Boston's Yorke looking to bounce back in AFL

October 7th, 2022

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- “I’m ready to take off.”

Nick Yorke spent much of 2022 mired in an injury-plagued campaign that served as a pothole to his nitrous-fueled first pro season in ‘21. The Red Sox No. 4 prospect's injury setbacks made him a prime candidate to join the Scottsdale Scorpions during the Arizona Fall League, and he has hit the ground running -- and swinging, leading the second baseman to make the above declaration.

Yorke ripped doubles in each of his first two at-bats to spark the Scorpions to a 5-2 victory over the Solar Sox on Thursday night at Scottsdale Stadium. He added a walk and scored two runs, bringing his average through four outings to .357 with a 1.000 OPS. He’s been the quintessential leadoff man.

“To be honest, it makes it pretty easy with all the guys hitting behind me,” Yorke said. “We’ve got the best of the best. My job is to get on base and they’re knocking me in.”

Getting on base is Yorke’s most highly touted skill. After collecting 123 hits and drawing 52 walks over 97 games between Single-A Salem and High-A Greenville last season, Yorke batted just .232 in an extended taste of the South Atlantic League this year. Ranked by MLB Pipeline as MLB’s No. 55 overall prospect entering the season, Boston’s first-round selection from the 2020 Draft slipped outside the Top 100 upon the summer re-rank.

Turf toe. Back stiffness. Left wrist soreness. The injuries stacked up for Yorke amidst a trying year. But whereas a summer malaise set in, a fall frenzy has begun to take shape. 

Over his final seven games with Greenville, Yorke slashed .321/.424/.464 with hits in six of those outings with three stolen bases. Even with the layoff before AFL play, the 20-year-old has arrived in Arizona with a singular mission of reclaiming the player he knows he can.

“I was hitting every day, working out,” Yorke said. “Trying to keep the body ready to play every day. 

“Trying to get the work in, keep hitting and doing as much defense as I can.”

Yorke opened the contest for Scottsdale by slashing a rocket double down the right-field line. He came right back the following inning and found open space in the left-center gap, sprinting to second to beat the return throw from Mesa center fielder Jasson Domínguez.

“I’m just trying to put the ball in play as much as I can,” Yorke said of his mindset from the top of the order. “Good things happen when you put it into play.”

Yorke saw at least three pitches in each of his five plate appearances, forcing Solar Sox pitchers to rack up 20 pitches in total when he was in the box. The Red Sox prospect cited the Yankees’ DJ LeMahieu (who saw an average of 3.97 pitches per PA this season) as an influence when it comes to studying tendencies of fellow hitters. But the San Jose native also cited a fellow California superstar that is at the top of his list when it comes to offensive emulation.

“Who wouldn’t say Mike Trout, right? He’s the best hitter in baseball, so I want to be like that, obviously.”

When at his peak, Yorke’s hitting upside is tantalizing. He became just the ninth teenager in the past 20 years to slash better than .300/.400/.500 at the Minor League level when he did so between Salem and Greenville in 2021. Joining him on that list? Trout, whose numbers at Double-A Arkansas in ‘11 (.326/.414/.544) are mesmerizingly similar to Yorke’s (.325/.412/.516).

While Yorke has his sights set on his future looking similar to Trout’s, their prospect past is already in lockstep.