BROCKTON, Mass. -- Major League Baseball scouts have often praised the white-hot intensity that Bridgewater-Raynham catcher Andrew Noviello demonstrates out on the diamond. So suffice it to say, playing it cool was not in the cards Wednesday night for the Red Sox's 25th round draft pick.
“I can’t wait to play baseball, man," Noviello said just an hour before the Trojans' big Super 8 tilt with Xaverian, sifting through a tornado of congratulatory text messages. "There’s still adrenaline going through my veins. I’m gonna have fun tonight.”
And boy, did he have himself a ball under the lights at Campanelli Stadium. In addition to going 4 for 5 at the plate with an RBI out of the leadoff spot, Noviello came on in relief and struck out 10 batters over the last four innings, sealing a 10-5 victory.
"To get drafted by the Red Sox, and then go out and beat a Catholic Conference school, two best feelings in the world," he quipped with a country-mile grin to reporters.
Earlier in the day, the 18-year-old local phenom couldn’t help but sit around his computer in his Raynham home, tracking the Major League Baseball Draft online, watching each pick tick off, anxiously waiting the same way he probably used to on Christmas morning many moons ago.
“I was getting phone calls from [Jack] Toffey, my advisor, and [Red Sox scout Ray] Fagnant, all day,” Noviello said. “Just hearing from them, and [the Red Sox] telling me they were going to pick me sooner or later, they were trying to calm me down, but it was a real stressful day.”
Part of it was probably the uncertainty about where the 5-foot-11, 180-pounder would land. He was ranked the No. 207 prospect in the country in Baseball America’s most recent rankings heading into the draft; some scouts thought he could go as high as the fourth round, while others thought he would fall into the teen rounds or even the 20’s.
The Boston Red Sox were by far showing the most interest of any team. Regional cross-checker Quincy Boyd was present at one of his home games last month. Scouts had been to at least a half-dozen of his games this spring, including most recently the Trojans’ late-inning thriller over Boston College High in the opening round of the MIAA Division 1A “Super Eight” State Tournament.
When that call finally came, in the 25th round to the local team he idolized growing up, with it too came an avalanche of euphoria.
“I was ready, but I didn’t think it was going to happen just like that,” Noviello said, snapping his fingers. “But it did. Obviously, I cried a little bit. It was a dream come true. There’s no way to explain it."
B-R head coach John Kearney compared it to having one of his own children get the call.
“It’s like seeing a member of your family drafted, it’s so cool,” Kearney said. “He has worked unbelievably hard at it, his work ethic is second to none. He deserves it. He’s a very good player. I’m really happy for him. Very proud of him.”
An abundance of left-handed bats dotted the Massachusetts landscape this spring. Joining Noviello among the southpaws were Boston College outfielder Chris Shaw, a Lexington resident who went 31st overall to the San Francisco Giants; Six-foot-6 Agawam High first baseman Seamus Curran was the first Bay State high schooler to go in this draft, taken in the eighth round by the Baltimore Orioles.
Noviello is the fourth B-R product to get drafted in the last five years, and the first straight out of high school since Eddie Campbell went in the 44th round to the Seattle Mariners back in 2010.
But none of those past B-R players came into a spring with the mound of hype that Noviello had behind him. A patient but deliberate hitter blessed with natural athleticism, low-90’s velocity on the mound in spot starts, and above-average power to the gaps, scouts liked the fire he often added to the equation.
“He’s tough, and he’s got a really gritty game,” an American League scout told ESPNBoston.com back in April. “He can swing the bat really well with left-handed power.”
After playing a key role in B-R’s 2013 MIAA Division 1 State Championship season, Noviello has led the Trojans to two straight final four appearances in the Super Eight.
His bat has always produced, and this spring, he smoked the ball once again. Heading into tonight’s Super Eight contest, he was hitting an impressive .509/.643/1.056 with six home runs and 21 RBI, to just three strikeouts.
It’s not uncommon for a high school team’s most athletic player to move behind this dish. And with a void at catcher with the graduation of Joe Freiday, last year’s Gatorade Player of the Year for Massachusetts, Noviello – who had previously toiled at shortstop, second base and outfield – was a natural fit to move behind the plate.
So much so, that a number of scouts -- including the Red Sox -- think that could be a permanent home for him.
“I think it fits his profile. He’s pretty a rugged kid with good arm strength. He’s got enough athleticism to hang back there,” one American League scout told ESPNBoston.com. “Obviously technique-wise, he’s a ways off. He’s getting by on his grit right now. But I think as he gets repetitions with coaching, that position will clean itself up.
“You gotta love that he loves baseball. He’s a tough kid, so you know he’s going to go out there every day. You kinda need a little bit of that X-factor, a little crazy, it’s just a matter of taming that crazy.”
Soon after he was drafted, Noviello sent out a tweet that suggested he’ll be signing in the near future.
Want to thank the @RedSox for believing in me! Absolute dream come true! Can't wait to get started
— Andrew Noviello (@ndrewNoviello3) June 10, 2015
Asked how likely he would be to sign, Noviello was blunt, saying, “I’m probably going to turn pro, yes.”
Under the current collective bargaining agreement, draft picks selected past the 10th round can sign for no larger than a $100,000 bonus, unless there is leftover money from the slots designated for picks in the first 10 rounds.
“I’ll be happy with it, man,” Noviello said. “The money right now is not a concern. If I’m good enough, I’ll keep going and hopefully make more than that.”