Yorke eyes breakout showing in big league camp

February 19th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Ian Browne’s Red Sox Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- One way for a prospect to make an early impression at Spring Training is to arrive, well, early.

Nick Yorke, Boston’s first-round pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, was already on the grounds at Fenway South and ready to get to work even before pitchers and catchers arrived at the beginning of last week.

As a position player, Yorke -- who ranked sixth among Red Sox prospects in MLB Pipeline’s most recent rankings -- wasn’t required to be in town until Sunday. But the second baseman realizes this is an important year for him, one in which he's likely to advance to Triple-A Worcester, perhaps as early as the start of the season.

With all the recent buzz surrounding Top 100 prospects Marcelo Mayer, Roman Anthony, Kyle Teel and Ceddanne Rafaela, Yorke has fallen under the radar. But in the eyes of Red Sox manager Alex Cora, Yorke remains an important player to watch.

“He’s another kid who has been very diligent as far as following the program,” said Cora. “He's always here [in Fort Myers] towards the end season. He shows up early. And whatever [player development] has asked him to do, he's done.”

Yorke’s first three Minor League seasons have been quite different from each other.

In his first year in the system, he played 76 games at Single-A Salem and 21 at High-A Greenville, posting a .928 OPS. Then came the sophomore slump, as Yorke battled injuries and hit .231 with a .668 OPS at Greenville in 2022.

Last season at Double-A Portland fell somewhere in between, with Yorke starting hot, slumping after the All-Star break and finishing strong. In 110 games, he had a line of .268/.350/.435 with 13 homers and 18 stolen bases.

“Last year, I took away that it was a step in the right direction,” Yorke said. “Human nature, I always want to do better than what I showed. I’m just really excited to get out there in '24 and show what I can do.”

This should be the season in which Yorke will be able to prove exactly who he is.

“I feel really good,” Yorke said. “I feel like I know what I need to do to get myself ready for the season. And you know, once you do it more than two years, three years, you’re getting used to the lifestyle of it all. It’s been good.”

In a 2021 Spring Training where organizations made a lot of decisions based on COVID guidelines, Yorke came to Major League camp as an 18-year-old just eight months removed from high school.

Three years later, he's making his return to big league camp.

“My first year, I didn’t really know anyone, didn’t want to step on any toes, didn’t have a great relationship with a lot of guys because I was coming in fresh,” Yorke said. “I was 18 years old, coming in with 27-year-olds. But having three years under my belt now -- and having three years in Spring Training before and meeting all those guys the first year I did do big league camp -- it’s just made this transition to be in this camp a lot easier.”

Cora looks forward to seeing how Yorke has evolved.

“I was very impressed with the body of the at-bats a few years ago, being able to control the zone, hit the ball to right-center [field],” Cora said. “He's a big kid now. He’s not the same guy we saw in Spring Training of '21, and it's a big season for him. He comes here to gain experience and to see how it works. Looking forward for him to get a few at-bats at second base, move him around and get him more athletic so he’s up to the speed of the game at this level and see where it takes us.”