The Red Sox selected Nick Yorke with the 17th overall pick of the 2020 MLB Draft. Yorke was the fifth high school bat off the board after Robert Hassell (#8), Zac Veen (#9), Austin Hendrick (#12), and Ed Howard (#16). The immediate reaction was this:
No, Dan O’Dowd, this wasn’t some draft finagling non-signing conspiracy. York signed for 2.7M, the eighth-largest bonus for a high school bat. (The four players selected before him, Pete Crow-Armstrong, Tyler Soderstrom, and Jordan Walker, had larger bonuses.)
Misinformation? During this broadcast, Greg Amsinger questioned how the Red Sox could go so counter to baseball media’s draft ranks. The dynasty world followed suit. That, my friends, is about as backward as it gets. Why not the reaction, more like Harold Reynolds’, of putting faith in the Red Sox decision making and reevaluating the internet’s takes? This was the end of the last clip:
Baseball is too large for everyone to see and know everything. When an organization like the Red Sox goes “out of the box”, we missed something, not them.
I’m not posing as some early Yorke tout either, but I put more credence in the Red Sox choice and re-assessed with more homework. Long story short, I came away thinking this was a better real-life baseball choice, with an offensive profile more on the Nick Madrigal end of the high-contact-bat spectrum. Yorke ended up my fifth-most coveted high school bat of this class; higher than the fantasy consensus, but not where you’d want to value the potentially best prospect of the bunch. Point is, I think I still messed up like most everyone else.
My Prospect 1 community friend, Craig Bozic, tried warning me we had this Yorke thing all wrong. A lot of what you will read here either stems from the seed Craig planted in my head and/or chats we had. The gist was, if the most technically skilled hitter of the bunch, one who Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin called the best hitter of the class, is going to be poo-pooed by the fantasy and mainstream media…I’ll take that FYPD profit all day.
Trading is the dynasty players “redo”, where owners fearing a big fish got away meet-up with the Jordan Walker, Garrett Mitchell, and Reid Detmers owners looking to cash in. Craig is enjoying this high perch now with Yorke. With the above-listed players…any chance of redo is gone or slim at this juncture. Too expensive to make sense. Yet, Yorke may still offer profit, but time’s running out. Here’s why I want a Yorke redo:
May didn’t yield great production from Yorke. He hit just two extra-base hits, struck out 21 times, and hit under .200. The last day of the month, during the second game of a doubleheader, the 19-year-old flipped the script with two hits, and it’s been on since:
(vs Richard Gallardo 5/30)
Yorke’s gone .365/.462/.533, 8 HR, 32 RBI, 31 BB, 25 SO in 197 at-bats. And he’s getting warmer. Low-A East ballparks don’t offer the greatest camera angles, but we get a decent look. I’m enamored with the swing. Yorke is consistently maintaining balance. The efficiency in motion, bat speed for days, and calm upper half produce some of the prettiest swings on balls I’ve seen all year. Batted balls tend to land gap to gap. There isn’t much chase, and when he does need to reach a ball away, the balance stays intact way more times than not. He handles the best pitchers in the league just fine as well.
(14 pitch AB vs Xzavion Curry 6/1, we didn’t get the first couple of pitches here)
(vs Daniel Espino 6/2)
(vs Sergio Morillo 6/3)
Through 20 games, he had one extra-base hit. The above was his fourth in four games. Slugging was where I had my doubts. We are playing fantasy after all, and we need those power numbers. The first home run didn’t come until 6/20 after a double his first at-bat:
(vs Noah Denoyer 6/20)
The extra-base hits start coming more frequently:
(vs Daritzon Feliz 6/23)
Yorke’s June line: .348/.446/.507, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 11 BB, 11 SO in 69 at-bats (six doubles and a triple). Feeling like the adjustment to pro ball has happened, the power stuff is still pretty absent and keeping me from getting excited.
(vs Edward Urena 7/2)
Above was only his second home run, but it got me thinking there was more pop than meets the eye. You see Yorke’s back foot slide out, something you may have noticed in some previous gifs. It’s not really conducive to maximizing torque. That swing puts a lot of onus on bat speed and upper half…and he still hits one out of a tough park to hit home runs. This back foot thing might be something to watch, but nonetheless, there is plenty of bat speed to hit home runs.
