(Update: Amiel Sawdaye was named the new director of amateur scouting on Jan. 6, replacing the departed Jason McLeod.)
Theo Epstein tends to get the credit for the way the Red Sox have infused a roster once populated with retreads and underachievers with impact young talent from within his organization.
More of the credit, though, should go to scouting director Jason McLeod, the executive who had overseen five June drafts -- as far as we can tell so far, all five of them productive -- before his departure for San Diego in early December.
In the three seasons before McLeod became amateur scouting director under Epstein -- including the two seasons in which he was working in various capacities in San Diego -- the Red Sox drafted just three impact major-league players. In just the first two seasons under McLeod, however, the Red Sox drafted Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz, Jed Lowrie, Daniel Bard, Justin Masterson and a slew of highly touted players still working their way through the system.
The next scouting director will have the benefit of a smorgasbord of draft picks: A first-rounder, two supplemental first-rounders and an early second-rounder, all likely to fall within the top 50 overall.
In case you're worried that the Red Sox might miss out on such an opportunity as they're transitioning from McLeod to his successor, though, it's worth looking back at the team's previous three scouting directors and their drafts -- and the way that all three actually had the most success in the draft in their first years at the helm:
* Wayne Britton drafted Trot Nixon and Jeff Suppan in 1993;
* David Chadd drafted Jon Lester in 2002;
* McLeod drafted Jacoby Ellsbury and Clay Buchholz in 2005.
A closer look follows.
(Thanks to SoxProspects.com for making the legwork easy. There is no more comprehensive or easily navigated team-specific prospects site out there. Baseball-Reference.com's easily searched draft database likewise deserves a tip of the cap.)
Wayne Britton (1993-2001)
Best draft: 1993
Highlights: Trot Nixon (1), Jeff Suppan (2), Lou Merloni (10)
True, the Red Sox passed on Billy Wagner, Derrek Lee, Chris Carpenter, Torii Hunter and even Jason Varitek to select Nixon. So, too, though, did plenty of other teams -- including the Royals (Jeff Granger), Giants (Steve Soderstrom), Mets (Kirk Presley) and Tigers (Matt Brunson), among more than a few others. Suppan easily is the second-best player to emerge from the second round of that draft behind only Scott Rolen. All in all, coming out of the first two rounds with two impact major-league players is something of which a scouting director can be proud.
Worst draft: 1995-97
Major-leaguers: 7, 9 and 9, respectively
Highlights: Shea Hillenbrand (10), David Eckstein (19), Pat Burrell (43, was ticketed to play third base for Miami and did not sign)
Three straight years of disastrous drafts set the table for the misery that was the 2001 season for the Red Sox. First-rounders Andy Yount, Josh Garrett and John Curtice all flopped. Supplemental first-rounders Corey Jenkins, Chris Reitsma and Mark Fischer weren't any better. Curtice and Reitsma were traded to Cincinnati in 2000 for Dante Bichette. Only Reitsma ever made it to the major leagues, compiling a 4.70 ERA in 609 career innings pitched.
Average major-leaguer output: 8.1
In 2001, Britton's final season in charge of a draft, he yielded just four players who eventually would reach the major leagues. Two of them, however, were catcher Kelly Shoppach and All-Star infielder Kevin Youkilis.
David Chadd (2002-04)
Best draft: 2002
Highlights: Jon Lester (2), Brandon Moss (8), Ricky Romero (37), Brian Bannister (45)
Chadd hit a home run with the first pick he ever made as Red Sox scouting director, landing a lefty who has developed into one of the elite pitchers in the major leaguers. He also gets a little bit of credit for seeing something in Romero, a first-round pick out of Cal State-Fullerton three years later, and Bannister, a seventh-round pick out of the Mets out of Southern Cal the very next year.
Worst draft: 2004
Highlights: Dustin Pedroia (2)
Had the Red Sox not mishandled Cla Meredith, he, too, might have ended up on the list alongside Pedroia. Besides that, though, the pickings get slim. Third-rounder Andrew Dobies was a 26-year-old at Double-A last season, and fourth-rounder Tommy Hottovy was at the same level at age 27. Michael Rozier commanded a $1.5 million signing bonus to pry him away from a football scholarship to North Carolina but was released last March because his ERA had started to look like a touchdown.
Average major-leaguer output: 4.7
Lester, Pedroia and Jonathan Papelbon all are All-Stars, but there's a precipitous drop-off in impact after that. The next-best player the Red Sox drafted under Chadd either is Brandon Moss or David Murphy, and neither of those two outfielders is a starter on a decent team.
Jason McLeod (2005-2009)
Best draft: 2005
Highlights: Jacoby Ellsbury (1), Clay Buchholz (1s), Jed Lowrie (1s)
Like the two scouting directors who preceded him, McLeod appears to have hit a home run with his first pick: Ellsbury already is a fan favorite and established as the leadoff hitter in the Red Sox lineup. Buchholz looks to be on the verge of joining Lester as a home-grown ace. Catcher Mark Wagner, a ninth-rounder in this same draft, still is making his way through the system.
(The 2006 might just challenge this draft before long: Daniel Bard, Justin Masterson, Aaron Bates, Dustin Richardson, Ryan Kalish, Josh Reddick and Lars Anderson all came on board that year, and Matt LaPorta was drafted out of Florida but did not sign.)
Worst draft: 2007
Major-leaguers: Too early to tell
Highlights: Nick Hagadone (1s), Anthony Rizzo (6)
It's harsh even to use the word "worst," but one has to rank at the bottom of the list. It's far too early to judge a draft that's just two seasons old, but it's telling that some of the top picks in that draft have been leapfrogged by the top picks from the draft a season later. Rizzo was the No. 8 prospect on Baseball America's most recent list, but the next-most promising prospect from that class appears to be infielder Will Middlebrooks, a fifth-round selection who hit 25 doubles with a .349 on-base percentage at Single-A Greenville last season.
(Hagadone might yet be a dominant closer in the major leagues, but he was traded to Cleveland in the Victor Martinez deal last July. The lefty had a 2.80 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 45 minor-league innings last season.)
Average major-leaguer output: 6
(That figure includes only 2005 and 2006. No Red Sox draftees from 2007 are in the major leagues yet. Then again, only a handful of players from the entire 2007 draft have made it to the major leagues: David Price, Matt Wieters, Rick Porcello, Jordan Zimmermann and a handful of others who have had cups of coffee.)
McLeod's drafts put Chadd's drafts to shame. Not once in his three seasons did Chadd accumulate a draft that send more than five players to the major leagues -- something McLeod already has done with both his 2005 and 2006 drafts.
Think about that: Only three years out, the Red Sox already have six players from their 2006 draft class who have played in the major leagues. That doesn't even include Anderson or Kalish, who figure to make the leap either in 2010 or 2011.