2016 Draft: Baseball America’s Mock Draft v1.0

We’re approaching draft season, folks. The draft itself is a little more than two months away now, so we’ll begin to ramp up our coverage in the coming days and weeks. The Yankees don’t have any extra picks this summer. Just their first rounder (18th), second rounder (62nd), and their picks in the other 38 rounds after that.

Hudson Belinsky of Baseball America (no subs. req’d) posted his first mock draft of the year earlier this week, and he has the Phillies taking New Jersey HS LHP Jason Groome with the top pick. There is no standout No. 1 prospect this year. No Bryce Harper or Stephen Strasburg. Not even a David Price or a Gerrit Cole. Groome is the guy right now, but that is very much subject to change.

Belinsky has the Yankees selecting California HS RHP Kevin Gowdy with their first round pick, that 18th overall selection. Gowdy definitely fits scouting director Damon Oppenheimer’s mold as a polished pitcher from Southern California. MLB.com ranked Gowdy as the 22nd best prospect in the draft class. Here’s a snippet of their free scouting report:

The Santa Barbara native has the chance to have three at least above-average pitches in his arsenal. Gowdy’s fastball will sit in the 90-93 mph range, and with his frame, it’s easy to dream about increased velocity. His breaking ball is an out pitch with good bite, one that should develop into a true slider in time. Gowdy has a better feel for a changeup than many high school pitchers, and he has shown advanced command for his age. He has a free and easy delivery that he repeats well, boding well for future success.

The Yankees have a position player heavy farm system at the moment, and while teams don’t draft for need, this draft is deeper in arms than it is bats. Many of the best prospects in the draft are position players, but the depth through rounds four or five is in arms. This is a good draft class for the Yankees to replenish the pitching pipeline a bit.

Oppenheimer has skewed towards college players in recent years — ten of their 15 picks in the top five rounds over the last three years were college players, for example — and I don’t expect that to change at all going forward. That doesn’t mean every pick will be a college player, or even their first rounder, just majority of their picks.

2016 Draft: Draft Order, Agents, Scouting Bureau

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

The college season started a week or two ago, which means soon it’ll be time to ramp up our 2016 draft coverage. Until then, here are some scattered draft notes.

Draft order final: Yankees picking 18th overall

The 2016 draft order is final now that Ian Desmond has signed with the Rangers. All 20 qualified free agents are off the board. The Yankees went into the offseason with the No. 22 pick but managed to move up to No. 18 as teams forfeited picks to sign qualified free agents. Moving up four spots is pretty sweet. The Yankees picked James Kaprielian 16th overall last year, and prior to that, they hadn’t picked as high as 18th since taking C.J. Henry with the No. 17 pick in 2005.

We recently learned the Yankees will have a $5,768,400 draft pool this year, though that will increase a bit because they have since moved up a spot thanks to the Yovani Gallardo signing. Last year the No. 18 pick had a $2,333,800 slot value. It should be a little larger this year. The Yankees neither gained nor lost any picks to free agent compensation this winter. Their first pick is 18th overall, then they don’t pick again until 62nd overall, their second round pick. Here are MLB.com’s top 50 draft prospects if you want to start looking at possible targets. Our Draft Order page has the complete draft order.

High schoolers permitted to use agents

Last month, the NCAA announced high school baseball players will be permitted to use agents without losing their college eligibility. An agent can negotiate with a team on the player’s behalf before the signing deadline, then the player must sever ties with the agent to retain NCAA eligibility. In the past high schoolers who were found to have used an agent were declared ineligible by the NCAA.

Chalk this one up to common sense. High schoolers — and college kids, for that matter — have been using agents for years. They simply called them “advisors” to skirt the NCAA’s rules. It’s unrealistic to expect a high school kid to negotiate a contract worth thousands and sometimes millions of dollars with a pro baseball team. Hopefully the NCAA lets their athletes hire agents soon too. This shouldn’t change much with the draft — it’s not like high schoolers suddenly have more leverage or anything — but at least now kids can be open about their representatives.

