LOWELL — As Nick Decker emerges from the LeLacheur Park home dugout in a Lowell Spinners jersey for the first time, he looks every bit the power hitting prospect the Red Sox have been in search of for years..
Listed at a muscular 6-foot, 215-pound at just 19-year-old, Decker has already begun to open eyes throughout the Boston organization. Now he will look to show his talent just 31 miles from Fenway Park.
“I’m never afraid to compete against the best,” said Decker. “I want to go out and show I can play against the top competition. I can’t wait to get started. I love being in Lowell. I can’t wait to go out, swing the bat and have some fun.”
A year removed from his final high school season, and being selected in the second round of the 2018 MLB Draft, Decker is set to headline the Lowell Spinners, who open their 2019 campaign on Friday (7 p.m.) by hosting the Connecticut Tigers.
“Nick is an exciting player to watch,” said first-year Lowell Spinners manager Luke Montz. “He has a lot of power potential. He can hit to all fields with power. He can play a good outfield and run a bit. Everyone is excited to see what he can do here.”
Websites called Decker one of the steals of the 2018 draft after the Red Sox selected him with the No. 64 overall pick.
Those rankings came after Decker delivered a huge career for Seneca High School in Tabernacle, N.J. In four varsity seasons he hit .394 with 15 homers and 68 RBIs.
As a senior, Decker hit .492 with seven homers and 24 RBIs and was named New Jersey Gatorade High School Player of the Year and a Perfect Game All-American.
Decker said that coming from a cold weather state like New Jersey may have hindered his draft stock a bit, but is also shaped him as a player.
“I enjoy it,” said Decker, who grew up a Phillies fan. “Being from Jersey gave me a blue collar mentality. We don’t have what the Florida guys have, training outside all winter. It forced me to have a work ethic that is second to none. I pride myself on that.”
Decker was committed to play college baseball at Maryland, but after being drafted he did not hesitate to sign a contract. The Red Sox gave him a $1.25 million signing bonus, close to the $1.8 million the Sox gave current phenom Michael Chavis when they picked him in the first round in 2014.
“It was an easy choice to go pro,” said Decker. “Especially where I was drafted and with the team that drafted me, I knew I was ready to get my professional career going.”
But last summer was far from easy for Decker. He was limited to just two games in the Gulf Coast League after suffering a fractured wrist on a check swing.
“It was frustrating because the injury didn’t allow me to play in many games,” he said. “But it was something I couldn’t control. I learned a lot watching from the bench. I didn’t know what to expect going into the year. You can read about others’ experiences, but you never know. It was a great learning experience for this year.”
Decker opened this spring back in Fort Meyers in extended spring training, then this week learned he had been promoted to the Spinners’ opening day roster.
Now, he is hoping to deliver a big summer and help his name rise up the prospect list.
“The opportunity to put on a Red Sox jersey and hat every day is something not many people have the chance to do,” he said. “It’s a dream come true and I’m thankful every day. I want to go out and compete. I want to show I can be an everyday center fielder and I’m confident that I can hit. I want to do it against the best.”
SPINNERS AT A GLANCE
Affiliation: Short-season Single-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox
League: New York-Penn League
Season: 76 games (38 home, 38 away)
Home ballpark: Edward LeLacheur Park (Capacity 5,000, opened 1998)
Where: 450 Aiken Street, Lowell
Tickets: $10 premium box, $9 box, $7 reserved, $5 standing room
2018 record: 37-38 (one cancellation)
Opener: Friday, Home vs. Connecticut, 7 p.m.
Owner: David Heller (since 2016)
Manager: Luke Montz (first season)
Contact David Willis at @DWillisET or DWillis@eagletribune.com.