Yankees select LHP Jacob Lindgren with top pick in 2014 draft

(Logan Lowery/InsideMSUSports.com)
(Logan Lowery/InsideMSUSports.com)

With their first pick in the 2014 amateur draft (second round, 55th overall), the Yankees selected Mississippi State LHP Jacob Lindgren. They did not have a first round pick after signing all those free agents over the winter. Here is what I wrote about Lindgren a few weeks ago and here is the obligatory video:

“Jacob has two Major League pitches that are above average and possess swing-and-miss quality. He has been extended for multiple innings and holds his stuff consistently,” said scouting director Damon Oppenheimer in a statement. “Jacob has been very successful in a tough conference and has produced exceptional strikeout numbers. We are very happy to have selected him.”

Lindgren, 21, was a full-time reliever this spring after trying out the rotation last year. He pitched to a 0.81 ERA with a 100/25 K/BB ratio in 55.1 innings this year, and his 16.27 K/9 would have been by far the highest in the country if he had enough innings to quality. As @collegesplits notes, Lindgren also had the second highest ground ball rate in Division I at approximately 79%.

Here is what the big three scouting publications have to say about the 5-foot-11, 205 lb. southpaw:

Baseball America (ranked 50th best prospect in the draft):

He regularly reaches 93-94 mph with his fastball with heavy life and arm-side run. He’s tabled his curve and changeup in a relief role, sticking to the heater and his hard, plus slider in the low to mid 80s. His stiff delivery likely leads him to a future relief role as well, and his 16.8 strikeouts per nine indicate he can dominate in that job. Lindgren lacks command, and his control usually is just enough.

MLB.com (51st):

He has overmatched hitters more than ever in shorter stints, making it unlikely that he’ll last past the second round of the Draft. His best pitch is a wipeout slider that arrives at 82-84 mph with late bite. His fastball has jumped from 87-91 mph as a starter to 91-95 as a reliever … Because Lindgren has a sinking changeup and throws strikes, a pro team could be tempted to develop him as a starter. But his stuff plays up as a reliever, and he could reach the Majors very quickly in the role. He has closer upside.

Keith Law (67th):

His fastball sat in the 88-90 mph range as a starter, but that has shot up to the 92-94 range in relief. That velocity plays up even more because of his slider, which flashes plus-plus with outstanding late tilt that is practically unhittable for left-handed hitters … Someone might be tempted to see if Lindgren’s two plus pitches can play in the rotation, but more than likely he’s a high-leverage reliever who can be death to left-handed hitters and hold his own against right-handers as well.

I am not at all joking when I say Lindgren might be better than Matt Thornton right now. Unless the Yankees try him in the rotation — always a possibility, but I think it’s unlikely — Lindgren should fly through the system and become a big league bullpen option very soon. There’s a chance he can pitch in the show later this season, a la Paco Rodriguez for the Dodgers two years ago. It’s really a question of whether the Yankees will let him more than anything.

New York is reportedly planning to spend a ton of money internationally this summer, upwards of $30M between bonuses and penalties, so that is where they’re going to add the high-ceiling prospects this year. They opted to use their top draft pick to add a player who can help the MLB club in short order. It’s a reasonable strategy given their low draft slot and upcoming international spending spree. Plus they’ve stunk at player development lately and Lindgren doesn’t need much work. The Yankees have plenty of power righty relievers in the system and he helps balance things out.

Slot money for the 55th overall pick is $1,018,700 and there are no concerns about Lindgren’s signability. Mississippi State’s season ended earlier this week, so he is free to sign at any time. I would expect it to happen soon. The Yankees didn’t take a reliever with their top draft pick to wait around. They want to get his career started as quickly as possible.

2014 Draft Open Thread: Day One

2014 DraftThe 2014 amateur draft begins tonight with the first round, the supplemental first round, the second round, and the two competitive balance rounds. A total of 74 picks will be made tonight, including the Yankees’ second rounder (55th overall). They don’t have a first rounder after signing all those free agents last winter. The Cardinals and Royals lead the way with four picks tonight while the Orioles are the only team without a selection on Day One.

The Yankees are said to be targeting a high school catcher or Indiana 1B Sam Travis with that 55th overall selection. Scouting director Damon Oppenheimer also has a long history of selecting players from Southern California (Ian Kennedy, Ian Clarkin, Gerrit Cole, Gosuke Katoh, Austin Romine, Tyler Wade, Angelo Gumbs, etc.), plus we know the Yankees are willing to go off the beaten path with their picks.

