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Re-examining the under slot strategy

After seeing what they did, how do we feel?

2020 Grape Fruit League Media Availability Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images

After Day One of the draft was complete, there were a bunch of storylines coming out of the league. There was talk about what happened at the top of the draft when both Austin Martin and Asa Lacy fell out of the top three despite both being consensus top three prospects. There was talk about how much college dominated the top of the draft with the longest wait ever until the first high school prospect was taken with the eighth overall pick. Then, there was the Red Sox, who made the most surprising pick of the night by selecting Nick Yorke, a high school second baseman from California, with the 17th overall selection.

We’ve talked a whole lot about that pick, and you can read the write-up on Yorke here and my interpretation of where he fits into the Red Sox system here. The infielder was ranked well below this slot by every major publication and no one saw this coming from anywhere. Of course, the MLB Draft is as much a money game as it is simply picking the best player available at your slot, and that goes doubly when you’re missing a pick like the Red Sox were. They, of course, had their second rounder stripped as part of their punishment for the 2018 sign-stealing scheme.

And so, it became pretty clear that while they like Yorke a lot as a player, a lot of this had to do with signing him to a below slot deal in order to save money to spend later. If they hadn’t done this, they would have had among the lowest sums of cash remaining for their Day Two picks and would’ve been hamstrung on what they could’ve done in the final three rounds of this shortened draft. The pick itself came out of nowhere, but this particular strategy is one that started to get on the radar as a possibility in the last 48 hours or so leading up to their selection.

Yesterday morning, we talked about this strategy and whether or not there is merit to it on its face without knowing the full context of specifically how the Red Sox were planning to spend this extra money in the later rounds. My conclusion was that there is certainly merit, but that it was not a slam dunk and we shouldn’t be praising them for creativity until we see what they actually do with it. So, now that the draft is complete and we saw what they did with those final three picks, what do we think?

In a way, I suppose this is just a convoluted way to grade the entire draft? I started this thinking to myself, “Self, you’re not going to do a draft grade. Everyone does draft grades. Be different!” But, well, that’s what this is. Let’s not kid ourselves. It seems that the Red Sox are mostly going to be using the money they saved with the Yorke selection on Blaze Jordan, their third round pick and a kid with big power. I’d also expect fifth rounder Shane Drohan to get a little more than slot value, but fourth rounder Jeremy Wu-Yelland should get less than slot so those two may more or less cancel out.

Either way, I have kind of two different opinions on this draft. On the one hand, I can talk myself into all four of these players, and I think they did a good job of adding a few good prospects to their system. I’ll talk a little bit about this later, but I think all of Yorke, Jordan and Drohan can fit into the 12-30 range on the organizational list, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. Organizational depth is good, and if the Red Sox scouting department sees something in these guys that provides upside then all the better.

That being said, I think it’s possible to recognize that said scouting department knows a lot more about these kids and just scouting in general than I do while also acknowledging that they are fallible. And I think after seeing how Day Two played out I still would have preferred they go for upside with that first selection and maybe sacrificed a little bit of that depth later. As I’ve talked about before, I think the Red Sox have a lot of that depth in the middle of their system and what they are really missing is that impact talent at the top of the system. Guys like Garrett Mitchell and Nick Bitsko were available at 17, and I think I would rather see that kind of upside personally.

Of course, the Red Sox would argue that they did get upside with all three of Yorke, Jordan and Drohan, and even to a lesser extent with Wu-Yelland. Who am I to argue? Well, I’m a person with a keyboard, I suppose. My counterargument would be that there is just a harder road to upside with those types of players. They can all certainly get there, but we’re talking about a second baseman with good not great power and good not great defense, a likely first base-only righty, and a left-handed pitcher with good not great stuff.

Like I said, individually I can talk myself into all of these guys. I love hit tool middle infielders, and that’s Yorke. You just need to see one video of Jordan to fall in love with that power. Drohan’s delivery looks smooth and with some polish he can surprise people. These are good players! My biggest issue, again, is just the relative lack of upside that comes with their general profiles moreso than the actual players themselves. So, to do what I set out not to do, I’d give this draft a C+. And before you tell me the Red Sox scouts know more than me: No kidding.