Four of the top five prospects in this year’s community rankings were position players, which was not a major surprise. Historically, that has been Boston’s bread and butter in prospect development. However, as we move to the latter half of the top ten, pitching looks to take more of a center stage with this latest round of voting being an extremely close two-horse race between a pair of arms. Ultimately, voters were more enticed by the unknown than the guy ready for the majors, as Noah Song takes the sixth spot on our list, grabbing 35 percent of the vote.
Song is one of the most interesting prospects in baseball, and when he was coming out of the draft he was one of the most interesting draft prospects in recent history. The righty entered 2019 coming off an impressive junior year at the Naval Academy, pitching to a 1.92 ERA over 14 starts. Despite that, as well as a good summer the year before on the Cape, Song didn’t get draft love because of a military obligation to serve for a couple of years before he could go pro. So he went back for his senior year, and was somehow even better. He ended up being a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award (given to the top college baseball player every year) after pitching to a 1.44 ERA in 14 starts.
At this point Song was graduated from school and officially one of the strangest draft prospects in his class. By talent, there were some who thought he was a first-round quality arm, and the consensus wasn’t too far behind with many at least seeing him as a second rounder. But the circumstances were going to push him back, because the duty to serve his obligation for the Navy was still on the table. The question was how far he’d fall. The Red Sox would be the team to take the chance, grabbing the talented righty in the fourth round of that 2019 draft.
The questions about military service would, as we know, resurface, but first he did get to spend that initial summer with the organization. As is typically the case for newly drafted pitchers, Song wasn’t pushed very hard, but when he did pitch we saw glimpses of why some were so high on the talent. Pitching in Lowell’s rotation, he made seven starts totaling 17 innings, pitching to a 1.06 ERA with 19 strikeouts and five walks. Song would also be selected on for the US National roster for the international Premier12 tournament, along with fellow Red Sox prospects Tanner Houck and Bobby Dalbec. Song was one of the standout players in that run as well.
But then as winter came along in 2019, we still hadn’t gotten any clarity on what would happen with Song’s military service requirement. He had filed a waiver in hopes of delaying his service until after his playing career, but that would ultimately be denied and he reported to flight school early in 2020. Even at this point, it’s still not clear when he will be able to return to the Red Sox organization. He is required to serve for two years, which would mean he’d miss all of 2021 as well, but there is a possibility he can file a waiver for a release in May of this year. It’s not exactly clear how likely it is that waiver will be accepted.
The risk here is obvious given the amount of time he could potentially miss, though there are two things that make me less apprehensive about that than many others likely are. One is the makeup. Even beyond the talent, when you talk to people about Song the thing that comes up immediately is his work ethic and commitment to maximizing his potential. That’s the kind of player who should be able to work his way back more quickly than others. On top of that, it’s not as if he’ll be out of shape. He’s spent this time on a military base, and while I’ve never served myself my understanding is that they’re not exactly sitting around watching TV all day. I’d also assume he’s throwing some, even if it’s not with professional coaches.
So while there are a lot of questions, the pitcher that we saw in 2019 is one that could develop into a legitimate number two or three major-league starter. Again, there is extra risk here given his time away, but based just on talent if everything was equal and he wasn’t missing time I’d personally think long and hard about having him number one in the system, and would probably settle at number two. Obviously I don’t feel quite that strongly given the actual circumstances. Still, Song is a big presence on the mound who should be able to handle a starter’s workload. He has a fastball that can get up in the high 90s and sit in the mid-90s with strong command to go with a solid package of secondaries with a good changeup and very good slider.
Song is honestly unlike any other prospect in baseball, and I find myself unable to really argue with pretty much any ranking. You want to rank him among the best in the system? I get it on talent. You want to put him outside the top 10? Hard to argue considering he may not be in the organization again until 2022, which will be his age-25 season. I lean towards the higher side, but there’s an argument either way. If Song does come back this summer — which, again, it’s hard to say how likely that is — expect them to take it easy and likely keep him on the complex for most of the summer, perhaps with a late-season promotion to Salem.
Here is our list so far:
Now, you can head down into the comments and vote for the number seven prospect. As a reminder, to do this you go down below and find the comment from me corresponding with the player for whom you’d like to vote. When you find said player, just click the “rec” button, and that will count your vote. To do this, you will need to be logged in as a member of the site. If you’d like to vote for a player who is not listed, just leave a comment saying “Vote for ___ here” and I’ll rec the comment to count your vote. We encourage discussion, of course, but please don’t comment under specific players’ names. Instead, scroll to the bottom to start a new comment thread in order to keep the players at the top of the comment section. Until next time...