2016 Draft: Josh Lowe

Josh Lowe | 3B/RHP

Background
Lowe attends Pope High School in the Atlanta suburbs and is committed to Florida State. He played fall ball with the East Cobb Yankees last year, though they’re not affiliated with the New York Yankees. They’re a very prestigious prep travel team for Atlanta area players that happens to be named the Yankees. Brian McCann is a former East Cobb Yankee.

Scouting Report
Lowe, 18, is the best two-way player in the draft, though he’s a better prospect as a position player than pitcher. He’s a left-handed hitter with tremendous raw power thanks to his bat speed, strong hands, and lower half leverage. Lowe is a big guy — he’s listed at 6-foot-4 and 190 lbs. — with long arms and that leads to some swings and misses, though his swing is level and he knows the strike zone. He’s not a true all or nothing hitter. Although he’s a third baseman now, there’s some thought Lowe will end up in the outfield long-term because his hands are a bit clunky. He runs well, so center field is a possibility. If not, right field it is.

On the mound Lowe works in the 90-92 mph range and touches 94 regularly. His breaking ball is somewhere between a curveball and a slider, and his changeup is rudimentary as well. Lowe’s a good athlete with good body control, so he repeats his delivery fairly well. Here’s video of him on the mound:

All in all, Lowe is a classic projection high school player. Put him on the mound full-time and he could be living in the mid-90s with a sharp breaking ball in a year or two. Stick with him as a position player and you dream of that power potential developing into in-game power and 30+ homers down the line. Lowe is not short on tools. No siree.

Miscellany
Baseball America, MLB.com, and Keith Law (subs. req’d) rank Lowe as the 11th, 17th, and 18th best prospect in the 2016 draft class in their latest rankings, respectively. The Yankees hold the No. 18 pick. Lowe figures to begin his career as a position player — most two-way guys start as a position players because it’s easy to go from hitter to pitcher down the line than vice versa — and his power is a great carrying tool. Lefty pop is a Yankees trademark for sure. He’s right up their alley.

2016 Draft: Dakota Hudson

Dakota Hudson | RHP

Background
A few years back Hudson, 21, was considered a fourth or fifth round talent out of Sequatchie County High School in Tennessee, but his strong commitment to Mississippi State caused him to fall to the 36th round (Rangers). This spring Hudson has a 2.82 ERA with 70 strikeouts and 24 walks in 67 innings for the Bulldogs. Last summer he had a 1.43 ERA with 54 strikeouts and 14 walks in 56 2/3 innings for the Hyannis Harbor Hawks in the prestigious Cape Cod League.

Scouting Report
At 6-foot-5 and 205 lbs., Hudson has the kind of big frame teams look for in a future workhorse starter. His best pitch is a darting cutter in the 88-91 mph range that he’s able to bust in on the hands of left-handed batters. Hudson sits around 92-95 mph with his straight four-seam fastball, and he also has a low-80s slider he’ll back foot to lefties. Neither his curveball nor his changeup are anything to write home about. The cutter is his go-to weapon against lefties. Control problems limited Hudson to only 34 total innings his first two years on college, but nowadays he has good control and improving command.

Miscellany
In their latest rankings Hudson is ranked as the 17th, 20th, and 33rd best prospect in the 2016 draft by Keith Law (subs. req’d), Baseball America, and MLB.com, respectively. The Yankees hold the 18th overall pick, and they really seem to value Cape Cod League success. Hudson does not fit the mold of a polished college starter. He has a deep arsenal and a big frame, but he’s still learning to throw strikes consistently. The pitches are there. It’s just a matter of fine-tuning some things.

2016 Draft: Nolan Jones

Nolan Jones | SS

Background
Jones attends Holy Ghost Preparatory School in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, which is about halfway between Trenton and Philadelphia, so he’s kinda sorta local to the Yankees. He is 10-for-14 (.714) with a double, a triple, two home runs, and ten walks through six games this spring. Jones impressed with his ability to handle advanced prep arms from warm weather states in showcase events last summer. He’s slated to attend Virginia in the fall.

