I’m not gonna lie, I miss baseball. A little over a week from now, pitchers and catchers should be reporting to spring training camps. With the MLB Lockout ongoing and no real end in sight, who knows when we’re going to see our favorite players and clubs hit the diamond again.
On this week’s Section 10 Podcast, the guys had a segment about the Red Sox farm system, and Noah Song’s name came up with some rumors that he might return to baseball this year. Who is Song, and why is this significant? Song, fulfilling his commitment to the U.S. Navy, hasn’t played a competitive game of baseball since 2019.
Song was initially a first round talent out of the United States Naval Academy, but fell in the 2019 MLB Amateur Draft after it was confirmed he would miss time in the minors due to his post-graduate service commitment. Boston was able to snag Song in the fourth round, despite him being one of four finalists for the Golden Spikes Award the year prior, which is given to the best player in college baseball.
At the Naval Academy, Song was dominant, setting school records for career wins, strikeouts and innings pitched. In his senior year, the starter had a record of 11-1 with a 1.44 ERA and a sub-1 WHIP. He was averaging a whopping 15.4 strikeouts per nine-inning game.
Before leaving to fulfil his service, Song was able to pitch in the New York Penn League with the rookie-ball Lowell Spinners. He was even more successful there than in college, with a 1.06 ERA and a 0.882 WHIP in seven appearances. Song also pitched for the United States in an Olympic qualifying tournament, posting more strong numbers (zero runs allowed in five appearances) out of the bullpen.
Since June 2020, the right-handed pitcher has been serving the nation, where his two-year stint may be ending soon. Even with that coming to a close, Song will have to petition to serve the remainder of his total, five-year stint as a reservist so he can play. Back in 2019, he didn’t seem too worried about what life had in store for him, saying “I have two plan As.” Song seems to be taking them one plan at a time, as even his Twitter doesn’t mention his status as a prospect, just “U.S. Naval Officer.”
If he does return, it could be massive for the Red Sox farm system. The 24-year-old is listed at just 19th in SoxProspects’ rankings, but this is likely due to his time away from the game. Song boasts a strong fastball with great command, which topped out at 99 mph at the Olympic qualifiers. Also in his pitching arsenal is a slider, curveball and newly (as of 2019) modified changeup. The changeup was a pitch that Song rarely threw in college, but has transformed into a project that has already paid off. SoxProspects has listed it as a “potential above-average offering” since the adjustment was made.
“The expectation was high, but seeing him… I’ll never forget seeing him throw his first bullpen in Batavia,” said Spinners pitching coach Nick Green. “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.”
Sure, Song has a long way to go. But it wouldn’t be the first time that athletes have committed to the military before going pro. Most notably, David Robinson of the NBA and Roger Staubach of the NFL fulfilled their contracts with the Navy before having Hall of Fame careers. This isn’t to say that Song will be a Hall of Famer, but having a professional sports career arc such as his isn’t as rare as it may seem.
Something worth mentioning as well is the talent that was on his Olympic qualifying team. He gained valuable experience playing alongside guys like current Red Sox Bobby Dalbec and Tanner Houck and the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Jacob Cronenworth. Among those players and that pool of young talent, he was still heralded by some as the most talented pitcher on the roster.
While it may be a while before Song reaches the major leagues (he is currently projected to make his debut in 2025), the fact that he could potentially return this year is huge for a farm system in need of arms. While it’s taking more time than most, the fourth-round flier that Boston used back in 2019 could pay off dividends very shortly.