Now that the actual draft is over, all of our attention turns to the August 16th signing deadline (the 15th falls on a Sunday this year, so the league pushed the deadline back a day). As we already know, the Yankees selected several “signability” types in the later rounds of the draft, players that fell not because of talent, but because their willingness to sign came into question. The team drafted some of these players with every intention of paying of them, others were chosen as backup plays should the higher picks reverse course and decide not to sign, Gerrit Cole style.
It’s hard to say which of these players are the most important signs, but I’m going to give it a shot anyway. I’m leaving first rounder Cito Culver and second rounder Angelo Gumbs out for three reasons. One, and probably most importantly, they’re not big overslot guys. Two, I assume the Yanks have the intention of paying them if they were willing to use such I high draft pick on them. Three, those picks are protected, so if even if they don’t sign, the Yanks will receive the same pick plus one next year. Granted, the player now is worth more than the pick next year, but at least there’s some kind of fallback option.
Teams typically sign 30-35 of the 50 or so players they draft each year, so it’s inevitable that some talent will walk away. Knowing which ones to let what is what’s important. You’re inevitably going to disagree with me on this list, and I encourage that. I’ve never tried to do anything like this, and frankly rating players based on how important it is to sign them is a bit … odd. On to the list…
1. Kevin Jordan, OF, 19th round
Perhaps the best prospect the Yankees drafted this year, Jordan is a special athlete with good bloodlines and the raw tools to be an above average player on both sides of the ball. He fell in the draft for a few reasons, but mostly because he battled a flu-like illness in the spring that cost him some weight off his already lanky 6-foot-0, 190 lb. frame and prevented him from played at 100% in front of scouts. Jordan has a strong commitment to Wake Forest, where he’d play centerfield every day as a freshman.
It may not been a matter of simple money here, because Jordan’s father Brian had a long and productive big league career that netted him more than $51M in earnings (according to B-Ref). The Yanks are not only going to have to pay him handsomely, but also sell him on the idea of being a Yankee. Not always as easy as it sounds.
2. Tayler Morton, RHP, 9th round
The Yankees shoot for the moon with high upside athletes in this draft, but they also backed that strategy up by grabbing power arms in the later rounds. Morton has a big and projectable frame at 6-foot-3, 190 lbs., and he’s already shown flashes of sitting at 93-95 mph with his fastball in the past. He also throws a very good changeup and a developing curveball, so the tools are there for him to become a big league starter. Committed to Tennessee, there’s a chance Morton could instead opt for the JuCo ranks and re-enter the draft next year after dominating the circuit.
3. Rob Segedin, 3B/OF, 3rd round
One of the very few established college bats the Yankees drafted, Segedin has a low maintainence swing geared for hard contact from the right side. His position is a little up in the air, though he has the tools to stay at the hot corner but may profile better in a corner outfield spot. Segedin’s draft stock dropped because of an old back injury and his added leverage as a draft eligible sophomore. The Yankees lack polished, impact bats in the low minors, so the current Tulane Wave would be a welcome addition to the farm system.
If the Yankees are unable to sign Segedin, they would receive a supplemental third round pick as compensation, which would come between the third and fourth rounds.
4. Gabe Encinas, RHP, 6th round
Like Morton, Encinas is a classic projectable high schooler at 6-foot-4, 190 lbs. with a low-90’s heater, but he has a feel for changing speeds and setting hitters up. His appeal lies in his simple delivery and clean mechanics, plus his polish and advanced feel for his craft. Encinas is committed to Loyola Marymount, which has proven to be a tough school to buy kids away from in the past. He’s better than a sixth round talent, so it would be a nice coup if the Yanks were able to add an arm like Encinas to the system.
5. Mason Williams, OF, 4th round
The Yankees drafted many raw, toolsy athletic types this year, and Williams embodies that demographic. He’s a 6-foot-1, 160 lb. fast-twitch athlete with a sound swing and top of the line defensive abilities in center. Power will never be part of his game, so he’s more of a four-tool guy than a true five-tooler. Williams is committed to South Carolina and is reportedly seeking $2M to skip out on school, which is top ten money. Williams isn’t a top ten talent, but he is a damn good one. The Yankees have overpaid for a fourth rounder before, and I’m sure they’d be willing to do it again if they like the player enough.
My gut feeling is that the Yankees will sign one of Williams or Jordan, but not both.
6. Evan Rutckyj, LHP, 16th round
Big lefthanders are always a hot commodity, especially when they’re young and have started to refine their mechanics and smooth out their delivery. Rutckyj (pronounced root-ski) stands 6-foot-5 and weighs in at 210 lbs., and he already sits in the low-90’s with a fringy breaking ball. He’s a project, no doubt about it, but a project with enormous upside if it all comes together. He recently signed on with St. Petersburg College in Florida, a junior college that will allow him to re-enter the draft in each of the next two years. Reports indicate that Rutckyj is seeking first round money to sign despite being a consensus fourth or so round talent this spring.
7. Martin Viramontes, RHP, 27th round
An all talent, no results pick, Viramontes flashes premium arm strength (peaking at 96 mph) with a power curveball and a split-change hybrid, but he’s inconsistent with his mechanics and often doesn’t achieve the desired result. A Scott Boras client, Viramontes is a little old for a project, but it’s worth a shot with this kind of electric arm.
8. Kevin Jacob, RHP, 18th round
Another Boras client, Jacob is more refined than Viramontes but still has work to do. His delivery is unorthodox but extremely deceptive, as he leans all the way back and nearly touches the ground with the ball before moving his 6-foot-6, 225 lb. body towards the plate. Jacob’s fastball sits in the mid-90’s and has touched 98 in the past, and his slider is a legit put away pitch in the upper-80’s. A college reliever at a big time program in Georgia Tech, he’d fill the same role as a pro and be expected to move quickly.
9. Dan Burawa, RHP, 12th round
Similar to Jacob, Burawa is a power college reliever with unorthodox mechanics. He’s not quite as big at 6-foot-3, 190 lbs., but he’ll sit in the mid-90’s with an average breaking ball and the makings of a changeup. Burawa has a limited track record at St. John’s and teams will always be cautious of a guy with a nontraditional delivery, but different doesn’t always mean bad. Another long-term reliever, Burawa should move quickly.
10. Tommy Kahnle, RHP, 5th round
I feel like I should have just lumped Jacob, Burawa, and Kahnle all together as one player, Jacurawahnle, or something like that. Kahnle is another power armed reliever that sits in the mid-90’s and has flirted with 97, also offering a changeup and a slurvy breaking ball. Command and keeping his big and intimidating 6-foot-0, 220 lb. body in check isn’t always easy, but Kahnle has a track record of chewing up wood bats. He’s at Division II Lynn University, and will be the easiest sign of the four college arms at the back of my list.
One other player to keep in mind is tenth rounder Ben Gamel, the younger brother of Brewers’ prospect Mat Gamel. Like his brother, Ben is all bat, with a pure swing that gets some loft on the ball, but his fringy tools limit his value outside of the batter’s box. If you can hit you can hit, there will always be a place for you somewhere, but the game is rapidly gravitating away from the one-dimensional slugger in favor of player who can contribute more than just offensive. Mat was a good but not great prospect out of high school, but went to college and saw his stock soar. Ben could do the exact same thing in Florida State’s hitter friend park, which might be too good of an opportunity to pass up.