Nick Yorke was on a field practicing when he got the call that the Red Sox had selected him with their first pick (17th overall) of the Major League Baseball draft Wednesday evening.
The 18-year-old second baseman attended Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, Calif., the same high school as Seattle Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger. Yorke’s mother, Robyn, was a four-time softball All-American at Fresno State. Yet this was a new level of success for the Yorke family.
“The Red Sox have always been on the radar,” Yorke said afterward via a Zoom video call. “When the phone call came, it was a nice surprise.”
A surprise, indeed.
Most draft boards didn’t have Yorke, a 6-foot, 195-pound righthanded hitter, going in the first round. Yorke was 96th in Baseball America’s Top 500 Draft Ranking. One American League scout said he had Yorke as a second-round talent. Arizona State infielder Spencer Torkelson went No. 1 overall to the Detroit Tigers. The Baltimore Orioles then selected University of Arkansas outfielder Heston Kierstad with the second pick in the draft.
Minnesota ace righthander Max Meyer went third to Miami. He was a two-way star in college and a closer before moving into the Gophers’ rotation as a sophomore. Texas A&M fireballing lefthander Asa Lacy was the No. 4 pick by Kansas City. Rounding out the top five was Vanderbilt infielder Austin Martin.
Jared Shuster, a lefthanded pitcher from New Bedford, Tabor Academy, and Wake Forest went to the Braves at No. 25.
Entering the draft, the Sox had interest in high school outfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong, who went to the New York Mets (19th overall), but passed on him to take Yorke.
Yorke was committed to Arizona and the belief among the Wildcats’ coaching staff was that the infielder would be on campus come the fall. That’s now changed.
The Red Sox were so enamored with Yorke’s bat that they were willing to select him as their first-round pick. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom intimated that, had there not been a shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Yorke would have turned more heads during his high school season. In some respects,way, the Sox viewed Yorke as a steal.
“This is an unusual spring,” Bloom said. “Obviously we didn’t get to see the spring play out. We love his bat. We think he has a chance to be a special bat. Our scouting staff, I give them a lot of credit for getting to know Nick really well and having a longstanding relationship with him. The missed spring didn’t affect our perception of him as much as it might have otherwise.”
Paul Toboni, the Sox’ director of amateur scouting, was one of the few who had that relationship. Both Yorke and Toboni are from the Bay Area and Toboni had the ability to lean on voices he trusted out on the West Coast in addition to his own eyes.
Yorke said Toboni attended three or four of his high school games before the shutdown. Nevertheless, most of Toboni and the Sox’ decision to take Yorke rested on what he showed them during Perfect Game’s World Wood Bat Tournament in Jupiter, Fla., last fall, in addition to his production last summer.
“He’s a really advanced hitter for the high school age,” Toboni said. “We see developing power with him, too, and the fact that he plays in the middle of the infield, you group all those things together, and, really, that’s what made us like him so much.”
The AL scout echoed Bloom and Toboni’s assessment of Yorke’s bat, adding that he has elite strike zone awareness. The scout went on to describe Yorke as a “potential masher” who has a balanced approach at the plate.
Yorke is considered a fine athlete, but one who is limited defensively. The Red Sox said he can play shortstop but mainly see him as a second baseman.
The Sox will save some money by selecting Yorke. An industry source told the Globe that Yorke will sign for less than the recommended No. 17 slot of $3.61 million, something Yorke alluded to. Yorke. The draft, in general, is so hit-or-miss it will be some years before the Sox know what they have in Yorke or if that was the right decision. The draft in general is so hit-or-miss. Yorke, though, despite public perception was confident he was selected in the appropriate spot.
“I felt like I was a first-rounder and felt very underrated coming into the draft,” Yorke said. “I kind of shocked everyone when I was, so, it’s just exciting to me to get to prove to everyone that I’m here to stay and I’m ready to get to work.”
On Thursday, the Red Sox have three picks left in a draft that has been cut to five rounds. They are without a second-round selection after the league concluded they illegally used video replay during the 2018 season.