The 2016 amateur draft will begin roughly eight weeks from now, on June 9th. The three-day event starts on a Thursday this year rather than the usual Monday. The draft has started on a Thursday before and it’s kinda annoying because it spills over into the weekend. I prefer to have it early in the week, but that’s just me.
As usual, MLB Network will broadcast the First Round, Supplemental First Round, Competitive Balance Round A, Second Round, and Competitive Balance Round B live on Day One. Seventy-seven picks will be made that day. Rounds 2-10 follow on Day Two, then the draft wraps up with rounds 11-40 on Day Three.
The Yankees did not gain or lose any picks this year as a result of draft pick compensation, so they’ll make two picks during the MLB Network broadcast: their first (No. 18) and second rounders (No. 62). Everything moves to the league conference call after that. The conference call moves quick. The draft broadcast? Not so much.
Our draft coverage this year is going to be the same as previous years. I see no need to change something that isn’t broken. We’ll highlight individual prospects with short profiles — here’s the profile I wrote for RHP James Kaprielian last year — rather than group players together into larger posts. I used to do that. The individual posts work better.
There is a lot of great draft reporting nowadays, so our guesswork is at least somewhat educated. The Yankees were connected to Kaprielian an awful lot prior to the draft last year. Ditto three years ago with 3B Eric Jagielo. The element of surprise is what makes the draft fun though. Here are some Yankees-related thoughts on this year’s amateur draft.
This is, incredibly, scouting director Damon Oppenheimer’s 11th draft with the Yankees. It still feels like he just got here. Sheesh. We’re all old and going to die soon. Anyway, over the last ten drafts, the Yankees have had some very clear tendencies in their draft philosophy. Three stand out:
- College Players. This one is fairly new, actually. Years ago Oppenheimer & Co. were all about the shoot for the moon picks. The raw high-upside guys like RHP Andrew Brackman and OF Slade Heathcott. Now they lean towards polished college players because they’ve had more success developing them.
- Cape Cod League Success. This has been a constant since Oppenheimer arrived. The Yankees like players (both pitchers and position players) who have had success in the Cape Cod League. The Cape is the premier collegiate wood bat summer league, so it’s the best against the best.
- Southern California. SoCal is a baseball hotbed, so targeting players from that area is understandable, but Oppenheimer is also a USC guy, and he’s stayed close to home. Over the last three drafts, six of the eleven players the Yankees took in the top three rounds were from Southern California.
This is not to say the Yankees are a lock to draft a college player from SoCal who has had success on the Cape in the first round in a few weeks. It’s just that when you’re looking at possible targets, guys with one or three of those traits are a pretty good place to start. The Yankees go to these wells often.
Try For A High School Bat Again?
Okay, so even after all of that, I wonder if the Yankees will look for a high school bat with their first round pick this summer. Several reports indicated they wanted a prep bat with their first rounder last year, but all the guys they liked were off the board by time their pick rolled around, so they went with Kaprielian.
According to MLB.com, seven of the top 30 draft prospects this year are high school hitters. It’s nine of 30 according to Keith Law (subs. req’d). There are definitely some interesting prep bats this year. That doesn’t mean the Yankees will like them as much as the guys they liked last year, of course. I’m just saying. If Oppenheimer and his staff want to find a high school bat this year, there are some nice options available.
Avoid Injured Players?
Injuries have already cut through the top of the draft board. Florida LHP A.J. Puk (back) and Oklahoma RHP Alec Hanson (forearm) were the top two college starters in the draft coming into the spring, but their stock is down now due to injuries. Florida HS LHP Jesus Luzardo, a consensus first round talent, had Tommy John surgery a few weeks ago.
The Yankees have steered clear of injured players the last few drafts, choosing to minimize their risk. “We’re going to go with guys that are healthy. That’s something that’s more interesting to us than going with guys that aren’t,” said Oppenheimer last year after taking Kaprielian over the more highly regarded LHP Brady Aiken, who was coming off Tommy John surgery.
Given the current draft system, I think there are very few instances where taking an injured player in the first round makes sense. There’s just too much risk and too much draft pool space attached to that one pick. I thought Aiken was worth the risk last year because he was a legitimate No. 1 overall talent when healthy, but I didn’t see his medicals and it’s not my neck on the line.
I don’t see any prospect in this draft class that I think is worth taking in the first round if he’s hurt. (I mean a serious injury like Tommy John surgery. If a guy misses two weeks because he pulled his hamstring running to first, that’s not a huge deal.) Even New Jersey LHP Jason Groome, the consensus best prospect available, is not a truly elite draft prospect like Aiken. He’s No. 1 almost by default. I expect the Yankees to again stick to healthy players in 2016.
Small Bonus Pool
The Yankees have a $5.77M draft bonus pool this year, eighth smallest in baseball. That’s because they finished with a top ten record last year and didn’t add any picks through free agent compensation. There’s only so much pool manipulation — take college seniors in rounds 7-10 to save money, etc. — you can do to save space with that small a bonus pool.
Even in 2014, when they surrendered a bunch of picks to sign free agents (Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury), the Yankees still managed to massage their bonus pool and hand out a huge bonus. RHP Austin DeCarr received a $1M payday, nearly double his slot value as the team’s third rounder. I would be surprised if they didn’t find a way to give out one big overslot bonus this year.