2017 Draft: Seth Romero

Seth Romero | LHP

Background
Romero, 21, was not drafted out of a Texas high school a few years back and wound up at Houston. Working mostly as a starter with the Cougars, he had a 2.43 ERA with 290 strikeouts and 70 walks in 226 innings in college. Romero was kicked off Houston’s baseball team last month, reportedly because he got into a fight with a teammate and took a photo holding a bong in full uniform. He was suspended two other times during his college career for conduct detrimental to the team.

Scouting Report
At 6-foot-4 and 240 lbs., Romero has a thick frame and he generates easy mid-90s velocity with his fastball. He sits 93-95 mph and has run it up as high as 97 mph. Romero’s out pitch is a nasty mid-80s slider, and his changeup has improved to the point where it is now a reliable third pitch he can use to neutralize righties. There’s a little bit of effort in Romero’s delivery, though he’s a good athlete and he repeats it well, and he usually has no trouble throwing his fastball for strikes. The stuff is legit. The makeup is questionable.

Miscellany
Romero came into the spring as a likely top ten pick, though the ongoing off-the-field issues have pushed him down draft boards. In their latest rankings, both MLB.com (24th) and Baseball America (27th) ranked Romero as a back-half of the first round prospect, while Keith Law (subs. req’d) dinged him hard and ranked him 59th. The Yankees pick 16th. A college kid smoking pot is no big deal. Fighting with teammates though? That’s bad. The Yankees really value makeup and my guess is they would pass on Romero, even if his talent says he’d be a coup with that 16th overall pick.

2017 Draft: Alex Lange

Alex Lange | RHP

Background
The 21-year-old Lange went undrafted out of a Missouri high school because of his strong commitment to LSU even though he was considered a top five rounds talent. He was dominant as a freshman, throwing 114 innings with 131 strikeouts and a 1.97 ERA en route to helping the Tigers to the College World Series. Lange hasn’t been quite that good since, though he has a 2.87 ERA with 124 strikeouts and 34 walks in 103.1 innings this spring.

Scouting Report
Lange has one of the best two-pitch mixes in the 2017 draft class. He sits anywhere from 93-96 mph with his fastball and has touched as high as 98 mph in the past. His hard low-80s curveball is a legitimate out pitch. Lange has worked hard to improve his changeup, which is promising, but it’s still not a reliable weapon. His delivery is not the prettiest thing in the world and he tends to rush through it at times, hurting his location. Lange also has a tendency to try to throw the ball through a brick wall in tough spots. That’s something that can be fixed with experience though.

Miscellany
MLB.com ranks Lange the highest in their latest draft rankings. They have him 23rd. Baseball America has him 34th and Keith Law (subs. req’d) has him 45th. The Yankees hold the 16th overall pick. Lange comes with some reliever risk because his changeup needs work and his delivery can be violent, though his track record as a three-year starter at a major college program ensures he’ll get a chance to start in pro ball. The Yankees love their power arms, though in Lange’s case, he seems like a ‘tweener. Taking him in the first round might be a bit of a reach, but waiting until the second round means you’re probably not going to get him.

Five Years Later: The 2012 Draft

Hensley. (MiLB.com)
Hensley. (MiLB.com)

Baseball is a young man’s game these days. Teams are better at scouting and player development than ever before, so we’re now seeing players get to the big leagues and have an impact in a hurry. The old saying is you need five years before you can properly evaluate a draft class. I don’t think that’s the case anymore. Nowadays teams have a pretty good idea of what they have three years after the draft.

The 2017 amateur draft begins next Monday, and since five years is the historical standard, it’s time to look back at the Yankees’ 2012 draft haul. That was the first draft with bonus pools, meaning teams could not spend freely anymore. The Yankees went 97-65 in 2011 and held the 30th overall pick in the 2012 draft, giving them a $4,192,200 bonus pool. They did have an extra pick that year too. The Yankees received the 89th overall selection as compensation for failing to sign second rounder LHP Sam Stafford in 2011.

