2009 Draft Preview: Possible first round targets


Andrew Brackman throwing in the bullpenDuring the last few years we’ve grown accustomed to seeing the Yankees take chances in the draft. Two years ago they gambled on the upside of Andrew Brackman with their top pick, landing him with what could potentially be the richest contract in draft history. Last year they rolled the dice by taking Gerrit Cole in the first round, though he ultimately chose UCLA’s rotation over the Yanks’ millions. Because they were unable to sign Cole, the Yanks received a compensation pick in this year’s draft, however if they fail the sign the player they take with that pick, they’re out of luck. They won’t receive another compensation pick.

Losing out on a first round pick one year is one thing, but losing out in two consecutive years can do major damage to a team’s farm system. Since the Yanks will only get one shot to use the comp pick they received for Cole (as well as the pick they received for failing to sign second rounder Scott Bittle), I’ve been wondering if they would maybe go a little bit more conservative this time around. Now, that doesn’t mean that they won’t pounce on an elite talent if one falls to them, but if that opportunity doesn’t present itself, they might lean towards the guy they know they can lock up.

The Yanks are picking 29th overall, and slot money for that pick is around $1.25M. That might not seem like much, but keep in mind that Joba Chamberlain received just a $1.1M signing bonus back in 2006, and guys like Colby Rasmus, Chris Coghlan and David Huff – all excellent prospects on the cusp of the big leagues – signed for less. Gobs of money alone won’t build an elite farm system, but strong scouting and development (and luck) will. Don’t get me wrong, the money certainly helps, but it’s not a necessity. Fun starts after the jump.

Matt DavidsonMatt Davidson, 3B, Yucaipa HS (Cali)
A physical specimen at 6′-3″, 215 lbs, Davidson just might be the best pure hitter in the high school ranks this year because of the way the ball just flies off his bat. He has a short, compact swing that produces above average power from the right side, and he uses a patient approach to wait for pitches he can drive. He has an immense amount of natural strength that allows him to hit the ball out of any part of the park, but at the same time it doesn’t limit his athleticism.

More than just a lumbering slugger, Davidson has the bat speed to hit for average and is solid defensively at third. His hands and footwork work well around the bag, and his strong arm also allows him to double as a pitcher. He has a thick lower half and doesn’t run well, but he’s not a base clogger (please note the actual meaning of the term). Davidson is an excellent student and has been lauded for his work ethic. Baseball America rated him the 16th best prep prospect for the draft, and right now he projects to be a mid-to-late pick in the first round, but a strong showing this spring could land him in the top half of the round. The USC commit is the kind of power bat the Yanks’ system sorely lacks.

Matt den Dekker, CF, Florida
Matt den DekkerMore polish than raw tools, MdD’s greatest asset is that he’s a true center fielder capable of making highlight reel catches. He has the ability to hit for average and decent power at the pro level, though his swing isn’t pretty and his approach is going to need a little refinement. Den Dekker also classifies as a grinder, getting suspended for three games earlier in the year when he threw a punch in a game against Duquesne.

After hitting .333-.413-.469 as a sophomore, MdD is hitting .339-.456-.500 this year with a team leading three homers. In a perfect world a guy like this wouldn’t be your top selection because he lacks a standout tool, but a team hellbent on statistics and probability might grab him early. Baseball America rated him the 18th best college prospect before the season.

DJ LeMahieuDJ LeMahieu, SS, LSU
While the top college shortstop in the country (Grant Green of USC) struggled both at the plate and in the field early in the season, LeMahieu was busy excelling on both sides of the ball. He started the year in the middle of a 25-game hitting streak that carried over from last year, and to date he’s hitting .384-.489-.575. Offense is his calling card, as he combines quick wrists and a strong knowledge of the strike zone to spray the ball to all fields. The power potential he showed as a high schooler in Michigan has started to manifest itself, and at 6′-4″, 195 lbs there’s still more projection remaining.