All of our 2014 draft coverage can be found right here. Baseball America has a list of the top 500 draft eligible prospects while MLB.com has a great top 200 list that includes video and scouting reports, all for free. If you’re wondering what it’s like in a draft war room, read this FanGraphs article by former Mariners front office staffer Tony Blengino.

All of tonight’s action, all 74 picks, will be broadcast live on MLB Network and streamed on MLB.com. Here’s the video link. You can also follow the entire draft with MLB.com Draft Tracker. The broadcast is scheduled to run from 7pm to 11pm ET, so the Yankees will probably make their selection sometime during that 10 o’clock hour. That’s just a guess though.

Use this thread to day about the draft or anything else tonight. Sorry, there won’t be any liveblog(s) this year, I just don’t have the time. The Yankees already won this afternoon, so there’s no game to watch. The Mets are playing and the NBA Finals start tonight.

Draft Links: Mock Drafts, SoCal, Memo, Ages

The 2014 amateur draft begins a little less than five hours from now — the Yankees will make only one pick tonight — so here are some last minute draft links to get you ready:

  • Mock Drafts: Here are the final mock drafts from Keith Law (subs. req’d), Baseball America, and MLB.com. All three still have the Astros taking San Diego HS LHP Brady Aiken first overall. It would be a surprise if he wasn’t the top choice at this point. The last high school pitcher to be taken first overall was … Brien Taylor. How about that? The Yankees are not included in any of the mocks because they cover the first round only.
  • In this afternoon’s chat, Law says he continues to hear the Yankees connected to high school catchers and Indiana 1B Sam Travis. He also says we should never rule out Southern California prospects given scouting director Damon Oppenheimer’s roots and tendencies. You can filter Baseball America’s top 500 draft prospects list by state, if you want to check out the SoCal prospects.
  • Jeff Passan obtained a copy of the memo MLB sends to teams outlining what they can and can not ask prospects prior to the draft. They can explicitly ask the player what kind of bonus he’s seeking, but there are rules against trying to use other players as leverage as stuff like that. It’s silly because teams ignore all of it and do whatever they want. It’s just interesting to see.
  • Clint Longenecker listed the youngest and oldest prospects available in this draft, broken down into pitchers and position players, high school and college. Want to feel very old? There’s a kid in this draft who was born in 1997.
  • As a reminder, the Yankees don’t pick until the second round (55th overall) because of their offseason spending spree. Their spending pool for the top ten rounds is $3,202,300, including $1,018,700 for that second round pick. None of their other picks are slotted for seven figures.
  • Click here to go back through our draft archive to see all the draft prospects we’ve profiled. I selfishly hope the Yankees select one of them. It was pretty neat when they drafted three players I wrote up in the first round last year.

2014 Draft: Sam Travis

Sam Travis | 1B

Background
Travis is from Orland Park, a few miles outside Chicago, and he wound up at Indiana after turning down the Reds as their 40th round pick in 2011. He hit .317/.407/.527 with 19 homers and a 68/68 K/BB in 125 games as a freshman and sophomore. Travis has hit .346/.411/.582 with 12 homers and a 26/23 K/BB in 57 games this spring. He played through a broken hamate bone in 2013 and won a bunch of hardware with the Hoosiers, including Conference Freshman of the Year and Big Ten Tournament MVP.

Scouting Report
Listed at 6-foot-0 and 210 lbs., Travis looks very much like a power-hitting first baseman. He’s short and quick to the ball from the right side, doing the most damage when he pulls the ball for power. Travis stands out for his excellent approach and plate discipline. He recognizes breaking balls, knows the strike zone, and is aggressive when he gets a pitch he can drive. He showed he can hit for power with wood bats in the pitcher-friendly Cape Cod League last summer (four homers and 12 doubles in 44 games). Travis started his college career at third base but has since moved to first, where he is okay around the bag but otherwise unspectacular. He’s definitely a bat first prospect.

Miscellany
Baseball America, Keith Law (subs. req’d), and MLB.com ranked Travis as the 56th, 57th, and 62nd best prospect in the draft class, respectively. Law said he the Yankees have expressed interest in Travis as well, presumably for their top selection (55th overall). Right-handed hitting first basemen are usually not the most popular demographic, but power is getting harder to find and this draft is light on bats. The second round is exactly where someone like Travis fits these days.

Draft Links: Mock Drafts, Travis, Oliver, Stout

The draft is now just one day away. The three-day event starts tomorrow night with a live MLB Network broadcast of the first 74 picks. That is the first round, the supplemental first round, the second round, and the two competitive balance lottery rounds. I could have sworn only the first and supplemental first rounds were broadcast in the past. Either way, the Yankees have one selection tomorrow night, in the second round (55th overall).

