Nick Northcut became the first Red Sox minor-leaguer to reach the 20 home run plateau this season in High-A Greenville’s 3-2 win over the Asheville Tourists at Fluor Field on Saturday night.
After going deep three times on Friday, Northcut went 1-for-3 on Saturday with two RBIs, one scored, and one strikeout while batting third and starting at first base for the Drive.
His latest homer came with one out and one runner on in the sixth inning. Matched up against Tourists starter Rhett Kouba, Northcut took the right-hander deep over everything in left field to give the Drive a 3-2 lead.
Prior to Friday’s outburst, Northcut was in the midst of a 12-for-77 (.156) slump over his last 20 games dating back to May 15. Following Saturday’s performance, the right-handed-hitting slugger is now batting .229/.278/.573 with six doubles, those 20 home runs, 45 RBIs, 29 runs scored, 10 walks, and 77 strikeouts across 49 games (205 plate appearances) this season.
Among qualified South Atlantic League hitters, Northcut ranks first in home runs, tied for first in RBIs, second in slugging percentage, eighth in OPS (.851), first in isolated power (.344), and first in at-bats per home run (9.6), per MiLB.com’s leaderboards.
Defensively, the 6-foot-1, 205 pound infielder has logged 190 innings at first base (9 of which came on Saturday), 200 1/3 innings at third base, and six innings at shortstop for the first time in his professional career.
Northcut, who turns 23 on Monday, is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the 60th-ranked prospect in Boston’s farm system. The Red Sox originally selected the Ohio native in the 11th round of the 2018 amateur draft out of Mason High School and swayed him away from his commitment to Vanderbilt University by signing him for $565,000.
In addition to the power he possesses from the right side of the plate, there is a fair amount of swing-and-miss in Northcut’s game as indicated by his 38.1% strikeout rate (fifth-highest in the Sally League) and 4.9% walk rate (third-lowest in the Sally League).
According to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, however, the Red Sox are not too concerned about Northcut’s strikeout tendencies since he is generally doing a quality job of swinging at the right pitches and staying away from the ones out of the zone.
“He’s missing some pitches that we think he can hit, but he’s doing a fantastic job not chasing,” hitting coordinator Reed Gragnani told Speier last month. “We can coach that. … If he gets better at making contact in the zone, even at an average rate in MLB or even at this level, then you’re talking about a premium power hitter that can hit .270 with the damage.”
With 20 home runs already under his belt, Northcut is fast-approaching Greenville’s single-season home run record of 24, which was set by outfield prospect Tyler Dearden, who is now with Double-A Portland, just last year.
It took Dearden 91 games and until September 12 to accomplish that feat. At the pace he is currently on, it will not take Northcut nearly as long to etch his name into Drive history.
(Picture of Nick Northcut: Gwinn Davis/Greenville Drive)