Jordan DiValerio was not the only undrafted free agent the Red Sox signed out of an Atlantic 10 school following the pandemic-shortened 2020 draft.
In addition to the St. Joseph’s University right-hander, Boston also signed Fordham University infielder Jake MacKenzie for $20,000 in June 2020.
A junior at the time of signing, MacKenzie had earned quite the reputation as a speed merchant at Fordham by stealing a total of 77 bases in his first two seasons with the Rams.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic cut the 2020 college baseball season short, MacKenzie had gotten his junior campaign off to a solid start by posting a .958 OPS and swiping seven bags in his first 16 games of the year.
After becoming one of 16 undrafted free agents to sign with Boston that summer, MacKenzie did not receive the benefit of acclimating himself to the minor-league lifestyle from the get-go. He instead had to wait until last spring to make his professional debut after breaking camp with Low-A Salem.
In 29 games for Salem, the right-handed hitter batted .228/.347/.329 (94 wRC+) with two doubles, two home runs, four RBIs, 12 runs scored, one stolen base, 12 walks, and 18 strikeouts over 95 plate appearances.
On paper, that sort of slash line obviously does not stick out. Still, the Red Sox promoted MacKenzie to High-A Greenville on July 23 and some of his numbers actually improved upon facing a stiffer level of competition.
While his walk rate (12.6% to 9.6%) dipped and his strikeout rate (18.9% to 21.7%) rose, MacKenzie slashed a stout .265/.375/.353 (107 wRC+) to go along with four doubles, one triple, three RBIs, 14 runs scored, three stolen bases, eight walks, and 18 strikeouts across 25 games (83 plate appearances) for the Drive.
Although he only stole three bases in four attempts with Greenville, MacKenzie was unsurprisingly one of the fastest baserunners in the High-A East last year. Among the 222 hitters who made at least 80 trips to the plate in 2021, the 22-year-old ranked 11th in Speed score, per FanGraphs.
Defensively, MacKenzie saw playing time at four different positions between Salem and Greenville. The 5-foot-10, 195 pounder logged a total of 280 2/3 innings at second base, 81 1/3 innings at third base, 40 innings at shortstop, and nine innings in right field.
Given his versatility and quickness on the basepaths, MacKenzie profiles as an intriguing infield depth option for the Sox. The Wallingford, Conn. native has “strong baserunning instincts” per his SoxProspects.com scouting report and is still relatively young as he does not turn 23 until May.
MacKenzie’s ties to New England run deeper than where he was born and raised. During his time at Fordham, the Choate Rosemary Hall product also spent two summers (2018 and 2019) playing for the Bourne Braves of the Cape Cod Baseball League.
Taking his age and level of experience into account, MacKenzie is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 season where he left off in 2021: Greenville. He may not be one of the top prospects in Boston’s farm system as of now, but perhaps the speedster can work his way up to Double-A Portland before the year is over.
(Picture of Jake MacKenzie via the Greenville Drive’s Twitter)