Nick Yorke: Red Sox 2021 Minor League Player Of The Year
When the Red Sox drafted high school second baseman Nick Yorke 17th overall in in 2020, many in the industry expressed shock.
One year into Yorke's professional development, the shock is long since gone, replaced by a consensus that the 19-year-old may be one of the best pure hitters in the minors.
“Obviously, there's a reason why we drafted him where we did,” Red Sox farm director Brian Abraham said. “I think he’s shown everyone why that's been the case. So we're really excited about this past year, and moving forward as well.”
Yorke responded well last winter when asked by the Red Sox to shed weight, dropping from 225 to 205 pounds. He spent time in big league camp with the Red Sox—where he showed competitive, professional at-bats in Grapefruit League games—before opening the year in Low-A Salem.
His debut went over with a thud. Yorke hit .195 in May with a strikeout rate of 23.1% in 21 games.
Any concerns quickly abated as Yorke settled and displayed the elite strike-zone judgment, pitch recognition and barrel manipulation that had been part of his appeal at San Jose's Archbishop Mitty High.
Over his next 55 games in Salem—a power-suppressing environment—he hit .373/.467/.608 with more walks (33) than strikeouts (26) to earn an Aug. 24 promotion to High-A Greenville. Yorke continued to dominate there and finished the year with a .325/.412/.516 line with 14 homers in 97 games.
Yorke joined a handful of elite prospects from the last decade to post a .300/.400/.500 line in full-season ball as teenagers. Other names on that list include Mike Trout, Byron Buxton and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
While some questions remain about Yorke's defensive profile—he could land at third base or left field—evaluators believe that his aptitude and motivation over the course of his pro debut suggest a player capable of being a big league average defender.
But Yorke's offensive profile as a plus hitter—or better—with extra-base power suggests a player who can emerge as a lineup linchpin.
— After a season-ending promotion to Double-A Portland, lefthander Jay Groome struck out 40.6% of the batters he faced over three starts and 15.2 innings.
— Outfielder Tyler Dearden led all Red Sox minor leaguers and tied for the High-A East lead with 24 homers. The 23-year-old Dearden—who spent all of last year working out independently and wasn’t invited to instructional league—hit .261/.368/.523.