The baseball draft is rarely at the forefront of anyone's mind, but this is the year to make an exception if you're a Red Sox fan.
For only the fourth time in franchise history, the team has landed a top-five pick. The Red Sox will draft fourth overall, giving them access to a caliber of prospect that's typically beyond their reach.
And while various players were cited as potential picks when the draft order was officially set last fall -- Vanderbilt right-handers Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter, high school third baseman Brady House, Miami catcher Adrian Del Castillo -- another prospect has emerged who's worthy of your attention.
Dallas area high school shortstop Jordan Lawlar has zoomed up the various draft boards and may not even be available when the Red Sox pick. Keith Law at The Athletic recently placed him No. 2 behind Leiter. MLB Pipeline put him in the same spot, trailing only Rocker.
A senior at Jesuit College Prep in Dallas, Lawlar has drawn comparisons to another shortstop from the area who ended up being taken at the top of the draft. Bobby Witt Jr. -- the son of the Canton native who spent 16 years in the big leagues -- was taken second overall by the Royals in 2019 and is now one of the top 10 prospects in baseball.
Lawlar compares favorably. From Law's rankings:
"Lawlar is, if anything, a better overall athlete with better pure tools than Witt Jr., but lacks the baseball skills that the latter had in his draft year. He's a plus runner with bat speed and a quiet approach, and projects to stay at shortstop with the chance to become a plus defender with more consistency on routine plays."
MLB Pipeline, meanwhile, labels Lawlar a five-tool shortstop with a potential 60 hit tool (on the 20-80 scouting scale) and makes the following evaluation:
"He's a more polished hitter than Witt was at the same stage, using a quick, compact right-handed swing and a mature, patient approach. He focuses on driving balls to the gaps and has a knack for inside-outing balls to right field. With his bat speed and the projectable strength in his 6-2 frame, he should develop solid power once he adds strength and starts turning on more pitches."
Whether the Red Sox even have the opportunity to select him remains to be seen. The Pirates pick first and are expected to take a pitcher, while Lawlar's hometown Rangers own the second pick and may not let him get away. Detroit selects third.
At this point in the process, Leiter and Rocker remain the best bets to go No. 1 overall, and after a year without a Cape League or the typical array of high school showcases, teams atop the draft may opt for the safer choices of college pitchers with a track record.
Both Rocker and Leiter are 2-0 with 0.00 ERAs in the early going for Vanderbilt, and LSU right-hander Jaden Hill could also muscle his way into the top five if he proves he's healthy following an elbow injury that cost him most of the 2019 season.
With the Red Sox looking to undertake a rebuild that pays off in the long-term, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom isn't going to close any doors, and the 18-year-old Lawlar might just be the best overall prospect in the draft, even if he doesn't reach the majors until 2025.
A lot can happen between now and the draft in July, but it's worth filing Lawlar's name away.