As Ben mentioned earlier, Yanks’ Scouting Director Damon Oppenheimer chatted today over at the official site, taking fans’ questions about last week’s first year player draft. Obviously there was only so much he could reveal, so the answers aren’t all that juicy, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t some good info provided.
You can see the full transcript here, but here’s a few things that stood out to me:
mike: So when do you get to work on the ’09 Draft class?
Oppenheimer: We have been working on it the last two years, but we will really start this Thursday, with the High School Showcase in Minnesota.
That was my question, so I’m obligated to post it. It makes sense that they would start scouting players in advance, but it shows you just how far in advance they start to look. Were they scouting Gerrit Cole as a 14-yr old? Probably. I know they had their first report on Austin Jackson when he was 12.
tef86: How is Andrew Brackman progressing from his surgery?
Oppenheimer: He is progressing at a better rate than we had expected. He is really coming along quickly. I do not have an ETA for him to start pitching in games.
Last we heard was that the Yanks told Brackman not to worry about pitching in 2008, just to concentrate on getting healthy. Is it possible that his rehab is going so well that they’d let him take the hill in an affiliated game this year? I doubt it, but it’s good to see he’s on his way back.
cavs90: Why do the Yankees draft so many pitchers?
Oppenheimer: Pitching is the most important part of the game. To be a championship team, you have to have quality pitching from top to bottom.
We’ve said this a million times on RAB, but it’s worth repeating: there’s no such thing as too much pitching. Some people never learn…
nyy4life23: Why did you chose to pick a high school player rather then a college player? It seems a lot of other teams are picking more and more college players because they are more “league ready.”
Oppenheimer: We chose Gerrit because we thought he was the best available player, high school or college. If you don’t take the risk of selecting high school players, you don’t get Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Jake Peavy, Josh Beckett, etc.
I loved this question. Look around the league and see where the best players came from. The vast majority are high school draftees, and that’s because they were under professional instruction and training & conditioning programs at an earlier age. College players tend to have lower upsides because they’ve already done the bulk of their developing, they’re set in their ways when it comes to hitting mechanics, pitching mechanics, etc. It’s hard to break those old habits.
26wsringz: What do you look for in a prospect pitcher?
Oppenheimer: There are multiple things we look for in a pitching prospect. For us, we look at size, fastball velocity. We look at command of fastball, and we look for the ability to throw a breaking ball.
We like to see a guy have pitchability … i.e., the ability to use all your pitches, throw your stuff for strikes.
Something that is important for the Yankees is for pitchers to have good arm action and delivery.
It starts and ends with the fastball. If you have life on your fastball and can command it to both sides of the plate, you’re going to do well. I’m also a stickler for deliveries. Having a clean and repeatable delivery helps pitchers command the ball better, and it also lessens the injury risk somewhat. Just look at Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz – they all had terribly boring and incredibly efficient deliveries, and had long and tremendous Hall of Fame careers because of it.
closingin: What are the most important changes in mechanics that Gerrit Cole needs to make?
Oppenheimer: For us, the mechanical changes that he needs to make are very minor. That is something our pitching coaches will work on with him. We just need to keep him to stay on line toward home plate. If he does that, he’ll be fine.
I found that very interesting because Cole’s motion looks very … violent. Then again I’m no scout, so what do I know. Violent doesn’t necessarily mean bad, does it?