Red Sox’ Garrett Richards impressed by the way 18-year-old prospect Nick Yorke carries himself: ‘You don’t see that very often’

Red Sox infield prospect Nick Yorke was just nine years old when Garrett Richards made his major-league debut for the Angels in August 2011.

Now 18, Yorke — the youngest player at Red Sox camp in Fort Myers — was one of a handful of hitters to face off against the veteran right-hander during a live batting practice session inside JetBlue Park on Thursday morning.

“Pretty impressed,” Richards said when asked about his thoughts on Yorke. “Not only with the talent, but with the way he carries himself. I just found out probably a few days ago that he was 18 years old. And I happened to just be walking by and that was the only sentence that I heard. He was talking to somebody and mentioned that he was 18 years old.

“Me being an older guy, it made me stop in my tracks a little bit,” added the 32-year-old hurler. “Because I had no idea this kid was that young. But very, very impressive with the maturity level and how he carries himself. You don’t see that very often. He’s obviously young and he’s going to be in this game for a lot of years. So I’m excited to watch him develop and adjust to this level of baseball.”

The Red Sox selected Yorke with their top pick in the first round the 2020 amateur draft out of Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, Calif.

The right-handed hitting second baseman — listed at 6-foot and 200 pounds — was one of 22 non-roster invitees to receive an invite to big-league spring training last month before being reassigned to minor-league camp last Friday.

Through his first four Grapefruit League contests of 2021, Yorke is 1-for-5 at the plate with a single, three walks, and two strikeouts.

Despite being the youngest player at the Fenway South complex, Yorke is holding his own, and he is impressing the likes of Red Sox manager Alex Cora while doing so.

“He’s in a better place physically,” Cora said of the California native last month. “He’s a tall, strong kid. That was impressive. I look and I’m like, ‘Who’s this kid?’ They told me and I was like, ‘Wow, he’s impressive.’”

Yorke, who turns 19 next month, is projected to begin the 2021 minor-league season at Low-A Salem. He is currently regarded by Baseball America as the Sox’ No. 9 prospect.

(Picture of Nick Yorke: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Ranking the top 37 prospects in the Red Sox farm system heading into the 2021 season

The Red Sox are heading into the 2021 season with the 20th-ranked farm system in baseball according to Baseball America. That’s the same ranking they received going into the 2020 campaign as well.

Despite finishing with the fourth-worst record in baseball last year at 24-36, the 2020 season did net some positives for the Sox in terms of producing new, young, and controllable talent.

Just in terms of prospects, Boston acquired the likes of right-hander Connor Seabold from the Phillies, right-hander Jacob Wallace from the Rockies, and infielder Hudson Potts and outfielder Jeisson Rosario from the Padres.

They also drafted infielders Nick Yorke and Blaze Jordan and righties Shane Drohan and Jeremy Wu-Yelland with their four picks in last year’s amateur draft.

From the time the 2021 season ended until now, the Sox have added the likes of catcher Ronaldo Hernandez, infielders Christian Koss and Nick Sogard, right-handers Garrett Whitlock, Frank German, Josh Winckowski, and Zach Bryant.

To put it simply, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has not only addressed his club’s depth at the major-league level; he’s done it on the minor-league side of things as well.

Taking that point into consideration, it would not be too shocking to see Boston rise through the farm system rankings this year, especially with someone like Yorke getting to play in actual, organized minor-league games at some point.

Having written all that, I would like to present to you who the experts believe are the top prospects in the Red Sox organization at the moment.

To compile this list of Boston’s brightest and youngest talent, I took prospect lists from four baseball or Red Sox-centered publications — Baseball America, SoxProspects.com, FanGraphs, MLB Pipeline — and took the averages of where each of these sites had particular prospects ranked.

For example, Triston Casas was regarded as the Sox’ top prospect by three sites, but the other had him as their No. 2 prospect in the system.

With those numbers in mind, I added 1+1+1+2 to get 5, then divided that number by the total number of sources (4) to get Casas’ average ranking: 1.25, which rounds down to 1.

I hope that makes sense, because here are the top 37 prospects in the Red Sox farm system based off that math heading into the 2021 season.