MLB Scouting Bureau being restructured

According to Michael Lananna, the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau is being restructured under director Bill Bavasi, who took over in 2014. The MLBSB has essentially acted like a 31st team in that they have their own scouts who put together scouting reports and follow lists for draft prospects each year. All of that information is then shared with the 30 clubs.

Going forward, the MLBSB will move away from scouting current year draft prospects and instead focus on identifying prospects in future draft classes. The info will be shared with the 30 teams so they can scout and evaluate the prospects themselves. The Bureau will also take on an administrative role and compile high-quality video and medical information for draft prospects.

“(Clubs) seem to prefer earlier identification on younger players, guys eligible for ’17, ’18, ’19, as early as we can possibly identify them, without reports, without evaluation,” said Bavasi. “We’ll hunt the guys who are eligible in subsequent years and just identify them as guys clubs should look at, and then clubs will go out and evaluate them and form their own opinions on guys.”

The MLBSB is also going to ramp up their involvement internationally, specifically in Europe and Asia. “There’s more of a growth situation in Europe and Asia and Australia and Africa, and so I’m more focused on raising the level of the game there and making sure that we’re tracking down the players there,” he said. That may be another indication MLB is pushing for an international draft.

Report: Yankees have $5.77M pool for 2016 draft, $2.28M for 2016-17 international signing period

(Taylor Baucom/Getty)
(Taylor Baucom/Getty)

According to Hudson Belinsky, the Yankees will have a $5,768,400 bonus pool for the 2016 draft and a $2,177,100 bonus pool for the 2016-17 international signing period. That gives them a $7,945,500 pool to sign amateur players this year, sixth smallest in baseball. Only the Cubs, Royals, Giants, Rangers, and Nationals have less to spend.

The Yankees did not gain or lose any draft picks via free agency this offseason, and there’s no reason to expect them to sign one of the remaining qualified free agents (Yovani Gallardo, Dexter Fowler, Ian Desmond). They’re currently slated to pick 19th overall, though they’ll move up to 18th if the Orioles finish their deal with Gallardo.

As a reminder, the draft pool covers the top ten rounds. Each pick in the top ten rounds is assigned a slot value, and if you pay one pick below slot, you’re free to spend the savings elsewhere. Every pick after the tenth round has a $100,000 slot value, and anything over that counts against the pool. The Yankees have exceeded their draft pool ever so slightly the last few years. Enough to get hit with a small tax but not enough to forfeit future picks. No team has forfeited future picks yet.

The international bonus pool is largely irrelevant because the Yankees are still stuck with a $300,000 bonus cap stemming from their 2014-15 international spending spree. New York is pretty darn good at finding under-the-radar Latin American prospects — Luis Severino ($225,000), Jorge Mateo ($250,000), and Domingo Acevedo ($7,500) all signed for under $300,000 — but that bonus cap stinks. It takes them out of the running for the best players.

The Yankees will be able to resume spending as they please next year, during the 2017-18 international signing period, assuming the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement doesn’t drastically change things. An international draft could be coming. The international signing period opens July 2nd this year, as it does every year.

The 2015 Draft and the Next Wave of Arms [2015 Season Review]

Kaprielian. (John Corneau Photos)
Kaprielian. (John Corneau Photos)

Coming into the season the Yankees had a very position player heavy farm system. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but their position player depth did far exceed their mound depth. You’d like more balance, ideally. Once LHP Ian Clarkin got hurt and it became obvious RHP Luis Severino would soon arrive in MLB, the farm system pitching picture looked even bleaker. The Yankees were light on arms.

The 2015 amateur draft didn’t erase that lack of pitching depth completely, but it did start to the move the team in the right direction. The Yankees selected pitchers with three of their first four picks, four of their first six picks, and 24 of their 41 total picks. Twenty-three of the 35 draft picks they signed were pitchers. Whether the emphasis on arms was intentional or just a coincidence, the Yankees added some much-needing pitching depth to the organization in the draft. Let’s review the class.

