Red Sox promote 2021 draft picks Nathan Hickey, Niko Kavadas to High-A Greenville

With infielder Alex Binelas and catcher Stephen Scott earning promotions to Double-A Portland on Friday, the Red Sox also promoted first-base prospect Niko Kavadas and catching prospect Nathan Hickey from Low-A Salem to High-A Greenville, per the club’s minor-league transactions log.

Kavadas, 23, was originally selected by the Sox in the 11th round of last year’s amateur draft out of the University of Notre Dame. The Indiana native came into his first full professional season ranked by FanGraphs as the No. 28 prospect in Boston’s farm system.

In 59 games with Salem this year, the left-handed hitting Kavadas batted .286/.453/.609 (188 wRC+) with 18 doubles, one triple, 14 home runs, 48 RBIs, 35 runs scored, one stolen base, 54 walks, and 70 strikeouts over 254 plate appearances. Ten of his 14 homers have come in the month of June.

Among qualified Carolina League hitters this season, Kavadas ranks second in walk rate (21.3%), first in on-base percentage, first in slugging percentage, first in OPS (1.062), first in isolated power (.323), and first in wRC+, per FanGraphs.

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds, Kavadas has seen all his playing time as a pro come at first base. He should help fill the gap left behind by Binelas in Greenville.

Hickey, meanwhile, was selected by Boston in the fifth round of last year’s amateur draft out of the University of Florida. The Jacksonville native is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 23 prospect in the Sox’ farm system, which ranks tops among catchers in the organization.

With the Salem Sox this season, the left-handed hitting Hickey slashed .271/.429/.507 (160 wRC+) to go along with 12 doubles, seven home runs, 39 runs driven in, 31 runs scored, 39 walks, and 39 strikeouts across 41 games spanning 182 trips to the plate.

Among qualified catchers at the Low-A level, Hickey ranks first in walk rate (21.4%), first in on-base percentage, second in slugging percentage, first in OPS (.936), second in isolated power (.236), and first in wRC+, according to FanGraphs.

Defensively, the 6-foot, 210 pound backstop has logged 227 2/3 innings behind the plate so far this season and has thrown out three of a possible 34 base stealers. In Greenville, he will join a group of catchers that includes Alex Erro and Jaxx Groshans.

(Picture of Nathan Hickey: Gary Streiffer/Flickr)

Red Sox catching prospect Nathan Hickey has homered 3 times in last 3 games for Low-A Salem

Another member of the Salem Red Sox who has been tearing it up at the plate as of late is catcher Nathan Hickey.

In Salem’s 8-7 loss to the Fredericksburg Nationals at Carilion Clinic Field on Tuesday night, Hickey — batting cleanup — went 1-for-4 with two RBIs, two runs scored, two strikeouts, and one walk.

His lone hit was a clutch game-tying, two-run home run in the ninth inning. Although Salem ultimately fell to Fredericksburg in extras, Hickey extended his hitting streak to six consecutive games and is continuing on with a productive month of June.

Since the calendar flipped from May, Hickey is batting a stout .295/.418/.614 with five doubles, three home runs, 18 RBIs, 10 runs scored, 10 walks, and 11 strikeouts over his last 12 games and 55 trips to the plate.

On the 2022 campaign — which is also his first full professional season — as a whole, the left-handed hitter has slashed .278/.437/.526 to go along with 12 doubles, seven homers, 39 runs driven in, 30 runs scored, 38 walks, and 37 punchouts across 39 games (174 plate appearances) with Salem.

Among qualified Carolina League Hitters, Hickey ranks 16th in batting average, third in on-base percentage, fifth in slugging percentage, fourth in OPS (.963), fifth in isolated power (.248), and second in walk rate (21.8%), per MiLB.com’s leaderboards.

