Nick Yorke, drafted by the Red Sox in the first round on Wednesday night, hit .505 as a junior at Archbishop Mitty High in San Jose, California, but played only seven games this year before the season was stopped because of the coronavirus pandemic. Tribune News Service

In previous years, the Boston Red Sox may have waited to draft a lower-rated high school player, like they did with fifth-round selections Mookie Betts (2011) and Will Middlebrooks (2007).

But in this year’s abbreviated, five-round Major League Baseball draft, the Red Sox felt they had to grab the player they wanted right away.

That’s why Nick Yorke was Boston’s first-round draft pick on Wednesday night, even though he wasn’t rated as a first-round pick on most scouting lists.

Another reason for the surprising choice was that Boston had no second-round pick – the penalty for the sign-stealing scandal. As a result, the team couldn’t take the chance that Yorke would still be available when they picked again in the third round.

The Red Sox had picks in rounds 3-5 Thursday night. They drafted high school third baseman Blaze Jordan in the third round, followed by left-handed reliever Jeremy Wu-Yelland from the University of Hawaii in the fourth and Florida State left-hander Shane Drohan in the fifth.

Earlier Thursday, baseball followers were still trying to figure out Boston’s decision to take Yorke in the first round. National baseball writer Jon Heyman tweeted: “A few scouts I consulted never even heard of him.”

Think of that. In today’s world of showcases, publications and social media – when there are supposedly no secret prospects out there – not everyone knew about Yorke.

Still, even though draft experts had Yorke going in the later rounds – if at all – the Red Sox were concerned that some other teams might be excited about him.

“I think, at least, our perception of the industry’s interest in him didn’t match the public perception,” Red Sox amateur scouting director Paul Toboni said.

Toboni offered a comparison to Kevin Youkilis, because of Yorke’s dogged, advanced batting approach. Another comparison being made is of another hustling middle infielder, Dustin Pedroia. Yorke liked that, calling Pedroia “a beast.”

But there is one big difference between Yorke and those major leaguers: Both Pedroia (second round, 2004) and Youkilis (eighth round, 2001) were drafted out of college. Yorke turned 18 just two months ago.

Boston has not been afraid to draft high school players in the first round – Tristan Casas in 2018 and Michael Chavis in 2016 being recent examples. Casas hit 20 home runs last year in Class A, and Chavis made his major league debut. Both Casas and Chavis were considered top-20 draft prospects, however, while Yorke was ranked the 139th by MLB.com.

Other high schoolers drafted by the Red Sox have brought mixed results. Boston’s biggest bust was first-round pick Jason Place, an outfielder chosen in 2006. He never got past Double-A.

In 2007, Boston picked high school infielder Ryan Dent in the supplemental first round. He did not make it to the majors, but their fifth- and sixth-round picks did (Middlebrooks and Anthony Rizzo).

In 2011, Boston grabbed a lot of high school talent early – catcher Blake Swihart, pitcher Henry Owens, outfielder Williams Jerez and catcher Jordan Weems. Swihart and Owens reached the majors, but are not there now; neither Jerez nor Weems could hit, and both converted to pitching. The fifth-round pick – Betts – was the best of the group.

Where does Yorke fit among all these guys? Obviously, time will tell. One thing for sure is that the coronavirus affected Yorke. His senior season, when more scouts figured to discover him, was canceled after seven games.

“Personally, I felt like I was a first-rounder,” Yorke said on a Zoom call with the media. “I know a lot of rankings and sites didn’t have me there. But, personally, I’m more of a blue collar, put-your-head-down, go-to-work kind of guy. I didn’t go out and do all the Perfect Game (showcases) guys get ranked on.

“Wherever I played ball, I played my hardest, and the Red Sox fortunately saw me at one of those times and the rest is what just happened.”

Yorke started as a freshman, batting .370. He hit .494 the next year, then .505 with seven home runs as a junior. In his seven games this season – four of which Toboni saw – Yorke was 8 for 15 with a double and two home runs.

Yorke has a scholarship from the University of Arizona but appears to have already made a deal with the Red Sox. The slot value for the No. 17 pick was $3.61 million, although it’s likely Boston offered less.

“Once their requirements hit my requirements, it was kind of just an opportunity to jump on and go play ball for them,” Yorke said.

“Excited to get to that minor league grind and get to the majors as fast as a I can.”

With the 89th overall pick, the Red Sox chose a power hitter in Jordan, a 17-year-old from Southaven, Mississippi. Jordan was ranked 42nd by MLB.com and has a scholarship to Mississippi State. The slot value for the 89th pick is $668,000, but Boston likely will go higher to sign him, using money saved by going under slot value for Yorke.

Wu-Yelland pitched only seven games before his college season was canceled, but he recorded a 0.69 ERA. Wu-Yelland, who reportedly has a mid-90’s fastball, recorded a 3.15 ERA in the Cape Cod League last summer.

Drohan was in the Seminoles’ weekend rotation this year but did not get a lot of chances to show his stuff. He features a 93 mph fastball, a curve and a change-up.

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