ProspectBaseball AmericaSoxProspectsFanGraphsMLB PipelineAverage Rank
Triston Casas11211
Jeter Downs22122
Bryan Mata43353
Jarren Duran54744
Bobby Dalbec36935
Gilberto Jimenez75466
Tanner Houck87677
Jay Groome6121288
Thaddeus Ward10813109
Noah Song121151410
Connor Seabold11981511
Nick Yorke91315912
Ronaldo HernandezN/A14N/A1213
Brainer Bonaci1815171614
Aldo Ramirez2210142015
Blaze Jordan1620211116
Matthew Lugo1417281317
Brayan Bello1923111918
Connor Wong1522191719
Jeisson Rosario2016162220
Hudson Potts2418182421
Eduard Bazardo2827102822
Chris Murphy1319431823
Jonathan Arauz2126N/AN/A24
Nick Decker2921242325
Jacob Wallace2524262926
Frank GermanN/A2825N/A27
Garrett Whitlock 1732303028
Chih-Jung Liu2334332129
Durbin FeltmanN/A3031N/A30
Cameron CannonN/A43232631
Ryan ZeferjahnN/A2538N/A32
Jorge RodriguezN/A2934N/A33
Juan ChaconN/A52222534
A.J. Politi2749372735
Ceddanne Rafaela2645N/AN/A36
Jeremy Wu-Yelland30N/A47N/A37
*The N/A you see next to some of these names means that that particular prospect was not included on a specific site’s list.

All in all, it’s not too shocking to see Casas, Jeter Downs, Bryan Mata, Jarren Duran, and Bobby Dalbec come in as the Red Sox’ top five prospects, though Dalbec is surely going to graduate from his prospect status this year.

The same can be said about right-hander Tanner Houck, who comes in at No. 7 on this list.

Other names worth mentioning include outfielder Gilberto Jimenez (No. 6), right-hander Noah Song (No. 10), infielder Brainer Bonaci (No. 14), catcher Connor Wong (No. 19), right-hander Eduard Bazardo (No. 22), right-hander Chih-Jung Liu (No. 29), and outfielder Juan Chacon (No. 34).

One notable snub on here would be 17-year-old outfielder Miguel Bleis, who the Red Sox recently signed out of the Dominican Republic for $1.5 million back in January.

Because I made this list myself, I cannot say with certainty that it is perfect. But, I enjoyed compiling the information to create it, and I hope it can serve as some use to those who find this sort of thing interesting.

(Picture of Jarren Duran: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Alex Cora looking forward to seeing top prospect Gilberto Jimenez in action at spring training: ‘It should be fun to see him run around the bases’

In case you missed it, the Red Sox added top outfield prospect Gilberto Jimenez to their major-league spring training roster as a non-roster invitee Friday afternoon.

Jimenez, who does not turn 21 until July, is now the second-youngest player at Red Sox camp behind 2020 first-round draft pick Nick Yorke.

Manager Alex Cora has had high praise for the 18-year-old infielder since he arrived in Fort Myers for his first ever big-league spring training last month. His attention now shifts to another youngster at the Fenway South complex in the form of Jimenez.

“Just like the other kids, to be able to have him here, work out with us and learn the game,” Cora said of the 20-year-old outfielder following a 5-4 win over the Rays at JetBlue Park on Friday. “Hopefully, he can get some at-bats and see what he can do.”

Jimenez is currently ranked as the No. 5 prospect in Boston’s farm system by Baseball America.

Last time he saw any organized minor-league action, the Dominican national slashed .359/.393/.370 with three home runs, 19 RBI, and 14 stolen bases across 59 games for Low-A Lowell in 2019.

At that time, Jimenez was listed at 5-foot-11 and around 160 lbs. Since then, he has bulked up tremendously. And he put that added muscle on full display at the Sox’ fall instructional league last year (2020).

“The young Dominican is now listed at 212 pounds, up significantly from where he was with Lowell,” SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall wrote of Jimenez’s showing at fall instructs in December. “Even though he has added that much size, he still is an elite athlete and has only lost a little speed, now grading as a 70 runner rather than 80.”