Defensively, Hickey has unsurprisingly seen all his playing time this season come behind the plate when not serving as Salem’s designated hitter. The 6-foot, 210 pound backstop has now logged 209 2/3 innings behind the plate in 2022 and has allowed six passed balls while throwing out three of a possible 34 base stealers.

Hickey, 22, was selected by the Red Sox in the fifth round of last year’s amateur draft out of the University of Florida. Unlike his college teammate Jud Fabian, the former Gator signed with the club for $1 million last August.

A native of Jacksonville, Fla. himself, Hickey is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 23 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks tops among catchers in the organization.

Per his Baseball America scouting report, which was written by The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, Hickey is “far from a sure bet to stay behind the plate, where he lacks agility and technical polish when both receiving and blocking. While he has solid arm strength, he ended his 2021 college season at third base.”

Speier also noted that Hickey, who does not turn 23 until November, “may move more deliberately than other college players with his offensive profile given the need to develop behind the plate, but he’ll be given every chance to develop into a bat-first everyday catcher. If he can’t stay at the position, he could fit in a corner.”

Taking that into consideration, it remains to be seen if Hickey will work his way to High-A Greenville at some point this summer or will instead stick with Salem for the rest of the season. Only time will tell.

(Picture of Nathan Hickey: Gary Streiffer/Flickr)

Latest Baseball America mock draft has Red Sox selecting University of Florida ace Hunter Barco with top pick

Note: Barco underwent Tommy John surgery in early May.

In the first installment of their 2022 MLB Staff Draft, Baseball America has the Red Sox selecting University of Florida ace left-hander Hunter Barco with its first-round pick at No. 24 overall.

Baseball America writer Tom Lipari was the one who made the selection, and he noted that Barco is a “solid, pitchability lefty with a history of success in the SEC” who would be a “safe pick and quick mover through any system.”

Barco, 21, was originally selected by the Mets in the 24th round of the 2019 amateur draft out of The Bolles School — the same high school New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones attended.

The Jacksonville native did not sign with New York, however, and instead opted to honor his commitment to Florida. After his freshman season was cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Barco earned All-SEC Newcomer honors in 2021.

Through nine starts with the Gators this season, Barco has posted a 2.50 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, and .187 batting average against to go along with 69 strikeouts to 11 walks over 50 1/3 innings of work. He was forced to leave his last outing against Vanderbilt on April 15 after just two innings due to illness and is now questionable for his next start against Tennessee on Friday.

Barco, who does not turn 22 until December, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 23 draft-eligible prospect in this year’s class, ranking 14th among collegiate players and seventh among pitchers. MLB Pipeline, meanwhile, has Barco coming in at No. 53, which ranks 20th among hurlers who could be drafted in July.

Listed at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Barco operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a low-90s fastball that tops out at 95 mph, a sweeping slider in the low-80s that can give off the appearance of a curveball, and a changeup that typically clocks in at the low-80s.

Per his Baseball America scouting report, “Barco throws from a low slot that adds deception and helps his stuff play up.” MLB Pipeline, on the other hand, notes that Barco “has done an excellent job of consistently finding the strike zone in college, though there’s improvement that can be made in terms of command within the zone with that funky delivery tough to repeat at times.”

While you have to go back to 2017 to find the last time the Red Sox used a first-round pick on a pitcher (Tanner Houck), the club certainly has not shied away from taking players out of Gainesville in recent years. Jud Fabian (who did not sign), Nathan Hickey, and Wil Dalton stick out there.

Barco could become the latest former Gator to join Boston’s organizational ranks, though plenty could — and likely will — change between now and Day 1 of the 2022 draft in Los Angeles on July 17.

(Picture of Hunter Barco: AP Photo/Gary McCullough)

Latest Baseball America mock draft has Red Sox selecting Mississippi State catcher Logan Tanner with top pick

The 2022 MLB Draft may still be six months away, but it should now start to come into focus more with the college baseball season slated to begin next week.

