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In a piece that is free for all to read, Baseball America broke down this summer’s draft using a variety of categories. The Yankees ranked third in the “Best Draft” category, trailing only the Pirates and Diamondbacks. Pittsburgh had two of the top 14 selections. New York, of course, had three of the top 33 selections, so having a strong draft was pretty much guaranteed.

OF Aaron Judge, the middle of those three first rounders, is said to be the fifth best power hitter in the entire draft class by Baseball America. That’s his calling card, he’s a huge dude who can hit the ball a mile from the right side of the plate. That’s a skill that is very hard to come by these days. 2B Gosuke Katoh had the third best pro debut among high school draftees according to the publication. Those three first round picks are going to make or break the team’s draft haul. In this new spending restricted system where talent goes pretty linearly, those top picks are crucial.

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The 2014 draft is still seven months away, but this is as good a time as any to start familiarizing yourself with the draft class. Baseball America published their first top 50 draft rankings yesterday, and best of all, you don’t need a subscription to read it. Fifty players with a little blurb on each. Pretty cool. NC State LHP Carlos Rodon predictably tops the list — he’s the best draft prospect since at least Gerrit Cole in 2011, maybe even Bryce Harper in 2010.

“After a below-average 2013 draft, the 2014 class has potential to be the best class since 2011’s banner crop,” says the very first line in the write-up. The Yankees hold the 18th overall pick at the moment — they could lose that for signing a qualified free agent, obviously — and are in position to add a supplemental first round pick or two if their own qualified free agents head elsewhere. Keep in mind that is is mid-October. The high school and college seasons are still weeks away from starting, so those rankings will change a lot between now and the draft. A lot. In all likelihood, someone not on that top 50 list will wind up going in the top ten next June. These rankings are just a snapshot of what’s going on right now, that’s all. They aren’t intended to be some kind of prediction.

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By going 85-77 this year, the Yankees hold the 18th overall pick in next summer’s draft. They finished with the same record as the Orioles, but because Baltimore had the worse record last season, they get the 17th pick while New York gets the 18th. The full draft order is right here, and note that tonight’s tiebreaker game between the Rays and Rangers is technically a regular season game, so the 22nd and 23rd picks could flip.

Slot money for the 18th overall pick was $2,109,900 this year, and the slots are expected to increase in 2014. The Yankees haven’t picked this high since taking C.J. Henry with the 17th pick in 2005. That was compensation from the Phillies for Jon Lieber (!), not their natural pick. The Bombers could end up forfeiting their first rounder to sign a qualified free agent (Brian McCann? Matt Garza? Ervin Santana?), of course, and they could also add picks by losing their own qualified free agents (Hiroki Kuroda? Robinson Cano?). It’s still too early to know exactly how deep the draft class is, but there are always quality players available at 18.

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Via K. Levine-Flandrup: The Yankees have agreed to sign 36th round pick Nestor Cortes. No word on the signing bonus, but since he was drafted after the tenth round, anything in excess of $100k counts against the draft pool. The Yankees are currently $114k over their pool.

Cortes, 18, is a left-hander out of Hialeah High School in Miami. He’s undersized at 5-foot-11 and 190 lbs., but he can run his fastball into the low-90s with good sink. His changeup is very good for a high schooler and he also spins a curveball. Cortes is also an excellent athlete with an easy delivery and arm action. There’s a definite Daniel Camarena 2.0 vibe here, though I’m not sure if Cortes has that kind of polish.

Keep tabs on the team’s draft pool with our 2013 Draft Pool page. The signing deadline is 5pm ET today.

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Friday: Judge has officially signed. In fact, here’s a picture of him signing the contract. The Yankees are currently $114k over their draft pool and will have to pay an $85.5k tax.

Thursday: Via George King: The Yankees have agreed to sign first round pick Aaron Judge to an over-slot $1.8M signing bonus. Slot money for the 32nd overall pick is just under $1.68M. This is the sixth largest bonus the Yankees have ever given a drafted player, behind only Andrew Brackman, Ian Kennedy, Slade Heathcott, Drew Henson, and Eric Jagielo. This is the pick the Yankees received as compensation for losing Nick Swisher to free agency.

