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Why new Red Sox draft pick Niko Kavadas is already drawing David Ortiz comparisons

Notre Dame's Niko Kavadas was a First Team All-American for the Fighting Irish in 2021.
Notre Dame's Niko Kavadas was a First Team All-American for the Fighting Irish in 2021.Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA/Associated Press

When Notre Dame coach Link Jarrett played minor league baseball, he encountered a player with memorably enormous power. He never forgot the power show put on by a young lefthanded slugger who regularly sent balls into orbit.

There hadn’t been many reminders of the power display put on back then by young Twins prospect David Ortiz — until Jarrett encountered Niko Kavadas. After he was hired, Jarrett got a preview of the Kavadas show on the Cape, during his league-leading 10-homer summer in 2019, and then in the slugger’s truncated junior year, when Kavadas blasted seven homers in 13 games.

With the draft squeezed to five rounds last summer, Kavadas went undrafted and returned to campus for his senior year in 2021. He dazzled, hitting .302/.473/.767 with 22 homers in 47 games.

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Niko Kavadas hit 22 homers last season for Notre Dame.
Niko Kavadas hit 22 homers last season for Notre Dame.Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

“I came up through the minor leagues with David Ortiz. It reminded me of that a little bit,” said Jarrett. “It is so different off that bat than any other guy we saw this year. I would grade that power out at the top of the scale.”

The Red Sox considered his power potential too great to ignore, taking Kavadas in the 11th round, their first pick on the third and final day of the draft.

“If he were in the major leagues right now, my guess is that the power would line up with the best of them,” said Red Sox amateur scouting director Paul Toboni. “He’s an interesting player and a great kid.”

Kavadas is built like Kyle Schwarber, or a lefthanded Mike Napoli, a 6-foot-1, 235-pound mountain. While he takes a ton of walks, he also is vulnerable to strikeouts, resulting in modest scouting grades as a hitter.

He profiles as either a first baseman or DH moving forward. That positional limitation creates opportunities to find hidden gems such as Napoli (who defied projections and spent years as a catcher before moving to first) and Yankees masher Luke Voit.

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“I just saw tremendous, game-changing power to all fields. I think he hit as many home runs to left and center field as he did to right field. He just gets inside the ball so well and creates tremendous backspin and torque,” said Jarrett. “I saw him hit home runs off of every type of pitcher and pitch: Lefties, righties, breaking balls, changeups. He’s got a great sense of what he’s doing with his swing. He’s got a good approach with his at-bats. He’s just a really advanced, physical hitter.”

Niko Kavadas follows the flight of a ball he crushed against Duke this past season.
Niko Kavadas follows the flight of a ball he crushed against Duke this past season.Kamil Krzaczynski

The Red Sox drafted nine players in addition to Kavadas to complete the 20-round draft:

12th round: UC Santa Barbara righthanded reliever Christopher Troye, who struck out 29 and walked 25 in 18 innings.

13th round: Wharton (Fla.) High School shortstop Zach Ehrhard, who hit .438 with 26 steals en route to being named winner of his region’s Wade Boggs Athletic Achievement Award.

14th round: Miami (Ohio) closer Jacob Webb, who struck out 59 and walked 14 in 39 innings.

15th round: Crossroads Flex (N.C.) shortstop Payton Green, a player who was projected as a potential early-round pick based on his broad array of tools.

16th round: Reedley (Calif.) College second baseman B.J. Vela, who hit .481/.560/.821 as a 21-year-old.

17th round: Chipola (Fla.) College righthander Luis Guerrero, who struck out 95 batters in 58 innings, mostly out of the bullpen.

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18th round: TCU outfielder Phillip Sikes, a potential corner outfielder who hit .329/.427/.620 with 11 homers as a junior.

19th round: Northwestern righthander Tyler Uberstine, a starter who struck out 36 in 38⅔ innings this year.

Northwestern's Tyler Uberstine struck out 36 in 38⅔ innings this past season.
Northwestern's Tyler Uberstine struck out 36 in 38⅔ innings this past season.Jennifer Stewart/Associated Press

20th round: Shortstop Josh Hood, a strong performer in his freshman year at Penn in 2019 but who has barely been seen by scouts in the last two years with the Ivy League having canceled play due to the pandemic.

From the top of the draft with first-rounder Marcelo Mayer and second-rounder Jud Fabian through the end, the Red Sox will look forward to seeing a new wave of young players entering their system and letting their careers take shape.

“Who knows what these players end up being at the end of the day? Who knows what Marcelo Mayer ends up being at the end of the day?” said Toboni. “But what I really find comforting is our process and how we got to Sunday night. I take great joy and peace going forward knowing that our process was really good and how we arrived at that point was really good.”


Alex Speier can be reached at alex.speier@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @alexspeier.