Image credit: (Photo by Bill Mitchell)
The Red Sox could have played it safe with the first pick of first-year chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom’s regime.
Instead, they became one of the stories of the first round.
The Red Sox opted to pick second baseman Nick Yorke at pick 17, a player who was not seen as a first-round pick by Baseball America or any other public-facing draft evaluations. Baseball America ranked Yorke 96th on the BA500. It was a pick that immediately became the shock of the first round.
Boston was well aware that the pick would draw plenty of surprised reactions. But without a second round pick, they were not confident that Yorke would still be available when they picked again at pick 89 in the third round and they were extremely confident in his bat, no matter what the public perception may be.
Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin said on the MLB Network draft show that he believed Yorke was the best high school hitter in the class. “We really recruited that kid. I thought he was the best hitter in high school baseball.”
“From 17 to 89 is a long way. It felt like an eternity. I think that our perception of the industry’s interests didn’t match the public perception,” Red Sox scouting director Paul Toboni said.
The Red Sox said they are confident they can sign Yorke even if he has a strong Arizona commitment. It is likely that Boston will sign him to a below-slot deal that will give them additional money to spend on their third to fifth round picks.
“As much as we weren’t for all the reasons that we weren’t as focused on that, we were aware of it,” Bloom said. “It’s something you are cognizant of. But I think when you start worrying about that over your own process and your own conviction that your group has and how you have your board set up. My experience shows more often than not that leads to regrettable decisions.
“We have to focus first and foremost on the process we have. With respect to evaluation ability when it comes to high school hitters I put our guys up against any in the industry.”
There are plenty of scouts who view Yorke as a plus hitter and he has some power potential, but there are questions about where he fits defensively. Red Sox scouting director Paul Toboni said that he most likely will end up as an offensive second baseman.
Yorke has had a shoulder injury in his junior year that affected his throwing, although his arm had improved this year.
Toboni and Bloom both said that they viewed Yorke as a player who would have risen up consensus boards if there had been a full season. Toboni noted that Andrew Benintendi began the 2015 season far outside of the first round and then played his way into being a top 10 pick.
Baseball America picked Yorke was one of the 10 top sleepers identified by the Draftpoint tool, which uses natural language processing to analyze current prospects and how they compare to past draftees.