Tyler McDonough may not have been the top selection the Red Sox made in this summer’s draft, but he has already emerged as one of the early standouts from the class.
Boston took McDonough — a 5-foot-10, 180 pound second baseman — in the third round of the 2021 amateur draft out of North Carolina State University, where he was well-regarded for for his offensive production and consistency at the plate.
Upon signing with the Sox for $831,100 in late July, McDonough was assigned to the club’s rookie-level Florida Complex League affiliate in Fort Myers. It did not take long for the 22-year-old to get acclimated to pro ball, as he was promptly promoted to Low-A Salem on August 3.
It took a little more than two weeks for McDonough to make his Salem Red Sox debut, but the switch-hitter wound up slashing .296/.397/.491 (141 wRC+) with four doubles, four triples, three home runs, 14 RBIs, 23 runs scored, three stolen bases, 17 walks, and 24 strikeouts over 27 games (126 plate appearances) to close out the minor-league season.
In his three seasons at North Carolina State, McDonough saw his playing time come at second base, third base, and center field. In his first exposure to the pros, he saw all his playing time come at either second base or center field.
That being said, the Red Sox do believe McDonough can add even more defensive versatility to his profile. The Cincinnati native did play shortstop while attending the prestigious Moeller High School and — as noted by The Athletic’s Chad Jennings — “regularly took pregame groundballs at shortstop” this past season.
When speaking with Jennings over the weekend, Red Sox director of player development Brian Abraham indicated that McDonough “could play some shortstop next year, perhaps not as a primary position but to explore the possibility of backing up at the position” if the occasion arises.
“If you can play shortstop and center field, that’s pretty valuable,” said Abraham. “There aren’t too many guys who can do that. What we’ve seen — the athleticism, the footwork, the arm strength — all those things give us reason to think he could play some shortstop. But I think you have to walk before you run as well. I think we’re certainly open to it, and if he shows us he has the ability to do that, we’ll certainly give him that opportunity.”
Under chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, and perhaps even before then, Boston has clearly placed an emphasis on players who can play multiple positions, and that — from an in-house perspective — starts from the bottom of the player development ladder.
“We’ve definitely been — I don’t want to say more aggressive, but we’ve definitely been a little bit more open to allowing guys to play in multiple areas,” Abraham said. “(We are) allowing them to get (experience) at a position where, at the upper levels, they don’t get there for the first time and say, ‘Wow, I’m uncomfortable here.’ So, I think that’s definitely been strategic on our end. But again, we’ve also been very lucky to have some very good players who can play multiple positions.”
McDonough, who does not turn 23 until April, was recently identified by Baseball America as the fastest runner and best athlete in Boston’s 2021 draft class. He is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 campaign at High-A Greenville.
(Picture of Tyler McDonough: Steven Branscombe/USA TODAY Sports)