Scouting Report
At 6-foot-4 and 185 lbs., most expect Jones to outgrow shortstop and move to either second or third base down the line. His bat will play anywhere, however. The left-handed hitter has a drool worthy offensive skill set. Jones has very strong hands and good raw power, yet his swing is simple and controlled, allowing him to barrel up the ball consistently. He knows the strike zone and looks very much like a player with the potential to hit for a high average with power and on-base ability down the line. The kid can even run a little. Defensively, Jones has a strong arm — he’s been clocked at 88-91 mph off the mound — and good hands, so third base won’t be an issue if that’s where he ends up.

Miscellany
In their latest rankings, Keith Law (subs. req’) and Baseball America ranked Jones as the 14th and 16th best prospect in the draft class, respectively. MLB.com had him further down at No. 29. The Yankees hold the 18th overall pick. I’m just an idiot with a blog, so take the following with a grain of salt: Jones strikes me as an underrated draft prospect who would be getting much more attention if he were playing year round in California or Texas. I get that he hasn’t faced great competition as a high schooler, but he did rake against the best of the best in showcases last year, and the tools are very impressive. Virginia commitments can be tough to break, and if Jones winds up going to college, he has a chance to come out as potential No. 1 pick in three years.

2016 Draft: Kevin Gowdy

Kevin Gowdy | RHP

Background
Gowdy, 19 in November, is a Southern California kid from Santa Barbara, and this spring he has a 1.12 ERA with a 63/2 K/BB in 37.1 innings for Santa Barbara High School. He did not have a strong showing with the Team USA 18-and-under team last fall, and despite the impressive numbers, Gowdy has been a bit up and down this spring. He’s committed to UCLA.

Scouting Report
After sitting in the 91-93 mph range last year, Gowdy’s velocity has fluctuated anywhere between 87-93 mph this spring. He has the prototypical high school pitcher body (6-foot-4, 170 lbs.) and the belief is he will add velocity as he fills out, though that’s never a guarantee. Gowdy’s out pitch is a low-80s slider he can locate very well. He also throws a nascent changeup and is generally considered to have good command and a refined approach on the mound. Gowdy has an old school drop and drive delivery, but he sometimes flies open early, which hurts his location.

Miscellany
Baseball America, MLB.com, and Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked Gowdy as the 14th, 22nd, and 25th best prospect in the 2016 draft class in their most recent rankings, respectively. If he can gain some consistency with his velocity and delivery these next few weeks, he’ll land comfortably in the middle of the first round. The Yankees hold the 18th overall pick and not only does scouting director Damon Oppenheimer gravitate towards SoCal prospects, the team also likes pitchers with some smarts to go along with their raw stuff. Gowdy is not Drew Finley in that regard, but he’s among the more advanced prep arms in the 2016 draft.

2016 Draft: Reggie Lawson

Reggie Lawson | RHP

Background
Lawson, who turns 19 in August, attends Victor Valley High School in Victorville, which is not too far outside Los Angeles. So far this spring he has allowed six runs on nine hits and 12 walks in 18 innings while striking out 19. Last summer Lawson impressed on the showcase circuit, and he dominated out of the bullpen for Team USA’s 18-and-under squad last fall. He’s committed to Arizona State.

Scouting Report
At 6-foot-4 and 190 lbs., Lawson is a classic projection high school right-hander. His spent most of his junior year topping out at 90 mph, but, by the end of the summer, his fastball was hitting 92-93 mph regularly and topping out at 95. He’s held that velocity this spring. Lawson’s breaking ball is a low-to-mid-70s curveball, and his changeup at this point is close to nonexistent. There are some concerns about his delivery, specifically the way he has shortened his stride, which has hindered his location and taken some of the snap away from his curve. Apparently that is considered fixable.

Miscellany
In their most recent rankings, both Keith Law (subs. req’d) and Baseball America ranked Lawson as the 26th best prospect in the 2016 draft. MLB.com had him 37th. The Yankees hold the 18th overall pick this year and scouting director Damon Oppenheimer sure loves his Southern California players, but Lawson is probably going to have to show a little more this spring to play his way into consideration for the middle of the first round. He was so good last summer that it is definitely possible. Right now Lawson looks more like a late-first round prospect.

2016 Draft: Opening Thoughts

(Paige Calamari/Getty)
(Paige Calamari/Getty)

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.