Before we get to the miscellaneous draft links and notes, here’s a great piece on former Yankees farmhand Brien Taylor by Andrew Marchand. Taylor, as you know, was the first overall pick in the 1991 draft, but he never reached the big leagues after blowing out his shoulder in a fight. The article is an oral history featuring those involved in the process of drafting and developing Taylor (Gene Michael, Scott Boras, etc.), and they all seem to agree he was the best pitching prospect they’ve ever seen. Check it out. Now here are the spare links:

  • Mock Drafts: Here are the latest mock drafts from Keith Law (subs. req’d), MLB.com, and Baseball America. Baseball America also posted their best tools list. All have the Astros taking San Diego LHP Brady Aiken first overall. The mock drafts only cover the first round, so the Yankees are not featured, though Law says he has heard them linked to a bunch of high school catchers (surprise surprise) and Indiana 1B Sam Travis. He’s a righty hitter with some power and crazy good plate discipline.
  • Meanwhile, over at MLB Draft Insider, Chris Crawford has the Yankees taking Louisiana HS C Chase Vallot with their top pick. Here’s the profile I wrote about him. Crawford isn’t some dolt like me, he has connections and his mock draft is informed. Vallot certainly makes sense for New York given their reported interest in various prep backstops.
  • Arkansas RHP Chris Oliver was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated yesterday, according to the Associated Press. Probably not the best thing for the ol’ career. Oliver ranked 66th on Baseball America’s top 500 draft prospects list and was a projected late-second/early-third rounder. No idea what this does to his draft stock, but this class is so deep with righty pitching that he might slide a bit.
  • According to his Twitter feed, Butler LHP Eric Stout has a workout with the Yankees in Tampa today. He’s a junior and draft-eligible, but his numbers are terrible (7.17 ERA from 2013-14) and he isn’t included in Baseball America’s top 500 list. Stout is left-handed though, so maybe he has a nasty breaking ball the Yankees want to see up close.
  • Matt Eddy put together a recap of the five best players drafted by each team. Like, ever. Since the draft was implemented in 1965. Derek Jeter sits atop the Yankees’ list and duh. I’m not spoiling anything there. The next four names aren’t really surprises either.
  • I don’t know if this is new or what, but Baseball Reference has a neat Draft Preview tool with the cumulative WAR and five best historical picks for each draft slot in the top three rounds. Best player taken 55th overall? Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven. (Also, players drafted 77th overall have combined for 1 WAR. One!)

2014 Draft: Jakson Reetz

Jakson Reetz | C

Background
Reetz is from tiny little Firth, Nebraska, a town with less than 1,000 people. It’s about 30 miles outside Lincoln. Reetz is committed to Nebraska and is the best high school prospect the state has produced since former Yankee Buddy Carlyle was drafted in the second round of the 1996 draft.

Scouting Report
Listed at 6-foot-1 and 195 lbs., Reetz is a very good pure hitter, with quick hands and the innate ability to get the fat part of the bat on the ball. He also has a good approach and has shown a willingness to use the entire field. The power is not there yet but figures to develop as he fills out and gets stronger. Reetz’s best defensive tool is his strong arm — he pitched in the past and showed a low-90s fastball. His overall footwork and received need work, especially catching high-end stuff. Reetz has above-average speed, so the outfield could be an option if catching doesn’t work out. He is also said to be a very intense competitor who plays all out, all the time.

Miscellany
MLB.com, Keith Law (subs. req’d), and Baseball America ranked Reetz as the 40th, 42nd, and 62nd best prospect in the draft class, respectively. Just last week Law said the Yankees are once again targeting high school catchers and mentioned Reetz as a target by name. Their first pick is in the second round (55th overall), so he fits right into that range. Catchers do have a tendency to get drafted higher than expected due to position scarcity, however.

Five Years Later: The 2009 Draft

The old saying is that you need five years to evaluate a draft class, but I’m not sure how true that is. On one hand, the prospects and non-prospects usual separate themselves within three or sometimes even two years. On the other hand, most players don’t get much of an opportunity to have a big league impact within five years of being drafted, so it’s not a enough time to truly know what you have. Five is a convenient number though (hooray round and half numbers!), so with the 2014 draft two days away, let’s review the Yankees’ 2009 draft haul, five years after the fact.

