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)