Barring a surprise development at some point, the 2012 draft is completed devoid of impact for the Yankees. They made 41 picks, signed 28 of them, and only five have reached MLB, all as spare part players. Only two of the other 23 picks even have a chance at a big league call-up, and neither projects to be an impact player. Not a great draft for the Yankees. Let’s review their 2012 draft haul.

The Top Pick

No one quite knew what to expect in the 2012 draft because of the new bonus pools. Would teams spread the bonus money around? Spend big on one player and save elsewhere? Turns out it was a little of both. Talent came off the board much more linearly. The top prospects went at the top of the draft, which is how it should be.

The Yankees used their first round pick, that 30th overall selection, on Oklahoma HS RHP Ty Hensley. Prior to the draft Hensley was ranked as the 23rd best prospect available by Baseball America. MLB.com ranked him 26th and Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked him 36th. When New York’s pick rolled around, Hensley was the second best prospect remaining on Baseball America’s board behind Lance McCullers Jr. McCullers slipped because he floated huge bonus demands.

“We’re excited to get a guy with such a high ceiling,” said scouting director Damon Oppenheimer after the draft. “He has the ideal body for a high school pitcher, as well as power stuff, and has the ability to be a high-end starter. He’s demonstrated quality makeup and has shown himself to be a hard worker, which makes him a quality pick for us.”

The physical issues with Hensley started almost immediately. The two sides quickly agreed to a full slot $1.6M bonus, though the Yankees found what was called an “abnormality” in Hensley’s shoulder during his physical — there were rumors he was missing 40% of his labrum, though that was never confirmed — so the two sides went back to the negotiating table. It wasn’t until the day of the signing deadline that they agreed to a reduced $1.2M bonus.

The Yankees and Hensley agreed to the reduced bonus so late that the team couldn’t use the $400,000 in savings elsewhere. There wasn’t enough time to negotiate with other players. That $400,000 in bonus pool space was unspent. Despite the shoulder abnormality, Hensley made his pro debut later that season, throwing 12 innings with a 3.00 ERA (4.43 FIP) in rookie ball. He struck out 14 and walked seven in 12 innings.

The next time the Yankees would see Hensley on the mound in an official game was 2014. He opened 2013 back in Extended Spring Training, and that May hip issues sent him to the operating table. Hensley had surgery on both hips to correct impingements, and during his rehab he needed another surgery to treat a hernia. It wasn’t until June 2014 that Hensley got back into official games. He threw 30.2 rookie ball innings with a 2.93 ERA (3.38 FIP) and a 40/11 K/BB.

That was the last time Hensley would pitch for the Yankees. During the 2014-15 holiday season, Hensley was brutally attacked by a former college football player, and once he recovered from his injuries, he blew out his elbow in Spring Training. Hensley missed the 2015 season with Tommy John surgery. Then, while rehabbing in May 2016, he blew out the new ligament and needed another Tommy John surgery. In parts of five seasons, Hensley threw 42.1 innings.

This past offseason Hensley was Rule 5 Draft eligible for the first time and of course the Yankees didn’t add him to the 40-man roster. How could they? I know he’s a former first round pick, but the farm system is loaded and Hensley hadn’t pitched since 2014. The Yankees didn’t just leave him unprotected for the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft. They left him unprotected for the minor league phase too. They used their reserve list spots on other players.

The Rays selected Hensley with the third pick of the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft this past December, and the minor league phase works differently than the Major League phase. Tampa doesn’t have to keep him on their roster all season or anything like that. Hensley is theirs to keep now, with no roster shenanigans. He is still rehabbing from the back-to-back elbow constructions and has not pitched this year. He’s probably out until 2018.

