Right-hander Noah Song plans to report to Philadelphia Phillies spring-training camp Thursday in hopes of making the team’s Opening Day roster after he transferred his status with the Navy from active duty to selected reserves.
Song, 25, was taken by Philadelphia in December’s Rule 5 draft from the Boston Red Sox. He last pitched in 2019, when he posted a 1.06 ERA in 17 Low-A innings after the Red Sox drafted him in the fourth round out of the Naval Academy and signed him for $100,000.
In 2019, Song was denied a waiver by the Department of Defense to forgo his military obligation and had served on active duty since. His move to the selected reserves, which typically calls for one weekend of service a month and two weeks a year, allows him to resume his baseball career.
To keep Song, the Phillies must place him on the active 26-man roster for the entire season — a difficult path with Philadelphia coming off a World Series appearance and boasting a deep bullpen. Song’s upside still was clear from his dominance in college and his short minor league career.
During four seasons at the Naval Academy as a starter, Song struck out 428 in 334⅓ innings with a 2.37 ERA. He was particularly excellent during his senior season, when he pitched 94 innings with 161 strikeouts and 31 walks while allowing only 55 hits and two home runs, leading to a 1.44 ERA.
Song emerged as a pro prospect later in college, rating as a consensus second-round talent in the 2019 draft despite having no national scouting profile at the start of the spring. He was selected by the Red Sox with the last pick of the fourth round, 137th overall, and signed for a bonus well below the $406,000 slot for the pick because of the uncertainty around his future with the Navy. Philadelphia selected Song this winter in the Rule 5 draft and paid Boston $100,000 for his rights.
At his best, Song would sit in the mid-90s with his fastball, touching 99 mph, while relying mostly on a plus slider but also an above-average curveball. His athleticism, scouts said, gives him a solid feel for all three pitches — and he occasionally threw a changeup. Given the long layoff from competition, the aggressive way he attacks hitters and the lack of a standout changeup, he’s likeliest to slot into a multi-inning relief role in 2023, evaluators said.
Song could eventually start if he winds up in the minor leagues. Rule 5 picks must stay on the major league roster for the entire season to remain with the team that drafts them.
If Song does not make the Phillies out of camp, they could trade him to another team or place him on waivers, where any team could claim him and place him on its big league roster. Were Song to go unclaimed, he could be returned to the Red Sox for $50,000, and they could send him to the minor leagues.
ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel contributed to this report.