The Red Sox have selected University of Florida catcher Nathan Hickey with their fifth-round pick in the 2021 MLB first-year player draft at No. 136 overall.
Hickey, 21, was regarded by Baseball America as the No. 132 prospect headed into the draft, ranking 10th among all eligible catchers.
Listed at 6-foot and 205 pounds, the left-handed hitting, right-handed throwing backstop was college teammates at Florida with Red Sox second-round selection Jud Fabian.
In his second season with the Gators this spring, which was technically his freshman season on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hickey slashed .317/.435/.522 with 15 doubles, two triples, nine home runs, 50 RBI, 40 runs scored, one stolen base, 42 walks, and 40 strikeouts over 60 games spanning 278 plate appearances.
Per his Baseball America scouting report, the Jacksonville, Fla. native is well-regarded when it comes to his offensive game, but questions arise when it comes to what he is capable of doing behind the plate.
“Hickey hammers fastballs and has done well with 93-plus mph velocity this spring and tries to access his easy plus raw power with a leveraged and steep uphill swing path,” his scouting report reads. “That’s allowed him to do damage to his pull side on pitches middle and down, but there is a hole at the top of the zone that better pitchers might be able to expose more often. A good feel for the strike zone and a willingness to take walks should take some of the pressure off of Hickey’s pure bat-to-ball skills.
“A team that thinks Hickey can stick behind the plate might like his bat among the top-50 picks in the draft, but most of the industry seems to think he’ll have to move off the position at the next level. His arm is more serviceable than above-average or plus and he needs plenty of work as a receiver and blocker to get to even fringe-average defensive ability.”
While he is listed as a catcher, Hickey does have limited experience at both corner infield positions, as he played four games at first base and five games at third base for the Gators this spring.
And because of his status as a quote-unquote freshman, Hickey has at least two years of eligibility remaining, so he could certainly return to campus in Gainesville if he so chooses.
That said, the recommended slot value for the 136th overall pick in this year’s draft is $410,100, so it will be interesting to see if the Red Sox will be able to reach an agreement with Hickey — the first catcher they have drafted this year — sooner rather than later.
(Picture of Nathan Hickey: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)