Red Sox top draft pick Nick Yorke batted .505 as a junior at Archbishop Mitty High in San Jose and .533 this year before the season was called because of the coronavirus pandemic. Photo courtesy of AMHS Athletics

The Boston Red Sox surprisingly chose high school second baseman Nick Yorke with the 17th overall pick in the Major League Baseball draft, which began Wednesday night.

Yorke, 18, from Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, California, was not considered a first-round prospect. Few rankings, among the draft publications, had Yorke among the top 100 prospects. ranked him 139th.

But he was the 17th player chosen Wednesday.

“We love this kid’s bat,” said Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, making his first pick as Boston’s top baseball man.

“We think he has a chance to be a special bat.”

The first 37 picks of the draft took place Wednesday night. The remaining four rounds are scheduled for Thursday. MLB reduced the draft from 40 rounds to five because of the coronavirus.

The pandemic also affected how teams could scout players, with college and high school seasons canceled. High school players were a bigger risk, and that showed as the first seven draft picks were college players – an MLB record.

The Detroit Tigers had the No. 1 overall draft pick and selected Arizona State corner infielder Spencer Torkelson. The slotted bonus value for the top overall draft pick is $8.4 million.

The slot value for the No. 17 picks is $3.6 million, although the Red Sox may go under slot with their surprise pick, which would allow them to offer more money to their picks in rounds 3 through 5. But Boston’s offer to Yorke still must be rich enough to keep him from taking a scholarship to the University of Arizona.

Yorke, at 6-0, 200 pounds, was a shortstop in high school, although shoulder surgery limited him to a DH role his junior season in 2019. But Yorke’s forte is his bat.

Because of the limited spring for high school players, the Red Sox felt Yorke’s ability was not well known.

“We think if the spring had played out, the public perception of him would have been a lot different,” Bloom said. “This (Red Sox) staff has a tremendous track with high school hitters. So, when there’s the type of conviction on his bat like we had on Nick’s, it was something we needed to act on.”

Paul Toboni, Boston’s first-year amateur scouting director, emphasized that if Yorke played this season, he would have been a top prospect for several teams. Still, they were afraid he would not be available with Boston’s next pick (89th overall).

“The main point on Nick is he is just a really advanced hitter for his age,” Toboni said. “We see developing power, too … From a maturity standpoint, and from a makeup standpoint, he was one of our favorite players in the draft.”

Asked for a comparison, Toboni said he sees “a little bit of (Kevin) Youkilis – that rugged, advanced hit tool … that type of offensive profile.”

Detroit’s pick of Torkelson was not a surprise, but his position might be. Although Torkelson was a first baseman in college, the Tigers announced him as a third baseman. Either way, the Tigers got Torkelson for his power bat – good for 54 home runs in 129 college games.  Torkelson could move quickly through the system.

Most draft prognosticators figured Vanderbilt third baseman/outfielder Austin Martin and Texas A&M left-hander Asa Lacy would follow Torkelson, but the Baltimore Orioles and Miami Marlins had other plans.

Baltimore picked University of Arkansas left-handed power hitting outfielder Heston Kjerstad. The Marlins chose University of Minnesota right-handed pitcher Max Meyer and his 100 mph fastball. Meyer is the Gophers’ highest pick since 1977, when Paul Molitor was the third overall pick by the Brewers.

Lacy (Royals) and Martin (Blue Jays) finished the top five.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox waited. Two possible targets, high school outfielders Robert Hassell (eighth pick by San Diego) and Zac Veen (ninth, Colorado), went quickly. High school pitcher Mick Abel was touted by Red Sox followers, but the Phillies grabbed him at No. 15. Several top prospects remained on the board, but the Red Sox made their surprise pick.

When the final four rounds take place Thursday, the Red Sox will get only three selections. They lost their second-round pick as penalty for sign-stealing.

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