Among minor-leaguers in the Red Sox system, the switch-hitting Jimenez is perhaps one of, if not the quickest prospect the organization has to offer.

That aspect of his game — as well as his strength — is something Cora is looking forward to seeing in action.

“This is the first time I’ve seen him,” the Sox skipper said. “Strong kid. Strong. Looking forward to him to go out there and learn from the guys. It should be fun to see him run around the bases.”

Cora wanting Jimenez to learn from the veterans around him at camp should come as no surprise. He did after all encourage Yorke to follow around Enrique Hernandez during workouts.

“He’s going to spend a lot of time with us, but that’s what I want him to do,” Cora said of Yorke late last month. “Just learn, keep working, understand what it takes to be a big-leaguer, and he’ll be a big-leaguer. He’ll be a big-leaguer.”

Though he did not say it on Friday, it’s safe to assume Cora wants Jimenez and Yorke to share the same sort of experience this spring.

Put another way, neither of the organization’s most talented prospects have a realistic shot of cracking Boston’s Opening Day roster or getting called up to the majors this year, but what they learn right now could help them down the line as they continue on with their development.

Jimenez, who signed out of the Dominican for just $10,000 back in 2017, is projected to begin the 2021 minor-league season with High-A Greenville, whose season does not start until sometime in May at the earliest.

This year has the potential to be an important one for the speedster, as he is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his professional career this December.

At this point, one would have to assume that Jimenez is a favorite to secure a spot on Boston’s 40-man roster some time between now and November 20, but a strong season in Greenville — or wherever else he plays — certainly wouldn’t hurt, either.

(Picture of Gilberto Jimenez: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Nick Yorke, the youngest player at Red Sox camp, makes solid first impression in spring debut

Red Sox infield prospect Nick Yorke was in the midst of his senior year at Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose at this time one year ago.

On Monday afternoon, the 18-year-old made his spring training debut for the Sox as a defensive replacement at second base for Marwin Gonzalez in the fifth inning of a Grapefruit League contest against the Braves.

Playing the final three innings of Monday’s eventual 5-3 loss to Atlanta, Yorke got the chance to step up to the plate for the first time with one out in the bottom half of the fifth.

His opposition? Only Braves right-hander A.J. Minter, who is coming off a 2020 season in which he allowed just two earned runs over 22 relief appearances and 21 2/3 innings pitched.

Going up against that caliber of competition is no easy task, especially for a teenager who had not gotten a legitimate, in-game at-bat in well over a year.

Having said that, Yorke held his own, and after looking at and fouling off a handful of pitches, golfed a single to right-center field that found a nice patch of grass to land on.

Fast forward to the seventh, and the California native again showed discipline at the plate by drawing a walk to cap off what was an impressive 2021 debut.

“That was the highlight of the day, having that kid play,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Yorke during his postgame media availability. “It’s funny because I told him before the game, ‘Hey, you’re playing second base.’ He’s like, ‘Ok, cool.’ I asked him, ‘Are you nervous?’ He’s like, ‘Nope.’ I said, ‘Ok, good for you.’ I was probably more nervous for him, so that’s a good sign.”

Boston selected Yorke with the 17th overall pick in the 2020 amateur draft last June, which at the time was viewed as a somewhat surprising selection considering the notion he was not projected to go that early.

Since then, though, the right-handed hitting, right-handed throwing second baseman has been turning heads on a consistent basis — whether it be at the Red Sox’ alternate training site or fall instructional league — to the point where he is entering the 2021 season as Boston’s ninth-ranked prospect according to Baseball America.

He’s also entering the 2021 season in better shape than he was in the fall, as he explained when speaking to reporters on Monday afternoon.

“In Pawtucket (alternate site) and instructs I wasn’t in the greatest shape,” Yorke explained. “Going into my first offseason, we made a goal to lose 10-15 pounds before I came back, and just focusing on that I came back and lost 25 (pounds).”

Yorke, who turns 19 in just over a month, is far and away the youngest player at Red Sox camp. While he may not be playing for a spot on the club’s Opening Day roster this spring, he is using this time to learn as much as possible by following around the likes of Enrique Hernandez and Xander Bogaerts.

