Archive for Draft

May
22

2014 Draft: Cole Tucker

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Cole Tucker | SS

Background
Tucker attends Mountain Pointe High School in Phoenix and was the starting shortstop for the gold medal winning Team USA at the 18U World Cup in Taiwan last fall. He’s been very good at several national showcase events this spring. Tucker is committed to Arizona.

Scouting Report
Tall and wiry at 6-foot-3 and 165 lbs., Tucker is a switch-hitter who is more advanced and has a better swing from the left side of the plate. He does have bat speed from both sides, however, and he’s more of a contact-oriented gap-to-gap hitter than a power guy. Given his frame, he could certainly add strength and grow into some pop. Tucker runs well and has everything he needs to remain at shortstop long-term — quick first step, strong arm, good hands — there’s just some concern he’ll outgrow the position. Just about everything I’ve read about him referred to him as a gritty, hard-nosed player.

Miscellany
In their latest rankings, Keith Law (subs. req’d), MLB.com, and Baseball America ranked Tucker as the 62nd, 70th, and 83rd best prospect in the draft class, respectively. Switch-hitting shortstops are rather hard to find, but even if he has to drop switch-hitting, Tucker would still remain on the strong side of the platoon. The Yankees have a nice collection of shortstop prospects in the low minors (Abi Avelino, Tyler Wade, Thairo Estrada), but teams always want depth at the position. Their first pick is in the second round (55th overall).

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May
20

2014 Draft: Matt Chapman

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Matt Chapman | 3B/RHP

Background
Chapman is an Orange County kid from Trabuco Canyon who went undrafted out of El Toro High School (Austin Romine‘s alma mater) in 2011. He hit .285/.380/.413 with seven homers and seven steals in 108 games as a freshman and sophomore at Cal State Fullerton, and so far this spring he has a .318/.417/.511 batting line with six homers, five steals, and nearly as many walks (22) as strikeouts (23) in 46 games.

Scouting Report
Listed at 6-foot-2 and 215 lbs., Chapman stands out for his defense at the hot corner, where he has quick feet, soft hands, and a rocket arm. He has some power in his right-handed swing and a good approach at the plate, but he has struggled against premium velocity throughout his career. Chapman has been classified as a hard-nosed, blue collar player who plays very hard. Although he has not pitched during his three years at Fullerton, Chapman threw 98 mph out of the bullpen with Team USA last summer. He is considered a better prospect as a position player, but the mound is an obvious fallback option.

Miscellany
In their recent rankings, Keith Law (subs. req’d), Baseball America, and MLB.com ranked Chapman as the 54th, 64th, and 77th best prospect in the draft class, respectively. As I mentioned yesterday, scouting director Damon Oppenheimer loves his SoCal prospects, and he has sown an increased affinity for college bats the last two drafts. Chapman appears to be a player the Yankees could target with their top pick, their second rounder (55th overall).

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May
19

2014 Draft: Grant Hockin

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Grant Hockin | RHP

Background
Hockin attends Damien High School in the Los Angeles suburb of La Verne. His older brother Chad pitches for Cal State Fullerton and his grandfather is the late Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew, so he has some serious baseball bloodlines. Hockin is not a power hitter like his grandfather, however. He is committed to UCLA.

Scouting Report
Hockin is a classic projectable prep pitcher listed at 6-foot-3 and 195 lbs. He throws both a straight four-seam fastball and a running two-seam fastball, usually sitting in the 88-91 mph range but touching 93 on the occasion. A sharp slider is his top secondary pitch, plus he also throws a promising changeup and a very inconsistent curveball. There’s some thought he will have to simply scrap the curve at the next level and focus on the slider and changeup. Hockin is a good athlete and his delivery is very smooth and low effort, suggesting there is more velocity coming as he fills out. He also draws high marks for his makeup, work ethic, and leadership skills.

Outlook
Keith Law (subs. req’d) recently ranked Hockin as the 48th best prospect in the draft, though neither Baseball America nor MLB.com included him in their most recent top 100 rankings. This draft class is deep with right-handed pitchers and I think Hockin is getting overlooked. Good size, two fastballs and two offspeed pitches (maybe three), athletic, easy delivery, good makeup, Hall of Fame bloodlines … what box isn’t checked? This is the type of kid who comes out as a top ten pick in three years if he winds up in college and stays healthy.