The Top Pick

The Yankees did not forfeit their first round pick to sign a free agent last offseason, so they held the 16th overall pick in the 2015 draft. They hadn’t picked that high since taking Florida HS RHP Matt Drews with the 13th pick way back in 1993. Years of good records and forfeiting high picks to sign free agents kept the Yankees away from top 16 picks for more than two decades.

“It did feel a little bit more like that,” said scouting director Damon Oppenheimer to reporters in June when asked if picking so high came with extra pressure. “It felt like you owe it to the Yankees and you owe it to the organization to get somebody with this pick who’s going to produce and be a quality Major League player. You feel like that about most of them, but when it comes to picking higher than we have since Matt Drews, before I was even here, it does feel that way. I’m not going to lie about it.”

The Yankees used that 16th overall pick to select UCLA RHP James Kaprielian, the fifth pitcher taken in the 2015 draft. Interestingly, a few reports — speculation more than factual reports, I’d say — indicated the Yankees were planning to take a high school bat with their top pick, but the guys they were targeting had already come off the board, namely Florida HS OF Kyle Tucker, George HS SS Cornelius Randolph, New York HS OF Garrett Whitley, and Texas HS OF Trent Clark.

Anyway, Kaprielian landed a slightly above-slot $2.65M bonus a few days before the signing deadline. He allowed six runs (five earned) in 11.1 regular season innings for the Rookie Gulf Coast League affiliate and Short Season Staten Island after turning pro, then he dominated in two postseason starts with the Baby Bombers: 12.1 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 10 K combined. The Yankees then sent him to Instructional League after the season.

“We do think this guy is at least a No. 3 starter and above” added Oppenheimer. “His stuff definitely is now stuff, and it’s now quality stuff. He has control to go along with mental maturity. It seems it could be (a guy who climbs the ladder quickly), but I don’t know the timetables on these guys. It’s too hard to tell. But he shouldn’t have to spend too much time at the lower levels.”

I think there’s a real chance we’ll see Kaprielian in the big leagues in the second half next season. He could follow something along the lines of Ian Kennedy’s path, meaning ten starts with High-A Tampa, eight with Double-A Trenton, six with Triple-A Scranton, then the big leagues in August and September. Obviously he has to perform and show big league stuff, but Kaprielian should move very quickly.

I normally like to be conservative with young pitchers, but Kaprielian’s an exception. There’s no reason to hold a polished college guy with command of multiple offspeed pitches back. Being ready soon is part of his appeal.

The Other Quick Moving Guy

Kaprielian has a chance to reach the show in the second half of next season and it’s entirely possible he will be only the second 2015 Yankees draftee to reach MLB. Dallas Baptist RHP Chance Adams (fifth round) reached High-A Tampa in his pro debut and had a 1.78 ERA (1.75 FIP) in 35.1 innings at three levels. He struck out 31.7% of batters faced and walked only 6.3%. Adams was overwhelming.

Obviously the numbers are great, but Adams also saw his stuff jump a notch in pro ball. He went from sitting low-to-mid-90s in college this spring to sitting mid-90s and touching as high as 99 after signing, and his already good slider gained consistency with pro instruction. Adams is a pure reliever and I think he’ll start next season with Double-A Trenton. If starts 2016 with the same stuff he had at the end of 2015, the only question about Adams’ readiness will be how soon the Yankees want to clear a 40-man roster spot for him.

The Bonus Baby Arms

In addition to Kaprielian, the Yankees signed two other pitchers to well-above-slot bonuses using the savings from the late-round draft pool manipulating picks. (They took cheaper prospects in rounds 7-10 to save pool space.) First they gave California HS RHP Drew Finley (third round) a $950,000 bonus, about 50% over slot. Then they gave Louisville LHP Josh Rogers (11th) a $485,000 bonus, nearly five times slot.

