The curious case of top Red Sox prospect Noah Song

Rob Bradford
August 26, 2019 - 11:00 am
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Nobody knows what is next for Noah Song.

This isn't about trying to surmise the next level of minor leagues for the pitcher, or what his possible timetable might be when trying to project an arrival in the major leagues. No, this is something bigger and much more complicated, even though talking to Song you would never know it.

"I only have positive memories from this summer and this time going into fall," the Red Sox pitching prospect said when appearing on the Bradfo Sho podcast. "It's been a great experience. Even if this is my last time playing baseball I would be very content with it."

This leads us to Song's unique lot in life.

When the 22-year-old speaks of this current stint with the Single-A Lowell Spinners possibly being the last stop in his baseball career it is a legitimate mindset and one that has nothing to do with injuries or physical limitations. And much like when Song reflects on believing there was a chance he wouldn't be drafted despite being classified as one of the four finalists for the Golden Spikes Award (best college player in the country) he means it.

This is the deal: Song has been granted permission by the Navy to play professional baseball for the Spinners this summer. Two days a week he is required to attend Naval Prep in Newport, R.I. (a two-hour drive) until the end of the season. Once the Spinners are done he will remain in Newport until Nov. 1 when his official stint as a member of Naval Air begins in Pensacola, Fla. After that? That remains a mystery.

Song isn't clear how it will play out when it comes to his required military commitment. As of now, he is required to serve to years of active duty before petitioning to serve the remainder of his five-year stint with the Navy as a reservist. He does, however, look at is as a no-lose proposition.

"I have two Plan As," the pitcher noted.

So, what do we know about this situation?

While Song is looking forward to immersing himself in life as a Naval pilot, he has been definitively told there won't be a path to fly fighter jets (Top Gun-style). In April, just before one of his starts for the Naval Academy, he was informed that his torso was a few centimeters too tall to qualify for the smaller planes even though other pilots standing at his height of 6-foot-4 had qualified. "That was a tough day," he said. 

In the baseball world, we have also come to understand something about the Red Sox' fourth-round pick: He is really good.

"The expectation was high, but seeing him ... I'll never forget seeing him throw his first bullpen in Batavia," Spinners pitching coach Nick Green said on the podcast. "I was like, 'Wow!' It wasn't just the velo. It was the command, everything. From Day 1 he got my attention and from that point on it's been great to watch him."

Song's stock was uncertain heading into the draft his past June partly because he was somewhat of a late-bloomer -- not finding his mid-90's fastball until his senior season -- along with the military commitment. But any uneasiness leading up to his selection is a thing of the past now thanks to an evolution that has led to Single-A domination.

In 14 innings with Lowell, he has struck out 17 and given up just one run over six starts. And along the way, a new pitch has emerged: a difference-making changeup, a pitch he barely threw in college.

"Until you see the results in the game you might not believe in it," said Green. "He's seeing that now with his changeup."

"I saw him in Lowell and I told him, 'Man, you threw some really good changeups.' He said, 'Yeah, that's what people are telling me.' To be a kid who has had as much success as he has had and to be as polished as he has been in so many ways, he's still very much a ball of clay in his pitching development in a very, very good ways," said Red Sox amateur scouting director Mike Rikard while appearing on the Bradfo Sho. "The changeup is coming. I know he's kind of confirmed he's learning a lot of things. That's certainly no disrespect to his career at Navy or anything like that but they just have so many other commitments while they're there that maybe, in some instances he doesn't have the time to work on certain third pitches or bullpen-type settings. But every excited about his changeup."