With that, Baseball America released the first version of their 2022 mock draft on Thursday, and they have the Red Sox taking a college bat with their top pick.

Boston owns the 24th overall selection in this summer’s draft after finishing last season with the seventh-best (or 24th-worst) record in baseball. As of now, the club is projected to take Mississippi State University catcher Logan Tanner.

In explaining why he has the Sox going in this direction, Baseball America’s Carlos Collazo writes that he does not “have much feel for the Red Sox pick tendencies, especially in this range. They’ve taken prep infielders in each of the last three drafts but all of those picks are quite a bit different both in terms of bonus, draft position, and player profile.”

Collazo adds that at this point in the mock draft, Tanner is the best player available as he comes into the year regarded by Baseball America as its No. 17 draft-eligible prospect, which ranks third among catchers in the class.

Tanner, 21, is preparing for his junior season with Mississippi State. The right-handed hitting backstop is coming off a 2021 campaign in which he batted .287/.383/.525 with 13 doubles, 15 home runs, 53 RBIs, 45 runs scored, 39 walks, and 48 strikeouts over 67 games (285 plate appearances) while helping the Bulldogs win a national championship.

Defensively, Tanner made 57 appearances behind the plate as a sophomore and threw out 11 baserunners who attempted to steal off him. Per his Baseball America scouting report, the 6-foot, 215 pounder is “the top catch-and-throw backstop in the class. His arm is a clear tier ahead of most other catchers in the class, with double-plus grades and should allow him to keep the running game in check.”

MLB Pipeline, on the other hand, has Tanner listed as its 19th-ranked draft-eligible prospect, right behind his battery mate in right-hander Landon Sims.

In their evaluation of Tanner’s offensive approach, MLB Pipeline notes that the Lucedale, Miss. native’s “strength and bat speed give him legitimate power to all fields from the right side of the plate, and he might provide 20-25 homers per year if he can lift more balls in the air. He draws walks, makes contact and has done damage against quality pitching at the college level. He’s a well below-average runner but that’s excusable for a catcher.”

As Opening Day for the college baseball season approaches, Tanner has been named to the preseason All-SEC first team and Perfect Game’s preseason All-America third team.

If the Red Sox were to select Tanner in this year’s draft, it would mark the first time since 2011 in which they used a first-round pick on a catcher (Blake Swihart). As Collazo previously alluded to, Boston has used its last three first-round selections on prep infielders in shortstop Marcelo Mayer (2021), second baseman Nick Yorke (2020), and first baseman Triston Casas (2018). They were without a first-rounder in 2019.

Last July marked the second time straight year the Red Sox had chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and amateur scouting director Paul Toboni orchestrating the club’s draft efforts.

Of the 20 players Boston selected in 2021, only one — Nathan Hickey — was a catcher. Hickey, like Tanner, played his college ball in the SEC for the University of Florida.

According to one scout, Tanner would surpass Hickey and emerge as the top catching prospect in Boston’s farm system if he were to join the Red Sox this summer.

All that being said, who the Sox take in this year’s draft has yet to be determined and plenty can change once the high school and college baseball seasons get rolling in the spring.

(Picture of Logan Tanner: Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Nathan Hickey quickly emerging as one of top catching prospects in Boston’s farm system

The Red Sox have an extensive history when it comes to drafting amateur prospects out of the University of Florida.

Dating back to the 2012 draft, the Sox have selected 12 players from Florida. Of that group of Gators, four (Austin Maddox, Brian Johnson, Bobby Poyner, and Shaun Anderson) went on to make it to the major-leagues.

Most recently, Boston selected Florida outfielder Jud Fabian and Florida catcher Nathan Hickey with its second- and fifth-round picks in last summer’s draft, respectively.

While Fabian ultimately made the decision to return to Gainesville for his senior season, Hickey wound up signing with the Red Sox for an over-slot deal of $1 million last July.

