A few years removed from bottoming out, the Boston Red Sox farm system is rebounding. No, Boston’s prospect pool isn’t the embarrassment of riches it once was, but there are plenty of players whom fans should be excited about.
Over the next few weeks, NESN.com will profile some of the more noteworthy prospects in the Red Sox system, utilizing insight and analysis from industry experts who know the players best. First up: 2020 first-round draft pick Nick Yorke.
The drafting of Nick Yorke might be the most polarizing move from the 2020 Major League Baseball draft, but that doesn’t mean the Red Sox did something wrong.
In fact, there are plenty of reasons to believe Boston was justified in selecting the 18-year-old infielder.
Yorke, a product of Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, Calif., was taken with the 17th overall pick in the draft. The move was viewed by some industry analysts as a major reach, with many believing Yorke could’ve been available in Round 3, if not later. We’ll get into Boston’s potential rationale a bit later.
So, what does Yorke bring to the table? Where’s he from? What makes — or doesn’t make — him a worthy first-round pick? What were the Red Sox thinking?
Here’s everything you need to know about Nick Yorke:
A Campbell, Calif., native, Yorke earned a reputation as one of the best offensive players in all of high school baseball.
“We had him as one of the best, if not the best prep (school) hitters on the West Coast,” Baseball America executive editor JJ Cooper recently told NESN.com.
It’s easy to understand why. Yorke amassed a .457 average with 77 RBIs in 94 varsity games. He also is viewed by evaluators as a mature, hardworking kid — qualities Yorke sees in himself.
“Personally I felt like I was a first-rounder,” Yorke said after the draft. “I know a lot of rankings and sites didn’t have me there. But personally I’m more of a blue-collar, put-your-head-down, go-to-work kind of guy. I didn’t go out and do all the Perfect Game things guys get ranked on. Wherever I played ball I played my hardest and the Red Sox fortunately saw me at one of those times and the rest is what just happened.”
After two strong years at shortstop, Yorke underwent shoulder surgery that relegated him designated hitter duties as a junior. He had a verbal commitment to Arizona before reportedly signing an under-slot deal with the Red Sox.
Fun fact: His mother, Robyn, was a four-time All-American in softball at Fresno State from 1993-97.
— Nick Yorke (@nickyorke2) April 4, 2020
Yorke was ranked 96th, 165th and 139th by Baseball America, FanGraphs and MLB Pipeline, respectively. He primarily is known for his offense, but has other tools that make him an intriguing prospect, albeit one with plenty to prove.
“Yorke has plus bat speed and a contact-oriented swing that allows you to dream on his hit tool,” Ian Cundall, director of scouting for SoxProspects.com, recently told NESN.com. “How his power develops and where he ends up defensively are question marks, however.”
Paul Toboni, Boston’s director of amateur scouting, compared Yorke to longtime Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis.
“He’s got that rugged, advanced hit tool,” Toboni told reporters after the draft. “When I say rugged, that rugged look about him. He’s a really physical kid and we think he’s going to get to power.”
Yorke primarily played shortstop in high school but was drafted as a second baseman. Concerns over his ability to play shortstop in the majors largely stem from his arm strength and shoulder injury.
Why did the Red Sox draft him?
Well, it depends on who you ask.
MLB stripped the Red Sox of their second-round pick after its investigation into sign-stealing accusations. And, with this year’s draft being shortened to just five rounds, the Red Sox really needed to make the most of their selections — or get creative.
Many experts believe the Red Sox reached for Yorke with the expectation they could sign him to a contract less than what No. 17 picks typically get. The goal, then, would be to overpay with their third-round pick, which they eventually used to draft famed high school slugger Blaze Jordan.
“It clearly is a reach, but I see some of the logic behind it,” Cooper said. ” … You look at the totality of what they did … I would say that when you look at the deal he signs, and then you look at the deal that Blaze Jordan is likely to sign coming out of the third round, I would expect what we’ll see is it’s essentially like they turned a first and third-round pick into a pair of second-rounders, potentially.”
But don’t tell that to Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom.
“This was an unusual spring,” Bloom said after the draft. “ … We love this kid’s bat. We think he has a chance to be a special bat. … We feel if the spring had gotten a chance to play out the public perception of him would be a lot different.”
So, what’s the truth? The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle.
Where he fits
Trying to predict the future of a high school player really is unfair to everyone.
Unfortunately, the Red Sox probably won’t get a good look at Yorke until next year, when we hopefully have something resembling a normal baseball season. Whenever his professional career begins, Yorke must prove he’s a big league-caliber defender, as well as a player who can be a difference-maker on offense. Given all the factors, it’s unlikely we’ll see Yorke at Fenway Park anytime soon, barring a meteoric rise through the minors.
“He’ll likely start as a shortstop early in his career, but long-term projects as a bat-first second baseman,” Cundall said. “He’ll likely slot in somewhere in the 12-18 range in our rankings.”