There are questions about his ability to stay at shortstop long term, but he should be able to stick there for the foreseeable future. He’ll never be a Gold Glover, but right now he has the ability to provide average defense at a key position with well above average offense. His lone below average tool is his speed, especially for a middle infielder. A draft eligible sophomore, LeMahieu has a little more negotiating leverage than your typical amateur, but he’s not considered a tough sign at this point. Rated the 15th best college prospect in the class, LeMahieu’s expected to go towards the end of the first round.

Jiovanni Mier, SS, Bonita HS (Cali)
Jiovanni MierCommitted to USC like Davidson, Mier is legit two-way player but draws more interest from pro scouts as a shortstop. With quick reactions, smooth footwork and well-above average range to go with butter hands, Mier is an elite defensive player. There are no concerns that his 6′-1″, 170 lb frame will outgrown the position either. It goes without saying Mier’s arm is strong and accurate, more than suitable for the left side of the infield. He has outstanding baseball instincts and top notch makeup.

At the plate Mier is a little less refined, though he has all the ingredients needed to hit at the next level. He has a balanced, level swing and quick wrists, and projects to hit for some power as he fills out. Mier employs a toe tap as a timing mechanism at the plate, and has an advanced approach at the plate for a high schooler. He’s an above average runner and an excellent athlete that also stars at defensive back and on the soccer field for his high school. Baseball America rated him the 13th best high school prospect in the draft class, and Mier is a near lock to go in the second half of the first round.

* * *

Of these four, my preference is Davidson (moderately sized gap) Mier (tiny gap) LeMahieu (big gap) den Dekker, though I’ve always favored high schoolers. I figured I would focus on position players this time around because the Yanks could use some, however there are certainly a strong group of pitchers the Yanks could opt for as well. I’ll highlight them sometime in the future.

Photo Credit: Brackman via Barton Silverman (NYT), Davidson via Andrew Drennen, den Dekker via Flickr user Tim Casey, LeMahieu via Eric Francis (AP), Mier via AFLAC

Categories : Draft


  1. “Since the Yanks will only get one shot to use the comp pick they received for Cole (as well as the pick they received for failing to sign second rounder Scott Bittle), I’ve been wondering if they would maybe go a little bit more conservative this time around. Now, that doesn’t mean that they won’t pounce on an elite talent if one falls to them, but if that opportunity doesn’t present itself, they might lean towards the guy they know they can lock up.”

    Or, could it mean that we’ll still take the elite talent who may tell us no, but we’ll go absolutely apeshit with the bonus money to keep him from saying no?

    Like, I know Cole’s camp said he was committed to go to college and wouldn’t have taken any offer. But, if the offer was, say, 5M in bonus money, maybe he says “It’s not about the money, I want to go to UCLA”, but had the offer been 8M or 10M or some ridiculous amount of money, he would have changed his mind?

    Because say Donovan Tate is still there at 29, and he’s there because he’s got an “ironclad” committment to UNC. Wouldn’t you want the Yankees to draft him, risk be damned, and then back up the Brinks truck to buy him out of his committment, even if it shatters the bonus records and draws the ire of the rest of baseball?

    • frits says:

      “Because say Donovan Tate is still there at 29, and he’s there because he’s got an “ironclad” committment to UNC. Wouldn’t you want the Yankees to draft him, risk be damned, and then back up the Brinks truck to buy him out of his committment, even if it shatters the bonus records and draws the ire of the rest of baseball?”

      F*ck and yes.

    • Slugger27 says:

      in a way i agree… it really just depends on who is available

      obviously if tate is there we’d wanna draft him, but if there is a different guy guy that they really like but not quite as much as tate, id rather them opt for the sure-sign

      its a complicated situation for sure… it seems any route we go the player is the one with the leverage

      • its a complicated situation for sure… it seems any route we go the player is the one with the leverage.

        You’re right about that. No matter who we draft, it’s likely to be someone we’re going to have to overpay for in bonus money because that player will know we’re over a barrel in that we can’t afford to not sign them.