Judge, 21, is an outfielder out of Fresno State. He is listed at 6-foot-7 and 255 lbs., so he’s an imposing figure on the field. “Judge profiles as a .250 hitter and is going to strike out a lot, which comes with the territory for tall power hitters with long arms … he has light-tower power. Judge is a solid-average runner with an above-average arm and will be a solid defender in right field,” wrote Baseball America (subs. req’d) in their pre-draft scouting report.

Keep tabs on the team’s draft pool with our 2013 Draft Pool page.

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Thursday: Bridges signed for $225k according to Baseball America (subs. req’d), so his “pool hit” is $125k. The Yankees are (unofficially) currently $114k (1.4%) over their pool, meaning they will pay just under $86k in tax if they don’t sign anyone else to an above-slot bonus before tomorrow afternoon’s deadline.

Friday: Via Jim Callis: The Yankees have agreed to sign 20th round pick Drew Bridges to an over-slot bonus. The exact amount is unknown, but Callis says it is sixth round money. That would put it in the $175-300k range. As a 20th rounder, anything he gets in excess of $100k counts against the team’s draft pool.

Bridges, 18, is a third baseman out of a Missouri high school. In their pre-draft scouting report, Baseball America (subs. req’d) said he “earns Brett Wallace comparisons because he’s a big-bodied left-handed hitter who can produce for average and might have interesting power if he adds loft to his swing.” Bridges is a big kid at 6-foot-4 and 220 lbs., so his ability to remain at third long-term is a question.

Keep tabs on the team’s draft pool with our 2013 Draft Pool page.

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Via K. Levine-Flandrup: The Yankees have signed 18th round pick Dustin Fowler to an over-slot $278k bonus. Since he was drafted after the tenth round, any bonus money in excess of $100k counts against the draft pool, so his “pool hit” is $178k.

Fowler, 18, is a high school outfielder out of West Laurens High School in Georgia. The left-handed hitter and thrower is a raw, toolsy type who has some pop in his bat and plenty of speed. He is also a strong defender in center field. Fowler quit wrestling and playing football not too long ago and is still baseball raw. He also stands out for his very hard-nosed style of play. Dustin is not related to Dexter Fowler, in case you’re wondering.

Keep tabs on the team’s draft pool with our 2013 Draft Pool page.

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Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees are close to signing Fresno State OF Aaron Judge, their second first round pick in last month’s draft. K. Levine-Flandrup says Judge traveled to Tampa today, presumably to take his pre-signing physical. The signing deadline is Friday afternoon, and the Yankees reportedly have a slot money (~$1.67M) offer on the table.

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Via K. Levine-Flandrup: The Yankees have signed seventh round pick Nick Rumbelow to a $100k bonus. Slot money for the 224th overall pick was just under $161k, so the junior right-hander from LSU saves the team a little bit of draft pool space.

Rumbelow, 21, pitched to a 3.31 ERA with 36 strikeouts and 15 walks in 32.2 relief innings for the Tigers this spring. “He flashes a quick arm with 94-95 mph heat … his top secondary pitch is a curveball that is inconsistent but at times shows power and comes out of the same release point as his fastball,” wrote Baseball America (subs. req’d) before the draft. LSU was eliminated from the College World Series just a few days ago, so the Yankees and Rumbelow had to wait for that to happen before hammering out a deal.

Keep tabs on the team’s draft pool with our 2013 Draft Pool page. Sandwich rounder Fresno State OF Aaron Judge is the team’s only unsigned player from the top ten rounds. Slot is just over $1.67M and New York has $1.989M worth of draft pool space remaining.

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Via K. Levine-Flandrup: The Yankees have signed ninth round pick Conner Kendrick to a $115k signing bonus. Slot money for the 284th overall pick is just over $140k, so the team saved a little bit of draft pool money. He is a left-handed pitcher who signed as a junior out of Auburn.

Kendrick, 20, pitched to a 2.13 ERA with 75 strikeouts and 29 walks in 80.1 innings across nine starts and ten relief appearances this spring. “His fastball is solid-average at 90-91 mph, and he has a short, late breaking ball that he throws for strikes. His funky delivery gives him deception, but he is prone to leaving balls up,” wrote Baseball America before the draft (subs. req’d). Kendrick seems likely to move to the bullpen as a pro.

Keep tabs on the team’s draft pool with our 2013 Draft Pool page.

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