competitive streak. We hope to sign Josh and give him an opportunity to pitch in [short-season Class A] Lowell this summer." Jonathan has the versatility to either start or close, but his younger brother has been used exclusively in relief during his college career and his throwing style would seem to make him best suited for that role. Josh, who turns 23 later this month, pitched a team-leading 29 games in 2006, saving eight games and going 4-3 with a 2.81 ERA over 41 2/3 innings. He became the school's all-time saves leader on March 10. The Red Sox also took a player with local roots on Wednesday by taking Franklin Pierce second baseman Michael Chambers, a native of Londonderry, N.H. Chambers hit .342 in 59 games, belting 10 homers and driving in 49 runs. Overall, the Red Sox were pleased about their draft, which consisted of 36 college players and 18 high school players. The theme of Boston's development staff going into this year's war room was to find impact players. "I think we got a good mix of very high-upside high school talent and solid college performers," said Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. "One of the things I like about our draft this year is that the college kids that we got are not safe picks with limited upside. These college guys are players with very high upside, guys with plus tools. "A lot of these pitchers have plus velocity. We've got some power arms and some power bats. All in all, I'm very happy. We wanted to try to make an impact on the system. We wanted to take a chance where appropriate and go after some guys with maybe slightly higher risk, but higher reward. I feel like we did that." The fact that the Sox had two picks in the first round - Nos. 27 and 28 -- enabled them to grab high schooler Jason Place right out of the gate and follow it with hard-throwing Daniel Bard out of the University of North Carolina. "I can't say he's overly advanced but he's definitely, I feel, one of the best athletes in this draft," said Jason McLeod, Boston's director of amateur scouting. I think it just boils down to the kids that we thought could make the most impact here. We obviously felt that he is one of those players who can do that." The Red Sox feel the exact same way about Bard, a pitcher they were fairly stunned was still there for the taking when they picked. "Every time that we've seen him, really since his freshman year and going through the [Cape Cod League], what we've always seen is the arm strength and the life on his fastball, those are things that are always there when he shows up to the park," said McLeod. "We've seen him be very, very good and we've also seen him with some inconsistency with his command at times. We feel that at that selection, with where he was, the potential for him to make an impact on our organization was too good to pass up." Among the other interesting things the Sox did was the selection of power lefty Kris Johnson (third round) out of Wichita State, who had Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery in 2005, and Matthew LaPorta, a hitter with big power, but perhaps a challenge to sign as a 14th rounder because he is represented by Scott Boras. Then there is Ryan Kalish, a sound left-handed-hitting outfielder from Red Bank, N.J., who has a commitment to play at Virginia. Perhaps the Red Sox can persuade him otherwise. With the Red Sox already having one of the top farm systems in the game, they felt they could swing for the fences a little more in this year's draft. "I've been saying over and over and over, the current theme is, we're trying to make an impact on this organization," said McLeod. Now, the Red Sox will go from scouting to contract negotiations, as they try to get their newest draftees in uniform as quick as possible. "We definitely go into this not looking for prolonged negotiations," said McLeod. "These are kids that we feel confident about, we've gotten to know them, our area scouts have gotten to know them and their families."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.