Upon inking his first professional contract, Hickey — a native of Jacksonville — reported to Fort Myers to begin his debut season with the rookie-level Florida Complex League Red Sox.

Across eight games in the FCL, the left-handed hitting backstop slashed .250/.429/.350 (124 wRC+) to go along with two doubles, one RBI, four runs scored, six walks, and eight strikeouts over 28 plate appearances before earning a promotion to Low-A Salem on August 27.

Hickey appeared in two games on Aug. 27 and 28, but was placed on the temporary inactive list on September 5. After a near-two-week hiatus, the 22-year-old returned to the field and made his final appearance of the season for Salem on Sept. 17. All told, he went 1-for-8 at the plate in his first exposure to the Low-A level.

Shortly after the conclusion of the minor-league season, it was revealed that Hickey’s father, Mark, passed away in early October.

On the heels of what was presumably an emotional 2021, Hickey comes into 2022 regarded by MLB Pipeline as the No. 19 prospect in Boston’s farm system — which ranks tops among catchers in the organization.

Per his MLB Pipeline scouting report, Hickey’s best carrying tool is his raw power. He also utilizes “a mature approach at the plate” that could help him “develop into a solid hitter, though his swing can get long and too uphill at times.”

That being said, Hickey also comes with some questions in regards to his defensive abilities behind the plate. The 6-foot, 210 pounder’s “receiving and blocking will have to improve significantly, and his solid arm strength plays down and resulted in 39 steals in 41 attempts against him during the spring.”

On that note, Hickey does have experience at other positions besides catcher. He saw time at both corner infield positions with the Gators in the spring before catching a total of five games between the FCL and Low-A over the summer.

Whether Hickey — who does not turn 23 until November — is able to stick at catcher has yet to be determined. He does however have an appealing offensive profile, and that should only help him in the long run.

Going off of SoxProspects.com’s roster projections, Hickey is slated to begin the 2022 campaign where he left off in 2021: with Salem. He will likely have a chance to earn a midseason promotion to High-A Greenville depending on the kind of start he gets off to.

(Picture of Nathan Hickey: Bryan Green/Flickr)

 

Red Sox sign fifth-round pick Nathan Hickey for $1 million, per report

The Red Sox have signed fifth-round draft pick Nathan Hickey, according to MLB.com’s Jim Callis.

Per Callis, Hickey — a catcher — has signed with the Sox for $1 million, which is well above the recommended slot value of $410,100 for the 136th overall selection in this year’s draft and is tied for the highest bonus total given to any prospect taken in rounds 4-10.

Hickey, 21, was the first and only catcher taken by Boston in the 2021 amateur draft and was regarded by Baseball America as the No. 131 prospect in this year’s class, ranking 10th among eligible backstops.

A sophomore out of the University of Florida, Hickey — a native of Jacksonville, Fla. — posted an impressive .317/.435/.522 slash line to go along with 15 doubles, three triples, nine home runs, 50 RBI, 40 runs scored, one stolen base, 42 walks, and 40 strikeouts over 60 games (278 plate appearances) with the Gators this spring.

While he is listed as a catcher, the 6-foot, 210-pound left-handed hitter also played four games at first base and five games at third base this season, leading to him drawing comparisons to newly-acquired Red Sox outfielder Kyle Schwarber.

According to his pre-draft scouting report from MLB Pipeline, “Hickey has raised his offensive profile to the point where he’s now being considered to be one of the best bats in Florida. He has a solid approach at the plate, drawing a ton of walks. He’s been tapping into his power and while some scouts see a bit of a max effort swing, he’s cut his strikeout rate down considerably this year. Hickey lost 20-25 pounds when he first got to Florida and has kept the weight off, making him more athletic in the box.

“The bat is going to have to play because few scouts believe he’ll be able to catch long-term. He has more than enough arm for the position, but lacks the agility or the hands to deal with high-octane pitching. The best possible defensive outcome might be for him to move to left field and let the bat carry him to the big leagues in a Kyle Schwarber type of trajectory.”