“I’m working out with all the big-league infielders and just trying to be a sponge,” he said. “They’ve been in this game a lot longer than me, so I’m just trying to take what I can from them and piece this thing together.”

Cora himself echoed this same sentiment as well in regards when detailing why Yorke is at major-league spring training in the first place.

“He’s here to learn,” said the Sox skipper. “He’s here to be around big-leaguers and learn how to act in the clubhouse and be a professional, but you can see. He controlled the strike zone, controlled his at-bats.”

One thing that aided Yorke in his ability to control the strike zone and his at-bats on Monday was the fact that he did not let his nerves get to him, which is something the Red Sox coaching staff helped him with in getting him ready for in-game action.

“Once they said, ‘Play ball,’ I was ready to go,” Yorke said. “We haven’t been able to play on the field a lot the last year, so to get on the field, it’s just exciting. You get to go do what you love. I didn’t have a lot of nerves. It’s baseball at the end of the day. It’s just a game. I was just trying to go and have some fun.”

Listed at 6-foot and 200 pounds, Yorke is projected to begin the 2021 minor-league season with Low-A Salem, whose season is slated to begin on May 4.

For the time being, though, Yorke is looking forward to continuing to show what he’s got under the watchful eyes of Red Sox management these next few weeks in southwest Florida.

“Any opportunity they give me to touch a baseball field, I’m going to try to run away with it,” he said. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity and just trying to get better.”

(Picture of Nick Yorke: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Garrett Richards makes Red Sox debut as sloppy defense leads to 5-3 loss at hands of Braves

The Red Sox opened the home portion of their Grapefruit League schedule on Monday by falling to the Braves by a final score of 5-3 in seven innings at JetBlue Park.

Newcomer Garrett Richards, who signed a one-year, $10 million deal with Boston last month, made his first start of the spring for Boston in this one.

Working two “full” innings, the veteran right-hander surrendered two earned runs on three hits and two walks to go along with one strikeout on the afternoon.

Both of those Atlanta runs came in the top half of the first, when Richards managed to record just one out before the rest of the inning was called off for pitch count purposes.

The 32-year-old was able to rebound in the second inning, however, as he retired the Braves’ 7-8-9 hitters in order to end his day on a more positive note.

Ultimately hit with the losing decision in what was his Red Sox debut, Richards will look to pick up where he left off in his next time out, which should come against the Braves once again on Sunday.

In relief of Richards, left-hander Kyle Hart, a non-roster invitee, came on for the third and yielded two runs — both of which were unearned thanks to a Bobby Dalbec fielding error — on a pair of walks and a two-run single.

From there, right-hander Kevin McCarthy — another non-roster invitee — worked a scoreless top half of the fourth, while right-handed pitching prospects Thad Ward and Connor Seabold combined to toss a pair of shutout frames in the fifth and sixth innings.

Zac Grotz, a right-hander, was responsible for the seventh, and he gave up one unearned run before being injuring his elbow on a pitch that required him to leave the game immediately.

All in all, Sox pitchers allowed five total runs, but only two of those runs were earned due to sloppy defensive play that resulted in five errors being committed; one from Dalbec, one from Ward, one from Marwin Gonzalez, and two from Jeter Downs.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox starting lineup featured the likes of Christian Arroyo, Gonzalez, J.D. Martinez, Dalbec, Michael Chavis, Yairo Munoz, Cesar Puello, Jeisson Rosario, and Jett Bandy.

Matched up against right-hander Huascar Ynoa — one of the top pitching prospects in Atlanta’s farm system — Bandy kicked off the scoring for his side by drawing a bases-loaded walk with two outs in the bottom of the second.

Fast forward to the fourth, and the bases were loaded once more. This time with one out as Rosario, one of the two prospects Boston acquired from the Padres in the Mitch Moreland trade, came to the plate to face Touki Toussaint.

Rosario managed to pick up an RBI, but only by dribbling a grounder to the right side of the infield that gave Chavis enough time to score from third and make it a 4-2 contest in favor of Atlanta.

