A winding road: Former Boston Red Sox prospect Nick Longhi talks about his journey

Mar 6, 2020; North Port, Florida, USA; Boston Red Sox left fielder Nick Longhi (83) steals home
Mar 6, 2020; North Port, Florida, USA; Boston Red Sox left fielder Nick Longhi (83) steals home / Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Longhi was a top 10 prospect in the Boston Red Sox organization a few years ago. He's only 27 years old now, but Longhi no longer finds himself in the Red Sox system. In fact, he doesn't find himself in any organization's system.

Drafted in the 30th round in 2013, Longhi worked his way up through the Boston minor leagues. In 2017, he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds while working in Double-A.

Former Boston Red Sox top prospect Nick Longhi still has MLB dreams, despite setbacks

Midway through 2018, Longhi had made it to Triple-A. He was just one step away from the Major Leagues. The 2019 season proved to be a career year in terms of offensive production. The left-handed hitter posted career highs (for a full professional season) in average (.283), home runs (12), and slugging percentage (.463).

This is where scouting and evaluations elude me. At no point that year did the Reds (a team that finished 75-87 with very few big contributors outside of a monster Eugenio Suárez season) decide to give Longhi a look.

Then came 2020, and MiLB didn't have a season due to the global pandemic. Still, one look at the offensive numbers will make you question why Longhi never got a chance. Cincinnati had just two players with at least 20 at-bats who also had a batting average above .250 during the 2020 COVID-shortened season.

Admittedly, 2021 wasn't the best year for Longhi. After the year off, he saw a dip in batting average and slugging percentage. Despite that, he actually managed to raise his OBP.

Apparently, that's all it took. One "down" year and Longhi couldn't find a team in 2022. Now heading into 2023, the first baseman/outfielder is still looking for a new home.

That hasn't pulled Nick Longhi away from the grind, though. He's still working, trying to make his way back and get that coveted MLB debut.

I caught up with him to ask a few questions.

What have you focused on while working out?

"Working out has been the same. Just trying to find a way to get better. Whether it’s becoming stronger, more flexible, or more explosive. Something to continue to progress me as an athlete and ball player."

Who has given you the best advice?

"The best advice has come from a former teammate named DJ Peterson. He’s taught me a lot about mentally how to handle struggles and how to hit the reset button after bad days, weeks, or even months, as well as making much-needed swing changes. The only unfortunate thing is since I made the changes in the offseason of 2018 I haven’t been given a good chance to use them."

Which player have you learned the most from over the years?

"There have been a lot of players that I’ve learned from. Older players like Leon Durham, and Barry Larkin. I enjoyed talking baseball with those guys, situationally and mentality-wise. Nobody can get you feeling like you're the man like Leon! Possibly one of the greatest hype-you-up coaches. Because he was real, he told you when you sucked, but he let you know when you were doing good. But especially teammates, guys who were more experienced than I was, and I was eager to listen to someone who has seen more of the game than me. I had DJ Peterson, Ryan Lavarnway, Blake Trahan, Christian Colon, and Greg Bird. All guys who really helped me mentally with the game of baseball, because they had been through struggles and helped me with mine."

You spent two and a half years in Triple-A putting up solid numbers but didn’t get that shot in the Majors. How did you keep a positive attitude?

"It’s incredibly hard to stay positive at this point in my career. 2020 was my year to be in the big leagues. I was told I was going to platoon off lefties because I had success in 2019 off LHP. And due to injury, an OF spot was open for the first month or so, and then I’d be in AAA and back up in September. Then the whole Covid situation and everything getting shut down and that all went out the window. I wasn’t invited to Spring Training 2.0 even though I had not been cut from camp, and then I wasn’t sent to the alt site. I figured with the amount they signed me for as a free agent I would be a candidate for them to re-sign and send to AAA since I didn’t get to play at all. But they didn’t want me back. That really hurt seeing the business side of the game when you're so close and something as freakish as Covid happens out of nowhere. Sometimes I wonder if I’m going to wake up from this nightmare and it’s all just been a bad dream, but it is what it is."

What keeps you motivated?

"I keep working because I love this game and know I can help and play a role on a big league team. It’s been my dream since I was 5 years old. I will feel unfulfilled in life if I don’t get at least a cup of coffee in the show. That’s why I continue to work, even though everything that could possibly go wrong has gone wrong, from injuries to just bad timing."

What would your sales pitch be to all 30 MLB teams to buy Nick Longhi?

"Give me a jersey and ABs that’s all I need."

Longhi spent eight years in the Minor Leagues. Good luck finding someone with a bad word to say about him. He's a hard worker who consistently contributed on offense, and was great defensively at first base (with a fantastic arm in the outfield).

Despite all of that, Nick Longhi hasn't been with an organization since 2021. Clearly, he's still working hard and has that hunger for an opportunity. Longhi isn't asking for handouts, and he doesn't expect anything to be handed to him. He just wants a chance to prove himself.

Whether it's with the Boston Red Sox or a different team, it's time for Nick Longhi to get that chance.