Red Sox prospect Noah Song could resume career in 2022; here's why that matters

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Tomase: Key Sox prospect you may have overlooked could return in 2022 originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The best Red Sox pitching prospect you may have forgotten about hasn't faced a batter in almost exactly two years, because he's had more important things to worry about -- like learning how to fly helicopters for the Navy.

There's a chance Noah Song resumes his baseball career sometime in 2022, however, which means it's worth revisiting what the right-hander could bring to the mound.

A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Song was a fourth-round pick in 2019 after going 11-1 with a 1.44 ERA and being named a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award, given to the best player in college baseball.

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A first-round talent, the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Song slipped to the Red Sox because the start of his career would be delayed by a post-graduate service commitment. He reported to flight school in Pensacola in June of 2020 for officer training that could last anywhere from 18 to 24 months. The short end of that range would potentially put him back on the diamond in January. The longer end means mid-summer.

It remains unclear when Song will be available, and the Red Sox aren't rushing the process.

"Noah's still in school, and I think it would be premature to speculate," Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said via e-mail. "Regardless, we remain supportive of what he's pursuing with the Navy and continue to admire his commitment to service."

Song turns 25 in May and showed enough in two brief glimpses after college to suggest he's a legitimate prospect. He debuted at short-season Lowell in 2019 and struck out 19 in 17 innings while posting a 1.06 ERA. He then pitched for the United States in an Olympic qualifying tournament, where his fastball touched 99 mph and he didn't allow a run in five relief appearances while playing with future big leaguers like Jo Adell of the Angels, Pirates All-Star infielder Jacob Cronenworth, and current Red Sox Bobby Dalbec and Tanner Houck.

Song applied for a waiver to begin his baseball career immediately, but withdrew it when he learned a new Department of Defense policy enacted shortly after his graduation allowing professional athletes to delay their service until after their playing careers would not retroactively apply to him.

Song isn't the first Naval Academy athlete to wait. Most famously, future NBA Hall of Famer David Robinson spent two years as a civil engineering officer after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Spurs in 1987. Twenty-five years earlier, Navy quarterback Roger Staubach had delayed the start of his NFL career while serving a tour in Vietnam and attending flight school. He debuted at age 27 in 1969 and quarterbacked the Cowboys to a pair of Super Bowl titles.

It's impossible to say what kind of impact Song will make or when, but there's at least a chance he rejoins the Red Sox organization sometime next season.