When the Red Sox selected prep infielder Nick Yorke with their top pick in the shortened 2020 MLB first-year player draft, they were met with quite a bit of blowback from fans and the general public alike.
Going into the June draft, which was cut down to five rounds due to the financial constraints created by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Yorke was not necessarily seen as a bona fide first-rounder.
A recent graduate of Archbishop Mitty High School in the San Jose Area, the 18-year-old was committed to play college baseball at the University of Arizona and it appeared as though that commitment was a strong one.
With that, and perhaps other factors, in mind, Yorke slipped through the draft rankings to the point where Baseball America had him as the No. 96 draft-eligible prospect in the early stages of the summer.
While other clubs targeted more hyped-up and well-known prospects with their respective top selections, the Sox did not shy away from Yorke — a player they had already liked — when they were put on the clock at pick No. 17.
Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said as much when speaking with SoxProspects.com’s Chris Hatfield and Ian Cundall on the SoxProspects.com podcast earlier this week.
“I think at the end of the day, what it came down to is not us trying to do something that was off the board because we got a kick out of doing something that was off the board, but believing in it and not being scared off of it just because it was different,” Bloom said. “If the only reason that we don’t do something is that we’re worried about criticism, that’s not a good enough reason. We should never operate like that. We have to be willing to do what we believe is right, even if we’re going to get criticized.
“We knew that it would come with some blowback,” continued Bloom. “Because Nick wasn’t a hyped player. We also had a lot of belief in the player and there was also belief that if we had had a normal spring, he would have been seen. A lot of things kind of conspired with him having been hurt the year before and not having played the infield the year before. And if you weren’t there really all over him those first few weekends, you did not have enough information on Nick Yorke to really think anything about him.”
Because of the aforementioned pandemic, Yorke’s senior season at Archbishop Mitty was prematurely cut short after just five games. The right-handed hitter went 8-for-15 (.533) with two home runs and six RBI in those five games, though, to finish his high school career with an otherworldly .457/.552/.709 slash line over 94 total games played at the varsity level.
Still, even if Yorke, who is listed at 6-foot and 200 lbs., was able to play a full season’s worth of high school ball in 2020, perceptions of him around the game would have still likely varied.
“We could have had a full spring and there still would have been a lot of different opinions in the industry about the player, about the profile,” said Bloom. “But, we had a really strong belief in the evaluation that we had and we went through a very rigorous process about how to build our board. And look, there’s certainly ways the draft could have fallen where we might have ended up taking someone else. It wasn’t that we were hellbent on saving money in that round to go spend it later.
“But, given what the board looked like when it got to our pick, we felt very, very clearly that it made sense to us to take Nick there,” Bloom added. “We liked the player a lot and also felt like we had some savings we could do damage with later in the draft.”
A little less than a month after drafting him, the Sox managed to sign Yorke for $2.7 million, which fell well below the recommended slot value for the 17th overall pick in the 2020 draft ($3.6 million).
This, in turn, allowed the club to draft and sign fellow prep prospect Blaze Jordan, who was selected in the third round with the 89th overall pick.
With a full ride to Mississippi State University to use to his advantage, Jordan received $1.75 million in signing bonus money from Boston, well above the recommended slot value assigned to pick No. 89 ($667,900).
As you may recall, the reason the Red Sox were docked a second-round pick in last year’s draft was due to their illegal use of the video replay room during the 2018 season, hence the long wait in between their first and second selections.
“It really has to start with believing in the player,” Bloom said of Yorke, his first draft pick as Boston’s CBO. “Because it was going to be a long time before we were going to pick again, and you can’t necessarily count on what you’re going to be able to do with those savings. But, we also felt like we had enough intel — that there were enough clubs that were aligned with us on Nick — that waiting for him to be around at pick No. 89 was also not a good strategy. This was a player we wanted.”
Following impressive showings at both the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket and fall instructional league in Fort Myers last year, Yorke has worked his way up to becoming the No. 13 prospect (No. 6 among position players) in Boston’s farm system, per SoxProspects.
The Newport Beach native is projected to begin the 2021 minor-league season — whenever it begins — with Low-A Salem, where he will have the chance to show off his highly-touted hit tool and continue to develop in organized games against other teams for the first time as a professional.
(Picture of Nick Yorke: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)