In the seventh, a leadoff double off the bat of catching prospect Kole Cottam resulted in another Boston run crossing the plate when Jonathan Arauz grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.

That sequence cut the Sox’ deficit to two runs at 5-3, and it allowed the tyring run to come to the plate in the form of Roldani Baldwin, who stuck out against Jasseel De La Cruz to put this one to bed.

Some notes from this one:

Nick Yorke, the Red Sox’ first-round pick in the 2020 draft, made his spring debut on Monday. The 18-year-old infielder went 1-for-1 off the bench with a walk and a fifth-inning single off Braves reliever A.J. Minter.

Ward and Seabold, ranked by Baseball America as the No. 10 and No. 11 prospects in Boston’s farm system, were probably the two most impressive pitchers the Red Sox threw out there on Monday.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll host the reigning American League champion Tampa Bay Rays at JetBlue Park on Tuesday afternoon.

Left-hander Martin Perez will get the ball for Boston, and he will be opposed by veteran righty Michael Wacha.

Garrett Whitlock, Joel Payamps, Ryan Weber, Josh Winckowski and Andrew Politi are also expected to pitch for the Sox.

First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time on ESPN, which means we are in for nine innings of baseball since this will be a nationally-televised game.

(Picture of Garrett Richards: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Alex Cora impressed by 18-year-old prospect Nick Yorke so far at spring training

When the Red Sox finalized their initial list of non-roster invitees that will be attending major-league spring training earlier this month, one name that stood out above the rest was infield prospect Nick Yorke.

Rarely do you see a player just months removed from being drafted receive an invite to big-league camp the following spring, but that was the case with Yorke.

Among the 70-plus players working out at the Fenway South complex right now, Yorke — who turns 19 in early April — is without a doubt the youngest of the bunch.

“It made me feel old,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Tuesday when asked about meeting Yorke for the first time. “[My daughter] Camila turns 18 in March. It’s like, ‘Wow, this is unreal.'”

Upon seeing the 2020 first-round draft pick at the batting cages the other day, Cora observed that Yorke had slimmed down a bit while still maintaining his strong, 6-foot frame.

“He’s in a better place physically. He’s a tall, strong kid. That was impressive,” said Cora. “I look and I’m like, ‘Who’s this kid?’ They told me and I was like, ‘Wow, he’s impressive.'”

Because he is at big-league camp, Yorke, a Southern California native, has the chance to absorb as much useful information as he can from the veterans he is sharing a clubhouse with for the time being.

“I asked him one question,” Cora recounted. “I go, ‘Who are you going to follow in spring training? Who’s the guy that you’re going to ask questions and follow?’ And he said, ‘Enrique Hernandez.’ I said, ‘That’s a good one. So, who else are you going to follow?’ He goes, ‘J.D. [Martinez].’ I said, ‘No, no, no. Don’t follow J.D. right now. Let’s keep it simple.’ And I said, ‘Just follow Xander. Follow Xander Bogaerts from 7 a.m. until whenever we’re done, and you’ll be in a good spot. That’s what we want from him.”

Cora acknowledged that while Yorke — the 17th overall pick in last year’s amateur draft — does have plenty of potential, he is mainly in Fort Myers right now to learn the ropes of what it takes to be a major-leaguer.

It’s a similar experience to what Bobby Dalbec did during one of the Sox’ homestands at the tail end of the 2019 season, well before the 25-year-old made his major-league debut.

Rather than getting called up to the team’s major-league roster, Dalbec spent time around the club at Fenway Park and familiarized himself with the Red Sox and the big-league environment, which surely helped him upon getting called up last August.

“It’s kind of like when Dalbec went to Fenway for a week in 2019,” the Sox skipper said when describing what Yorke is doing now. “He’s going to spend a lot of time with us, but that’s what I want him to do. Just learn, keep working, understand what it takes to be a big-leaguer, and he’ll be a big-leaguer. He’ll be a big-leaguer.”

A right-handed hitting, right-handed throwing second baseman out of Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, Yorke is currently regarded by Baseball America as the Sox’ No. 9 prospect.