It would be very easy to trash the Yankees for a bad first round pick, especially given their first round track record since Derek Jeter, but geez, how could they see all this coming? Hensley’s talent isn’t the problem. It’s been the injuries. A shoulder abnormality. Two hip surgeries. A hernia surgery. Facial fractures after getting jumped in the offseason. Two Tommy John surgeries. Rough. There’s no way to predict that. Needless to say, the Yankees received zero value from their 2012 first rounder. Sucks.

The Bonus Baby

Ever since the bonus pools were put in place, the Yankees have been using their picks in rounds 6-10 on cheap college seniors to save bonus money. Lots of teams do that now. College seniors have no leverage because their options are turn pro or get a real job, so the Yankees agree to deals with them ahead of time. They then redirect the bonus pool savings to other players.

In 2012 the Yankees used their college senior savings on Texas HS SS Austin Aune, the compensation pick for not signing Stafford in 2011. He signed for $1M even though he was slotted for $548,400. Aune was a two-sport star in high school who was a good quarterback recruit with scholarship offers in his pocket. The Yankees had to buy him away from school, hence the seven-figure bonus.

Aune’s athleticism has never been in question. He just hasn’t turned that athleticism into baseball skills the same way Dustin Fowler, another multi-sport high school kid, has been able to. Aune spent three years in rookie ball, one year in Low-A, and is now in his second year in High-A. The 23-year-old is a career .234/.291/.368 (91 wRC+) hitter with 36.7% strikeouts and 7.2% walks in over 1,300 minor league plate appearances. I suppose you can never really rule out a talented kid figuring things out, but yeah, Aune’s stalled out.

The Depth Players

Refsnyder. (Presswire)
Refsnyder. (Presswire)

Like I mentioned earlier, five players from the 2012 draft class have reached the big leagues, and four did so with the Yankees. Only one of the four remains in the organization. That’s Arizona 2B/OF Rob Refsnyder (5th round), who hit his way up the minor league ladder and reached the big leagues in 2015. He hit .302/.348/.512 (131 wRC+) with two homers in 47 plate appearances late that year and actually started the AL Wild Card Game against the Astros.

Refsnyder was an outfielder in college and the Yankees moved him to second base in pro ball because, well, that’s where he would be most valuable. He’s worked hard at it, but he’s always been a defensive liability, and his bat doesn’t offer enough power to make up for it. Refsnyder has been up and down a few times this season and he’s currently on the big league bench. The Yankees have used him primarily at first base, but also some second base and right field. It’s tough to see how Refsnyder helps the Yankees as anything other than a utility player going forward.

Two other 2012 draftees who debuted with the Yankees were relievers: LSU RHP Nick Goody (6th round) and San Diego LHP James Pazos (13th). Both debuted in 2015 and served as up-and-down arms with New York from 2015-16. Goody threw 34.2 innings with a 4.67 ERA (5.11 FIP) for the Yankees. Pazos had a 5.40 ERA (6.26 FIP) in 8.1 innings. Both were traded away in minor deals this offseason.

The final big leaguer from this draft class (so far) never did appear in an MLB game. Alabama OF Taylor Dugas (8th round) was called up for two days in July 2015 as a short-term injury replacement. Carlos Beltran was dealing with an oblique issue and the only healthy position player on the 40-man and not in MLB at the time was Gary Sanchez. The Yankees called up Dugas, he sat on the bench for a game against the Angels, flew back to New York on the off-day, then was dropped from the roster. He never returned to MLB. At least Dugas got affordable health care for life. He was released last April.

The Trade Chips

The Yankees have used a few 2012 draftees as trade chips over the years. The first to go was Faulkner RHP Corey Black (4th round), who went to the Cubs for Alfonso Soriano at the 2013 trade deadline. Black was one of New York’s better pitching prospects at the time, and Soriano made it known he wouldn’t waive his no-trade for any team but the Yankees, so Chicago had no leverage. Brian Cashman was waiting them out before ownership reportedly stepped in and agreed to trade Black.

