Risky business for Boston with catcher pick
High schooler Swihart, taken 26th overall, has scholarship offer
BOSTON -- With two picks in the first round, the Red Sox were able to take some risk in their latter selection, grabbing high school catcher Blake Swihart out of Rio Rancho, N.M., on Monday in the First-Year Player Draft.
That pick was No. 26 overall, seven picks after Boston grabbed University of Connecticut righty Matt Barnes.
While Swihart was widely regarded as the top offensive catcher taken in the Draft -- and the first catcher taken -- he has a full scholarship offer to the University of Texas, his dream school.
"I'm so dedicated to Texas," Swihart said in a conference call with media members Tuesday. "I love the atmosphere out there, so if I do end up signing, it will probably be at the end [of the signing period], just because I'm so dedicated to Texas.
"I've always wanted to go there. That's Plan A right now. But I'm going to keep an open mind with everything."
Despite Swihart's dedication to heading back to Texas, where he spent part of his childhood, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein expressed confidence that the team would sign the switch-hitter prior to the Aug.15 deadline.
"We always feel like the more we get to know the player, the more we get to present what the Boston Red Sox are all about, and the better chance we have of signing these guys," Epstein said. "That's the whole point."
Swihart is 19 years old and is six-feet, 175 pounds. He didn't start catching until his sophomore year in high school. His coach had advised that it would make Swihart a more attractive player.
"I can actually play any position -- every position feels natural," he said. "Catcher, I actually feel pretty good at right now. I worked a lot on my arm slot, a lot on my quickness on my feet. If I keep working, I think I can develop a lot more there."
While scouts from other clubs have told Swihart he could make a better option at the corner outfield, and even at third or second base, Epstein said the Red Sox see him as a backstop.
"We definitely like him as a catcher," Epstein said. "He's only been catching for about a year, but we were impressed with the way he caught. He's athletic enough to really succeed back there, but also athletic and versatile enough to play a number of different positions. So we'll send him out as a catcher with the strong conviction that he can stay back there."
If Swihart does end up following his dream of becoming a Longhorn, he said he'll catch about 75 percent of the time. He'll play other positions to stay in the lineup.
"Going out to New Mexico this year, he played mostly doubleheaders," said Red Sox director of amateur scouting Amiel Sawdaye. "He'd catch one game, play the field the next. We got a really good chance to see him behind the plate, but also to see his athleticism in the field, so he's a guy that we were really excited to get because the tool set and athleticism really fit behind the plate."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. Jason Mastrodonato is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.