Before the start of the 2022 season, NESN.com is evaluating several noteworthy prospects in the Boston Red Sox organization, using insight and analysis from industry experts to gauge each player’s outlook for the upcoming campaign. Next up: 2020 first-round pick Nick Yorke.
Nick Yorke is going places.
By all indications, the second base prospect has all the tools to be a special player for the Red Sox. Every challenge Yorke has taken on in the early going has been met with better and better play.
Yorke, 19, still has a ways to go until he reaches the majors. but it’s hard to not get excited about what he can be when he makes it to the bigs.
Here’s everything you need to know about Yorke, who is watching his budding potential skyrocket every time he touches the diamond.
When Yorke was selected by the Red Sox 17th overall in the 2020 Major League Baseball Draft, multiple outlets viewed it as a reach for a guy who was expected to be taken a couple of rounds later. Since the draft, Yorke has continuously shown why he was worth taking at that spot.
A product of Archbishop Mitty High School in California, Yorke was forced to be a designated hitter his entire junior year following shoulder surgery. His athletic background comes from his mother, Robyn, who was a four-time all-American softball player in her days at Fresno State. Yorke credits his mother for helping him become the hitter he is.
The second baseman only has one season of minor league baseball under his belt, but if it’s any indication, he’s going to be a great hitter.
When talking about Yorke, it starts and ends with his work at the plate. He’s going to be a pain for opposing pitchers for many years.
“Yorke is kind of undersized, relative being the term, (as a) 6-foot, 200-pound-already 19-year-old,” Ian Cundall, director of scouting for SoxProspects.com, told NESN.com last week. “That’s kind of a weird body type to see, because he’s very strong, he’s pretty physical already, but he just hits. He’s got a great approach. Like yesterday, he had a 12-pitch at-bat in a spring training game. No one wants to have a 12-pitch at-bat in a spring training game. But he’s not going to strike out. He’s going up there, he’s going to make contact, he’s got great plate coverage, a really nice swing, uses all fields.”
The ability to annoy pitchers without striking out is a trait almost forgotten in modern baseball, but it’s one that makes Yorke special.
“He’ll take what the pitchers give him and he hits a lot of hard contact, a lot of hard line drives,” Cundall said. “I think that was the thing that impressed me the most, was just his ability at such a young age to impact the baseball. I saw him turn on 97 (mph) up at the letters last year for a home run, and that’s something that you just don’t see teenagers do that very often.”
Squaring up major league speeds is no easy task for the best players in MLB, let alone a teenager. The fact Yorke is doing it and not only getting hits but driving the baseball over the fence highlights what type of potential he has with the bat.
On the defensive side, Yorke seems to be more of a trial at second base, with the hope he can develop into an average fielder over time.
When asked about Yorke potentially moving away from the position, Cundall noted left field could be a place for him to fit if it doesn’t work out at second.
“I think with him, it would probably be left field,” Cundall said. “His arm isn’t great, which is understandable given that he’s had some shoulder issues in the past. If you’re not at second base, you’re probably going out to the outfield, which would be left field for him. But as I said, I thought he looked pretty good at second base today. The one thing I noticed last year was that I thought he was a little stiff, a little robotic. But this year he looks a little more fluid, I thought his actions were better.”
At Yorke’s age, the question of where he fits on defense has plenty of time to be solved. Seeing the improvements in only a couple of months from last season to spring training is a good sign he can make second base his home moving forward.
Most-likely outcome: Everyday second baseman.
Would Red Sox fans like to see him become the next Dustin Pedroia for years to come at second base? Of course. But tempering expectations often leads to the more-likely scenario. Yorke has a chance to be great, but if he were to settle in as an average, everyday second baseman, it is a job well done for his baseball career.
“There are definitely going to be some growing pains, I think,” Cundall said, “because obviously he’s so young (and) he’s going to be in (Single-A) Greenville, probably, to start the year. He’s got to hit, because he’s not going to add as much defensive value.
“He’s kind of like (Triston) Casas in that regard. You’ve got to hit when you’ve got that defensive profile. But even if he only ends up an average second baseman, his hit tool, he’s someone you can dream on being an over-.300 hitter in his career. That’s the type of profile you’re talking about, it’s a plus hit tool. And he’s got some sneaky pop for his size.”
If a player can excel at the plate, there’s always a long-term spot for them. Yorke already has shown the tools to be, at the least, a capable hitter when he’s ready. Doing it every day, and fitting into a position where elite offensive production usually isn’t expected, makes Yorke as exciting as any player in the Red Sox system.
Best-case scenario: All-Star second baseman.
Speaking of Pedroia, it’s not crazy to think the former Red Sox star could be Yorke’s best-case scenario in his major league playing days.
Being a Gold Glove-caliber player isn’t necessarily in the cards as of this writing for Yorke, but being an elite-hitting second baseman certainly could be.
“He’s someone who — the raw power grades aren’t great, but it’s above average,” Cundall said. “We’re not talking like Casas power. But he’s someone that I think, because of how hard he hits the baseball, and his combination of work ethic and just how he strives to be better, that he might end up outplaying his grades with power. Right now, you think maybe like 15-20 home runs. But if he’s a .300 hitter with 15-20 home runs, that’s an insane return. That’s a borderline All-Star.”
SoxProspects ranking: No. 3
Yorke ranks behind only first baseman Triston Casas and shortstop Marcelo Mayer. And those two are considered top-20 prospects across baseball. Not bad company to be in.
“He’s someone who definitely is very exciting,” Cundall said. “And that trio alone just shows something (the Red Sox) were lacking three, four years ago — is they had some decent depth, they just lacked that star power. Now they’ve really done a great job over the last couple of years of drafting that talent and building up this elite talent pool at the top of the system with three guys who I think the lowest-ranked on any of the (national) lists are, what, around like the 50s? And a lot of them have them inside the top 25-30, all three of them. It’s a really exciting group.”
Yorke still is a ways away from joining the Red Sox and performing under the bright lights of Fenway Park, but he’s probably closer than you think.
SoxProspects.com projects his arrival to The Show in 2024. MLB Pipeline believes it could be as soon as the 2023 season at his current rate. Either way, Yorke probably is going to be in Boston sooner than anyone probably realizes, and when he arrives, he could knock the ball all around the park.