        Which makes me want to draft a better player and be over a bigger barrel and overpay with a bigger bonus, because if we’re gonna get f#$%ed we might as well walk away from it with an elite prospect.

    • A.D. says:

      Or to pick guys with “strong commitments” who aren’t from wealthy families…

    • I haven’t talked to one scout that believes LaMahieu can stick at shortstop, FWIW. He’ll hit some, clearly, but he won’t play short in the big leagues, and because his arm is below average, third may not be ideal, either.

      Ideally, he’s probably a left fielder, though I’m sure whoever drafts him, whether that be in 2009 or 2010 – he’s a draft-eligible sophomore who could decide he’s better off staying at LSU another year – that club will do their best to keep him at a valuable defensive position until they have to move him.

      But there’s just not much chance he sticks at short. In fact, I’d say none.

      Davidson is getting rave reviews from just about everyone. If he can play third, he’s a first rounder for sure. Law likes him quite a bit.

      Watch out for Jake Marisnick, too; 6-4, 200 pound outfielder with a good swing and good raw power.

      Good stuff here, guys, I’d never been over to check out River Ave until now.

  2. Slugger27 says:

    good info mike, thanks for the post… out of those 4, which is most likely to be available for them to pick?

    • Mike A. says:

      Mier and den Dekker are the most likely. LeMahieu might be there, but it’s unlikely. Davidson is the least likely to still be available.

    • I would think one of the prep catchers after Stassi and Bailey would remain on the Yankees radar until they become convinced they aren’t worthy of that high of a pick.

      Austin Maddox and Andrew Susac, especially.

      Walsh may have the yips, so not so sure about his status going forward.

  3. Oh, and you totally should have used this picture of Matt Davidson wearing a quasi-Yankee logo, so that I don’t have to look at him dressed in Brewers gear looking like a poor-man’s Gabe Kapler:

  4. Mattingly's Love Child says:

    Didn’t Klaw think that Davidson might not be able to stay at 3b? I can’t remember exactly his concerns.

    With all of the scouting stuff being posted on, it’s nice to get a perspective on where the Yankees fit and what they might be looking at!

  5. After hitting .333-.413-.469 as a sophomore, MdD is hitting .339-.456-.500 this year with a team leading three homers.

    How the hell do you pronounce “MdD”? Horrible nickname.

    I’m calling him “The Flying Dutchman”.

  6. frits says:

    This post has got me looking forward to the DOTFs…Can’t wait.

  7. Reggie C. says:

    There’s a 5-tool California U. OF – Brett Jackson – who might be there at 29. Might. He’s off to a hot start so he’s probably rising.

    Bottom line: don’t pick a RHP. I think we’ve got a couple of ‘em.

    • Bottom line: don’t pick a RHP. I think we’ve got a couple of ‘em.

      … unless an absolute stud of an RHP, like a Kyle Gibson, Aaron Crow, or someone like that falls to #29. If the best player available is clearly an elite RHP, we should take him and then trade some of our other RHP prospects for what we need.

      • Reggie C. says:

        There’s always going to be a stud RHP fall in every single draft. Last year, it was Cole and Casey. Guess who signed. If the Yanks are able to get a projectable CF or SS kid, they must opt for the position player instead of Gibson or Crowe. Right now… we need CF and SS prospects in the farm.

        • Jamal G. says:

          No, they must opt for the Best Player Available. This isn’t the NFL or NBA, you don’t draft based on organizational need in the top rounds because you have no idea what your Major League club will look like/need by the time these top-round draftees are ready to contribute to said club.

          • Precisely.

            Brackman and Betances could both never master repeatable deliveries and be worthless; ZMac’s lack of an out pitch could doom him to AAAA status, Hughes could never shake the injury bug…

            Meanwhile, AJax, Nunez, Angelini and Lassiter could all pan out and Montero could move to LF and hold his own and bam, we’ve got legit prospects all over the middle infield and outfield.

            There’s no way to tell. Take the best talent available.