Scouting director and Southern California native Damon Oppenheimer loves his SoCal prospects (Austin Romine, Ian Kennedy, Gerrit Cole, Ian Clarkin, Gosuke Katoh, Tyler Wade, Angelo Gumbs, Gabe Encinas, etc.) and he’s always been keen on high school arms, so Hockin seems like someone who could be right up his alley for the Yankees’ top pick in the second round (55th overall) next month. I’ve always been a fan of prep pitchers and I’d be thrilled if the club wound up with Hockin.

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We are now less than three weeks away from the 2014 amateur draft, which will surely be fun even though the Yankees do not have a first round pick. There’s a ton of pitching in this draft and more than a few quality arms will be available for their first pick in the second round, the 55th overall selection. Here’s a collection of miscellaneous draft links:

  • Keith Law’s Mock Draft v1.0 (subs. req’d): Law has the Astros taking California HS LHP Brady Aiken, the consensus top talent in the draft, with the first overall pick. He also has NC State LHP Carlos Rodon falling to the Cubs with the fourth overall pick. The mock draft is for the first round only, so the Yankees are not included, but there’s a ton of info in there about which way clubs are leaning.
  • Baseball America’s Mock Draft v2.0 (no subs. req’d): Meanwhile, Baseball America has Rodon going to Houston. Interestingly enough, hard-throwing (like 100+ mph) Texas HS RHP Tyler Kolek is said to be sliding because he throws so hard and teams are worried about his mechanics and his 6-foot-5, 250+ lb. frame. Again, the mock draft only covers the first round, so no Yankees.
  • MLB.com’s Mock Draft v1.0: And finally, MLB.com also has the Astros taking Aiken first overall in their latest mock draft. No Yankees again, unfortunately. First round only. Based on the information in these three mock drafts, it doesn’t seem like ECU RHP Jeff Hoffman or UNLV RHP Erick Fedde are expected to fall out of the first round despite recently having Tommy John surgery.
  • Baseball America’s Top 100 Draft Prospects: The recently updated list is free but the individual scouting reports are subscriber-only. By my count, 62 of Baseball America’s top 100 prospects are pitchers, so yeah, lots of arms this year. The Yankees have a ton of position player prospects and could use some more pitchers. I’m not saying they should pass on quality position players in favor of pitchers this year to fill a need but there’s a good chance the best available player for their first few picks will do his work on the mound.
  • Keith Law’s Top 100 Draft Prospects (subs. req’d): Sixty-one of Law’s most recent top 100 draft prospects are pitchers, including 15 of 20 prospects in the 45-65 range. Talent tends to come of the board linearly these days thanks to the spending restrictions (the best players go first, they rarely fall), so the players in that 45-65 range are as good a bet as any to wind up being selected by the Yankees with that 55th overall pick.
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May
16

2014 Draft: Brandon Finnegan

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Brandon Finnegan | LHP

Background
Finnegan is from Fort Worth and he passed on signing with the Rangers as their 45th round pick out of high school in 2011. He had a 3.03 ERA and 142/65 K/BB in 141.2 combined innings as a freshman and sophomore at TCU before taking off this spring: 1.66 ERA and 100/20 K/BB in 76 innings. Finnegan missed time in recent weeks with a sore shoulder but returned to the mound last night.

Scouting Report
Despite a tiny frame (listed at 5-foot-11 and 184 lbs.), Finnegan sits in the 91-95 mph range with his fastball and has run it up as high as 98. He learned a new slider grip from fellow 2014 draft prospect NC State LHP Carlos Rodon when they played for Team USA last summer, which gave Finnegan a much needed out pitch. It’s a hard slider, usually in the mid-to-high-80s, but he still needs more experience with it. Finnegan has an okay changeup that shows potential. There is quite a bit of effort in his delivery, though his control is fine.