Many were shocked that Boston took Yorke, who entered last year’s draft as BA’s 96th-ranked draft-eligible prospect, as high as they did, but chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom explained that process when speaking with Chris Hatfield and Ian Cundall of SoxProspects.com last month.

“We knew that it would come with some blowback because Nick wasn’t a hyped player,” Bloom said on the SoxProspects.com podcast. “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.”

Despite not having a minor-league season to work with in 2020, Yorke still impressed at the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket and their fall instructional league in Fort Myers, which in turn led to him skyrocketing up the organization’s prospect rankings to the point where he may just be one of the best middle infield prospects in baseball heading into the 2021 campaign.

On that note, Yorke is projected to begin the 2021 minor-league season with Low-A Salem, whose season begins on May 4.

Between then and now, though, it should be fascinating to see if Yorke finds his way into any Grapefruit League games over the next few weeks.

(Picture of Nick Yorke: Pawtucket Red S0x)

In Jeter Downs and Nick Yorke, Red Sox have two of the top middle infield prospects in baseball

At this time last year, infielders Jeter Downs and Nick Yorke were not yet members of the Red Sox organization.

Downs, now 22, was preparing for what was supposed to be his fourth (third full) season as a pro, while Yorke, now 18, was preparing for his senior season at Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, Calif.

Neither Downs’ nor Yorke’s 2020 went the way they likely expected, with the former getting dealt from the Dodgers to the Sox in February and the latter having his senior season halted due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Emerging as the top prospect in Boston’s farm system in wake of the trade that sent Mookie Betts to Los Angeles, Downs, who was born in Colombia, was at least able to salvage his minor-league season-less 2020 thanks to being included in the Sox’ 60-man player pool.

Yorke, meanwhile, was also able to salvage his year after somewhat surprisingly going 17th overall to the Red Sox in the 2020 first-year player draft. He was later added to the club’s 60-man player pool in mid-September.

Both players were able to spend time at the Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket over the summer to further their development, though Downs understandably got there a whole lot earlier than Yorke did.

Here’s what former PawSox and current Worcester Red Sox manager Billy McMillon had to say about each young infielder when speaking to reporters in early October, courtesy of MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

On Downs: “Jeter’s kind of interesting. We were introduced to him in Spring Training 1. We could see glimpses of defense and offense. I would say he did better offensively in the first spring training. I think people were thinking about him potentially being a second baseman, everyday, for the Red Sox. I think the strides he made defensively are going to sway some of those questions people had.

“He made tremendous strides defensively. There are some things he needs to work on, like his makeup and his confidence and things like that. I think those issues affected how he did offensively. As far as Jeter, I see tremendous upside. His track record of offensive performance indicates that at 7:05, when the lights are on, he shows up at the plate. I’m hopeful his track record offensively meshes well with the strides he made defensively. If that happens, I think you’ve got a pretty good player. I don’t want to give a comp or anything, but I think he would more than hold his own based on what he did defensively and how much better and more consistent he got.

“I think he would be a better second baseman long-term, but I do believe he could play shortstop. He made some plays that were just unbelievable at shortstop. I personally would see him a better fit at second base if we were talking about 162 games. I think his athleticism, his skills, would be a little better at second base. But he’s still young. I don’t want it to seem like he can’t play shortstop. I think he could do a fine job over there. In my eyes, I see second base when I see him.”

On Yorke: “His first professional at-bat, he gets a single off Bryan Mata. Worked the count full, hit a line drive to right field like it was nothng. That was really, really refreshing, just to see… I’m not saying he should have been intimidated or whatever, but he went up there, playing high school not too long ago, and just worked the count full and went the other way. There’s an approach there.

“One of the things I tried to tell him was, ‘Hey, look. There are going to be some professional guys around here who have approaches, who have work. You have to figure out who you are and don’t try to match what you see other guys do. Just be yourself.’ He kind of took that to heart. Really impressive with his at-bats. Limited action at second base but I watched some of the early work with (coach Bruce Crabbe) and he has got some good actions out there. His body is kind of stocky but he’s not big and he moves well. You can see why he was a high-round pick. He blended in well. He was joking with the guys, he was interacting. If somebody walked into the clubhouse or onto the bench, they wouldn’t have known that this guy was drafted in 2020. They would have thought he was one of the guys. That’s a testament to the scouts who saw something there. There’s a lot to like in a very small sample.”