Black, 25, has transitioned from starter to full-time reliever since the trade, and it wasn’t until last season that he reached Triple-A. He had a 4.25 ERA (3.66 ERA) with 25.9% strikeouts and 15.1% walks in 53 innings between Double-A and Triple-A in 2016, then went unpicked in the Rule 5 Draft after the season. Black’s elbow gave out in Spring Training this year and he underwent Tommy John surgery, so he’s currently rehabbing.

The next 2012 draftee to be traded was Miami C Peter O’Brien (2nd round). He put up unbelievable power numbers in the farm system — 65 homers in 273 games! — but his lack of plate discipline and lack of a position prevented him from being a top prospect. The Yankees traded O’Brien to the Diamondbacks for Martin Prado at the 2014 deadline. He made his big league debut as a September call-up in 2015, did this …

… and has bounced around since. O’Brien has never not annihilated minor league pitching — he’s a career .261/.312/.515 (123 wRC+) hitter with 120 homers in just over 2,000 minor league plate appearances — but he’s been unable to stick in the big leagues. Already this year he’s gone from the D’Backs to the Royals to the Rangers to the Reds in minor trades and waiver claims.

Goody and Pazos are the other two 2012 draftees the Yankees have traded. Goody was designated for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot when Aroldis Chapman was signed, then dealt to the Indians for pitching prospect Yoiber Marquina. He’s been unbelievable for Cleveland. A 0.34 ERA (2.39 FIP) in 21 innings unbelievable. I always liked Goody. His slider was promising. Anyway, Pazos went to the Mariners for pitching prospect Zack Littell in a 40-man roster space clearing move over the winter. He has a 2.49 ERA (2.93 FIP) in 25.1 innings with Seattle this year.

The Two Remaining Prospects

There are still 2012 draftees in the farm system with a chance — a chance — to reach MLB at some point. Utah HS RHP Brady Lail (18th round) was an extremely raw high schooler the Yankees developed into a bonafide prospect, though he’s hit a wall in Triple-A the last few years. Still, the Yankees brought Lail to big league camp as a non-roster player the last two years, so they like him. A stint as an up-and-down shuttle arm isn’t out of the question down the line.

The other 2012 draft pick with a chance to help the Yankees was selected one round after Lail: Central Michigan LHP Dietrich Enns (19th round). Enns has, oddly enough, really taken off since having Tommy John surgery in 2014. He has a 1.41 ERA (3.04 FIP) in 204.2 minor league innings since getting his new elbow ligament. The Yankees added Enns to the 40-man roster this past offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. He opened this season back in Triple-A and is currently on the disabled list with a shoulder issue. Once Enns heals up, he’ll be a call-up candidate.

The Notable Unsigned Players

As is always the case, the Yankees did not sign all their draft picks in 2012. One of those unsigned picks later become a first rounder. They used their 28th round pick on Florida HS OF D.J. Stewart, who didn’t sign and went on to hit .344/.481/.570 with 27 home runs in 177 games at Florida State. The Orioles selected him with the 25th overall pick in the 2015 draft. Stewart is currently hitting .251/.339/.446 (120 wRC+) at Double-A, which isn’t great for a bat-only player whose best position is designated hitter.

Four other unsigned 2012 draftees were selected in the top ten rounds in future years. Here’s the list:

  • Texas A&M SS Mikey Reynolds (20th round): Fifth round pick by the Braves in 2013. He was in an independent league by 2015 before getting back into affiliate ball in 2016.
  • Maryland LHP Jimmy Reed (21st round): Went to the Cardinals in the sixth round in 2013. He missed all of last season with an injury and is just now getting back into game action.
  • Georgia C Kyle Farmer (35th round): The Dodgers grabbed him in the eighth round in 2013. Farmer is currently an organizational depth catcher at Double-A and Triple-A.
  • Florida HS 3B David Thompson (38th round): Signed with the Mets as their fourth rounder in 2015. MLB.com currently ranks him as their 23rd best prospect.