            • Reggie C. says:

              Sure. It could all pan out like you said. Or maybe it doesn’t. Lets say Ajax makes a solid CF. Angelini becomes a 25 error, .275 hitter with marginal power. Lets see lassiter play above short season. I can play that game too.

              The pitchers don’t all have to turn out aces. If opt-out clauses become alittle more prevalent, we could be seeing a stream of solid pitchers hit the FA market regularly.

          • JohnC says:

            I agree. If the best player available is a pitcher, you take him. You don’t draft for need, especially not in the early rounds. Tate would be my first choice, but he’s unlikely to be there at 29. Davidson would be my next choice. As for pitchers, a good possiblity might be Jacksonville St. closer Ben Tootle, who is hitting 98 consistently and has a great change up as well.

            • Thomas says:

              I personally would never go closer with a first pick. Their upside just isn’t high enough in my opinion to warrant that pick. Also, they have no fallback plan, if they are ineffective. Most starters have a fallback plan of a reliever, very few relievers can fallback to a starter.

              Drafting future number 3 starter > Drafting future closer.

            • kSturnz says:

              i like Bobby Borchering, but he may not be there when we pick. am i right?

          • Reggie C. says:

            Yanks dont operate in a bubble. Its increasingly rare for a young premium position players to hit the trade block without coughing up significant pitching talent. Yanks have got zero middle infield prospects and 1 outfield prospect. College OFs like Den Dekker or Brett Jackson can fill in the corners if Swisher doesn’t pan out.

            • Jamal G. says:

              Yanks have got zero middle infield prospects

              David Adams, Carmen Angelini, Garrison Lassiter and Corban Joseph all say hi.

              College OFs like Den Dekker or Brett Jackson can fill in the corners if Swisher doesn’t pan out.

              This just proves my point even further: you (as in the Front Office) have no idea what the Yankees will look like in three years. What if they sign any one or combination Rick Ankiel, Jason Bay, Carl Crawford or/and Matt Holliday during the 2009-2010 off-season to multi-year pacts? Then what? You just wasted an early-round pick on a position that is no longer a need.

              You can not draft on need during the early rounds in baseball; you just can’t.

              • Reggie C. says:

                Why not just develop our own Carl Crawford? That’s what the Yanks have got to do instead of locking all those guys you mentioned to 5 year deals. Yanks are highly unlikely to trade good prsopects for any of those guys since they do hit the FA market. Aside from Ankiel , all those guys are 30+. Development of an above average corner OF / SS is imperative to keep offensive success going since we got 1B and 3B locked.

                • whozat says:

                  Because you can’t look at an 18 year old kid and say “I know he will be the next Carl Crawford.”

                  You’re arguing to pass up a pitcher who looks to be a better overall talent to draft an guy who is less talented because of the position he plays. We’re arguing that you take that pitcher, because having him in the system lets you trade other pitchers for the next Carl Crawford (or Matt Holliday, or whoever) when he’s in AA/AAA and you’ve got a better idea of his probability of making the bigs.

                • Zack says:

                  Right, because the Yankees have shown such a proclivity for trading their plethora of right handers for other prospects. Its not a matter of taking a lesser talent, its a matter of, if the difference isn’t all that great, draft the bat. In baseball it is very very difficult to quantify the better talent.

              • Zack says:

                Sorry buddy, but all 4 of those guys you mentioned are “prospects” only in the sense that they are in the minor leagues. They are so far away and have done so little thus far that pretending they are actual prospects at this point is, in fact, missing the point. Shoot, every club could throw 4 low level middle infield prospects at you and say “see, see, there’s talent there.” The Yankees have very little projectable, high level positional prospects, period. Trying to debate that is just wasting time.

                And as to your (and others) points about not drafting for need in the early rounds, that’s not entirely true. Yes, generally speaking, you draft the best available player. However, the reality is that at pick 29, there are going to be a few guys available. Unless another top talent like Garritt Cole falls (which, to be fair, is possible), its far more likely that the Yankees will be looking at a group of guys who all have different relative positives and negatives (like the post shows). In that case, where the “best available” isn’t so cut and dry, you absolutely go with need.

                The Yankees should be approaching this draft looking to draft as many bats as they can. They already have too many pitching bodies for the system. They also need to be trading away some of the excess for them system for positional prospects. While that shouldn’t prevent them from drafting the superior talent when obvious, there needs to be a plan in place that aims to rebuild what is, frankly, a weakened and unbalanced farm system.

                • whozat says:

                  I didn’t see anyone saying that a tie shouldn’t go to a position player. However, it’s also disingenuous to imply that a kid drafted in 2009 would contribute to this “too many pitching bodies” problem. It’s not like you skip over a pitcher who’s better than the available position players because Eric Hacker and George Kontos need to be in the AAA rotation. 2009 draftees will be starting in A ball, if that.

                  That said, you’re certainly right that they need to be doing SOMETHING with this glut of mid-tier arms in AA/AAA. Problem is that no one is going to take 5 middling AA/AAA pitchers in exchange for one really good prospect. You can do stuff like add bodies to Jose Tabata in order to acquire Nady and Marte, though. Or, maybe the emergence of Hughes lets you add a couple young arms to Wang in order to get an big-time AAA shortstop or OFer.

                • Thomas says:

                  “Sorry buddy, but all 4 of those guys you mentioned are “prospects” only in the sense that they are in the minor leagues. They are so far away and have done so little thus far that pretending they are actual prospects at this point is, in fact, missing the point.”

                  You think if a player is in low level minors and hasn’t played well, he can’t be a prospect? I guess that means Tim Beckham and Anthony Hewitt aren’t prospects.

                  Realistically, none of those 4 Yankees may ever see the majors, but maybe one or all of them do. However, you cannot claim that a player drafted that season or the year before is not a prospect, because he struggled in a low level in his first pro-season.

                • Zack says:

                  No, lots of players in the low minors can be prospects, but those four, at this point, aren’t. At least, not the way they were being offered. They are not evidence of the Yankees holding middle infield depth or futures. When Joba was pitching in A, he was a prospect. Not only did he show on the field that he was above that level, but he had a projectable high high ceiling. David Adams, Carmen Angelini, Garrison Lassiter and Corban Joseph have collectively shown diddly squat. Citing them as evidence of the Yankees having middle infield prospects is, as I said, missing the point. As I said, its all how you define the word “prospect.” Sure, they are “prospects’ in the sense that they are in the minors and might have a major league future. But they are hardly guys you would want to bank your future on, or even really offer as evidence of a strong farm system.

            • I’d rather draft an elite arm and take my chances.

              If a year from now we have an embarrassment of pitching riches in CC/AJ/Wang/Joba/Hughes + IPK/Brackman/Betances/ZMac/Bleich + whomever we draft at #29, we can trade Wang and ZMac for Matt Kemp or something like that.

  8. dane bramage says:

    If you can buy Davidson,then do it.If not,we will survive.A rebuild of the farm is imperative.

    • A rebuild of the farm is imperative.

      This would imply that the farm system is somehow flawed or lacking. It’s not.

      Easy on the hyperbole.

      • jsbrendog says:

        BUT WHO WIL PLAY TEH SS FOR JETER IN 2012?1?!1?11?1

      • Zack says:

        Actually, the farm system is flawed and lacking. How can you really argue otherwise? It lost a ton of talent, lacks position prospects beyond AJax and Montero, and lacks lefthanded pitching. Its a middle of the pack farm system. Which is fine, but for the Yankees, with the money and talent they have access too, it shouldn’t be.

        • It lost a ton of talent

          Most of that through graduation and Rule V removals, which indicates the year-over-year strength of a system, not weakness,

          lacks position prospects beyond AJax and Montero

          And most systems lack more than 1-3 legit position prospects. Having more is a rarity. Boston, Baltimore, Toronto, and Tampa Bay are basically all one legit position prospect (Anderson, Weiters, Snider, and Beckham) and a bunch of quality arms and super-young position players with some upside… kinda like us. You’re acting like we’re the first minor league organization to not have a full bumper crop of ML ready stud position player prospects.

          and lacks lefthanded pitching.

