2011 Draft: Damaged Goods


Injury concerns in 2006 are the only reason Joba's a Yankee. (AP Photo/Jerry Laizure)

With the amateur draft becoming more and more competitive each year, teams are continually looking for advantages and inefficiencies. For a while it was just money, pay the players more money and you’ll get better talent. While that still holds true, basically every team goes over slot now, so it’s not as easy as it once was to build a strong draft haul that way.

One thing we’ve seen the Yankees try is drafting players with injury concerns, or players who are healthy at the time but had down years due to an earlier injury. Think Andrew Brackman (elbow) or Caleb Cotham (knee) or Mark Melancon (elbow) or Joba Chamberlain (triceps), all those guys had some kind of medical question heading into the draft, and the Yankees took advantage by selecting each at a spot lower than their talent dictated. It’s a risky approach but the draft itself is inherently risky, a few extra rolls of the dice won’t aren’t the end of the world. Here’s three players dealing with injuries and/or ineffectiveness this spring that could prove to a coup at various points of the draft…

Matt Purke, LHP, TCU

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Ranked as the third and seventh best prospect in the draft class by Baseball America and Keith Law before the season, respectively, you might remember that the Yankees were connected to Purke when he was coming out of high school in 2009. Rumors about a demand of Rick Porcello money were floated before the draft, which led to the belief that Purke would fall not just to the Yankees (who picked 29th year), but out of the first round entirely. The Rangers ended up selecting him 14th overall and the two sides worked out an agreement on a bonus worth $6M, but the commissioner’s office squashed the deal because the team was still on financial life support at the time. On to TCU went Purke, who is draft-eligible as a sophomore this year because he’ll turn 21 within 45 days of the draft.

After an utterly dominant freshman season (116.1 IP, 10.99 K/9, 1.86 BB/9, 3.02 ERA), Purke was slowed early in the season by a blister. He returned from that earlier in the spring but just hasn’t been the same. Reports from last weekend were pretty ugly; Purke sat 90-91 with his fastball early on, touching 93, but he sat at 88 in the third and then 85 in the fourth. One fastball in the fifth clocked in at 82. “It’s just a dead arm deal,” said TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle after the start, but late last night we got word that Purke has soreness in his shoulder and is going to see Dr. James Andrews to be evaluated. He’s out indefinitely, as you’d imagine.

Oddly enough, Purke’s performance has still be pretty good this year (40.2 IP, 10.40 K/9, 3.32 BB/9, 1.55 ERA). When right, the southpaw features a devastating fastball-slider combination. Last season he’d sit 92-94 (touching as high as 97 in the postseason) with the fastball and hold that velocity into the late innings, throwing his wipeout slider in the low-80’s. He’s also capable of breaking off an upper-70’s changeup to keep right-handers at bay. It’s a legitimate front-of-the-rotation package built into a 6-foot-4, 180 lb. frame. This draft class is so deep with college pitching that the slightest hiccup, blister or dead arm or just poor performance, will cause a guy like this to drop because there are so many viable alternatives. The Yankees don’t pick until 51st overall, but if there’s nothing structurally wrong with Purke’s shoulder (obviously his medicals would need a thorough review) and he’s still around when they pick, they have to take this guy. The talent is just too great to pass up.

(Scobel Wiggins/Gazette-Times)

Andrew Susac, C, Oregon State

The consensus top college catching prospect in the draft coming into the season, Susac did nothing to hurt his stock by hitting .364/.496/.614 while throwing out four of seven attempted base stealers in 26 games this spring. Unfortunately those are likely to be his end-of-season statistics as well since Susac will miss the next month or two after having surgery to repair a broken bone in his left hand about a week ago. The injury was rather fluky, it occurred when he fouled a pitch off and the knob of the bat rolled over the back of his hand and broke a small bone.

Susac, another draft-eligible sophomore like Purke, is well-regarded for his power, plate discipline, and defense, though he’s never going to contend for a batting title. He tore up the Cape Cod League last season (.290/.393/.500 with five homer), and we all know the Yankees love guys that do that. Before the injury, Susac was considered a late first rounder.

Jack Armstrong Jr., RHP, Vanderbilt

(Jayne Oncea /Icon SMI)

The son of former All-Star pitcher Jack Armstrong Sr., Junior was maybe the third best draft prospect on his own team when the season started. That has more to do with the greatness of right-hander Sonny Gray and infielder Jason Esposito than Armstrong’s shortcomings, since he was a considered a second or third round prospect before back issues limited at the start of the season. The Commodores have a loaded pitching staff that features three legit draft prospects in the rotation and a deep bullpen, so Armstrong was brought back slowly and simply hasn’t gotten many innings. It was a good old fashioned Wally Pipp’ing, just by an entire staff.

A monster at 6-for-7 and 225 lbs., Armstrong sits 94-95 with his fastball when healthy and will throw even harder in short bursts, but both his low-80’s curveball and changeup need work, as does his command. There’s a good chance that he’s just a reliever long-term, but it’s a swing-and-miss fastball when he’s right, and there is always room for that in the bullpen. Armstrong might not make it past the fifth round based on his arm strength alone.