Because he got to the alternate training site in July as opposed to later in the summer, Downs was not included in the Red Sox’ fall instructional league roster down in Fort Myers

Yorke, however, was, and that gave the right-handed hitter even more of an opportunity to shine in front of Red Sox coaches and scouts alike.

Per SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall, Yorke “was the most impressive member of the 2020 draft/NDFA class, showing off his offensive ability, but questions about his long-term defensive profile remain an issue. Yorke got off to a strong start at the plate, but as the camp went along, he struggled to pull the ball and seemed to be just trying to push the ball to right field. Regardless of his struggles near the end of camp, scouts were consistent in saying they believe he can hit and they are high on his bat, enough so that even with a questionable defensive profile and below average speed, they still like him.”

After the Red Sox took him off the board with their top pick in the 2020 draft, Yorke ultimately signed with the club for $2.7 million last July. He is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as Boston’s No. 11 prospect.

Downs, meanwhile, is regarded by MLB Pipeline as the Sox’ No. 1 prospect with a slight advantage over Triston Casas.

Recently, MLB Pipeline released lists for their top-10 prospects at each position, and Downs — listed as a shortstop — and Yorke — listed as a second baseman, both made their respective lists, coming in at No. 8 and No. 10, respectively.

Regarding Downs’ ranking, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo did not have any ‘top tools’ or ‘superlatives’ to give the 5-foot-11, 195 lb. infielder. He simply listed him as his eighth-best shortstop prospect.

Regarding Yorke’s ranking, MLB.com’s Jim Callis writes that the 6-foot, 200 lb. infielder was that particular position group’s ‘highest riser,’ though he also has the ‘most to prove.’

“Yorke had shoulder surgery before his high school junior season in 2019, which relegated him to DH duty that spring and curtailed him on the showcase circuit,” Callis wrote earlier this week. “A year later, the Red Sox made him a surprise first-round pick (17th overall) and signed him for $2.7 million.

“While the Red Sox fully believe in Yorke and some clubs regarded him as the best high school hitter on the West Coast, most teams evaluated him as more of a second- or third-rounder,” added Callis. “His arm hasn’t bounced all the way back from his shoulder surgery, so he also has to show he can handle second base.”

While Downs and Yorke are still both prospects under the age of 23, the future of the Red Sox’ middle infield may very well be in strong hands.

Downs could have the chance to put that to the test this coming season, as he’ll likely begin the year at Triple-A Worcester with the opportunity to get called up by the Red Sox if all goes accordingly for him.

Yorke, on the other hand, is still a long ways away from sniffing a major-league roster seeing how he only turns 19 years old in April. He is projected to start the 2021 minor-league season with Low-A Salem, though it is not yet known when the new season will begin for Class-A and Double-A minor-league affiliates.

(Picture of Jeter Downs: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

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)

Red Sox Set To Kick off Fall Instructional League This Week With Bevy of Top Prospects in Attendance

The Red Sox are set to kick off their fall instructional league in Fort Myers on Monday. And according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, several of the club’s top prospects will take part in these offseason activities.

Among the 62 minor-leaguers who will report to Fenway South starting this week, several had just spent at least part of their summers at the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket. Those names, per Speier, include pitchers Bryan Mata and Jay Groome, infielders Triston Casas, Nick Yorke, and Hudson Potts, and outfielder Jeisson Rosario.

As for the prospects who did not receive an invite to the alternate site this season, there are right-handers Brayan Bello and Thad Ward, left-hander Chris Murphy, infielders Brainer Bonaci and Matthew Lugo, and speedy outfielder Gilberto Jimenez.

On top of that group of players, infielder Blaze Jordan and pitchers Shane Drohan and Jeremy Wu-Yelland — the rest of Boston’s 2020 draft class — are also expected to attend this offseason program that will run until November 12.