Miscellany
In their latest rankings, Baseball America, MLB.com, and Keith Law (subs. req’d) had Finnegan as the ninth, 11th, and 19th best prospect in the draft class, respectively. TCU has a history of working their pitchers hard — Andrew Cashner, Jake Arrieta, and Matt Purke all had arm problems after leaving TCU in recent years — and the shoulder soreness is a red flag, enough that Finnegan is sliding down draft boards. He was terrible last night (six runs in 6.1 innings) and that surely didn’t help things. This draft is deep in arms and there is talk Finnegan might fall out of the first round entirely after looking like a top ten pick a few weeks ago. The Yankees don’t pick until the second round (55th overall), and while shoulder problems are scary, they never get a chance to land this kind of talent.

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May
15

2014 Draft: Spencer Adams

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Spencer Adams | RHP

Background
Adams is from Cleveland, Georgia, a tiny little town in the northern part of the state. He plays three sports at White County High School and is a standout basketball player. There is video of him dunking all over YouTube. Adams is committed to Georgia, where he would play baseball only.

Scouting Report
Listed at a projectable 6-foot-4 and 180 lbs., Adams is one of the very best athletes in the entire draft. He has a quick arm and usually sits in the low-90s with his fastball, occasionally touching 95. Adams throws three different offspeed pitches, but his tight low-80s slider is the best of the bunch and a potential out pitch. He also throws inconsistent curveballs and changeups. There is some effort in his delivery and Adams throws from a lower arm slot, so he’s not picture perfect on the mound. Whichever team drafts him will hope his high-end athleticism will lead to improved mechanics and command as he focuses exclusively on baseball.

Miscellany
Baseball America, MLB.com, and Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked Adams as the 24th, 27th, and 35th best prospect in the draft class, respectively. He came into the spring as more of a second round talent but has climbed draft boards in recent weeks. I’ve become kinda obsessed with athletic pitchers after reading this article about the Cardinals’ scouting and development strategies, but the Yankees will need some luck if they want Adams to fall to their top pick, 55th overall. He has all the look of a guy who will come out of college as a potential top three overall pick in three years.

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May
14

2014 Draft: Erick Fedde

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Erick Fedde | RHP

Background
Fedde was born and raised in Las Vegas, and he passed on signing with the Padres as a 24th round pick in 2011. He jumped right into the UNLV rotation and had a 3.76 ERA with a 149/61 K/BB in 186.2 innings as a freshman and sophomore. Fedde had a 1.76 ERA with 82 strikeouts and 21 walks in 76.2 innings this spring before blowing out his elbow last week and needing Tommy John surgery.

Scouting Report
Tall and skinny at 6-foot-4 and 180 lbs., Fedde sits in the low-90s and touches 95-96 with his fastball when healthy. His go-to secondary pitch is a low-80s slider he can throw for called strikes or bury in the dirt for swings and misses. It’s a legit big league out pitch on its best days. Fedde’s changeup is an average pitch more than anything. Although he does a good job of repeating his delivery, though he tends to drop his arm later in starts due to fatigue and it hurts his command. There’s a chance he winds up in the bullpen long-term. Fedde has not put on any weight during his three years in school and he isn’t guaranteed to fill out that long frame. He’s similar to Chris Sale in that regard.

Miscellany
In their latest rankings, Keith Law (subs. req’d), Baseball America, and MLB.com ranked Fedde as the 8th, 14th, and 28th best prospect in the draft class, respectively. That was before he blew out his elbow, however, and the injury will surely cause him to slide down some draft boards. As with ECU RHP Jeff Hoffman, a projected top five pick who recently had Tommy John surgery as well, I think the Yankees would jump all over Fedde if he fell into their lap at the 55th overall pick (their top selection following the offseason spending spree) but I suspect a team with extra picks will roll the dice first.

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May
09

2014 Draft: J.J. Schwarz

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J.J. Schwarz | C

Background
Schwarz attends Palm Beach Gardens High School in Florida and starred for the Team USA club that won the 18U World Cup in Taiwan last fall. He is the son of former big league right-hander Jeff Schwarz, who received two cups of coffee in the mid-1990s but otherwise bounced around the minor leagues for most of his career. Schwarz is committed to Florida.

