The Red Sox have signed fifth-round draft pick Nathan Hickey, according to MLB.com’s Jim Callis.
Per Callis, Hickey — a catcher — has signed with the Sox for $1 million, which is well above the recommended slot value of $410,100 for the 136th overall selection in this year’s draft and is tied for the highest bonus total given to any prospect taken in rounds 4-10.
Hickey, 21, was the first and only catcher taken by Boston in the 2021 amateur draft and was regarded by Baseball America as the No. 131 prospect in this year’s class, ranking 10th among eligible backstops.
A sophomore out of the University of Florida, Hickey — a native of Jacksonville, Fla. — posted an impressive .317/.435/.522 slash line to go along with 15 doubles, three triples, nine home runs, 50 RBI, 40 runs scored, one stolen base, 42 walks, and 40 strikeouts over 60 games (278 plate appearances) with the Gators this spring.
While he is listed as a catcher, the 6-foot, 210-pound left-handed hitter also played four games at first base and five games at third base this season, leading to him drawing comparisons to newly-acquired Red Sox outfielder Kyle Schwarber.
According to his pre-draft scouting report from MLB Pipeline, “Hickey has raised his offensive profile to the point where he’s now being considered to be one of the best bats in Florida. He has a solid approach at the plate, drawing a ton of walks. He’s been tapping into his power and while some scouts see a bit of a max effort swing, he’s cut his strikeout rate down considerably this year. Hickey lost 20-25 pounds when he first got to Florida and has kept the weight off, making him more athletic in the box.
“The bat is going to have to play because few scouts believe he’ll be able to catch long-term. He has more than enough arm for the position, but lacks the agility or the hands to deal with high-octane pitching. The best possible defensive outcome might be for him to move to left field and let the bat carry him to the big leagues in a Kyle Schwarber type of trajectory.”
In signing Hickey to an over-slot deal, the Red Sox have now locked up 14 of their 20 draft picks that were made earlier this month. They have also signed Clemson University outfielder Kier Meredith and Western Oklahoma State College right-hander Jhonny Felix as undrafted free agents.
With less than 48 hours to go until the draft signing deadline (5 p.m. eastern time on Sunday), the most prevalent Boston draft pick who remains unsigned is Hickey’s college teammate in Florida outfielder Jud Fabian, whom the club took in the second round at No. 40 overall.
As noted by SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall, “the maximum the Red Sox could offer Jud Fabian without exceeding the bonus pool by more than 5% is [approximately] $2.1 million,” though that number would decrease if “if they sign any of their remaining draftees for over $125,000.”
Earlier this week, The Athletic’s Peter Gammons tweeted that Fabian would not be signing with Boston since the Sox were not willing to offer the 20-year-old sophomore a signing bonus of $3 million.
Of course, that could just be a negotiation tactic on the part of Fabian’s camp, and the Red Sox could counter by daring Fabian to turn down what is essentially late first-round money and return to school for his junior season.
If Fabian, who turns 21 in September, were to not sign by Sunday’s deadline, the Sox would be compensated by receiving the 41st overall pick in next year’s draft in addition to their own second-round selection.
That being said (and as was discussed on the most recent episode of Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast), it would be a rough look for Chaim Bloom, Paul Toboni, and Co. if the Sox were unable to sign Fabian after making him their first pick of Day 2 of this year’s draft.
(Picture of Nathan Hickey: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)