Finley was a potential late-first round pick who slipped into the third round. He allowed a shocking number of walks (12.6%) and homers (2.53 HR/9!) in his 32-inning pro debut with the new Rookie Pulaski affiliate, but he still missed bats (27.2%) and showed a bat-missing curveball. Finley’s not a hard-thrower — he was mostly 89-91 mph this summer — but he has a pretty good plan on the mound and is already making strides with his changeup.

The Yankees were able to lure Rogers, a draft-eligible sophomore, away from school following his strong showing in the Cape Cod League. He allowed six runs in 13.1 innings for Short Season Staten Island and Low-A Charleston, striking out 16 and walking three. Rogers is a three-pitch southpaw — low-90s gas, good slider, improving changeup — who can locate well, so he has a chance to remain a starter.

Degano. (Robert Pimpsner)
Degano. (Robert Pimpsner)

The Other Top Picks

The Yankees picked up a supplemental first round pick when David Robertson signed with the White Sox, and they used that pick (30th overall) on San Diego SS Kyle Holder. Holder didn’t hit in his pro debut — .213/.273/.253 (57 wRC+) around a nagging thumb injury with Short Season Staten Island — but his bat is not his calling card anyway. He’s an elite defender at shortstop, and that’s one heck of a carrying tool.

Indiana State LHP Jeff Degano was New York’s second round pick and third selection overall. He spent some time piggybacking with Kaprielian for Short Season Staten Island and allowed eleven runs in 21.1 pro innings, striking out 22 and walking nine. Degano missed the entire 2014 college season following Tommy John surgery, though he worked off the rust in the spring, and showed a low-90s heater with a sharper low-80s breaking ball. He’s not as polished as Rogers but offers more upside as a high strikeout lefty.

Late-Round Pitching Depth

In Alabama RHP Will Carter (14th) and BYU RHP Kolton Mahoney (16th), the Yankees added two promising depth arms who could follow in the footsteps of guys like Chase Whitley (15th round in 2010) and David Phelps (14th round in 2018) to give the Yankees serviceable innings. Is that exciting? No, but we’re talking about the double-digit rounds here.

Carter has maybe the best fastball the Yankees drafted this year — he sat 96-97 mph with his sinker for Short Season Staten Island. I saw him pitch a few times this summer and couldn’t believe a guy with that kind of fastball lasted until the 14th round. Carter had a 2.04 ERA (3.91 FIP) in 17.2 innings for the Baby Bombers and, not surprisingly, he generated 5.4 ground balls for every fly ball. He’s a reliever.

Mahoney has an interesting backstory. He didn’t pitch at all from 2012-13 because he was on a Mormon mission, so his arm is relatively fresh. Mahoney had a 2.29 ERA (2.99 FIP) in 55 innings for Short Season Staten Island and is a four-pitch starter: low-90s fastball plus a curveball, slider, and changeup. His command is good considering his relative inexperience and he has the stuff to stay in the rotation.

Position Player Prospects

The 2015 draft wasn’t all pitchers, just mostly pitchers. In addition to Holder, the best position player prospects the Yankees drafted this summer are Florida Southern OF Jhalan Jackson (seventh) and Florida JuCo OF Isiah Gilliam (20th). Florida JuCo OF Trey Amburgey (13th) had an incredible pro debut — he hit .335/.388/.502 (161 wRC+) in 62 games split between the GCL and Short Season Staten Island — and has tools, but is more interesting sleeper than bonafide prospect.

Jackson hit .266/.338/.452 (133 wRC+) with Short Season Staten Island and showed off both his raw power (five homers and .186 ISO) and swing-and-missability (29.8 K%). He has classic right field tools, meaning power, a strong arm, and some speed. Jackson can hit a mistake a mile but must improve against breaking balls and with pitch recognition in general to succeed at the upper levels.

