Red Sox

How sign-stealing scandal led Red Sox to take Nick Yorke in first round of MLB draft

Red Sox

The Red Sox drafted a player most pundits didn't consider a top-100 prospect in the first round of Wednesday's draft, leading to an obvious question.

Why?

The answer traces directly to their punishment for stealing signs, which was publicly viewed as minor, but within the organization was considered significant.

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The Red Sox didn't just lose a second-round pick when commissioner Rob Manfred finally handed down MLB's discipline in April. They also lost the roughly $1.4 million in bonus money that goes with it.

That's meaningful, because it left the Red Sox with just $5,129,900 to spend on their four picks, the fifth-lowest draft pool in baseball. The slot value for the 17th pick, where they selected last night, is $3,609,700. Had they spent all of it, they'd have just over $1.5 million for their remaining three picks, which would hamstring their efforts to land a better prospect in a later round.

By selecting California high school second baseman Nick Yorke, however, the Red Sox project to save money that can be used later. According to multiple reports, the team will pay Yorke a bonus that's under slot, giving them more money to spend in rounds 3-5. They will then be free to spend no more than $20,000 on each undrafted player they sign following the conclusion of this truncated draft.

 

"I'm not going to get into any of the numbers or anything," Yorke said via Zoom on Wednesday. "But once their requirements hit my requirements, it was kind of just an opportunity to jump on and go play ball for them."

It should be noted that the Red Sox have been scouting Yorke longer than anyone. Scout Josh Labandeira attended Fresno State with Yorke's mom, Robyn, who was a four-time All-American softball player. They scouted four of his seven high school games before his season was halted by the pandemic. They believe that he would've played himself into widespread first-round consideration with a full season.

Scouting director Paul Toboni noted that had the 2015 season been canceled after a month, Andrew Benintendi wouldn't have been on anyone's first-round radar. But a monster sophomore season at Arkansas vaulted him to the No. 7 pick, and he was in the big leagues a year later.

"We feel like if there would've been a full spring, there probably would've been close to industry consensus that this kid was a first-round pick," Toboni said of Yorke.

Instead, he didn't land on very many prospect lists. MLB.com ranked him No. 139, while Keith Law of the Athletic didn't have him in his top 100. Baseball America was the most bullish, ranking him 96th. The Red Sox didn't believe he'd last until their next pick, No. 89 overall in the third round, so they pounced. Whatever money they save can perhaps be used on a talented high schooler who is firmly committed to college.

"You always have that in your mind and you're looking at the entire draft as a way to maximize the amount of talent you bring in," said chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom. "That said, the conviction we have in Nick's bat, we had him in that group at the top of our board regardless. So while you're always mindful of (resource allocation), I don't want that to take away how we feel about the potential of Nick Yorke."