Getting a read on Damon Oppenheimer

Yanks 45th pick, #1345 overall
Igawa pitching o-Kei at Scranton

When it was all said and done, 21 of the 30 clubs went the distance and worked all 50 rounds of the draft, including the Yankees. In his third draft at the helm of Scouting Director, we are beginning to see some very real trends in Damon Oppenheimer’s draft stategy:

  1. He loves his college players. Only 9 of the 50 players taken by the Yanks this year are from the high school ranks (18%). In 2006, only 11 of 50 picks (22%) were prepsters, and only 8 of 50 (16%) were high schoolers in 2005.
  2. He believes in track records. There’s no better example than Ian Kennedy last year, who had a subpar draft year after 2 straight years of dominance, and is now arguably the best pitching prospect in the organization. This year he went for Damon Sublett, who posted consecutive years of 1.000+ OPS’s as a middle infielder before having a poor, injury riddled campaign this year. Chris Malec in ’05 is another example.
  3. He’s not afraid to take the Yanks’ money and roll the dice. In 2005, he went big money for Austin Jackson and Alan Horne. Last year it was Dellin Betances and Mark Melancon. Oppenheimer gave himself plenty of options this year, as Carmen Angelini, Chris Carpenter and Greg Peavey could all set bonus records for their respective rounds.
  4. He laughs in the face of a scary medical history. Alan Horne, Joba Chamberlain, Mark Melancon … they all had medical dossiers the size of the Yellow Pages. Again, the trend continues in 2007 with top pick Andrew Brackman highlighting an injury clouded crop that also includes Carpenter, Sublett and Ryan Zink.
  5. He’s down with taking on a project. Austin Jackson was a basketball player they taught to play baseball. George Kontos went from a 5.30 career ERA in college to one of the most dominant pitchers in recent NY-Penn League history. Garrett Patterson is perpetually working on his mechanics. Staying true to form, Oppenheimer gave his minor league coaches plenty to work with by taking the raw Brackman, the out-of-control Carpenter, the work-in-progress deluxe in Chad Dawson, and of course, the awesomest pitcher ever.
  6. He’s got a keen eye for relievers. JB Cox. Zach Kroenke. Eric Wordekemper. Nick Peterson. David Robertson. The list speaks for itself. Adam O., you and that great arm come on down!
  7. He’s really starting to love up-the-middle athletes. In 2005, 13 of the 24 position players the Yanks drafted can be described as “up-the- middle athletes.” In 2006 that increased to 15 of 24. This year, 17 of 25 position players drafted fit that bill. That my friend, is what you call an upward trend.

It’s been a little over 2 years with Oppenheimer calling the shots, but the effect he is having on the farm system is abundant. The pitching depth he’d built via the draft is borderline unfathomable, and it’s only a matter of time before we start some seeing returns.

Yanks 45th pick, #1345 overall
Igawa pitching o-Kei at Scranton
  • EJ

    Awesome read Mike.

  • Pfistyunc

    Great job on the draft this year both by Oppenheimer and by RAB. Great coverage guys; it is greatly appreciated.

  • The Scout

    Color me a sceptic. I like to wait several years before judging a draft. The patterns you identify are clear; whether the results stand out in major league talent will have to await the test of time.

  • Rich

    What exactly is keeping Kontos on the DL?

  • barry

    Thanks to you I actually know what happened in the draft after thinking about it but not even considering tuning in.

  • NYFan50

    I don’t suppose you can give us a synopsis of the Red Sox draft as well so we can see how well they fared?

  • Jersey

    Aye, a Red Sox recap would be good. Frankly, you’d probably do a better job than Sox bloggers, as coverage seems kinda thin on the few I’ve looked at.

    Great draft coverage, fellas.

  • Patrick

    Nice analysis, Mike.

  • Mike A.

    I’m not going to work up a full fledged post on the Red Sox’s draft, but they did draft a reliever with their first pick (Nick Hagadone from Washington), and then took a bunch of signability guys who fell in Will Middlebrooks, Yasmani Grandal and Nick Tepesch. Those 3 picks are similar to the Yanks grabbing Angelini, Carpenter and Peavey – steals if they sign, but probably heading to school.

    They did take RHP Tony Bajoczky out of Duke in a late round who was personal fave, but eh, I’d rather have Venditte.

  • BobbyCuban

    Does anyone know exactly what Brian Cashman’s role in the annual draft is? Does Oppenheimer determine who the Yankees pick and negotiate the bonus signings all by himself?

  • Mike A.

    Cash doesn’t play a huge role in the draft, he lets Oppenheimer run the show. Cash isn’t left in the dark obviously, as Oppenheimer give him reports from the Yanks’ area scouts/special scouts/cross checkers/etc.

    Most of the time the scout that follows the guy will negotiate the bonus. That’s how scout’s build a reputation, they’re putting their neck on the line by convincing the team a guy is worth taking at a particular spot & so much money. However, in special cases – high picks, high profile signability guys who fell, etc – the GM will get involved. It’s wise for Cash to get in on the Brackman negotiations because he’s dealt with Boras in the past.