Column: Red Sox Botched 1st-Round Pick

With the 17th pick of the draft, the Boston Red Sox took a flier on Archbishop Mitty infielder Nick Yorke, who ranked 139th on the MLB’s Top 200 Draft Prospects list.

In a fashion the Boston market has grown accustomed to seeing on the gridiron, the Red Sox wanted to make an under-slot draft selection that “nobody has heard of.” While many were quick to jump on the hate train for this pick, several scouts firmly believe this will be a gamble that will pay off down the road.

What makes Yorke special is his bat, and that was one of his many redeeming qualities to the University of Arizona, where he was supposedly a “hard commit.”

However, when you get selected roughly 122 picks ahead of schedule, that could do a number on your Plan A. However, even with the praise from scouts in mind, you have to look at this pick at face value. What face value tells you is that this pick was still not a smart one for the club.

Why’s that?

1. Yorke is immediately blocked within the organization.

It’s a foregone conclusion that the Red Sox aren’t going to keep every single young star they have. But if Yorke projects to be an offensive-minded middle infielder, one cannot help but look at the players already on the depth chart.

Jeter Downs was just acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Mookie Betts trade, and he projects as an offensive-minded second baseman. Xander Bogaerts signed a long-term extension ahead of the 2019 season, and he will not be going anywhere. Michael Chavis, though seemingly better suited for the corner infield, is likely staked to second base because Rafael Devers, Triston Casas, and Bobby Dalbec are all projected big league talents on the corners.

For Yorke, it seems as though he might even have to consider a shift to the outfield to make the majors one day. Even if he does, there’s still no guarantee his bat will be up to speed. Scouts are endorsing this pick, but it’s hard to see the middle infield as an area of need for the team’s only pick in the first two rounds.

2. It didn’t take long for the best option for the team to get selected.

If you look at the current state of the Red Sox position players, one group stands out above the rest: outfielders.

Mookie Betts was traded this offseason to Los Angeles, Jackie Bradley Jr. is set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and Andrew Benintendi has been very hit-or-miss through his four-year career. On top of that, Kevin Pillar isn’t anything more than a short-term solution, and it isn’t as though there’s a lot of help on the way in the minors.

At pick No. 20, the Milwaukee Brewers selected Garrett Mitchell, a UCLA outfielder who slashed .327/.393/.478 in 121 games for the Bruins. He doesn’t have a lot of power to his name––only six homers in 477 at-bats––but he did lead the nation in triples in 2019 (12) and has 28 career stolen bases on 40 attempts.

Lastly, he is considered one of the better defensive outfielders in the nation, getting some of the best jumps on fly balls we’ve seen out of a collegiate outfielder.

Had Boston drafted him, they’d have found––at worst––the replacement for Jackie Bradley Jr. On top of that, had his bat developed with Jarren Duran, they could’ve sat back and truly analyzed their stance on Andrew Benintendi. Do they see him in their future plans? Do they want to dangle his name out on the trade market and perhaps recoup some young assets?

None of that matters anymore, because now they definitely need to keep him on board.

3. Pitching. Pitching. Pitching.

More so than the outfield, the Red Sox are in desperate need of adding to their pitching prospect pool.

While Tanner Houck is knocking on the door of the big leagues and Brian Mata and Noah Song look like good prospects, they simply don’t have a wide margin for error. At the time of their selection, Bryce Jarvis, Cade Cavalli, and Nick Bitsko were all still available. Even Cole Wilcox (the Georgia product whose name has yet to be called) was there, but the team opted for a middle infielder.

Pitching for the team is going to be under a microscope until they prove they can develop another front-line starter, but the team decided they weren’t going to take the chance on Night 1 of the draft.

The MLB Draft is a crapshoot, by and large. However, when there are only five rounds, it puts a bit more emphasis on each selection. Time will tell if Nick Yorke was worth the gamble, but for now, it certainly looks like a reach.

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One Response

  1. While I understand your argument, I respectfully disagree with you.
    Two reasons:
    1 – Vanderbilt Head Coach Tim Corbin (the reigning National Champions) said Yorke may be the best high school hitter in the country.
    2 – As was pointed out by former GM Dan O’Dowd on MLB Network last night…you pick the best athlete on the board in the first round.
    So, having an excess of good hitting middle infielders may mean that the Red Sox have an asset that can be used later as trade bait to acquire the needed starting pitching in the future. After all, drafting starting pitchers is much riskier than acquiring starting pitching once the player has shown he can perform based on his minor league record.

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