In signing Hickey to an over-slot deal, the Red Sox have now locked up 14 of their 20 draft picks that were made earlier this month. They have also signed Clemson University outfielder Kier Meredith and Western Oklahoma State College right-hander Jhonny Felix as undrafted free agents.

With less than 48 hours to go until the draft signing deadline (5 p.m. eastern time on Sunday), the most prevalent Boston draft pick who remains unsigned is Hickey’s college teammate in Florida outfielder Jud Fabian, whom the club took in the second round at No. 40 overall.

As noted by SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall, “the maximum the Red Sox could offer Jud Fabian without exceeding the bonus pool by more than 5% is [approximately] $2.1 million,” though that number would decrease if “if they sign any of their remaining draftees for over $125,000.”

Earlier this week, The Athletic’s Peter Gammons tweeted that Fabian would not be signing with Boston since the Sox were not willing to offer the 20-year-old sophomore a signing bonus of $3 million.

Of course, that could just be a negotiation tactic on the part of Fabian’s camp, and the Red Sox could counter by daring Fabian to turn down what is essentially late first-round money and return to school for his junior season.

If Fabian, who turns 21 in September, were to not sign by Sunday’s deadline, the Sox would be compensated by receiving the 41st overall pick in next year’s draft in addition to their own second-round selection.

That being said (and as was discussed on the most recent episode of Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast), it would be a rough look for Chaim Bloom, Paul Toboni, and Co. if the Sox were unable to sign Fabian after making him their first pick of Day 2 of this year’s draft.

(Picture of Nathan Hickey: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Red Sox select University of Florida catcher Nathan Hickey with No. 136 pick in 2021 MLB Draft

The Red Sox have selected University of Florida catcher Nathan Hickey with their fifth-round pick in the 2021 MLB first-year player draft at No. 136 overall.

Hickey, 21, was regarded by Baseball America as the No. 132 prospect headed into the draft, ranking 10th among all eligible catchers.

Listed at 6-foot and 205 pounds, the left-handed hitting, right-handed throwing backstop was college teammates at Florida with Red Sox second-round selection Jud Fabian.

In his second season with the Gators this spring, which was technically his freshman season on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hickey slashed .317/.435/.522 with 15 doubles, two triples, nine home runs, 50 RBI, 40 runs scored, one stolen base, 42 walks, and 40 strikeouts over 60 games spanning 278 plate appearances.

Per his Baseball America scouting report, the Jacksonville, Fla. native is well-regarded when it comes to his offensive game, but questions arise when it comes to what he is capable of doing behind the plate.

“Hickey hammers fastballs and has done well with 93-plus mph velocity this spring and tries to access his easy plus raw power with a leveraged and steep uphill swing path,” his scouting report reads. “That’s allowed him to do damage to his pull side on pitches middle and down, but there is a hole at the top of the zone that better pitchers might be able to expose more often. A good feel for the strike zone and a willingness to take walks should take some of the pressure off of Hickey’s pure bat-to-ball skills.

“A team that thinks Hickey can stick behind the plate might like his bat among the top-50 picks in the draft, but most of the industry seems to think he’ll have to move off the position at the next level. His arm is more serviceable than above-average or plus and he needs plenty of work as a receiver and blocker to get to even fringe-average defensive ability.”

While he is listed as a catcher, Hickey does have limited experience at both corner infield positions, as he played four games at first base and five games at third base for the Gators this spring.

And because of his status as a quote-unquote freshman, Hickey has at least two years of eligibility remaining, so he could certainly return to campus in Gainesville if he so chooses.

That said, the recommended slot value for the 136th overall pick in this year’s draft is $410,100, so it will be interesting to see if the Red Sox will be able to reach an agreement with Hickey — the first catcher they have drafted this year — sooner rather than later.

(Picture of Nathan Hickey: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)