One of the more controversial picks in recent memory, Nick Yorke was not regarded as a first round talent when the Sox spent a first round pick and subsequently $2.7M to sign the middle infielder out of Newport Beach. And while the pick and bonus did allow for some fun overslot stuff, many of us were wondering why the Red Sox felt this was the kid worth taking a nearly $3M flyer on at a time when ownership is apparently looking to curb spending. Let's take a look!
The Physical Profile
Six feet tall, right around 200 pounds. Nick dropped about 25 pounds after being drafted, and while some scouts had concerns about how he looked physically during fall instructs, he apparently showed up to the alternate site looking much more trim and athletic. His lower half looks fully developed and I have a small amount of projection remaining on the upper body which may eventually mean he's going to see his power tick up a notch or two. He's got a pretty athletic build, moves pretty well, and has nice short levers.
Hit: Present 35 / Future 65. One of the more advanced hit tools in the draft class, despite how divisive he was as a first rounder. Nick has the ability to make quality contact to all fields thanks to a pretty advanced approach for his age. He struggles to pull velocity, and per Sox Prospects, the first 98 MPH heater he saw from Bryan Mata was likely 10 MPH harder than anything he'd ever seen. Given his exceptional bat to ball skills and short levers, I'd bet he figures it out and starts turning on that pitch eventually, but he doesn't necessarily have to start crushing everything as the profile is that of a second baseman. Also worth noting, Nick posted nearly as many walks as strikeouts in Salem.
Power: Raw Present 25 / Future 50. In-Game Present 30 / Future 45. Below average power, but with some remaining projection to build on. Nick's never going to be a 30 home run guy, but I think he can be a doubles machine at second base. His hit tool could help him improve that in-game projection, especially if he proves able to pull pitches in the air, something I haven't seen a ton of thus far. We've already watched him pop ten big flies in Salem, which totally caught me off guard. That's a big part of what led to him being called up. His discipline also makes the power play a little better.
Run: Present 40 / Future 30. Not great speed, but is a smart baserunner. Knows when to push for the extra base and understands his limitations.
Glove: Present 30 / Future 40. Not a whole lot to say here, Nick has good enough hands and footwork to play a competent second base. He's not going to win any gold gloves, but with some smart positioning he can absolutely play the position every day.
Throw: Present 40 / Future 50: I'm not sure if his arm is being impacted by the torn labrum and lack of reps, but I don't see an arm here that profiles anywhere but second base. Throws are accurate and on time but he wouldn't be able to play the left side of the infield.
The results and the profile seem to not match at all. Remember all that stuff I said about him struggling with velocity and not pulling the ball? Well, since June 1, Nick slashed .373/.467/.608 in Salem with those 10 homers and made everyone look pretty silly for questioning whether or not he was worth first rounder money. His walk rate has been just shy of 12 percent and his strikeouts are below 14 percent, meaning he's not sacrificing anything to get his power into the game, which frankly shocked me. I knew the feel for contact was good but that he was able to mash for 28 extra base hits while maintaining his contact and staying within himself has been tremendous to see.
I had Nick as a slow developing prospect that would likely need 3-4 years to get to the league, where he'd likely end up a utility bat. Now I've had to overhaul my thinking, and while I still believe that he'll ultimately be a more contact oriented hitter as he moves up, the fact his power has already started ticking up tempted me to put an even bigger number on his future raw/in-game pop.
Cora said he was impressed with Nick during spring training. This then 18 year old was making outs against major leaguers and getting pissed off about it. He has supreme confidence in himself and feels like he can contribute wherever he's playing. Makeup is reportedly outstanding, and nothing I've heard since then has raised any doubts about his maturity. Nick is looking more and more like a case of approach and makeup outstripping the raw tools, and he could be a really good player within the next two years.
There's injury risk here. Nick's arm strength has been impacted by a torn labrum that lingered on for almost two years. He tore it sophomore season, ended up as a DH only his junior year and the arm was no longer fit for short by the time he was draft eligible. That's part of the reason he was a top 200 pre-draft guy and not a top 100 prospect.
There's also the question of track record. Nick has no statistical track record prior to this year to confirm that the power outburst is for real and sustainable. He did show more power his senior year, but it was in an extremely limited sample, and I don't want to get too far ahead of myself after seeing what I already knew was a polished bat tear up the low minors for a few months.
I am inclined to believe that the newfound pop is real, despite the lack of track record. I'm cautiously optimistic that Nick is on track to develop into a really good offensive second baseman, having shown both power and patience to go with a great feel for contact. I'm a bit nervous that Bloom's development team is going to turn him into a pure pull hitter to make the power play up even more, which would rob him of his primary skill, but it's way too soon to tell if that will be the case.