'20 first-rounder leads Boston's Fall League crop

October 13th, 2022

Nick Yorke is as succinct as his compact right-handed swing.

After winning the Low-A East batting title (.323) and hitting .325/.412/.526 overall in his 2021 pro debut, the No. 4 Red Sox prospect slumped to .232/.303/.365 this season as his strikeout rate jumped from 16 to 25 percent. When asked if turf toe and wrist injuries that limited him to 80 games contributed to his downturn, he declined to blame his health.

"I don't make excuses," Yorke said. "I just didn't perform to the level I need to perform at, so that's what I'm going to do next year."

Instead of searching for an alibi, Yorke is looking to make adjustments in the Arizona Fall League. Playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions, he has looked more like his old self. He went 8-for-26 (.308) in his first seven games, with three doubles, six walks and a league-leading nine runs.

A surprise first-round pick in the 2020 Draft, Yorke has advanced pitch-recognition skills and uses a disciplined, all-fields approach when he's going well. He got a little pull-happy and aggressive in 2022, so he's looking to refine his approach and make some mechanical changes in the AFL. Michael Montville, an assistant hitting coach at Triple-A Worcester in Boston's system, is on the Scottsdale staff and working with him this fall.

"We have six weeks to grind it out, try some new things and just try to find it again," Yorke said. "So that's what we're going to try to do. I was getting a little sway, I was getting over my back side, so I wasn't having the adjustability that I had in '21. So we're trying to kind of build off that, try to get the moves a little more simplified and try to do what I did in '21."

Sturdily built at 6 feet and 200 pounds, Yorke not only has pure hitting ability but also 20-homer potential. His speed and arm earn fringy to average grades from scouts, though he has good instincts on the bases and is a surehanded defender who committed just one error in 68 regular-season games at second base.

The Red Sox have had a revolving door at second base since Dustin Pedroia's last season as a regular in 2017, and Trevor Story didn't exactly thrive this season in the first year of his $140 million contract. Still just 20, Yorke could be the long-term answer at the keystone for Boston. He's not concerned with the future, only getting better in the present.

"I'm just trying to learn as much as I can and have fun doing it," Yorke said. "This year didn't go the way I wanted it to go, but what can I do about it now except put my head down and keep working? That's what I plan on doing."

Red Sox hitters in the Fall League

Niko Kavadas, 1B (No. 21): An 11th-round pick from Notre Dame in 2021, Kavadas translated his plus-plus raw power into production throughout his college career and continued to do so in his first full pro season. He hit .280/.443/.547 with 26 homers in 120 games at three levels, ranking among the Minor League leaders in on-base percentage (second), walks (102, fifth) and OPS (.990, seventh).

Wilyer Abreu, OF (No. 23): Acquired from the Astros along with infield prospect Enmanuel Valdez for Christian Vázquez at the Trade Deadline, Abreu hit .247/.399/.435 with 19 homers and 31 steals in 129 Double-A games. He has a chance to have average or better tools across the board, with his plus raw power and solid arm strength standing out the most.

Stephen Scott, C: Scott won a College World Series championship at Vanderbilt in 2019, the same year the Red Sox drafted him in the 10th round. He has one of the best approaches in Boston's system as well as solid raw power. Converted to a full-time catcher this season, he hit .219/.346/.377 with 10 homers in 96 games between High-A and Double-A.

Red Sox pitchers in the Fall League

Thad Ward, RHP (No. 15): Ward served as a Red Sox bat boy during Spring Training while growing up in Fort Myers, Fla., and signed with the club as a fifth-rounder from Central Florida in 2018. He has regained his 92-96 mph sinker and sharp 81-85 mph slider since having Tommy John surgery in June 2021. He posted a 2.28 ERA, .212 opponent average and 66 strikeouts in 51 1/3 innings at four levels, mostly in Double-A.

Aaron Perry, RHP: A 14th-round pick from a West Virginia high school in 2017, Perry has pitched just 47 innings as a pro (three during the 2022 regular season) because of elbow issues. When healthy, he can run his fastball up to 100 mph and flash a plus curveball with power.

Jacob Webb, RHP: Webb compiled a 3.18 ERA, .222 opponent average and 88 strikeouts in 56 2/3 innings while advancing from Single-A to Double-A. A 14th-rounder in 2021 from Miami (Ohio), he has a low-slot delivery with good extension that produces mid-90s fastballs and sweeping sliders in the low 80s.

Ryan Zeferjahn, RHP: Zeferjahn's stuff dipped after the Red Sox made him a third-round pick out of Kansas in 2019, but it bounced back and he's working again with a mid-90s fastball and a mid-80s slider with more velocity than bite. He logged a 5.05 ERA with a .233 opponent average and 80 strikeouts in 71 1/3 innings between High-A and Double-A.