Draft Tendencies

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Slot bonus values for 2016 draft and 2016-17 international signing period

(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)
(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

Under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams are limited to a set bonus pool when acquiring amateur talent through the draft and international free agency each year. Teams can exceed their pools, but the penalties are harsh. Within those pools are slot values, which are important to the draft and international free agency for different reasons.

Hudson Belinsky and Ben Badler recently got their hands on the 2016 draft and 2016-17 international slot values, respectively. Both articles are free. They’re not behind the Baseball America paywall. Let’s dive in and see what the slot values mean for the Yankees.

2016 Draft Slot Values

The Yankees have a $5,768,400 bonus pool for the draft this year. That’s the eighth smallest bonus pool in baseball. The Yankees didn’t add (or subtract) and draft picks through free agency this past offseason, so all they have is their natural picks in rounds 1-40. Here are the slot values:

  • First Round (No. 18 overall): $2,441,600
  • Second Round (No. 62): $1,040,800
  • Third Round (No. 98): $608,200
  • Fourth Round (No. 128): $455,400
  • Fifth Round (No. 158): $341,000
  • Sixth Round (No. 188): $255,300
  • Seventh Round (No. 218): $191,500
  • Eighth Round (No. 248): $176,200
  • Ninth Round (No. 278): $164,600
  • Tenth Round (No. 308): $156,600

Slot value for every pick after the tenth round is $100,000. Any amount spent over $100,000 on one of those picks counts against the draft pool. If you sign a player for less than the slot value within the first ten rounds, you can redirect the pool savings to other picks. If you do not sign a player, you lose the slot money associated with that pick. Got it? It’s easy enough.

The Yankees — and all teams, really — have been gaming the system by taking cheap college seniors, usually in rounds 5-10, to save draft pool space so they can spend it on other players. College seniors have no leverage, so they usually sign for five figures. Sometimes even less. Do that a few times and you up with a nice chunk of leftover cash to use on other picks.

To me, it looks like the best place to really save pool space is with that second round pick. You don’t see many top prospects fall to the second round these days. Talent has come off the board more linearly since the spending pool system was put in place. The Yankees could take a good prospect with that second rounder, sign him below slot, and save hundreds of thousands of dollars in pool space.

This is exactly what the Yanks did last year. They took LHP Jeff Degano with their second round pick and signed him for $650,000. Slot for his pick was $1,074,400. The Yankees got a talented player and still saved over $400,000 with that pick, most of which went to third rounder RHP Drew Finley. Depending on what the draft board looks like in June, going this route with the second round pick could make an awful lot of sense.

2016-17 International Slot Values

The Yankees have a $2,177,100 bonus pool for the 2016-17 international signing period, which ninth lowest among the 30 clubs. The international pools are based on the reverse order of the standings. The Yankees are still subject to the penalties stemming from the 2014-15 international signing spree for one more year, so they can’t sign any player to a bonus of more than $300,000 in the coming signing period.

Here are the team’s 2016-17 international slot values. I’ll explain what these mean in a second.

  • Slot No. 22: $609,800
  • Slot No. 52: $411,800
  • Slot No. 82: $278,100
  • Slot No. 112: $177,400

Each team gets $700,000 in “base” money, so add that and the four slots together and you get the club’s total international bonus pool. Once upon a time teams also had six $50,000 bonus exemptions each year, both those are gone. Nowadays the only exemptions are players who sign for $10,000. Teams can hand out as many bonuses of $10,000 or less as they want, and they don’t count towards the bonus pool.

The international slot values are used for trading. You can sign a player to a bonus of any size, it doesn’t have to match a slot number. But, if you trade bonus pool money, you have to trade the specific slot. HOWEVA, teams are only allowed to acquire an additional 50% of their original draft pool. That’s an extra $1,088,500 for the Yankees. It doesn’t make any sense for the Yankees to acquire international bonus pool money because of the $300,000 penalty though. It makes more sense to trade away pool space.

Unfortunately, international bonus slots don’t seem to have much trade value. Last year Matt Eddy recapped trades involving bonus slots, and for the most part slots were traded for middling prospects or fringe MLB players. In some instances they were thrown in as the third or fourth piece in a trade package. Is it worth trading, say, that No. 22 slot for another up-and-down reliever or infielder? Maybe it is. Depends on what kind of talent is available internationally this summer.