Red Sox lean left with first Draft pick
Hagadone used fastball, slider with success in Washington
BOSTON -- After serving as spectators for the first 54 picks of Thursday's First-Year Player Draft, the Red Sox finally got to join the festivities with the selection of left-hander Nick Hagadone out of the University of Washington.
The junior has a fastball that ranges from 90-93 mph to go along with a plus-slider that is particularly tough on lefties and a changeup that remains a work in progress. During his college career, Hagadone was lauded for his leadership and work ethic.
"He is certainly one of the hardest workers we've ever had in our program," said University of Washington baseball coach Ken Knutson. "He came in as a guy who was probably throwing in the mid-80s and now he's throwing in the mid-90s. He just works at it every day. He's very conscientious and aggressive. [He is a] big, hard throwing left-hander who throws strikes. I think he's a coach's dream, and I think [Boston is] going to love him. To me, he's got the makings of a big leaguer."
At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, Hagadone, 21, certainly has the build of a pitcher who can hold up well over time.
"Nick Hagadone is a very big, strong-bodied college left-hander," said Red Sox director of amateur scouting Jason McLeod. "He has big arm strength and the ability to spin a power breaking ball."
Interestingly, he was converted from starter to closer this past season. However, Knutson indicated that the move had more to do with the overall makeup of his 2007 team than how Hagadone best projects as a Major League pitcher.
"For us, we definitely see a kid that we'd like to come in and at least give him a chance to start," said McLeod. "[He is] someone we feel has upside left to him and can provide an impact to our organization."
Hagadone just wants to pitch.
"I enjoyed both [roles]," Hagadone said. "They're both totally different, obviously. Closing, obviously, you come in when the game is on the line and all the pressure is on you to make sure your team wins. Starting is good, also, because you know every time you're going to throw. Honestly, I don't have a certain preference. I'm glad to get my opportunity and whatever the Red Sox feel I would be best at is what I want to do."
The Red Sox did not have a first-round selection because of the signing of shortstop Julio Lugo last December.
But they were pleased to be able to land Hagadone and speedy shortstop Ryan Dent (No. 62) in the sandwich round.
|55||Hagadone, Nicholas||U Washington||LHP|
|62||Dent, Ryan||Woodrow Wilson HS||SS|
|84||Morris, Jeffrey||Virgil I Grissom HS||3B|
|114||Huntzinger, Brock||Pendleton Heights HS||RHP|
|144||Province, Christopher||Southeastern Louisiana U||RHP|
|174||Middlebrooks, William||Liberty Eylau HS||RHP|
"We had those two back-to-back on our board," said McLeod. "To be able to come away with both of them, I didn't think that would happen when the day started. All in all, I think we're very excited. I know we're very excited in our Draft room here. We got the two guys we really hoped would be there, but we were very uncertain if they would be. Being able to call Nick Hagadone and Ryan Dent's name today made us all very happy."
The last time the Sox took a left-handed starter with their first pick in the Draft was 2002, when they selected Jon Lester, who remains a key part of the plans of the franchise for both the present and future. In fact, the Sox grabbed Lester at No. 57, just two picks after their selection of Hagadone. Both lefties are natives of Washington.
The Red Sox would be overjoyed if Hagadone develops at anywhere close to the speed of his college teammate Tim Lincecum, who is currently in the Giants' rotation. In fact, Lincecum and Hagadone combined on a no-hitter for the Huskies on May 13, 2006. Lincecum was taken by the Giants with the 10th overall pick in last year's Draft.
"They're different guys certainly," said Knutson. "Nick is more prototypical of what you would think of as a big-league arm. He's just big and strong. Tim's delivery is pretty unique because of the way he contorts his body and gets everything out of it. Nick's more of a big, strong, straight guy. He's pretty quick down the hill and I think he uses his body really well, and it's allowed him to increase his velocity while he's been here."
Hagadone won't make any bold predictions about his timetable to Boston.
"[Lincecum] is a once in a lifetime player to be around," Hagadone said. "I can't set my expectations as high as his getting to the Majors in less than a year. I want to get to Boston as soon as possible, but that's not really under my control. The only thing I can control is how well I perform. The hard work I put into it will also determine my success."