Because of their massive free agent spending spree during the 2008-09 offseason, the Yankees forfeited their first (for Mark Teixeira), second (for CC Sabathia), and third (for A.J. Burnett) round picks in the 2009 draft. They did still have first and second round compensation picks after failing to sign Gerrit Cole and Scott Bittle the previous year though, so it’s not like they were stuck waiting until the fourth round to call a name. As Ken Rosenthal reported, New York was ready to draft Mike Trout with their first selection (29th overall), but the Angels grabbed him 25th overall. That was the Teixeira pick. The Yankees would have had to not sign Teixeira, Sabathia, and Burnett to keep that pick, and even then the Angels still would have had the 24th pick. They weren’t getting Trout, so let’s move on already. The Bombers did land two players currently on their active 25-man roster, however.

Heathcott. (Presswire)
Heathcott. (Presswire)

The Sladerunner
With the pick for Cole, that 29th overall selection, the Yankees drafted a toolsy, athletic, and somewhat troubled high school outfielder from Texas named Slade Heathcott. According to Gene Sapakoff, Heathcott’s stepfather was in prison, he battled alcohol addiction and lived in his truck as a high school senior, and was nearly shot when he broke into a stranger’s home in a drunken rage. That’s … pretty scary stuff.

The Yankees did their homework though, and they believed in Heathcott’s talent enough to give him a $2.2M bonus right before the signing deadline, which is exactly double slot money. It is still the largest bonus the team has ever given a draft hitter or high school player. Heathcott barely played after signing late and he never made it to Instructional League in the Dominican Republic after the season.

“I drank so much the night before, I blacked out. I hurried to the airport with my bag but my passport fell out. Having to explain that is how the Yankees found out about all my drinking,” said Heathcott to Sapakoff. The Yankees sent him to Alcoholics Anonymous and gave him a mentor (ex-Yankee up and down reliever Sam Marsonek), after which Heathcott quite drinking. As far as I know, he has not had a relapse.

The Yankees held Slade back in Extended Spring Training before sending him to Low-A Charleston in the middle of the 2010 season. His full season debut was cut short by a shoulder injury that required surgery. Heathcott was bumped up to High-A Tampa the next year, but again his season ended abruptly due to another shoulder injury that again required surgery. It kept him out for half of 2012 as well. The shoulder has been fine since, but this past offseason he needed knee surgery. (He torn his ACL in high school as well.)

Since signing, Heathcott has played only 309 regular season games in parts of six seasons. His best season was 2012, when he hit .302/.380/.461 with five homers and 19 steals in 65 games, almost all for High-A Tampa. Heathcott’s career highs are 103 games played and 444 plate appearances, both set last year. He missed the start of this season due to the knee surgery, played nine games with Double-A Trenton, then landed back on the disabled list with more knee problems.

The Bombers drafted Heathcott because he has high-end athleticism and exciting tools in his speed, raw power, and defense, but he has been hurt so much these last few years that he has not been able to develop those tools into baseball skills. Part of the problem is that he plays all out, all the time, and is prone to hurting himself with slides and dives and all that. Heathcott remains one of the team’s better prospects — the Yankees added him to the 40-man roster last winter to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft — but the injuries have really hurt his development.

Murphy. (Presswire)
Murphy. (Presswire)

That’s John Ryan To You
The best prospect the Yankees landed in the 2009 draft was their second rounder, the compensation pick for Bittle. They used that pick plus a $1.25M bonus for a Florida high school infielder/catcher named John Ryan Murphy, who they immediately moved behind the plate full-time. Apparently someone called him J.R. after the draft and he never bothered the correct them, so the nickname stuck until he spoke up last winter. Go figure.

Murphy steadily climbed the minor league ladder and made tremendous improvement behind the plate — “It’s been a long process. I was not very good when I was drafted. I’ve come a long way … I’m completely different from when I signed. Slowly, but surely, there’s been a total evolution,” he said to David Laurila last year — then last year his bat caught up to his defense. Murphy hit .269/.347/.426 between Double-A and Triple-A last season, then earned a September call-up as the team’s third catcher.

When Frankie Cervelli blew out his hamstring back in April, the Yankees called up Murphy and he has been pleasantly productive as Brian McCann‘s backup. He doesn’t have star potential behind the plate, but he looks very much like someone who will be a solid all-around starting catcher that might crack and All-Star Game roster once or twice during his peak. At worst, Murphy spend a bunch of years in the show as a backup. Now five years later, he is clearly the best player the club drafted in 2009.

