Red Sox: Prep 3B Nicholas Northcut signs for $565,000.00
By Damian Dydyn
Ohio prep third baseman Nicholas Northcut signs with the Red Sox for third round money. He adds another high upside power bat to a depleted farm system.
The Boston Red Sox were aggressive in seeking out high ceiling prospects in the 2018 MLB Draft. Their first round pick, Triston Casas has 70 grade power and the potential to be a monster in the middle of the lineup. Second round pick Nick Decker also has big raw power but some questions about his hit tool. If he pans out, he too could be the anchor in the heart of a major league lineup. But the most interesting pick they made was on day three, when they used their 11th round pick on prep third baseman Nicholas Northcut.
Northcut was the 81st ranked prospect in the 2018 draft class according to MLB’s rankings. He was 69th according to Baseball America. That puts him in the range of a third to fourth round pick by talent. So why did he last until the 11th round? He had a firm commitment to Vanderbilt. The thought was that he would be expensive to pry away. Turns out that at $565,000.00, his cost was right in line with where he should have been picked. It’s possible he was willing to sign with the Red Sox for less than he would have elsewhere. But unless he says as much, that’s pure speculation. So what makes this such an exciting sign?
The power is real and it’s spectacular.
Nicholas Northcut had one of the more intriguing mixes of hitting ability and power in the 2018 draft. At least among the prep bats. Perfect Game had this to say about him:
"“Right handed hitter, hits from a wide base with good balance and direction into contact, very strong swing with outstanding bat speed, has barrel whip, big lift and ability to drive the ball, made Fenway South look small with his raw power, can make game adjustments and drive the ball to all fields, advanced hitter.”"
By Fenway South they mean JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Florida. It’s where the Red Sox play their spring training games. The park was designed to mimic the friendly confines of Fenway Park, including a replica Green Monster and foul poles at 310 and 302 feet. It also has deep and tall left and left center walls, a deep bullpen wall at 380 feet, and center field reaching 420 deep. If he was making that park look small, he wasn’t hitting dead pull shots.
Baseball America cites some scouts listing his raw power as future 70 grade. That’s Aaron Judge level. If he has the hit tool for that to play in games, we’re talking about a regular All-Star caliber player.
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He might have the hit tool for his power to play in games.
Baseball America’s write up describes him as having a good feel for hitting. MLB.com believes he could hit for average. Perfect Game described him as an advanced hitter. He also goes to all fields, even when hitting for power, which is impressive for a prep hitter. 2080 Baseball describes him as such:
"“At the plate, however, is where Northcut shines. Commencing with an open stance, high hands, and his back elbow parallel to the ground, Northcut uses above average bat speed and a lofty swing path to consistently impact the baseball. Northcut’s raw power projects as plus, and he doesn’t need to sell out to get there. He was especially effective on fastballs up in the zone, and while a few breaking balls left Northcut off balance, he didn’t swing and miss at any pitches during the two game set.”"
2080 Baseball also has a video of him taking swings at the Perfect Game All American Classic last August, which you can watch here. He has a quick, compact swing. His mechanics look repeatable. Northcut appears well balanced and transfers his weight cleanly And he uses his hips well which may be why he doesn’t have to go max effort to get to his power. Being able to stay back on the ball and still drive it is a huge weapon against professional pitching.
What about the rest of his game?
His range at third isn’t impressive, but he has soft hands and a plus arm. In high school he was also a pitcher and could reach the low 90’s. Northcut has good reads at the hot corner which helps him to compensate for that lack of range. All of the scouting reports I could find describe him as having the tools to be a solid defender and stick at third base. If he can, that bat can really play up. His lack of speed does limit his defensive ceiling, but he’s not going to clog the basepaths. Becoming an average runner would be exceeding expectations, however.
Triston Casas is certainly going to be the highest rated of the prospects drafted this June. But if there is another draftee who will sneak into the top 10, Nicholas Northcut is it. It’s possible that even if Casas pans out, Northcut could end up the best player drafted by the Red Sox this year. The farm system was in need of a big boost, and taking the risk on a bunch of high upside picks was perhaps the best way to do that. It’ll be some time before we know if this pick is working out. But if you are looking for names to follow from this draft class, Nick Northcut is one to add to your list. He’ll join the GCL Red Sox to begin his pro career. That team will likely also feature the afore mentioned Triston Casas, Kole Cottam, and if he signs, Nick Decker.
Next: Red Sox: 2018 IFA signing period preview
Keep checking back here for more updates on the 2018 Red Sox draft class. And let us know what you think about their haul in the comments below!