* * *

It’s probably obvious that I’m a Purke fan, then again I can’t see how anyone wouldn’t like a power left-hander. There’s still plenty of time left for him to move past the shoulder soreness and show some semblance of his former self, but if he does that, the chances of him falling to the Yankees decreases. There’s no such thing as too many quality catchers, so the presence of Jesus Montero, Austin Romine, and Gary Sanchez shouldn’t be a deterrent if Susac is still on the board at some point. Until draft day, the fingers will remain crossed for Purke, who represents the best chance for the Yankees to land an elite level talent this summer.

Categories : Draft
  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

    Joba looks so svelte there. Maybe it’s red and not pinstripes that are slimming.

    (Or maybe he’s just been eating too many Little Chocolate Donuts since that picture was taken.)

    • Pat D

      Optical illusion.

      He’s actually just as fat in that picture, it’s just that with the name “NEBRASKA” written across the chest, it doesn’t look odd that he’s fat.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder


        • Pat D

          I don’t let my distaste of all things Nebraska cloud my judgment.


    • Mike HC

      This year is definitely the biggest Joba has ever been. That is usually how it works with overweight people. They only go one way, and that is up.

      • MannyGeee

        They only go one way, and that is up.

        actually, wouldn’t that be “sideways”?

        jus sayin

        • Mike HC

          nah. If you are overweight, that is because you can’t control yourself enough to maintain a normal diet. Fat people don’t really maintain the same “fat” weight. They are usually slowly but surely on their way up.

          • Mike HC

            Or they just started a new diet and lost a quick 10-20 pounds. But that is really just a correction, and good time to buy back in, ha.

            • MannyGeee

              what I mean was… seriously, you’re going to make me explain why that was funny? OK. Here goes….

              at people don’t go ‘up’. they grow ‘out’. Hence, ‘sideways’?

              • Mike HC

                ah. Either I missed it, or the joke sucked. Lets call it a draw.

  • Scout

    On Purke, shoulder injuries make me very nervous. They are often hard to diagnose, as we saw with Feliciano, so even medical tests like an MRI are not foolproof. If he pitched again sometime later this college season and his velocity had returned, I would be more confident. Of course, if he does, he’ll be gone by the time the Yankees pick. If he doesn’t return this season, I would not risk the top pick on him.

    • http://twitter.com/joero23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      This is the problem… I’m no expert, so someone correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like the only way Purke falls to the Yanks at 51 is if there’s an injury problem/concern, because if he returns this season and looks ok someone else will take a shot at him in the first 50 picks, no? So is the question: Do the Yanks take a shot on Purke with their first pick, at 51, even if he has a shoulder issue? I think that’d be a pretty tough sell, no?

      • Rick in Boston

        Agreed. Teams seem to be much more likely to grab guys who have elbow issues (Brackman, Adenhart) because the success rate of recovery is so much higher than shoulders. If Purke is available, than every team drafting ahead of 51 has looked at the physicals and determined that it would be a massive waste of resources to draft him.

        I think it’s more likely that he drops and ends up back at school. He’s got a lot of leverage as a DES, and if it is a dead arm, Purke will rebound next year and get himself into the talk as 1/1 in 2012.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          If that’s the case, perhaps rather than take him at #51, we should wait even more and pop him in the Dellin Betances range (6th-10th round) and try to buy him out. He’ll probably want a massive bonus to forgo the chance to rehabilitate himself and get back in the mix for top overall in 2012; a bonus demand like that probably lets him fall well beyond the sandwich round.

          And missing out on pick #300-something not signing doesn’t hurt as much as #51 not signing.

          • Jay

            I really like this idea. Shoulders are no joke, but if you miss on a 7th or 8th round pick, it’s really no different most other drafts

        • Ted Nelson

          It doesn’t mean that they think it’s a massive waste of resources necessarily, it just means they think someone else on the board is a better use of resources. Even if they do think it’s a massive waste, they still could be wrong: Luke Hochevar, Greg Reynolds, and Brad Lincoln went #1, 2, and 4 overall the season Joba fell to #41.

      • Ted Nelson

        Depends who else is available… If once you’ve place an injury penalty on his expected returns and they are still higher than anyone else available’s, you take him. If there is someone who is close enough in terms of overall talent that their grade is higher once you’ve considered Purke’s injury risk, you take that kid. Also depends how you weight his injury risk, of course.

  • Mike HC

    Well, I guess the Yanks got what they drafted out of Joba. Talented, inconsistent and injured.

    • http://twitter.com/joero23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      +20 (lbs.)

      • Mike HC

        hahah … definitely

    • The Big City of Dreams

      Better that than nothing I guess

      • Mike HC

        Yea, definitely better than nothing. The value we got out of Joba already, relative to his draft slot, has already been a huge positive. And he is looking prime to add much more value in the next couple of years.