The Yankees gave Gilliam a well-above slot $450,000 bonus and he showed a more advanced approach than expected in pro ball, hitting .296/.359/.415 (132 wRC+) with a 15.0% strikeout rate and a 9.8% walk rate in 42 GCL games. He hit only one homer, but power remains his calling card. Gilliam’s a switch-hitter with thump from both sides, and his athleticism allowed him to move to the outfield after being drafted as a first baseman.

Oregon State OF Jeff Hendrix (fourth), Texas JuCo IF Brandon Wagner (sixth), and Arizona HS 3B Donny Sands (eighth) are other position player draftees worth keeping an eye on. Wagner has the most power, Sands the most two-way ability, and Hendrix the highest probability. He could help as a speedy fourth outfielder down the line.

* * *

The draft is always a lot of fun and super exciting … then the novelty quickly wears off. It usually doesn’t take long for the prospects to separate themselves from the suspects. Even the lowest levels of professional baseball are hard. Almost every pro player was the best player on his college or high school team, after all.

The Yankees landed themselves a very good starter pitching prospect (Kaprielian) and a very good bullpen prospect (Adams) in the 2015 draft. They added three more solid arms (Degano, Finley, Rogers), several position players with carrying tools (Holder, Jackson, Gilliam), and a few promising late-rounders (Carter, Mahoney). There’s still plenty of time for others to emerge, but right now, six months after the draft, those guys are the keys to the 2015 draft for the Yankees.

2016 Draft: MLB.com releases first top 50 prospects list

Cal Quantrill, top 2016 draft prospect and former Yankees draft pick (26th round in 2013). (NCAA.com)
Cal Quantrill, top 2016 draft prospect and former Yankees draft pick (26th round in 2013). (NCAA.com)

I guess draft season is now underway. The crew at MLB.com — specifically Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo — put together their first top 50 draft prospects list recently. New Jersey HS LHP Jason Groome currently sits in the top spot, but the draft is still a long way away, so a lot can and will change. As always, MLB.com’s scouting reports are free.

At the moment, the 2016 draft class appears to be deep in arms and light on true impact bats, especially on the infield. I feel like that is the case every year nowadays. There are a bunch of dudes throwing 95+ and not many hitters, and those who can hit are outfielders. It seems like there are fewer and fewer quality infielders in baseball each passing year, at all levels.

The Yankees currently hold the 20th overall pick in the 2016 draft, as our Draft Order Tracker shows. They started out with the 22nd overall pick but moved up thanks to the Zack Greinke and Jeff Samardzija signings. That pick will move up even further if the Mariners, Red Sox, Rays, Orioles, Indians, Twins, Nationals, Angels, or Astros sign a qualified free agent.

We should never completely rule out the Yankees signing a big free agent, but right now it seems very unlikely they will add a qualified free agent and forfeit that first round pick. The money doesn’t appear to be there this offseason. The Yankees have leaned towards college players big time in recent drafts, so if you’re combing through MLB.com’s list for possible targets, I’d start with the college guys.

2016 Draft: Draft Order Tracker page now live

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

Yesterday was the deadline for free agents to accept or reject the qualifying offer. A record 20 free agents received the QO, and, for the first time ever, a player accepted. Three accepted, in fact. Colby Rasmus, Matt Wieters, and Brett Anderson all took the one-year, $15.8M QO rather than try their luck in free agency. That surprised me.

Now that the QO decision deadline has passed, our 2016 Draft Order Tracker page is live. We’ll use that to keep track of the 2016 draft order as draft picks change hands via free agent compensation — and also via trades next year, since the 12 Competitive Balance Lottery picks can be traded — this offseason. You can access the 2016 Draft Order Tracker at any time via the Resources tab in the nav bar above.

At the moment, the Yankees hold the 22nd overall pick in the first round. Obviously they could forfeit that pick to sign one of the 16 free agents who rejected the QO. The draft order is very much subject to change right now. The Yankees held the 16th pick in the 2015 draft (RHP James Kaprielian) but otherwise have not picked as high as 22nd overall since taking Ian Kennedy with the 21st pick in 2006.

