In signing North Carolina righthander Daniel Bard on Monday, the Red Sox took a positive step in securing a potential fixture of their future pitching staff.
Baseball America ranked the 21-year-old pitcher as the No. 13 pitching prospect, and the No. 15 overall prospect, in this year's draft. The Sox obtained the pick as compensation for losing center fielder Johnny Damon to the Yankees via free agency.
Bard was the 28th overall pick in the draft, and the Sox second overall pick (high school outfielder Jason Place was chosen at No. 27). No terms were announced, but Bard implied, during a conference call, that the Sox gave him a bigger signing bonus than the $1 million or so that had been slotted for the No. 28 spot.
There had been a concern that the Sox and the young hurler wouldn't come to an agreement. Had he attended classes last week at North Carolina, the Sox would have lost all negotiating rights, and Bard would have gone back into next year's draft. Originally drafted in the 20th round by the New York Yankees in 2003, Bard had already shown a willingness to turn down a Major League offer in favor of returning to North Carolina. But fortunately a repeat of that scenario did not take place and the good news is that Bard will report to the Florida Instructional League in Fort Myers on September 18.
Bard went 3-3 for the Wareham Gatemen of the Cape Cod League in 2005, recording an impressive 82 strikeouts in just 65 innings of work. As a result, he led the league in strikeouts and ranked third with a 1.25 ERA. Bard's gaudy stats impressed scouts and made him a highly touted, and much-sought-after, prospect.
After going 8-3 with a 3.47 ERA this season, Bard gained big game experience by pitching the Tar Heels into the finals of the 2006 College World Series in Omaha. He earned two playoff victories en route to the CWS Finals versus Oregon State. "I guess I kind of thrive in that situation. It's added pressure, but it's really just all fun," said Bard. However, his hot streak ran out when he lost the third and deciding game of the Championship Series, allowing six hits and three runs (1 ER) in 7 2/3 innings in a 3-2 defeat.
The 6-foot-4, 200-pound pitcher, who touches 97 mph on the gun, will join the Sox trio of young power arms led by Josh Beckett, Jonathan Papelbon and Craig Hansen.
While he won't likely help the rotation for at least another 2-3 years, his signing is a positive step for a Red Sox farm system that has sought to groom its own big league talent. If he develops as expected, Bard could impact the Sox rotation for years to come at a relatively low cost.
Copyright © 2006 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.