I suppose it’s worth noting the Yankees did not sign Alabama JuCo RHP Bret Marks as their 22nd round pick in 2012, then re-drafted him out of Tennessee in the 15th round in 2015. He soaked up some rookie ball innings after the draft that year and was released shortly there after.

Stewart is clearly the one who got away even though he’s a just on okay prospect. Thompson is probably someone the Yankees wish they were able to sign in 2012 as well. Otherwise there are no significant unsigned players from this draft class, a la Jon Gray in 2011.

Still In The System

Seven 2012 draftees are still in the farm system. Four of them are Aune, Refsnyder, Lail, and Enns. The other three are Mississippi 1B Matt Snyder (10th round), Montana HS LHP Caleb Frare (12th round), and Florida HS RHP Jose Mesa Jr. (24th round). Yes, the Yankees really drafted a high school kid from Montana. None of those three players are big league prospects. They’re organizational depth players. I suppose Frare could get a cup of coffee at some point because he’s left-handed and breathing, but it seems unlikely. Snyder and Frare are both Double-A right now. (Snyder is on the disabled list.) Joe Table II is with High-A Tampa.

The Best of the Rest

Wisconsin HS OF Nathan Mikolas (3rd round) had a promising hit tool but not much else. He never grew into any power and was released back in March after topping out at Low-A … Fresno State RHP Taylor Garrison (7th round) spent a few years in the system as a solid swingman. He was released followed the 2015 season with a career 2.85 ERA in 202 innings … Auburn RHP Derek Varnadore (9th round), Rice RHP Andrew Benak (14th round), and Samford RHP Charles Basford (37th round) all spent a few years in the lower levels as depth arms … Florida HS C Chris Breen (12th round) and Canada HS RHP Dayton Dawe (15th round) were raw prep players with some tools who never quite figured it out.

* * *

Unless something very surprising happens, like Enns carrying his minor league performance over to the big leagues, the most impactful prospect the Yankees drafted in 2012 is Black, and that’s only because he was traded for Soriano, who gave the Yankees an excellent half-season in 2013. O’Brien turning into Prado, who turned into Nathan Eovaldi, is an honorable mention. Guys like Refsnyder and Goody and Pazos are useful depth players, but when all you get out of a draft class is depth players, it was a tough draft. No doubt this one didn’t work out well for the Yankees.

2017 Draft: Alex Faedo

Alex Faedo | RHP

Background
Faedo, 21, was a 40th round draft pick by the Tigers out of a Tampa high school back in 2014. He followed through on his commitment to Florida, where he has emerged as one of the top right-handers in the country. Faedo has a 2.80 ERA with 113 strikeouts and 32 walks in 15 starts and 96.1 innings this season. For his career, he has a 3.06 ERA with 305 strikeouts and 69 walks in 262 innings. It’s worth noting Faedo had minor arthroscopic knee surgery last year, which caused him to miss fall ball and get off to a bit a slow start this year.

Scouting Report
At 6-foot-5 and 225 lbs., Faedo has a big league frame, and as he’s gotten further away from knee surgery, his fastball has ticked back up into the 93-94 mph range. He was down around 90-92 mph earlier this year. His out pitch is a hard slider he’ll throw at any time. There’s some thought Faedo throws the slider too much. A decent changeup is his third best pitch. Even though he’s a good athlete, Faedo’s delivery can get out of whack and his command is below average. Between the heavy slider usage, the less than pretty delivery, and lack of command, more than a few folks see Faedo as a reliever long-term, potentially a very good one.

Miscellany
In their latest draft prospect rankings Baseball America (10th), MLB.com (11th), and Keith Law (13th) all ranked Faedo as a top half of the first round talent. The Yankees have the 16th overall pick. I think the odds are pretty good Faedo, warts and all, will be off the board before the Yankees have a chance to pick because top college performers are always in demand.