Yorke gets a fastball served on a platter here, but this swing is a masterpiece:
(HR #3 vs Griffin McLarty 7/6)
He’s continuing to do more damage…
(vs Jackson Rutledge 7/23)
…ending July .358/.448/.519, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 12 BB, 10 SO in 81 at-bats. Still needing more home runs to figure out what I want to do with him, August brought them:
(vs Jamie Arias-Buatista 8/5)
First multi-home run game:
(vs Randy Labaut 8/8)
The second was a game-winner:
(vs Jacob Forrester 8/8)
Much like he did with the extra-base hit void earlier in the season, he’s stacking the home runs now. When it comes to minor league home run numbers, I don’t care about their quantity. I want to know their nature. When it comes to trying to speculate on future MLB home run totals, what does it matter if a player hit five pulled home runs off fastballs or 15? Especially in Low-A? The point to me is knowing what the player is capable of. Can he hit off-speed and breaking balls for home runs? Can he go the other way? Can he hit them off-balanced? Can he hit them in pressure situations? Does he have the skills to maximize his chances by making higher quantities of the appropriate contact? Etc.
I’m longing for an opposite-field home run at this point…
(vs Jackson Rutledge 8/10)
So close above, and the next night it happens impressively; over the bullpen in this park is not an easy feat for a right-handed hitter:
(vs Leif Strom 8/11)
And then two nights ago he almost hits one off of his jumbotron face in right-center:
(vs Brauny Munoz 8/17)
So far in August, Yorke’s having his best month, slashing .417/.517/.833 with five home runs and only four strikeouts.
I’m sold there is enough power here to pair with a potentially elite hit tool to become an elite fantasy contributor. For me, Yorke has crept into the Walker and Veen tier as my most coveted high school bats from the 2020 class. Walker is making me look about as foolish as Greg Amsinger, except I don’t really have anyone watching. Considering Walker’s 27-game low-A run early in the season that garnered all the dynasty ga ga, here’s how Yorke’s last 28 games and Veen’s best 27 game run compare on paper:
A bit of a goofy side by side, but Yorke may be showing the ability to put up just as enticing power numbers as these two beloveds. If all goes well for all three, I’ll still bet on the crazy exit velocity guys for home runs, but when you throw in what Yorke may be able to do in ratio, we could have an interesting debate one day. The dream shifts a little from Walker’s Aaron Judge ending to more of an Altuve-type stat line, as I think Craig has tried to allude.
Walker would still be my first choice for a draft redo, despite Yorke’s technician-type path perhaps safer than Walker continuing to prove his unicorn nature. I’m torn if I’d prefer Veen or Yorke.
I liked Veen well enough to have him my second choice of the high school bats during FYPD season, but I thought the dynasty world were lunatics for liking him as much as they did. I was interested about ten spots later than where he went. So far it’s worked out well for the aggressive Veen owner, but they got lucky in my opinion. The Fresno staff has done an amazing job with him like they tend to do at the low levels of that system. Early in the season, Veen very much looked like the player I was too nervous to invest in as heavy as most:
(vs Justin Martinez 6/3)
(vs Brandon Pfaadt 6/4)
Big swings, big misses, unable to bully the ball around as he may have on the circuits. Fresno sent him down in the order and immediately a concerted effort to hit line drives over the shortstop’s head emerged. He started being more of a hitter, and they moved him back up the lineup. While this was going on, he was stealing bases, becoming a better player in the field, but not hitting home runs. This stat sheet dream of him being a power/speed guy seemed to carry his perceived fantasy value and he stayed on good terms with dynasty owners. (I have zero faith he will steal major league bases.) And as the hitter in him emerged, the steals went away, hits piled up, and the real dream showed up:
(vs Ty Weber 8/7)
As much as I’ve been impressed with the Rockies’ ability to develop at the lower levels, I’ve been equally put off by the upper levels. So to break the tie, I’ll go with the Boston guy. Of course, we are talking about 19/20-year-olds, and the marathon has just started, but from a talent perspective, these three feel like the guys who can be truly special. And Yorke has that draft day chip on his shoulder burning some fire. In my opinion, if Walker and Veen are sitting where they are on rank lists, Yorke should be right there too. He’s not, but creeping for a bit and a “redo” trade might be worthwhile.
(Dear Robert Hassell stans, don’t get too fired up. He’s a great prospect and having a great season, I just don’t see much in way of progression happening like I do these three, which I don’t like. Feel free to educate me in these regards.)
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