        • The Big City of Dreams

          Yea you’re right about that. It just sucks that after all the yrs and talk he’s pitching in the 7th inning. Don’t get me wrong I’m pulling for the kid and I hope he continues to do well but what he was suppose to be and what he is are too different things.

          • Mike HC

            Well, I see him as a dominant reliever (maybe I am a bit premature), or at least on his way. Which is still about 70 elite innings a year. So I am not too upset. But yes, like the rest of us here, I had visions of Nolan Ryan (not quite that extent). It was not to be though, at least at this point in his career.

            • The Big City of Dreams

              “So I am not too upset.”

              You’re better than I am I’m very upset lol. It’s probably because he’s the first Yankee prospect I really latched onto.

    • Ted Nelson

      Luke Hochevar, Greg Reynolds, and Brad Lincoln went #1, 2, and 4 overall the season Joba fell to #41.

  • YanksFan in MA

    I saw Purke pitch a few games on ESPN last year and I didn’t like what I saw. His mechanics are not sound at all. He pitches from a low 3/4 slot and has a whipping motion. Its a high effort delivery that appears to be a lot of strain on the elbow. He doesn’t short arm the ball, but the motion he uses effectively puts the same stress on the arm than if he did. I see him as a guy like Scheppers. Get the most you can get out of him in a short time before he takes a nose dive health wise. Of course, that may have already happened.

    • Rick in Boston

      Whoever drafts Purke might have to rebuild his mechanics. If he comes back healthy and pitches into June for TCU, it’s highly doubtful that a) he’ll sign before the August deadline, and b) that he’ll pitch much, if at all, once he signs. The downtime will allow the team to start re-working his mechanics before instructionals or fall league.

      • MannyGeee

        Whoever drafts Purke might have to rebuild his mechanics.

        ……..and his elbow

        • Rick in Boston

          Then it’s 2013: Purke dominates the minors while recovering from TJS.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        Most teams tinker with the mechanics of their top pitching prospects, though. Raw stuff/velocity is what gets elite prep-college arms into the top of the draft, but most of those kids have accumulated various mechanical flaws into their deliveries by the time they join a pro team. (Which is to be expected, they’re only being coached by highschool/college guys and not the best in biomechanical specialists/athletic trainers employed by big league clubs.)

        It’s par for the course.

        • Gonzo

          I think this guys is saying he needs a total revamp not just a tinkering.

          Total revamps don’t always produce a better pitcher. There’s risk in that.

        • YanksFan in MA

          Agree with Gonzo. When you totally rebuild mechanics, it can really mess up the natural athleticism built into the original throwing motion which produces the stuff that makes one a top prospect. Quarterbacks who have had to rebuild their mechanics are often never the same as well, losing their “fastball” and accuracy. When you are talking about changing the finish of a pitch and falling more forward rather than off to the side, a la AJ Burnett, you are not really messing with the way one throws the ball. That pales in comparison to a rebuild of the actual mechanics built into throwing the pitch, whether it be changing arm slot, the take off (cupped wrist scenario), or elbow location. Years of muscle memory is hard to overcome, as well as the body’s reaction to the event. In some cases it can lead to more injuries. I’d rather not bet millions on a guy who requires substantial tweaking in pitching.

  • rek4gehrig

    Hmmm…where do I begin?
    Mo’s hiccup, I dont mind so much it happens.
    However, Brett Gardner is really beginning to annoy me.
    And I totally agree with Mike. The second I saw Nova coming into the game I knew it wouldnt work out. I cannot for the life of me understand why he wasnt taken out for Boone Logan (and esp. after the two really really hard hit balls).

    Joe, O Joe…what exactly where you thinking?

    • rek4gehrig

      Oooops..sorry. Wrong thread :-(

      • Mike HC

        ha, yea, I knew it was just a mistake.

    • Mike HC

      You should have began in the game recap thread, ha.

  • MannyGeee

    how do you not draft a pitcher named “Armstrong”?????

    • Mike HC

      For fear of the irony?

      • MannyGeee

        well played, Mauer

  • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

    Purke to the 8th!

    • http://twitter.com/unfixed unfixed

      DL’d while being paid handsomely LOOGY seems more likely.

      • Andy in NYC


        Same difference on the Yankees, no?

  • Sabermetrically Challenged

    Yankees should use their scouting to an advantage and find a top left handed high schooler in the middle of nowhere

  • reed

    i like adam conley from washington state. i think he is the real deal as far as drafting starting pitching in this draft for the yankees?
    Does anyone thinke he’ll be available at 51.

  • reed

    kyle richter will be the best pitcher drafted in 2012.

  • Charles

    Would the Yanks really draft another catcher though? With Montero/Romine/Sanchez/Murphy in the system imo it would be a waste for a top pick. I’m partial to Armstrong because of the power arm, and the fact hes from Vanderbilt, but I’m sure that Cash will be smart and make a solid pick.