From maligned first rounder to top 50 prospect in the blink of an eye.
The way the farm system for the Boston Red Sox seems to be shaping up in the (hopefully short) time before players begin reporting to camp, it would appear as though there is a clear top three. Triston Casas and Marcelo Mayer are the top two, and while the vote for our list wasn’t that close there isn’t much consensus on who is above the other. The other is Nick Yorke, who feels pretty locked in as that number three prospect. That was certainly reflected in our latest vote for our community top 20 prospect list, with Yorke destroying his competition and grabbing a whopping 86 percent of the vote.
In hindsight, it feels like Yorke was in danger of falling victim to the pandemic in a way perhaps many prospects were not. Obviously everyone was affected in some way, and specifically amateur players looking to make a mark on draft day. But when the Red Sox grabbed Yorke with their first pick in the 2020 draft, it came as a total shock. He was not ranked anywhere near that range on most of the public lists, so no one anticipated Boston going that route. However, after he was picked we started hearing more and more stories from scouts saying that if he had a normal spring with game action, he would have gotten a lot more buzz and likely would have moved up into that range in the public sphere.
Granted, we always have to take those kinds of sentiments with a grain of salt, much in the same way we should be skeptical when a player performs surprisingly well and suddenly every GM leaks that they had said player next on their draft board the year he was picked. With Yorke, those accolades were nice, but given some perhaps higher ceiling talent left on the board (at least given our thinking at the time), we were going to have to see some results before we really started buying in. And to his credit, while he couldn’t make his real professional debut in that 2020 draft year, Yorke did impress in his short time spent at the Alternate Site, and did so again in spring training.
But again, those are not real game action environments, and you can only glean so much about a player in those spots. Given all of the skepticism around his drafting mentioned above (of which I was admittedly part), we wanted to see it on the field against real competition. Well, I would say we got it. Yorke was one of the most notable breakouts not just in the Red Sox system, but in all of minor-league baseball.
The second baseman started the season in full season ball less than a year removed from his high school graduation, and he did not disappoint. In Salem, he played in 76 games and hit .323/.413/.500 before earning a promotion to High-A Greenville, where he would finish his season. Yorke got into 21 games before the season came to an end, hitting .333/.406/.571.
What was most surprising, to me at least, about his performance in this first taste of pro ball was the power he put on display. The hit tool was always the carrying tool, and was the reason I was cautiously optimistic about Yorke when he was drafted. (My complaints at the time were more about Blaze Jordan than Yorke, which also ended up looking dumb after 2021.) There was every expectation from everyone I spoke to that Yorke would be able to show a good approach and put the barrel on the ball to spray line drives all over the field.
On the other hand, it wasn’t really clear whether or not he’d hit for enough power to be a real impact player in the lineup. The jury still has to be out on this to some extent as he’s yet to face true upper-level pitching, but as a 19-year-old he hit for plenty of power in full-season ball, with his power actually improving after he was promoted. In 97 games across the two levels, he finished with 14 homers, 20 doubles, and five triples. Extrapolated over a 150-game sample, those numbers would come out to roughly 22, 31, and eight, respectively.
Defensively there are still some questions around Yorke, though some were also answered in his first taste of pro ball. Early in his high school career he spent most of his time at shortstop, but a shoulder injury took away some key arm strength, and after DHing to end his high school career he has been moved to the other side of the bag. Still in the middle infield, I’ve seen some concern he may end up moving to the outfield at some point, but at this juncture I’d say there’s a better chance he sticks at second. I wouldn’t expect him to be a Gold Glover at the position, but he has the tools to be good enough to hold the job.
As far as 2022 goes, I’m not expecting them to be super aggressive with Yorke considering he’ll only turn 20 just as the season starts, which means he’ll probably start the year back at Salem. That said, already having experience at the level, a strong performance there could make him a quick promotion to Double-A Portland. He’s already launched himself up prospect lists with his performance last year, and a repeat in 2022 could put him up even closer the top tier of prospects in the game.
Here is our list so far:
Now, you can head down into the comments and vote for the number four prospect. As a reminder, to do this you go down below and find the comment from me corresponding with the player for whom you’d like to vote. When you find said player, just click the “rec” button, and that will count your vote. To do this, you will need to be logged in as a member of the site. If you’d like to vote for a player who is not listed, just leave a comment saying “Vote for ___ here” and I’ll rec the comment to count your vote. We encourage discussion, of course, but please don’t comment under specific players’ names. Instead, scroll to the bottom to start a new comment thread in order to keep the players at the top of the comment section. Until next time…