With their first pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, the Boston Red Sox selected Jose Iglesi….err, Deven Marrero, a shortstop out of Arizona State. This is the third straight draft (Kolbrin Vitek in 2010, Matt Barnes in 2011) that Boston has selected a college player with their first pick. Marrero also is from the same school as Dustin Pedroia, so the Sox are certainly hoping for the same outcome.
As a Red Sox fan, this pick took me by tremendous surprise for a few reasons: first and foremost, with the updated slotting system, Marrero wasn’t the super high-ceiling type that I expected in light of the fact that the Red Sox probably couldn’t simply pay whatever they wanted to later round picks, as they have previously with players like Lars Anderson, Ryan Westmoreland, Peter Hissey and David Renfroe. Secondly, Marrero’s middle-of-the-road projection has him as a very similar player to Jose Iglesias, who is already in AAA. I’m not saying you shouldn’t draft the best player on your board, but Iglesias’ current skillset seems so similar to Marrero that it caught me by surprise.
The clear explanation is that the Red Sox see more in Marrero’s bat than he’s shown recently.
Marrero has been on scouts’ radars for years. He ranked 123rd on Baseball America’s 2009 top 200, where they most notably said that his present hitting ability lagged considerably behind his glove. His brother, Chris Marrero, was a second round draft pick of the Washington Nationals in 2008. He played on the same high school team as J.C. Sulbaran, Eric Hosmer, Nick Castellanos and Adrien Nieto.
Much like his 2009 scouting report, Marrero’s 2012 scouting report (14th on Baseball America’s 2012 top 500) leads with the quality of his glove. He is a no-doubt, sure-fire plus defensive shortstop, with great actions, a solid arm and terrific range. Unfortunately, the biggest question still remains too, and that centers around his bat. He’s got potential plus speed, and solid-average raw power to go with his defensive tools, but he has not hit consistently. There have also been questions about his attitude this year, which likely was the nail in the coffin as far as spiraling to 24th is concerned.
Marrero has showed strong statistically in the Cape Cod League (ranking #1 overall on BA’s 2011 edition) but that hasn’t always translated to the NCAA level. With the exception of an improving strikeout-to-walk ratio (17 walks to 16 strikeouts), Marrero had his worst season as a Sun Devil in 2011, posting a .772 OPS, down from .799 in 2011 and 1.070 in 2010 (I have to imagine if it were allowed and he came out after 2010, he’d have been a top 5 pick). The Red Sox clearly think he can get back to somewhere near 2010 performance (bat change caveat withstanding, of course!), and will have to work to unlock that.
Marrero is such a polarizing prospect; depending on who you talk to, Marrero is a low-ceiling, glove-only shortstop that really isn’t first round pick value, or he’s a guy who is an improved hit tool away from being an elite type. While he’s advanced in terms of competition, I think the Red Sox will want to give him an opportunity to build confidence and take to coaching with a low-level assignment. I somewhat expect him to join the short-season Lowell Spinners once he signs, both because the Red Sox have done this in the past and because it will give him an opportunity to focus on improving his hitting mechanics at a low-level.
At his peak-level, Marrero has an all-star ceiling because his glove is so good. If he can hit .270 with average power, he’ll be super valuable. Even his middle-level projection would suggest a league-average shortstop, so there’s plenty to hope for here. At the very least, his glove should allow him to be a utility infielder if the bat fails to come around.
With the exception of how similar he feels to Jose Iglesias (and lets be clear, Marrero has better offensive projection), I like the Marrero selection because he’s a high-floor, high-ceiling type, which is extremely hard to find, particularly as late in the first round as the Sox picked. As I mentioned earlier, he’s a high-floor type because he should make the majors on the coattails of his glove; he’s a high-ceiling type because if the Sox can figure out how to get him to his former hot hitting ways, he’s got elite potential. Chances are pretty decent that Marrero will sign for slot, so I think it’s a very smart selection. I was just really surprised that Boston made it given their current roster construction.
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