BOSTON – Theo Epstein rarely shows emotion, but a hint of excitement comes out when he talks these days.
Must be draft time.
And in this year’s major league draft that begins Monday, Epstein has reason to be thrilled. The Red Sox hold four of the first 40 picks.
“Always a great feeling to have extra picks,” he said this past week at Fenway Park. “I think we have the third-most picks among the top 40.
“We feel good about where we are. We’d rather have 11 picks that high, but four isn’t bad.”
The reference to 11 is the number of picks the Tampa Bay Rays have in the first and sandwich rounds.
Teams collect extra picks when they lose top free agents to other teams, getting the signing team’s first-round pick plus a “sandwich” pick between the first and second round.
Boston lost its first-round pick (24th overall) to Tampa Bay because the Red Sox signed Carl Crawford.
But the Red Sox picked up two first-round picks (Nos. 19 and 26) from Detroit and Texas, respectively, for their signings of Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre, along with two sandwich picks (Nos. 36 and 40).
“You know when you rank the first 40 guys, you’re getting four of them,” Epstein said. “Now we have to do our job.”
Boston has had a group of top picks before with mixed results.
The benchmark year was 2005 with five of the first 47 picks — Jacoby Ellsbury, Craig Hansen, Jed Lowrie, Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden. Only Hansen did not work out. The jury is still out on Bowden.
“Hansen was definitely rushed,” said Epstein, calling it “failed development. We make mistakes that we learn from. You learn there are no shortcuts.”
In 2006, Boston had four of the first 43 picks — Jason Place, Daniel Bard, Kris Johnson and Caleb Clay. Bard is a success, but Place and Johnson were released this year. Clay is struggling in Double-A.
Last year, Boston had four of the top 57 picks:
Kolbrin Vitek is batting .280 in advanced Class A Salem; outfielder Bryce Brentz and pitcher Anthony Ranaudo were recently promoted to Salem; and right-hander Brandon Workman has been up and down with Class A Greenville (3.63 ERA).
This year’s draft has been called deep according to some experts, including Baseball America. Amiel Sawdaye, the Red Sox director of amateur scouting, called it a “pretty good draft. Nothing historical, but a pretty good draft.
“We see most of the depth in college pitching.”
So who are the Sox after?
Here are six college pitchers who might be around when Boston begins its picks:
Sonny Gray (right-hander), Vanderbilt; Matt Barnes (R), Connecticut; Jed Bradley (L), Georgia Tech; Alex Meyer (R), Kentucky; Tyler Anderson (L), Oregon; and Josh Osich (L), Oregon State.
Barnes is one of the few college pitchers in Boston’s backyard, and Meyer was a Red Sox draft pick out of high school (20th round, 2008) who opted for college.
Among everyday players who might grab Boston’s interest are two college outfielders (George Springer of Connecticut and Mikie Mahtook of Louisiana State) and three high school standouts — catcher Austin Hedges of San Juan Capistrano, Calif.; shortstop Trevor Story of Irving, Texas; and outfielder Josh Bell of Dallas.
The first round and sandwich round will be held Monday, beginning at 7 p.m.
Rounds 2 through 30 are Tuesday, and 31 through 50 on Wednesday.
Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: