2010 Draft: High School Targets

Pettitte's biggest mistake was just that
Yankees visiting the White House next Monday
The one that got away. (Photo Credit: Maya Sugarman, The Daily Bruin)

With trades, attrition, and graduation taking their toll on the Yankees’ farm system, the 2010 draft represents the team’s first chance to infuse the organization with some much needed high upside talent. College players certainly offer quality, however by the time they’re eligible for the draft, they’ve usually been heavily influenced by college coaches more focused on winning than development. High school players often come with higher ceilings because they get to do basically all their development under professional instruction.

Bryce Harper should technically be a junior in high school, but his decision to get his GED and move on to junior college not only looks genius at the moment (he’s hitting .422-.516-.891 with 15 homers and 13 doubles in 39 wood bat league games), but it also gives him tremendous leverage since he’ll be eligible for the next four drafts.  The top true high school prospect this year is Texas righty Jameson Taillon, who’s touched the upper 90’s with his fastball and shown a put away slider. He’s not as good as Tyler Matzek (last year’s top prep prospect) because his command comes and goes and he’s maxed out physically (6-foot-7, 230 lbs), but he’s still a legit top five prospect.

The Yankees have selected high school players with three of their five top picks under scouting director Damon Oppenheimer, so even though he loves polished college players, he’ll certainly grab a talented high schooler if they’re out there for the taking. Here’s three players that could be available when the Yanks’ first pick (32rd overall) comes up this June…

Photo Credit: Flickr user Let's Play Two

Nick Castellanos, SS, McCarthy HS (Fl.)
First off, Castellanos is not going to stay at short long term. He’s already 6-foot-3, 190 lbs and doesn’t have the athleticism for the position, so a move to third base will be almost immediate upon signing his first pro contract. He has the arm and the hands for the hot corner, but if he gets even bigger than expected a move to an outfield corner will be necessary.

The good news is that Castellanos can hit. I mean really hit. He’s incredibly strong for an 18-year-old, which gives him good present power and should allow him to launch some serious bombs as he gets older. His bat speed is good and his swing is fine, not textbook, so he should compliment his immense power with a good batting average.

Rumors are circulating that Castellanos is looking for anywhere from $5-$7M to skip out on his commitment to Miami, which is no doubt pricey. It’s Justin Upton money, basically. Castellanos isn’t that good and I doubt he gets a bonus that large (we always hear talk of high schoolers wanting enormous bonuses this time of year), but $2-3M isn’t out of the question.

Photo Credit: Flickr user Let's Play Two

A.J. Cole, RHP, Oviedo HS (Fl.)
Cole’s been on the radar for a few years now, but he’s kinda getting lost in the shuffle with some bigger named (and bigger armed) high schoolers popping up around the country. However, Cole might be the most complete prospect of the bunch, flashing velocity and quality secondary offerings with plenty of room for projection.

Listed at 6-foot-5 and 185 lbs, Cole is an incredible athlete with a fluid delivery and a free and easy arm action. His fastball sits in the low-90’s but has touched 95, with plenty of room to improve down the road. An upper-70’s slider acts as his second pitch, but the Yankees’ brass would probably have him switch to a curveball given his loose arm. Cole also throws a change, which is in it’s infancy like a typical high schooler’s. The only knock on Cole is that he tends to go into cruise control while facing inferior competition, though his work ethic is fine. He can just get complacent at times.

On pure talent, Cole should go in the top ten picks, but he’s a candidate to fall if his bonus demands don’t match up with the value teams place on him. Committed to Miami like Castellanos, Cole shouldn’t be there when the Yankees first rounder comes along, but it’s very possible he will be. If so, he’s an absolute steal at that spot.

Photo Credit: The OC Register

Peter Tago, RHP, Dana Hills HS (Cali)
A bit of a late bloomer, Tago has started to flash some serious velocity as the spring has progressing, reportedly touching 95-96 in recent outings. His breaking has sharpened up and has morphed into more of a true slider than the slurve he was throwing previously, and his changeup is pretty good for a prepster as well. Tago’s build is a scout’s dream, as he stands 6-foot-1, 190 lbs with broad shoulders and plenty of room to fill out. It’s not hard to envision his newfound velocity sticking as he matures. He’s going to have to work to keep his delivery in check – he currently throws from a low-3/4 slot but tends to drift – though that’s nothing uncommon for a high schooler.

I’m always a bit weary of guys like Tago that pop up late, but he was a top 100 draft prospect before the velocity spiked anyway. We still haven’t heard anything about bonus demands, but he’s committed to UCLA, which stirs up bad memories of Gerrit Cole. In a perfect world, he’d still be available when the Yankees second round pick (82nd overall) comes around, but that seems unlikely.

* * *

Of the three players mentioned, Castellanos is most likely to drop to the Yankees because of his enormous bonus demands, but there’s also a chance he falls further into the middle rounds and ends up one of those double-digit round, seven figure bonus guys. The kind of draft pick that didn’t exist until four or five years ago. Cole represents the best case scenario for the Yanks’ first pick, so cross your fingers.

Pettitte's biggest mistake was just that
Yankees visiting the White House next Monday
  • http://www.andaplayertobenamedlater.com/ Paul Catalano

    Great post. Love this stuff. And do you think the Yankees will draft Jeter’s eventual replacement this draft?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      I don’t think Jeter’s replacement will be a kid, at least not his immediate replacement. I bet they bring someone in via trade or free agency.

      • Andy in Sunny Daytona

        **wiping away tears*** It should have been Migual Angel Sano!!!
        (storms off into bedroom crying)


  • Ed

    How does Harper end up eligible for 4 consecutive drafts?

    I’m probably totally wrong here, but I thought you could play 2 seasons at junior college, then had to transfer to a 4 year college to keep playing. At that point, wouldn’t he not be eligible until he was 21 ?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      No, because he will have completely three years of college eligibility before he turns 21. It’s basically a “whatever comes first” scenario.

      • Chris

        So he would be eligible for 2010 (age 17, as HS grad), 2011 (age 18, as Junior College grad), 2012 (age 19, having completed 3 yrs of college), and 2013 (age 20, having completed college)?

        • Rick in Boston


          2010 – Junior College year 1
          2011 – Junior College year 2
          2012 – 4-year school as a Junior (because of the rule Mike made above)
          2013 – 4-year school as a Senior

          • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

            Technically, he could be draft eligible for a fifth year as well. If he returns to school as a fifth year senior, and his school’s season doesn’t end before the draft (basically meaning they’re in the College World Series), he’d up for the draft instead of being able to sign as an undrafted player.

            • Rick in Boston

              Has anyone been drafted five times, non-Harrington division?

      • Ed

        Ah, thanks. I thought it was just age based, as turning 21 and finishing 3 years of college usually come in the same year.

  • Januz

    I think that you will see very few guys dropping in the draft this year, because the amount of leverage players usually have will not be there because of the very real possibility of a world-wide draft starting in 2011. I will be very interested in seeing just how aggressive the Yankees are in BOTH the draft and in International Free Agency, because it might be their last opportunity to do just that.

    • A.D.

      I think that you will see very few guys dropping in the draft this year, because the amount of leverage players usually have will not be there because of the very real possibility of a world-wide draft starting in 2011

      Not following how this is the case? Players in the US, Canada, PR should have the same leverage as always.

      • Januz

        The reason while players will lose leverage is if players from the DR, Venezuela etc are subject to the draft, then the laws of supply and demand take over (More people in the draft, demand goes down). In addition, there is a real possibility of a rookie/draftee wage scale (Even the Players Association is tired of UNPROVEN NON-UNION members, making more than some guys IN THE UNION (You are NOT in the union until you are on the 40 man roster)). One other factor involved in this is Gerrit Cole: Would foreign players in the draft lessen the chance he ends up in Baltimore? Right now, the Orioles and Astros look like the favorites to land him, if they so desire. I hope he falls on his A–, but failing that, I would prefer him to be in the National League (Mets excluded, of course).

        • pat

          Wait, Gerrit Cole?


        • Chris

          On the flip side, with more players entering the draft there is also more money. Teams will no longer have to spend money in IFA, and instead all of that money will go into the draft.

          As for the roll of the players union, I don’t get the feeling that they’re too upset about the bonuses. This isn’t like the NBA or NFL where the top players are earning super star money before playing a single professional game. Even Strasburg’s record breaking is barely worth more than the MLB average salary. In fact, there may be benefits to the players union to have the salaries of young players escalate. If those players become more expensive, then it provides an incentive for teams to pay more for older, declining veterans (i.e. Yankees would decide to keep Molina instead of Cervelli).

          • Thomas

            From what I’ve heard the players union want to cap draft spending. This way the teams would spend less money on the draft and have more money available for major league players to get in FA. The union wants to sacrifice future-union draftees (who presently aren’t in the union) to benefit players that are presently in the union.

            • Chris

              I’ve generally heard the same thing, but it doesn’t seem to be a big issue for the MLB players union. In the NFL, this is a huge issue and I fell like people tend to lump all of the sports together when talking about these issues. I’m sure the players union would be ok with caps on draft bonuses, but I don’t think it’s something that will be a key point of contention (which I would expect it to be in the NFL).

              The bigger issue (at least to me) is that I don’t think the players union should be pushing for limits on draft bonuses. The bonuses aren’t outrageous, and only the top 2-3 picks are making as much as even an average free agent signing.

              Would it be nice for the players union to pick up an extra $3-4M per team if they cut their draft budgets in half? Sure. But there are (or should be) much bigger issues for them to worry about.

              • Thomas

                Ok, that makes a lot of sense, it definitely should not be a big deal for the union.

        • A.D.

          I see your points, however

          More people in the draft, demand goes down

          This won’t necessarily be the case, as you have to look at it for options for young talent being brought into the system.

          Currently there is the North American draft & ex-NA player signings. Currently if teams don’t sign their draft picks, they could always go and spend that money in the IFA if they don’t think they’re getting bang for their buck in the draft, and thus still bring young talent into the system.

          However if they go international draft, the number of talented players hasn’t changed, its the same, however there’s only 1 way to get said players, the draft, therefore draftee leverage will go up, as teams can’t go and spend their money elsewhere i.e. IFA signings.

          Thus I’m not convinced that 2010 draft eligibles will be less demanding than normal even with a potential international draft as that alone won’t drive down player salaries (if anything it could drive up bonuses) as it’s limited what free market there currently is for talent. So even if a NA player goes from being a 1st rounder to a 2nd rounder, just because there’s enough international talent to push him back, he may be getting the same bonus, since he’s still the same commodity, only substitutes don’t exist like they did before.

          Now, if its hard capped salaries, that’s a different story.

          • Thomas

            I agree. I think a worldwide draft would likely hurt IFAs more than the NA kids.

            Most teams would be unwilling to spend $2-3 million on a 16 year old foreign player when an older/more developed NA player is available. Thus, I think you’d see very few Latin American players getting big bonuses (only Ynoas, Sanos, Sanchezes, etc). The North American players may slide down a few draft spots in the early rounds to incorporate the best Latin talent, but overall it would minimally affect their money.

            I think the only way the North Americans would get really hurt is if the Latin Americans were willing to sign for way underslot. Then a team might take the young upside Latin player for a few thousand in the middle to late rounds over the older/more mature NA player that wants $50k-100K. However, I think it is more likely that many Latin player ask for more money.

  • pat

    Mike, you heard anything about Caleb Kowart? Lane Meyer interviewed the kid, he sounds like a Yankee special. Power arm, great frame tons of athleticism, and a strong commitment to a good baseball school.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      You’ve got it backwards, it’s Kaleb Cowart. Huge arm, a little wild, committed to to Florida State. He’s one of guys overshadowing Cole right now, and he should go somewhere in that 11-20 range.

      • pat

        Spelling doublcheck fail.

      • Andy in Sunny Daytona

        I wonder if FSU is giving him a full scholarship?

        • bear

          yes, they did give him a full ride. have seen him hit 97 a couple of times this year.
          one of the best kids you’ll ever meet.

  • http://twitter.com/JamalG_BB Jamal G.

    Is there any news on Manny Machado’s bonus demands and if he’s associated with Scott Boras? Would he likely make it to the second half of the first round if his demands were exuberant?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      Nothing on the bonus demands, but he is a Boras client. He’ll probably go high regardless because he’s a long-term SS with a really good bat.

  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    Is A.J. Cole’s father a billionaire too?

    • Reggie C.

      what does that have to do with anything?

      / your point


      my head’d

      • pat

        Gerritt Cole is so rich he drives a space shuttle to class everyday.

        That’s why he didn’t sign with the Yankees.

        • Reggie C.

          I heard gerritt cole is so rich he’ll have his dad pay off AJ Cole NOT to sign with the Yanks just to re-stick it to Opp. those damn coles!

      • Andy in Sunny Daytona

        It’s an old meme on RAB that Gerritt Cole was able to turn down the Yankees because his father was really wealthy. Then the joke went from really wealthy to being a billionaire. Here’s where the hilarity ensues…Gerritt and A.J. share the same last name, “Cole”. So when I said “Is A.J. Cole’s father a billionaire too?”, it was because his surname is the same as Gerritt’s.

        That’s how the funny happens.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

          It was actually Bill Madden that first broke out “billionaire,” which is absurd. Cole’s family is well off, Oppenheimer confirmed it, but there’s ~370 billionaires in the US.. according to Forbes, and if one them had a kid that was a premium MLB draft prospect, we’d definitely know about it.

    • Spaceman.Spiff

      /Gerrit Cole’d

  • A.D.

    The good news is that Castellanos can hit. I mean really hit.

    Josh Vitters in terms of hitting?

    • king of fruitless hypotheticals

      like, Montero hit?

  • http://twitter.com/tafkasic the artist formerly known as (sic)

    An upper-70’s slider acts as his second pitch, but the Yankees’ brass would probably have him switch to a curveball given his loose arm.

    Can you elaborate a little bit on what you mean by that? I know we usually convert slider guys to curveball guys, but can you explain how that decision is related to arm action?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      He’s a little more the top, and the higher up the arm slot, the better it is for a curve. Because he has such looseness in his hand and wrist, he might be able to snap off some serious hooks. It’s worth trying.

      • http://twitter.com/tafkasic the artist formerly known as (sic)

        Ah I see. Like Melancon or Sheets. Makes sense.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

          Exactly. I don’t know about Melancon, but Sheets could probably throw a slider if he wanted. But with that high slot, the curve is just devastating.

  • pat

    I had no idea Harper was tearing shit up like he is. Wowsers.

  • http://theyankeeu.com Matt Imbrogno

    I can’t wait til the Yankees draft a high-upside, high-risk picture then eventually turn him into a reliever.

    • http://theyankeeu.com Matt Imbrogno


      • http://www.thechuckknoblog.com/ JobaWockeeZ

        Don’t worry you aren’t the only one. I am seriously 100 percent expecting Nova or McAllister being called up to the bullpen only to stay in it forever.

        • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

          Nova or McAllister

          You’re more optimistic than me. I’m expecting Nova and McAllister to go to the pen and never leave.

          • Accent Shallow

            Either one of them wouldn’t kill me — neither of them have Joba or Hughes’ ceilings. These kids are #3 starters, if things break right.

            Not that #3 starters are fungible, but you get the idea.

    • pat

      I wanted to meet interesting and stimulating people of an ancient culture… and kill them.

    • Charlie

      i’m afraid that is not how you spell pitcher..

      • Thomas

        Hence, the high risk. Anytime you draft an inanimate object, it’s highly unlikely to work out, but if it does, the reward could be Old Hoss Radbourn good.

      • http://theyankeeu.com Matt Imbrogno

        Wow. I did not catch that at all. Thanks, Charlie. Someone wanna edit that for me?

  • Reggie C.

    Any chance Nick Castellanos has a future at the hot corner? Arod can’t hold down 3B forever and there really doesnt exist a power hitting IF in the farm to succeed Arod. I’m sure Arod would jump at the opportunity to mentor a fellow nearly-was-Miami U student athlete.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      He definitely does. The only reason he’d have to move from there is if his lower half gets gigantic as he grows, Brett Wallace style.

  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    I’m hoping the Yankees take Drew Vettison so they can corner the market on switch pitchers. Imagine the flexibility! Sure the kid could be a really good prospect as a hitter, but that doesn’t sell papers.

    • http://www.thechuckknoblog.com/ JobaWockeeZ

      I love Venditte and all but honestly there are only two names I hear from fans that I know that are in the Yankees farm system. Jesus Montero and…Pat Venditte.

      He’s nice and all but he doesn’t have the greatest upside.

      • Hughesus Christo

        He’s a a sideshow. It’s really annoying (to me). I also feel like an ass when people get excited to tell be about a prospect they read about in the paper. Should I be feigning surprise too? Or should I continue to do what I do now and yawn before offering a detailed breakdown of his prospects at the MLB level?

        • Nigel Bangs

          Wow, how perfectly painted. I feel like a real smarty-pants when people bring up the wonder of Venditte. I always want to gear it into a conversation about some of the Yankees better prospects, but that’s generally fruitless.

  • Andy Summers

    I still wish pain upon Gerritt Cole on a daily basis. Nice piece on the high schoolers, with the NFL Draft on Thursday it’s about damn time we start thinking about the baseball draft.

  • Ojas

    Anybody know if there’s a general disparity between teams who scour the IFA market and teams that rely on the draft and their respective thoroughness in scouting the IFA market? To clarify, I’m wondering if a team like the Nationals, one which routinely picks high, pays noticeably less attention to the IFA market than a team like the Yanks, who have to make up for a consistently low draft slot by signing international talent.

    Btw, I’m leaving out the Pirates, because I’ve heard they don’t scout Dominican players at all and that seems categorically insane to me.

  • Poopy Pants

    ‘High School Targets’. Hot.

  • http://msn.explorer dan

    kyle richter of san margarita high school should be looked at by the yankees. he throws 92-93 and has great mechanics. Also has tremendous followthrough. Also Bobby Wahl is another the yankees should draft. I like his mechanics and he has long fingers which is a huge positive. these two should be the yankees first and second round choices.

    • Kitty Kat

      Bobby Wahl is definitely a top talent and will be a top pick

  • steve

    I hate to be this guy…but it’s “leery” or “wary” not “weary”. Pet Peeve of mine. Sorry. Great post.