The Yankees did not make any of their three free agents the QO, which was not surprisingly. Chris Capuano, Stephen Drew, and Chris Young were their only free agents. So the Yankees can not gain any 2016 draft picks via free agent compensation this winter. They can only lose draft picks.

After the first round, the Yankees currently hold the 60th (second round) and 98th (third round) overall picks. Again, that is subject to change pending free agency. Anyway, the 2016 Draft Order Tracker page is up. Make sure you check back for updates throughout the offseason.

Friday Links: Offseason Outlook, 2015 Draft, Park, Platoons


Looking to kill some time before the start of the weekend? I have some stray links to pass along that might help you out. Enjoy.

MLBTR’s Offseason Outlook

Last week the gang at MLBTR covered the Yankees as part of their annual Offseason Outlook series. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a look ahead to the offseason. It’s a really great overview of the team’s situation in general — the big obstacle this offseason: getting younger and better despite limited flexibility — and touches on all the major points. We’ll dissect everything from every possible angle this winter here at RAB, but MLBTR’s Offseason Outlook post is a good primer as we wait for the offseason to really get underway. Check it out.

Baseball America’s Draft Report Card

Baseball America just wrapped up their 2015 Draft Report Card series, in which they break down each team’s draft class. They aren’t grading anything, just looking at the top tools. OF Jhalan Jackson (7th round) is said to have the most power potential among 2015 Yankees draftees, for example. The position player section is free but the pitchers and odds and ends are behind the paywall.

Interestingly, the write-up says RHP James Kaprielian (1st) was working at 92-94 and touching 96 this summer, which is a bit higher than the college scouting reports. Also, both his slider and changeup received 65 grades on the 20-80 scouting scale, which is pretty damn awesome. RHP Chance Adams (5th), who had a 1.78 ERA (1.75 FIP) with a 31.7% strikeout rate in 35.1 relief innings at three levels after signing, touched 99 mph this summer. He could start next season at Double-A and reach MLB soon.

Park. (Yonhap)
Park. (Yonhap)

Nexen Heroes to post Byung-Ho Park

The Nexen Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization will post power hitting first baseman Byung-Ho Park this coming Monday, according to a Yonhap report. The Yankees were reportedly one of 20 teams to scout Park this season. The right-handed hitting first baseman hit .343/.436/.714 with 53 homers in 140 games this year. Daniel Kim, a former scout and current Korean baseball analyst, told Travis Sawchik Park is the “best pure hitter in the history of KBO.”

The posting process starts Monday, which means teams then have until 5pm ET next Friday to submit a blind bid. The Heroes then have until the following Monday to accept or reject the bid. If they accept, the high bidder and Park have 30 days to negotiate a contract. The team only pays the posting fee if they manage to sign Park. Kim told Sawchik he expects Park to double the $5M posting fee the Pirates paid for Jung-Ho Kang last year.

Park is a first baseman and first baseman only, apparently, so I’m not sure what the Yankees would do with him. Another first baseman/DH is pretty much the last thing they need. They have Mark Teixeira for one more season, a bonafide first baseman of the future in Greg Bird, plus other potential first base candidates in Gary Sanchez, Eric Jagielo, and the aging Brian McCann. I dunno. We’ll see what happens.

Yankees dominated platoons in 2015

According to Baseball Reference, the Yankees led baseball by having the platoon advantage in 73% of their plate appearances this past season. The Indians were second at 71%. The Tigers, Nationals, and Diamondbacks were tied for last at a mere 43%. The Yankees have rated highly in the percentage of at-bats with the platoon advantage for the last few seasons now. Joe Girardi is really meticulous with his platoons, after all. There is definitely an advantage to be gained with platoon matchups, but, of course, it all comes down to the hitters. You have to have good hitters to platoon in the first place.