The Red Sox surprised many when they selected Yorke with the 17th overall pick in the 2020 amateur draft, but the Archbishop Mitty High school product has quickly proven his doubters wrong.
2021 marked Yorke’s first full season as a professional. After impressing the likes of Alex Cora at spring training, the 19-year-old broke camp with Low-A Salem and initially got off to a slow start.
By the time the calendar flipped from May to June, Yorke was sporting a measly .195 batting average through his first 21 games and 91 plate appearances with Salem.
From June 1 on, however, Yorke turned things around for the better. The right-handed hitting second baseman proceeded to slash .373/.467/.609 with 12 doubles, four triples, 10 home runs, 38 RBIs, 50 runs scored, eight stolen bases, 33 walks, and 26 strikeouts over his next 55 games (255 plate appearances) before earning a promotion to High-A Greenville on August 24.
In the process of closing out his first full pro season with the Drive, Yorke stayed hot by batting .333/.406/.571 with six more doubles, one more triple, four more homers, 15 more RBIs, 17 more runs, two more stolen bases, 11 more walks, and 22 more strikeouts across 21 games spanning 96 trips to the plate.
On the heels of such a sensational campaign, Yorke was named the Red Sox’ minor-league Offensive Player of the Year in September. He was also recognized by Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser as the top-hitting second base prospect the game has to offer at the moment.
“He is a balanced hitter who stays back on balls and drives them to all fields with a quick, compact swing,” Glaser wrote on Friday. “He consistently puts together good at-bats with his excellent pitch recognition and strike-zone discipline, and his elite barrel control allows him to hit almost any pitch. He easily projects to be a plus hitter and has a chance to be more.”
Among all qualified minor-league second basemen who played above the rookie-level Dominican Summer League and complex leagues last year, Yorke ranked fifth in batting average (.325), fourth in on-base percentage (.412), ninth in slugging percentage (.516), fifth in OPS (.928), and fifth in wRC+ (149), per FanGraphs.
Defensively, Yorke saw all his playing time between Salem and Greenville come at second base. The 6-foot, 200 pounder logged 741 2/3 innings total innings at the position while recording nine errors — all of which came at Low-A.
There are some questions surrounding Yorke’s future as a second baseman, but he presently leads a prospect group that includes Nick Gonzales, Vidal Brujan, Ezequiel Duran, Justin Foscue, and Xavier Edwards, among others.
Yorke, who turns 20 in April, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 3 prospect in Boston’s farm system and the No. 31 prospect in all of baseball. The California native participated in the Sox’ Winter Warm-Up program last month and is projected to return to Greenville for the start of the 2022 minor-league season.
(Picture of Nick Yorke: Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)