Potential Red Sox draft target, University of Florida outfielder Jud Fabian a name to watch as college baseball season kicks off Friday

The 2021 college baseball season begins on Friday, and with the Red Sox making their top selection in this July’s amateur draft with the fourth overall pick, this season could stand out significantly.

Several draft-eligible prospects have been linked to the Sox already, but sticking with the college baseball theme here, one name to watch in particular this spring is University of Florida outfielder Jud Fabian.

Back in December, MLB.com’s Jim Callis had Boston selecting the 20-year-old with their top pick in the upcoming draft, writing that “Fabian might be the most polarizing prospect among the eight players who seem to have separated themselves from the rest of the Draft class at this point. He could have the most usable power in the Draft and may stay in center field, but he also has hit just .250 with a 22-percent strikeout rate in two seasons at Florida.”

Fabian, who turns 21 in September, is rather young for a junior on account of the fact he enrolled early at Florida and skipped his senior year of high school.

In his first two seasons as Gator, the right-handed hitting, left-handed throwing outfielder has slashed .250/.368/.466 with 12 home runs and 39 RBI over 73 total games played while primarily patrolling center field.

He did carry with him an OPS of 1.010 through his first 17 games of the 2020 campaign before the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forced the SEC to cancel its college baseball season last March.

According to his FanGraphs scouting report, Fabian “has a rare, unfavorable ‘backwards’ profile — he hits right and throws left, limiting him to 1B/OF — but looks like he’ll hit enough for that not to matter. While his lower half has gotten a little heavier and softer since high school, Fabian still has a fairly athletic swing, and his hitting hands work in an explosive loop that give him low-ball power. His hands load deep and high, and Fabian’s bat path doesn’t always look like it’s going to work, but he still covers the zone from (nearly) top to bottom and can pull his hands in to get the barrel on inside pitches.”

Listed at 6-foot and 190 lbs., the Ocala, Fla. native already has at least one connection to the Red Sox since he was teammates with outfield prospect Wil Dalton for a year in Gainesville.

In a recent appearance on Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast, Dalton, Boston’s eighth-round draft selection in 2019, raved about Fabian and what he can bring to the table at the next level.

“Jud came in my junior year. He was an early grad out of high school, so he enrolled early and skipped his senior year of high school,” Dalton said in January. “Coming in, we were like, ‘Okay, the kid’s obviously going to be good, coming to the University of Florida, but you’re also coming early.’ So, we knew the kid could play.

“But I’ll say this, not only is he doing what I figured he would do now, he worked for every ounce of it,” added Dalton. “And that’s why I have so much respect for him. The dude truly is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen. He believes in himself, he’s very confident in his abilities, and it shows when he plays. Everything that he does is a straight reward for all the hard work he puts in, and he deserves every bit of it and it’s been great to see that. Anybody that gets to draft him this year is getting one hell of a player. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Red Sox pick him up, at all. In all honesty, it would be a great pick. Kid comes from a great family, a great work ethic. Most of all, he’s a great overall person to represent an organization.”

When asked if Fabian could surpass Vanderbilt University right-hander Kumar Rocker — the consensus top prospect in this year’s draft class — this spring and become the No. 1 pick in July, Dalton did not mince his words.

“I have no doubt in that,” he said. “I mean, he’s got the ability to do it. I’ve seen the kid hit baseballs farther than somebody his size ever should hit a baseball.”

Fabian’s Florida Gators, the top team in the country, open their season against Red Sox manager Alex Cora’s 21st-ranked Miami Hurricanes in Gainesville on Friday evening.

First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. eastern time and you can watch the game on the SEC Network.

(Picture of Jud Fabian: Gary McCullough/AP)

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)

It’s Official: Red Sox Will Pick Fourth Overall in 2021 MLB Draft

After finishing with the fourth-worst record in Major League Baseball in 2020 (24-36), the Red Sox will be making their first selection in the 2021 amateur draft with the fourth overall pick, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

The Sox picking fourth next July has been assumed since the conclusion of the regular season last month, but thanks to MLB’s decision to determine the draft order based off clubs’ 2020 records rather than clubs’ 2020 and 2019 records, it is now official.

Picking behind the Pirates, Rangers, and Tigers and ahead of the Orioles this coming July, Boston will pick in the top-five of a first-year player draft for the first time since 1967, when right-hander Mike Garman was picked third overall.

In terms of who the Red Sox could take with the No. 4 pick next summer, it’s still very early, but Florida’s Jud Fabian, LSU’s Jaden Hill, Vanderbilt’s Jack Leiter, and UCLA’s Matt McLain are some preliminary prospects to monitor going into the 2021 college baseball season.