If you’ve only heard of a single player in this week’s MLB draft, odds are it’s Blaze Jordan.
The Mississippi high school slugger became a YouTube sensation at age 11 when he won a home run derby in the Texas Rangers’ Globe Life Park with a 395-foot shot. He has remained a streaming star ever since, from the 500-foot homers he launched as a 13-year-old, to a profile video at 15 that declared him the next Bryce Harper and has since been viewed more than 4 million times.
At last year’s All-Star Game in Cleveland, Jordan won the high school home run derby with seven blasts in 90 seconds and received a hug from Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts, who played for the same youth coach.
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So imagine the Red Sox’ delight on Thursday night when their third-round pick rolled around in the truncated 2020 draft, and there sat Jordan at No. 89 overall.
The Red Sox had surprised the experts by drafting a borderline top-100 prospect at No. 17 in California high school second baseman Nick Yorke, whom they intended to pay below slot to save more of their $5.1 million draft pool for a high-upside high schooler in a later round.
Jordan certainly qualifies. While there may be questions about his defensive ability and overall hit tool, there’s no denying the elite power and bat speed of the 17-year-old first baseman.
“Quite frankly, we didn’t think he’d make it that far in the draft,” said Red Sox scouting director Paul Toboni in a Zoom call. “He’s a unique talent. A ton of power upside, good feel to hit, really recognizes pitches early, and he’s doing this all being a year younger than his counterparts, because he reclassified. Just a really exciting talent, there’s really no other way to put it.”
Jordan’s notoriety outstrips his production at this point, which is why most draft rankings had him in the 75-100 range. Baseball America projected him as a third- or fourth-round pick, while Keith Law at the Athletic ranked him the 93rd overall prospect.
The Mississippi State commit could always attend college and try to move into the first round by showing that his power translates to the SEC, but the Red Sox drafted him with the idea of making an aggressive offer, with age working in his favor. He was supposed to be a part of the 2021 draft, but he reclassified in order to get a jump on his pro career.
“He’s got some innate attributes that are very hard to teach, how he generates bat speed, how he’s able to process information out of the pitcher’s hand and transfer that to mechanical action, it’s super, super unique and you don’t see it very often,” Toboni said. “But when you do it see it, it sticks out to you. And when it sticks out to you coming from a 16- or 17-year-old kid, it really sticks out to you.”
Jordan stands 6-foot-2 and nearly 220 pounds, and he’s no stranger to the limelight. The Red Sox take some confidence from his ability to handle all the attention thrown his way.
“I think it doesn’t hurt that he’s been on big league fields taking batting practice and hitting home runs and then slapping five with Mookie Betts and other big leaguers,” Toboni said. “It for sure doesn’t hurt, and especially with someone who carries himself with great humility and a strong work ethic, I think it’s going to bode well for him in the future.”
Now that this junior home run king is in the fold, the selection of Yorke and the overall draft plan makes a lot more sense.
“We had a select group of players, just because what we thought they were going to be asking in terms of a signing bonus, they might slip down the draft a little bit,” Toboni said. “We had a small group of them and we were lucky that one of them in Blaze was able to get there. I don’t want to say it’s how we drew it up, but it’s pretty darn close to how we drew up. We’re really excited and I think you hit the nail on the head, getting that kind of upside at pick 89, it’s not normal. We were able to assume the risk mainly because of the expected value that we thought we were getting was really, really good in that area of the draft.”