Could Red Sox' Jud Fabian be the steal of the 2021 MLB Draft?

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Tomase: Keep an eye on Jud Fabian, who could be steal of MLB Draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The biggest name the Red Sox landed in the 2021 MLB Draft was of course Marcelo Mayer. The fourth overall pick was widely considered the best player in the draft, and it's a surprise he slipped to No. 4.

Equally shocking in some respects was the player the Red Sox got at No. 40. Florida outfielder Jud Fabian entered the season as a better bet to be chosen in the top five. But a disappointing junior year dropped him out of the first round entirely, and the Red Sox were happy to nab him atop the second.

"He's been such unique talent for so long now, and just having the opportunity to select him I think was obviously a great thing for us," said Red Sox scouting director Paul Toboni. "It's funny how five years of scouting him led to this buildup and, and I think led to a level of comfort for us that was high, and we were just really excited that we had the opportunity to select him."

Related: Check out every Red Sox draft pick here

So what kind of player are they getting?

For one, he's a young junior. Fabian graduated high school a year early in 2019, enrolling immediately at Florida. The early start to his college career made him eligible to play in the Cape Cod League when he should've been a high school senior, and he became the youngest All-Star in the storied league's history at just 18.

He was off to a tremendous start last season before the pandemic struck, ending his season with a .294 average, five home runs, and a 1.010 OPS in just 68 at-bats. That was enough to make the 19-year-old a top draft prospect, with the glove to stick in center field. He looked like a surefire top-10 pick, if not higher.

High risk, high reward

Jud Fabian's career HRs at Florida (132 games)

32

Jud Fabian's career strikeouts at Florida

142

Variation

Double

Then came this season. Fabian struck out twice in his first game and three times in his second and the swings and misses just kept coming. Even after a midseason adjustment to control his leg kick resulted in more reasonable strikeout totals, he still finished with 79 whiffs in 269 plate appearances while hitting .249 with 20 homers.

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While the power was a welcome and expected development for the 6-foot-2, 190-pounder, the swing-and-miss rate caused his draft stock to plummet, making him available to the Red Sox, who have been scouting him since high school.

The question, of course, will be how they attack his regression and unlock the player who looked like he might be the best college hitter in the country.

"It's one of the most challenging things we do when a player might be struggling, figuring out why that player might be struggling, right?" Toboni said. "Oftentimes it's mental, oftentimes it's an approach thing, and oftentimes maybe there are things that we think we can help with the swing or maybe the approach that it can lend with us helping cut down on, for example, strikeouts.

"The more we got around the kid, the more we talked to people close to him, we think there are some things that can help him. We think the way he approaches the game, how he approaches his at-bats and all that, we have confidence that he has a chance to cut down his strikeouts going forward.

"I don't think he's ever going to be a Dustin Pedroia, crazy bat-to-ball guy, right? But I also think he's got a really good shot to get to a good amount of power, play a really impactful center field, and get on base at a high clip."

Add it all up, and he was an easy choice, especially since it didn't take the fourth pick to get him.