Warren. (Presswire)
Warren. (Presswire)

Long Man, Then Setup Man
The Yankees did not have a third rounder, and they used their fourth rounder on one of those cliched “safe” college arms. They selected senior right-hander Adam Warren out of UNC, where he spent four years being overshadowed by higher profile prospects like Daniel Bard, Andrew Miller, and Matt Harvey. The Yankees gave Warren a $195k signing bonus and three years later he was in the big leagues.

As you know, Warren’s big league debut was a total disaster. The White Sox clobbered him for six runs in 2.1 innings in a spot start in June 2012. It was ugly. Warren did not pitch in the big leagues again until April 2013, when the made the team as the long man out of Spring Training because Phil Hughes hurt his back at the end of camp. He pitched to a 3.39 ERA (4.32 FIP) in 77 innings as a swingman, and this season Warren has emerged as a late-inning force as a mostly one-inning setup man (1.71 ERA and 2.34 FIP). Turning a fourth rounder into at worst a serviceable big league arm and at best a high-leverage reliever is a great get for New York.

Other Notables
Two other players from the 2009 draft have reached the big leagues with the Yankees, but only as emergency call-ups due to injury. The first is 15th rounder Shane Greene, who did not pitch at all during the spring of 2009 because he was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. One of the team’s scouts saw him throwing a bullpen while rehabbing and invited him to Tampa for a private workout. They like what they saw enough to draft him and give him a $100k bonus. Greene pitched in one MLB game earlier this year and is currently in Triple-A.

The other player is right-hander Bryan Mitchell, who was called up for a day in April, but did not pitch. He was the team’s 16th round pick in 2009, and the Yankees gave him $800k to skip out on his commitment to UNC. Mitchell is a classic “big stuff, needs to learn how to harness it” pitching prospect currently in Double-A. Like Greene, he was placed on the 40-man roster over the winter. Righties Caleb Cotham (fifth round), Brett Gerritse (12th round), and Graham Stoneburner (14th round) remain in the system as organizational arms.

Big Arms, Small Busts
In addition to Stoneburner, Greene, and Mitchell, the Yankees rolled the dice on several other pitchers with big arms in the mid-to-late rounds. Righty Sean Black (seventh round) was the highest unsigned pick in the 2006 draft (59th overall by the Nationals), but he took a step back in college and never regained the stuff he showed in high school. Lefty Sam Elam (eighth round) had a huge arm and extreme control problems, walking 64 in 76.1 innings in Notre Dame before walking 51 in 30 pro innings. Lefty Gavin Brooks (ninth round) blew out his shoulder a year after signing. Lefty Evan DeLuca (44th round) received a $500k bonus to skip out on his commitment to San Diego. He posted a 98-95 K/BB in 109 pro inning before being released. The Yankees took shots in the dark with all four of these guys and none worked out. Only DeLuca required a substantial bonus.

Petricka. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
Petricka. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

Unsigned Gems
Unlike the 2007 (Drew Storen) and 2008 (Cole) draft classes, New York did not fail to sign a player in 2009 who has since gone on to be even a very good prospect. The biggest name among the unsigned players is outfielder Pat White (48th), who was more notable for his football exploits as a quarterback at West Virginia. In fact, he never even played baseball in college. White played in 13 games for the Dolphins in 2009 and has since bounced around to the UFL and CFL.

Two of the Yankees’ unsigned 2009 draftees have reached the big leagues with other teams. Lefty Tyler Lyons (tenth round) returned to Oklahoma State for his senior year, was drafted in the ninth round by the Cardinals in 2010, and has gone up and down as a replacement level spot starter the last two years. Righty Jake Petricka (34th round) was the White Sox’s second round pick in 2010 following his senior year at Indiana State. He’s a hard-thrower with control problems who has seen some time as a setup man for Chicago this year.

The Yankees also failed to sign local outfielder Jeremy Baltz (45th round), who had a decorated career at St. John’s. The Padres drafted Baltz in the second round of the 2012 draft and he current plays in their farm system. Baseball America did not rank him among the team’s top 30 prospects in their 2014 Prospect Handbook. Infielder Stephen Bruno (26th round) was a seventh rounder of the Cubs in 2012 and was not among their top 30 prospects before the season, according to Baseball America. Outfielder Andrew Aplin (33rd round) was ranked as Houston’s 19th best prospect by Baseball America before this season. They selected him in the fifth round of the 2012 draft.

* * *

The Yankees have already gotten value out of this draft class thanks to Warren, and it certainly looks like Murphy has a big league future ahead of him. Greene and Mitchell are interesting arms who might most help the team as trade bait. The Yankees are still waiting on Heathcott and he will be the biggest factor in determining if this was a good draft or a great draft.