Chaim Bloom explains what went into Red Sox taking infielder Nick Yorke with top pick in 2020 MLB Draft

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)

2020 Red Sox Draft Preview: Trying to Pin Down Who Boston Will Take With Top Pick

At long last, the 2020 MLB first-year player draft is finally here. The first round of the five-round event will begin Wednesday night on both MLB Network and ESPN, while rounds 2-5 will take place on Thursday.

The Red Sox, coming off an 84-78 2019 campaign, own the 17th overall selection in this year’s draft. It’s the earliest pick Boston has had since 2016, when prep left-hander Jay Groome was taken 12th overall.

In addition to that, while most clubs will be making five picks, the Sox will only be making four, as they were stripped of their second-round selection back in April as part of their punishment for illegally stealing signs in 2018.

The loss of the second-round pick brings Boston’s total pool value in this year’s draft down to just $5,129,900, ranking 26th among the 30 MLB clubs.

Because of that, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and amateur scouting director Paul Toboni seem poised to go all out with the team’s top pick. Or, in other words, take the prospect with the most upside regardless of what position he plays.

The most popular name that has been linked to the Sox in the weeks leading up to Wednesday is without a doubt Jesuit High School (Ore.) right-hander Mick Abel.

Abel, MLB Pipeline’s 11th-ranked draft-eligible prospect, turns 19 in August and is viewed by scouts as someone who is only “going to get stronger and throw harder as he physically matures.”

Another name to monitor on Wednesday is outfielder Pete-Crow Armstrong, another prep prospect out of one of the most prestigious baseball schools in the country in Harvard-Westlake (Calif.).

Listed at 6’1″ and 180 lbs., Crow-Armstrong is committed to play college baseball at Vanderbilt.

Described by MLB Pipeline as “a dynamic athlete who goes hard at all times,” the 18-year-old is someone the Red Sox have been “heavy” on, according to The Athletic’s Keith Law.

If it’s not Abel or Crow-Armstrong who the Red Sox take for whatever reason on Wednesday, other names to watch out for include Robert Hassell, Austin Hendrick, Ed Howard, Tyler Soderstrom, Jared Kelley, Garrett Mitchell, Garrett Crochet, Patrick Bailey, Cade Cavalli, Cole Wilcox, Ausin Wells, Tanner Burns, and Chris McMahon to name just a few.

Personally, I’d prefer to see the Sox lean towards taking a prep prospect with the 17th pick. Sure, in this scenario, that prospect would probably take more than the allotted $3,609,700 to sign, but whether it be Abel, Crow-Armstrong, Hassell, Hendrick, Howard, or Soderstrom, whoever they pick would certainly provide a boost to a poorly-regarded farm system even if no minor-league baseball is played in 2020.

Red Sox ‘Would Like’ to Take High School Position Player With Top Pick in This Year’s Draft

The Red Sox would ideally like to select a top prep position player prospect with their top pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, according to The Athletic’s Keith Law.

Harvard-Westlake outfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong, who Law has the Sox taking in his third and most recent mock draft, represents just one of the players Boston could be targeting with the 17th overall pick.

Taking the criteria of being one of the best draft-eligible prospects out of high school into account, other players who fit Law’s description include outfielders Zac Veen, Austin Hendrick, and Robert Hassell, shortstop Ed Howard, and catcher Tyler Soderstrom. A few of these names have been linked to the Sox in past mock drafts.

Speaking of mock drafts, last week, MLB.com’s Jim Callis had Jesuit High School (Ore.) right-hander Mick Abel going to the Sox, citing that the club is “focusing on ceiling with their top pick.”

Given the current circumstances as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, there is plenty of uncertainty heading into next week’s first-year player draft, which will consist of just five rounds, making it the shortest in MLB’s history.

To add on to that, the Red Sox were docked a second-round pick as part of their punishment for stealing signs in 2018, so only having four picks to make this year while the majority of other clubs have five adds even more stress to the job for amateur scouting director Paul Toboni, who was appointed to the position last September and will be running his first draft a week from Wednesday.

“From the standpoint of the fact that we were only able to scout for four college weekends and the high school kids, many of whom we didn’t see in their spring seasons, it’s difficult,” Toboni told The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey earlier this week. “A lot of uncertainty, more than there would be in a normal spring. From a standpoint of communicating with our staff, not being able to meet in person, having to overcome the learning curve of getting familiar with Zoom and these (video) calls, it’s just been different.”

Under Toboni and chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, the Red Sox will have just $5,129,200 in total pool money to work with in regards to signing draft picks while also having the ability to sign an unlimited number of undrafted free agents for no more than $20,000 from June 14 through August 1.