Scouting Report
Listed at 6-foot-1 and 193 lbs., Schwarz is one of the best all-around catching prospects in the entire draft. He’s a good defender behind the plate thanks to his footwork and overall receiving skills, plus he has a strong arm. A quick, low-maintenance swing and advanced approach give him the potential to hit for both average and power down the road. He isn’t fast at all, but that is to be expected. Schwarz has gotten high marks for his makeup and feel for the game. He has clearly benefited from his father’s instruction over the years.

Miscellany
In their latest rankings, Baseball America, Keith Law (subs. req’d), and MLB.com have Schwarz as the 45th, 71st, and 90th best prospect in the draft class, respectively. The Yankees love to hoard catching prospects and I don’t expect that to stop even with Brian McCann, John Ryan Murphy, and Gary Sanchez at the upper levels. They don’t pick until the second round (55th overall) because of their offseason spending spree, but there is a chance Schwarz will still be available when their third round pick (91st overall) comes around, at which point I think he’d be a real coup.

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Baseball America published their first mock draft yesterday and it is free for all. You don’t need a subscription to read it. They have the Astros taking NC State LHP Carlos Rodon first overall despite his relatively disappointing spring. San Diego HS LHP Brady Aiken is the consensus top prospect in the draft right now, and Baseball America has him going to the White Sox third overall.

The Yankees don’t pick until the second round (55th overall) following their offseason spending spree, so they are not included in the mock draft. That stinks. It’s still worth reading because it gives you an idea of which players are being connected to which teams, and who could be left over for the Yankees when their pick does come up. Chances are they have their fingers crossed a top talent falls into their lap for whatever reason.

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May
07

2014 Draft: Jeff Hoffman

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Jeff Hoffman | RHP

Background
Hoffman is a semi-local kid from Latham, a suburb just outside Albany. He was not drafted out of Shaker High School and followed through on his commitment to East Carolina, where he stepped right into the rotation and posted a 3.39 ERA with a 139/60 K/BB in 183.1 innings as a freshman and sophomore. This spring he has a 2.94 ERA with a 72/20 K/BB in 67.1 innings. Hoffman missed a start with shoulder inflammation a few weeks ago and earlier today Keith Law reported he needs Tommy John surgery and is done for the year.

Scouting Report
Listed at 6-foot-4 and 192 lbs., Hoffman has drawn (unfair) Justin Verlander comparisons because of his big mid-90s fastball, upper-70s hammer curveball, and fading mid-80s changeup. The curveball and changeup still need consistency, but, on his best days, Hoffman shows mid-90s gas and two put-away offspeed pitches. It’s ace stuff. No doubt about it. Despite very good athleticism, his delivery can fall out of whack and his command is spotty. That was especially true this spring, though that could be the result of the arm issues. Hoffman draws praise for having a bit of a mean streak on the mound and pitching aggressively.

Miscellany
MLB.com, Baseball America, and Law (subs. req’d) ranked Hoffman as the fourth, fifth, and sixth best prospect in the draft in their latest rankings, respectively. He was very much in the conversation for the first overall pick before blowing out his elbow, and the injury figures to end his chances of going that high. There is too much quality pitching in this draft for a team drafting that high to take an injured player.

The Yankees don’t pick until the second round (55th overall) and having a top talent like Hoffman fall into their laps would be a dream, injury or not. They never get a shot at players like this. Andrew Brackman and Lucas Giolito (16th overall in 2012) are recent examples of top five talents who fell due to elbow concerns, though both had Tommy John surgery after signing, not a month before the draft. The late Nick Adenhart blew out his elbow in his final high school start and fell from likely first rounder to the 14th round. The draft has changed quite a bit since then, however.

My guess is the Yankees would jump all over Hoffman if he fell to that 55th pick and worry about how to pay him later. I assume he would still look for top five money, which is $3.5M+. The Yankees are slotted for only $3.2M for the top ten rounds. There’s too much talent to pass up though, and failing to sign a second round pick wouldn’t sting as much as failing to sign a first rounder. I bet a team with extra picks (Blue Jays, Red Sox, Cardinals, Royals) rolls the dice before the Yankees even get a chance to take him.

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