Although it is not yet clear if teams will be allowed to play games against one another due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, these instructional leagues do allow the Red Sox, as well as the other 29 clubs, to get back in contact with the core of their minor-league talent.

Speaking of minor-league talent, as of September 1, the Sox had the No. 25 farm system in baseball according to MLB Pipeline.

As underwhelming as that ranking may be, there appears to be optimism from within the organization that things in that developmental area are steadily improving. PawSox manager Billy McMillon opined as much when speaking with reporters this past Friday via Zoom.

“I think it’s very promising right now,” McMillon said regarding the state of the Red Sox farm system. “Some of the returns that we got back in some of the various trades and offseason acquisitions, I think that’s going to raise the level of our minor-leagues. We saw some guys develop, get a little bit better. There’s encouraging news from guys that impressed on the mound to seeing how some of the position players developed. I think the cupboard is getting full again, and I think there’s reason for optimism with some of the guys that we saw in the alternate camp.”

Expect the full list of Red Sox minor-leaguers who will be attending fall instructs to be released relatively soon.

UPDATE: Here’s the full list of the 62 Red Sox minor-leaguers who will be at full instructs, courtesy of SoxProspects.

Red Sox Top Draft Pick Nick Yorke Talks Alternate Training Site Life

At 18 years and 173 days old, Nick Yorke is by far the youngest player at the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket. The 2020 first-round draft pick received an invite to the alternate site earlier this month and first reported to McCoy Stadium last Thursday.

Since then, Yorke has gone 3-for-4 at the plate with two doubles and two walks in simulated game action while also getting acclimated to a whole new level of baseball far different than what he had grown accustomed to at Archbishop Mitty High School out in San Jose.

In a brief period of time, Yorke, a west coaster, has seen his life essentially flip upside down after signing his first professional contract back in July. Even so, the right-handed hitting infielder is just glad to be playing baseball in some capacity in what has already been an unprecedented year.

“I’ve been having so much fun getting on the field again,” Yorke said when speaking with reporters via Zoom earlier Tuesday. “Competitiveness-wise, it’s just fun getting to be on the field against another pitcher and have some at-bats. So, I’ve been having a great time out here.”

One of those pitchers Yorke got the chance to face in his Pawtucket debut on Saturday was top prospect Bryan Mata, who wound up dazzling the youngster with his velocity a bit before eventually yielding an opposite-field single.

“I remember that first pitch he threw me,” Yorke said of his encounter with the 21-year-old Mata. “He threw it for a ball but I was like ‘I didn’t know a ball could move like that!’ So then I put on the batting gloves and it was time to compete, put a barrel on the ball, and let him do the work.”

While Yorke is still adjusting to this new level of baseball, he is also getting better familiarized with his peers, such as fellow prospect Triston Casas, veteran infielder Jose Peraza, and PawSox manager Billy McMillon.

“They’ve been really good about getting my feet wet,” the one-time University of Arizona commit added.” I took the first 2 – 2 1/2 days kind of just taking BP and working out with the guys. Triston Casas has been really good with me. I go and hit with him before we report everyday to come hit off the machine and get the [velocity] in before the games.”

Regarding Peraza, who was optioned to the alternate site on September 9, Yorke says the ex-Red was surprised about his age and has been one of several players with major-league experience who have doled out some wisdom or advice if needed.

“It’s amazing. I mean, they’re all so welcoming,” Yorke said of the veteran presence in Pawtucket. “I’ve tried to be a sponge. They’re really good about letting me in and showing me the ropes. I’ve had a great time with them.”

When discussing what his interactions with McMillon have been like, Yorke described the PawSox skipper as an ‘amazing’ individual.

“[McMillon’s] very funny,” he continued. “He always puts smiles on guys’ faces… and just makes transitions a lot easier, introducing myself to new guys through Billy and whatnot. He’s been great with me.”

Yorke, as well as the other 32 or so players in Pawtucket, will presumably continue their workouts at McCoy through the end of the 2020 major-league season this coming Sunday. From there, as noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the Red Sox are planning to invite about 60 players to a fall training camp in Fort Myers. The California native could very well be one of those 60 players who receive an invite. We will have to wait and see on that.