2017 Draft: Hans Crouse

Hans Crouse | RHP

Background
The 18-year-old Crouse attends Dana Hills High School in Orange County. So far this spring he has a 0.88 ERA with 99 strikeouts and 17 walks in 63.1 innings. He’s committed to Southern California.

Scouting Report
Crouse has some of the best raw stuff in the entire draft class. He sits 94-96 mph with his fastball and ran it up as high as 97 mph during a showcase event earlier this year. His breaking ball is more of a slurve than a true slider or a true curve, and he throws it anywhere from 78-84 mph. Crouse, who is listed at 6-foot-5 and 190 lbs., is still working to refine his changeup, though he is comfortable throwing it. The biggest concern here is a high-effort delivery, which has many thinking Crouse’s future lies in the bullpen. Also, for what it’s worth, Crouse is a really excitable high energy kid who makes it very clear with his mannerisms on the field that he loves playing baseball.

Miscellany
The various scouting reports see Crouse as a late first round/early second round talent. Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked him the highest in his last draft rankings. He had Crouse 22nd. MLB.com had him 31st and Baseball America had him 37th. The Yankees have the 16th pick. It’s worth noting the Yankees tend to go for polished prep arms early in the draft. They save the big hard-throwing projects for the later rounds.

2017 Draft: Sam Carlson

Sam Carlson | RHP

Background
Carlson, 18, hails from the noted baseball talent hotbed of Minnesota. He attends Burnsville High School in the Minneapolis suburbs, and he’s committed to Florida.

Scouting Report
At 6-foot-4 and 195 lbs., Carlson has the ideal pitcher’s frame, and he also throws three pitches. That’s rare for a high schooler, especially one from Minnesota. Last summer in showcases Carlson sat mostly in the low-90s, but he’s come out this spring firing 93-95 mph and touching 97 mph regularly. His fastball is even better than the velocity indicates because the pitch has natural running action back in on righties. Carlson’s second best offering is a hard slider, and he also throws a quality changeup. He uses all three pitches regularly and locates well. It’s a pretty advanced repertoire for a kid from a cold weather state. Carlson is a really good athlete — his future lies on the mound, though it’s worth noting he’s a good enough hitter that he’ll also play some outfield for the Gators, should he not sign for some reason — and he repeats his delivery well, though there’s some thought he’d benefit from lengthening his stride a bit.

Miscellany
Carlson is one of the rare prospects who gets all the scouting publications to agree on his place in the draft class. Baseball America ranked him as the 14th best prospect available while both MLB.com and Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked him 15th. Hard to get much closer than that. The Yankees hold the 16th pick. As with most cold weather state kids, one of the biggest issues for Carlson is a general lack of exposure. He was a regular on the summer showcase circuit last year, though scouts don’t have much time to see him this spring because his high school season started only a few weeks ago.

2017 Draft: D.L. Hall

D.L. Hall | LHP

Background
The 18-year-old Hall split his prep career at Houston County High School and Valdosta High School in Southern Georgia. He’s committed to Florida State.

Scouting Report
Hall is primarily a two-pitch southpaw at the moment, sitting in the low-90s with his fastball and backing it up with a hard curveball right around 80 mph. PitchFX data from various summer showcase events at big league ballparks says his curve already has an above-average Major League spin rate. Hall also throws a changeup, but it is far and away his third pitch, which is typical of top high school arms. At 6-foot-0 and 195 lbs., Hall is not the biggest guy, but there is some belief he will add velocity as he gains consistency with his mechanics. He can spot his fastball well and his curveball is a true out pitch.

Miscellany
The various scouting publications all agree Hall is one of the top talents in the draft. Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked him as the eighth best prospect in the draft class while both MLB.com and Baseball America ranked him 13th. The Yankees hold the 16th pick. For what it’s worth, Law recently said he’s heard the Yankees are “matched up” with Hall, whatever that means.