          Hard to get oodles of quality lefties when you pick towards the bottom of each round, Nevertheless, Coke/Dunn/Bleich/WLDR/Kroenke/Banuelos/Turley/Croussett is pretty damn good, I’d say.

          • Zack says:

            It showed the overall strength of the system, LAST YEAR. This year, it is not so strong.

            As for not having more than 1-3 “stud” position prospects, well I’m not just refering to “studs.” of course a stud prospect like Weiters is exceptionally rare. But there are a lot of very good high level prospects that other organizations have that the Yankees simply don’t have. The Yankees don’t really have any barely above average positional players above A+ right now. that is a weakness. Period.

            And as for lefties, of that group, only Coke has either shown any real future or is at a level useful enough.

            Again, you can look at all of those guys, who are all, save Coke and AJax, at AA or below, and see strength. I see a bunch of C prospects who have a looong way to go. That doesn’t mean the farm is broken or so much weaker than another teams, but it does mean that it has a lot of work to do

            • Drew says:

              Philly, IPK, AJAX, Jesus, Melancon, Grit, Alf, AJAX, Miranda? Cervelli? D-Rob, Coke.
              A lot of work? what do you want exactly?

              • Zack says:

                Um, first of all, neither Hughes nor IPk are ‘Prospects” anymore, or at least, they are no longer rooks. but even counting them, Miranda, Aceves, and Cervelli shouldn’t be included in any argument, Coke, D-Rob, and Melancon are relievers, and therefore of limited value in the long term (even if Melancon is as advertised, relievers are both notoriously fickle and interchangeable). So then we are back to Ajax and Montero, with Hughes and IPK thrown in there (and IPK has a lot of work to do to regain any prospect standing). Using that same logic, why not throw Igawa in there…

          • MattG says:

            Baltimore has Tillman. Tampa has Price and McGee. Boston has Tazawa, Bowden, Hagadone, Bard and Reddick.

            Most people grant that the Yankees are a little light in premium talent. The top two are terrific, and the lower levels are stacked, but there is a little too much filler.

            • He was speaking about position players.

              The thing that makes the Rays and Orioles (and possibly Red Sox) systems better than ours is that their pitching prospects are more advanced than ours. Position player wise, the gap is miniscule.

              Yes, we don’t have more than two real good position player prospects in AJax and Montero. But the rest of the AL East also doesn’t have more than two real good position players.

    • A.D. says:

      I think adding to the farm and not loosing a 1st & 2nd round pick because we couldn’t sign guys back to back years is the imperative.

      The farm is built, it needs to continue to be maintained.

  9. Jake H says:

    Mier is the guy I’ve been looking at that the Yanks could draft. I really like him and I could see the Yanks going after another SS to add depth at that position.

  10. Zach Sanders says:

    Man, that Mier really looks like a ballplayer

  11. Bo says:

    I do love how everyone is saying grab this guy, grab that one, based on internet reports and such. Not like anyone here has actually you know SEEN any of these kids play.

  12. A.D. says:

    Why is Davidson decked out in Brewers gear??

  13. [...] River Avenue Blues checks out possible first round targets of the New York Yankees. The prospects include: 3B Matt Davidson, OF Matt den Dekker, SS DJ LeMahieu, and SS Jiovanni Mier. [...]

  14. [...] shifted DJ LeMahieu to second base last week. I wrote about him as a potential first round target for the Yanks back in March, noting that there were questions about his defense at shortstop. Now [...]

  15. [...] Yanks in the 43rd round of the 2006 draft. Florida features Matt den Dekker, one of Mike’s potential first-round targets last year, and Nick Maronde, another lefty Mike named as a signability guy in [...]

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