Hagadone's final college season was impressive, as he went 6-1 with 11 saves and a 2.88 ERA in 25 appearances, all but two of which were starts.
"We were struggling with the closer, so I just put Nick back there and we used him in all different ways," said Knutson. "I called it our silver bullet. Sometimes he would close in the third or fourth inning. He didn't want to do it initially, and it's hard. He's our No. 1 pitcher, but it was the best thing for our ballclub, so we put him back there, and he was really, really good."
The main thing Hagadone is known for is getting outs.
"He can do anything," Knutson said. "He throws hard enough to strike people out, he's got a good breaking ball, he's got enough pitches to be a frontline pitcher. I think he's got four good pitches -- fastball, slider, split and changeup. However they want to use him, he'll be just fine."
The Red Sox didn't have much time to reflect on the selection of Hagadone. Just seven picks later, they were on the board again, taking a high school shortstop Dent from Long Beach, Calif. The 18-year-old Dent is fresh out of Wilson High School, where hit .468 with 29 RBIs and 28 stolen bases. McLeod is optimistic the Sox can sign Dent, who has a scholarship to UCLA.
"We know Ryan pretty well," said McLeod. "He played for our area scout up here. We had a couple of workouts with Ryan. We feel like our personal relationship with him right now is very good. We certainly selected him with every intention of signing him. We believe his ability belongs where he went in the Draft and he certainly has an option at UCLA, but we feel confident we'll be able to get something done with him."
Some scouts say that Dent -- no relation to Bucky -- doesn't necessarily project as a shortstop. However, McLeod said that he'll start his Minor League career at shortstop and stay there until or when the organization has a reason to put him somewhere else.
"Ryan Dent is a tremendously gifted, athletic kid," McLeod said. "He played in the middle of the field. He is versatile. He is athletic and brings speed to the diamond. He is also strong for his size. A kid that could certainly stay at shortstop but he could also play center field or second base, and one that we are excited to get."
Second round, No. 84 overall: The left-handed-hitting Hunter Morris from Virgil Grissom high school (Huntsville, Ala.) is known for his raw power. That's an appealing trait, especially from the left side. His other tools aren't as polished at this stage. Morris has a scholarship to Auburn.
Third round, No. 114 overall: Brock Huntzinger, a high school product from Indiana, is a power pitcher. "He's a strong-armed kid who knows how to pitch with his fastball and he's showing signs of an above average slider, too," said McLeod. "For us, we place high standards on high school right-handed pitching. They are a risky proposition in the Draft, and he's certainly a kid who meets the criterion for us."
Fourth round, No. 144 overall: The Red Sox think they might have found a steal in Chris Province, right-handed reliever from Southeastern Louisiana University. "Rugged frame, strong body," said McLeod. "What we really like about Chris is he's an arm strength guy; he's been up to 94. He has late life in the strike zone with sink. He had a very, very high groundball rate this year. We really feel he could come out of the bullpen in a short role and can make for some uncomfortable at-bats at the wood bats of the next level."
Fifth round, No 174 overall: Bill Middlebrooks, a right-handed pitcher and infielder, is a dynamic athlete and was the fourth high schooler in six rounds for Boston on the day. Though he touched 94 mph on the radar gun at Liberty-Eylau (Texas), the Red Sox project him as a position player. That is, unless he opts to fulfill his scholarship at Texas A&M. Middlebrooks was also an All-State punter, which is why he might take the scholarship. And that prospect of going to college also explains why he was still there when the Red Sox picked. Middlebrooks was ranked as the No. 36 overall prospect by Baseball America.
It was a rewarding day for the Red Sox.
"We tried to make an impact in the first five rounds of the Draft, and I think we were able to do that with a college pitcher we really like in Nick being there with our first pick and getting four-upside high school kids in the next five selections," said Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. "Also, Province in the fourth round -- we think he's an undervalued college arm with plus-velocity and plus-sink. We're pretty happy with the results so far. We have a lot of work to do [Friday]."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.