Sox take speedy Ellsbury with first pick
Three picks later, Boston grabs hard-throwing closer Hansen
ST. LOUIS -- With their first pick (No. 23 overall) in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft on Tuesday, the Red Sox selected Jacoby Ellsbury, a center fielder with striking speed and a penchant for getting on base.
The latter trait is one that the Red Sox organization has prioritized in recent years while the former is one they've seldom been known for.
When you combine Ellsbury's speed, left-handed bat and 6-foot-1, 190-pound build, it's hard not to draw comparisons to Johnny Damon, Boston's stalwart center fielder since the start of the 2002 season. The 21-year-old Ellsbury has excelled during his career as Oregon State's leadoff man.
"Look at what Johnny has done in his career, we wouldn't want to put that kind of pressure on a kid coming into the organization," said Jason McLeod, director of amateur scouting for the Red Sox. "But they have very similar games and style.
"Theo [Epstein] and I were at the University of Washington a couple of weeks ago and we got to watch Jacoby play two games, and then got to watch Johnny the next day because the Red Sox were in Seattle. It's pretty uncanny. They have the same body type, they're both left-handed hitters with speed. They have very similar styles to their game. Jacoby is someone we feel might be able to develop at the Major League level some day like Johnny does now."
Ellsbury is Oregon State's co-captain. He was perfect in the field this season, going errorless in 117 chances. His feats in the field were matched by his offensive prowess. Ellsbury finished the regular season tied for second in the Pac-10 with a .415 batting average and a .504 on-base percentage. His 86 hits set a school record and he holds the Beavers' career record in runs scored.
And yes, he is aware of the Damon comparisons.
"Johnny Damon, he's a great player," said Ellsbury. "Any time you're compared to a player of that caliber, it's a great comparison."
Oregon State is having one of the best seasons in school history and will play the University of Southern California in the NCAA Super Regional on Saturday.
Baseball America rated Ellsbury as the fastest baserunner in the NCAA, clocking him at 6.55 seconds in 60 yards. Ellsbury was one of six selections the Sox had in the first 57 picks.
Three picks later, the Sox selected St. John's closer Craig Hansen, a Long Island native (Glen Cove) who posted 14 saves in 28 appearances this season. The 21-year-old right-hander was widely regarded as one of the elite pitchers in the draft. The Red Sox haven't decided if he will remain a closer, or become a starter. They do know that they've acquired a top-of-the-line arm.
"Hansen is a big power pitcher with a very high ceiling," said McLeod.
A Yankees fan during his youth, Hansen was ecstatic to have a chance to join the other half of Major League Baseball's most storied rivalry.
"It's great staying in the Northeast, especially a team the caliber of the Boston Red Sox, the reigning World Champions," said Hansen. "Watching them when I was growing up, playing the Yankees all the time, and to get to be a part of that is very amazing."
Equally amazing, of course, are the numbers Hansen has posted in recent years. Pitching in the Cape Cod League last summer, he posted a 0.00 ERA, striking out 41 batters and walking just two over 22 innings.
At St. John's in 2005, Hansen had a 1.12 ERA, notching 64 strikeouts over 48 innings.
He was projected as a top 10 pick by Baseball America and one reason he might have slipped is because he is represented by Scott Boras and certain teams perceived that there could be some signability issues.
"Some teams were somewhat scared off by Scott," said McLeod. "He was the highest rated kid we had on the board at that pick. We wanted to acquire that talent. That's why we selected him."
Hansen sounded like someone who planned on being property of the Red Sox in a timely fashion.
Position: OF B/T: L/L
H: 6'1" W: 185
Medium frame. Live, lean, athletic build. Pure athletic. Leadoff CF profile w/ impact speed both ways. Contact hitter w/ a level, compact swing. Uses the whole field. Gap to gap power.
Hansen is a classic power pitcher, consistently touching the mid 90s and throwing a slider that generally resides in the mid to upper 80s.
There have been plenty of expert opinions that say Hansen is close to Major League ready. He'll try to put that out of his mind for now.
"The only thing I can do is go out there and pitch," Hansen said. "Keep on doing what I'm doing. It's all up to [the Red Sox], where they want me to go and how quickly they want me to do it."
As for Ellsbury, he had a most eventful day on Monday. Aside from being drafted and preparing for this weekend's big game, he took one final (computer science) and was preparing for another (public health).
But the chaos was replaced by elation.
"It was an awesome feeling when Boston signed me," said Ellsbury.
The feeling was mutual.
"Jacoby was a kid we really liked from the get-go," McLeod said. "We were hoping that he would be there for us."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.