Pitching prospect Noah Song has the talent to develop into the ace of the Boston Red Sox rotation but it will take him years to get to the majors.
The Boston Red Sox have a long history of failing to develop pitching. They’ve had their fair share of high-profile starting pitchers they acquired via free agency and trade but when it comes to drafting and grooming pitchers in their farm system, the results have been a disaster. The Red Sox haven’t developed a true ace since Jon Lester, who was drafted nearly two decades ago and debuted in the majors in 2006.
That drought may end once Noah Song is ready to emerge. The Red Sox selected Song in the fourth round of the 2019 June draft out of the United States Naval Academy after he led the NCAA is strikeouts during his senior year.
Ian Browne picked Song to be his choice in a recent MLB.com article predicting a future ace from each AL East team.
"“If not for the Navy commitment, the power righty likely would have been a first-round Draft pick last year,” wrote Browne. “Instead, the Sox nabbed him in the fourth round. But Song should be worth waiting for. Song, who is 6-foot-4, has a fastball that tops out at 99 mph. He also has a strong changeup and a curveball that has the potential to be a plus pitch.”"
Song dominated in his brief stint with the Single-A Lowell Spinners last year. He only logged 17 innings over seven starts but allowed only two earned runs for a sparkling 1.07 ERA to go along with a 0.88 WHIP and 10.1 K/9.
The flame-throwing right-hander impressed last fall when he pitched in relief for Team USA during the WBSC Premier12 by unleashing the fastest pitch clocked in the tournament.
He’s clearly ready for the next level but it might take a while before Song can be tested again. The 22-year old is committed to serving two years of military service with the Navy before he can continue his baseball career.
That makes Song one of the rare prospects who may benefit from the shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. If the 2020 season is significantly shortened or cancelled, Song can fulfill his military service obligation without falling much further behind his peers.
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Regardless of how this year pans out for baseball, Song will still have two years of rust to shake off when he eventually returns to the Red Sox minor league system. He will have to start down in Single-A and work his way up, which could take time considering the long layoff.
He could be years away but Song is worth the wait. MLB Pipeline ranks the right-hander as the sixth best prospect in the Red Sox farm system and their second best pitcher. The ranking is obviously held back by the uncertainty of his timeline. He should fly up the list once he returns from his military service and we get a clearer projection on his development.
Developing pitching is no easy task but it’s vital to sustaining long-term success. Grooming a young ace provides a team with a cost-controlled talent for at least six years. Having that asset to lead the rotation means the front office doesn’t need to empty the farm system to acquire an established ace or overpay for one in free agency who may be approaching the end of their prime.
The Red Sox used those methods to add David Price and Chris Sale. It led to a World Series title but eventually came back to bite them when ownership’s desperation to reset the luxury tax forced the club into a payroll slashing rebuild.
Chaim Bloom wasn’t here yet when the Red Sox drafted Song but the Chief Baseball Officer has a strong track record of developing pitching from his tenure at the helm of the Tampa Bay Rays. It’s been a long time since Boston found an ace from their farm system but there is reason for optimism that Song and some of their other minor league pitchers will thrive in a system under Bloom’s guidance.