The early stages of this year's draft couldn't shape up any differently for the Sox this year than it did in 2004, when they had to wait until pick No. 65 to make diminutive middle infielder Dustin Pedroia their first selection.
This time around, the Sox have a whopping six of the first 59 picks in the draft.
That's what happens when you lose Type A free agents such as Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe and Orlando Cabrera.
"Obviously we're in a position to do some good things," said Jason McLeod, the director of amateur scouting for the Red Sox. "Hopefully we'll be able to put some better prospects in the system and help the organization in years to come. We've all been busting our tails out there, criss-crossing the country. [General manager] Theo [Epstein] has been out quite a bit. It's been a nice group process. We're definitely excited about it. You'd rather have six than one."
While the Sox were at the mercy of others during the early stages of the '04 Draft, they will have the ability to make things happen this time.
With picks at 23, 26, 42, 45, 47 and 59, the cell phones of Epstein and McLeod will be burning at Red Sox headquarters.
"It gives us the ability to be a little more aggressive with our picks," McLeod said. "Last year we didn't select until 65, so you're kind of limiting what's going to be available to you. And then, when you've only got one, and they're down that deep, you're hoping to get a good ballplayer. And obviously sitting here a year later, Dustin has gone out and done very well and we're all happy with that."
How will Boston's strategy change with so many picks so early?
"In a draft like this year when we do have all those picks, our strategy I would say doesn't change," said McLeod. "We're still going to go out and scout all the players and do all the background work and everything that you normally do. It just gives us an opportunity to be aggressive with guys that we normally wouldn't."
The talent pool of this year's crop seems to favor the position players.
"From what I've seen, the draft doesn't have the depth of pitching that we saw last year, specifically left-handed pitching," McLeod said. "I would suspect that teams that do have interest in left-handers, those guys are probably going to be pushed up a little higher than maybe they would normally go."
One dynamic that makes the Red Sox different from some other teams is Epstein's hands-on dedication to the draft.
"I think some people might have thought Theo was just saying it just to say it at his press conference when he first was hired and said he wanted to build a scouting and player development machine," said McLeod. "He really believed that and cared about it tremendously. When we worked in San Diego together, he was always dedicated to the scouting and player development and when he went into the front office, I know he always kept up his communication with the scouts, both professional and amateur.
"He cares about it, he's the GM, he needs to know what is going on. I just think with Theo, it's something that is close and dear to him. He likes to stay on top of things. He's a bright guy, obviously very intelligent. We're making a lot of investments this year. The ownership is giving us a lot of resources to go out and get these players. Theo just wants to look at them as well."
While fans and media don't discuss the draft all that much until the weeks leading up to it, things are far different within the walls of baseball operations on Yawkey Way.
"Scouting, it's a 12-month-a-year job," said McLeod. "Some people probably don't realize that. From the area scouts on up to my job, and even [assistant GM] Josh [Byrnes] and Theo, because they're constantly paying attention, your scouting cycle really starts in the summer. So we'll get through this draft and come June 9, when the draft is over, that's when preparation for the 2006 draft begins."
But before jumping ahead, here is a look back at how Boston's last three first overall picks are faring.
Dustin Pedroia, 2B, 2004, pick #65: Because of his build and intangibles, a lot of people have compared Pedroia to David Eckstein. However, Pedroia is already making a name for himself. After being converted from his natural position of shortstop, Pedroia is rocketing through the system and is starting at second base for Double-A Portland. In fact, Pedroia is among the leaders in several offensive categories in the Eastern League. The Red Sox love his work ethic.
David Murphy, OF, 2003, pick #17: The left-handed hitter out of Baylor University hasn't developed as quickly as the Sox projected. He was set back by injuries last year, and is struggling to find his stroke at Double-A Portland. Through 34 games, Murphy was hitting .231 with one homer, 14 RBIs and an on-base percentage of .295.
Jon Lester, LHP, 2002, pick #57: Considering he went right from high school to professional baseball, the left-handed starter is progressing nicely. Lester is in the rotation for Double-A Portland. After his first eight starts, he was 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA, holding opponents to .255 average and striking out 45 batters in 45 1/3 innings.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.