Major League Baseball formally released the draft order for this June’s draft this afternoon. The Pittsburgh Pirates have the first pick overall, followed by the Seattle Mariners, Arizona Diamondbacks, Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals.

The Boston Red Sox will have four of the first 40 picks in the draft. The organization lost its own first-round pick— No. 24 overall— as compensation to the Tampa Bay Rays for signing LF Carl Crawford… but the club garnered two first-round picks as compensation for losing its own free agents— No. 19 (from Detroit, for Victor Martinez) and No. 26 (from Texas, for Adrian Beltre).

The Sox then have two more picks in the supplemental round that follows the first round—awarded as additional compensation for the club losing Martinez and Beltre. They will receive pick 36 (for losing V-Mart) and pick 40 (for losing Beltre). They will then make the No. 81 overall selection (Round 2), the No. 111 overall selection (Round 3), and the 21st pick in each succeeding round: No. 142, No. 172, No. 202, etc.

This is the third time GM Theo Epstein and his staff have had a bevy of early picks in the First Year Player draft, but this could be a year in which the organization could load up, as this year’s draft is considered to be (potentially) one of the best in recent memory.

It is also the last draft that will be conducted under the rules set forth in the current collective-bargaining agreement…those rules have given big market teams like the Red Sox and New York Yankees a decided advantage in dealing with “tough signs” (as they’ve been able to throw money around in above-slot signing bonuses). It is expected those rules will be changed in the next CBA…so this will be a good time for the Red Sox to throw some spaghetti against the wall and see what happens.

They did that last year, and benefitted greatly from rolling the dice. The front office took a chance on several players whose place in the draft fell for various reasons—health issues, signability, etc.

After first-round pick Kolbrin Vitek, each of their next five picks were, to varying degrees, a roll of the dice. They signed every one of them and, in so doing, have loaded the farm system with an extraordinary amount of talent that most teams could not afford.

Both slugger Bryce Brentz (picked 36th overall) and RHP Anthony Ranaudo (picked 39th) were considered to be top five talents when the 2010 college season began, but injuries hampered both of their performance and they slid to the Red Sox in the supplemental round. Both are potential high-impact players, with Ranaudo (my choice as top prospect in the minor league system) a possible ace-in-the-making.

After those two players, the Sox took a chance on RHP Brandon Workman (Round 2), 2B Sean Coyle (Round 3) and 3B Garin Cecchini (Round 4).

The 2010 draft has the potential to be as productive as the ’05 class, when the club had five of the first 50 picks. It was a draft that has already produced CF Jacoby Ellsbury (Round 1), RHP Clay Buchholz (supplemental) and INF Jed Lowrie (supplemental) with RHP Michael Bowden (supplemental) still waiting in the wings for his chance to join the pitching staff on a permanent basis.

As for the 2011 draft, it could be even better—as Theo and Company have never had four of the first 40 selections in the draft (last year they had three of the first 39) and this year’s crop of prospects will likely be better than either ’05 or ’10.

As for the other teams in baseball, division-rival Tampa Bay has three picks in the first round and a total of 10 picks in the first 60 selections. The abundance of picks is the result of the Rays losing a bevy of Type A and Type B free agents this winter (Crawford, Rafael Soriano, Joaquin Benoit, Grant Balfour, Brad Hawpe).

The first round will have 33 picks, rather than the customary 30, because three teams—Arizona, San Diego and Milwaukee—failed to sign first-round picks last year, so they will get an additional first-round pick this year to make up for effectively losing a pick last year.

The granting of ‘make-up picks’ was instituted by MLB to give teams some additional leverage when dealing with a draftee who plays hard ball at the bargaining table. The picks are awarded to approximate the point in the prior year’s draft where the unsigned player was selected, so the D-backs will receive pick No. 7, the San Diego Padres will get No. 10 and the Milwaukee Brewers have been awarded No. 15.

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