Catch of the spring? No. 6 prospect Yorke makes incredible grab

March 23rd, 2023

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Red Sox manager Alex Cora made a rare request for Thursday’s game against the Pirates, asking the player development staff to send over a specific prospect as a Minor League extra. The player? Nick Yorke, Boston’s No. 6 prospect per MLB Pipeline.

“I wanted to see him today,” Cora said before the game. “I don’t usually request players, but I haven’t seen him in a while.”

That turned out to be a fortuitous request for Cora, who got to see Yorke make arguably the best defensive play of Spring Training for the Red Sox.

From his position at second base, Yorke ranged toward the right-field corner, covering 85 feet of ground and fully extending for a spectacular diving catch to rob Carlos Santana of a hit. Bryan Reynolds certainly wasn’t expecting it: He was doubled off at first when Yorke fired the ball back in to Triston Casas to end the bottom of the third inning of a 7-4 win over the Pirates.

“It was just a little popup over my head,” said Yorke. “I saw [Daniel] Palka was out deep so it was either going to drop or I was going to catch it -- so I went out and caught it. There was a runner on first and he was gone. It was going to drop or I’m going to lay out for it. Once I laid out for it, I reached out and I thought I had a chance on it and it found the mitt.”

“That was a super nice play,” said Red Sox righty Josh Winckowski, who was the beneficiary of the play. “I already, in my head, was getting mentally ready to back up third. It felt like he got over there quickly. My internal clock felt like it was going to get down, so just a really, really nice play by him. It’s always nice to see the young guys do things like that, especially in front of [Cora] and the other guys.”

Yorke, the No. 17 pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, took a step back offensively last season after a strong first pro season in ‘21. However, he spent the winter making adjustments and the Red Sox remain confident the 20-year-old will be a key part of their future.

“Some people are down on him. Not me,” said Cora. “He’s very calm at the plate. He swings at the right pitches. Obviously, he’s working on a few things timing-wise. He’s a good player. You guys know how I feel about first-rounders. You have to be a really good player, and he’s a good hitter.

"He controls the zone, and we like him a lot. I think physically he’s in a good spot. I’ve talked to him a few times. Mentally, he’s in a great place. Now it's just a matter of other things that he does.”

Yorke proved on Thursday that defense is one of those other things.

Hours after the Red Sox drafted Yorke well ahead of where all mock Drafts had him, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said, “We love his bat.”

Nearly three years later, Yorke wants to be known just as much for his defense.

“My goal is to be the second baseman for the Boston Red Sox,” Yorke said. “No one can just hit in the big leagues. You have to have some sort of contribution on defense as well. So shoutout to our infield coordinator Darren Fenster, he’s helped me out a lot over the past two and a half years.”