2015 Draft: Opening Thoughts

2015 Draft logoThe 2015 amateur draft will be held from June 8-10 this year, so roughly eight weeks from now. The Yankees hold two of the top 30 picks — Nos. 16 and 30 overall with the latter being the compensation pick for David Robertson — for the first time since 1978. They also haven’t picked as high as 16th overall since 1993.

The draft is always important, that goes without saying, though I think it is extra important for the Yankees this year for a two reasons in particular. One, the team’s international spending will be restricted during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing periods, so they won’t be able to spend wildly and get top talent that way. Two, the Yankees don’t have any extra picks coming their way for a little while. No one on the roster due to hit free agency after this season or next figures to be worth the qualifying offer.

Our draft coverage here at RAB is going to essentially going to be the same as the last few years. Hey, if it’s not broke, why fix it? Over the next few weeks I’ll write up a bunch of short profiles of individual draft picks the Yankees may target this year. Some of them will be personal favorites but for the most part I’ll look at players who fit New York’s recent draft tendencies. These days that seems to be polished pitchers and power hitters, generally college guys with success in the wood bat Cape Cod League.

Obviously a lot of this is guesswork, though I have hit the nail on the head a few times over the years. I wrote up a pre-draft profile for LHP Jacob Lindgren last year, and two years ago I wrote up profiles for all three of OF Aaron Judge, 3B Eric Jagielo, and LHP Ian Clarkin. Way back in the day I wrote up Ian Kennedy, Joba Chamberlain, and Dellin Betances as possible draft targets. So either I’m really lucky or I’m better at this than I realize.

The pre-draft profiles for the 2015 draft will start … soon. I don’t have a set date in mind just yet but it’ll be soon. A few days or so. Until then, here are some miscellaneous thoughts to kick off this year’s draft coverage.

Large Bonus Pool Gives Yankees Flexibility

As mentioned yesterday, the Yankees have the sixth largest draft bonus pool this year at $7.885M. Four of the five teams ahead of them hold the top four picks, and the other is the Braves, who have a bunch of extra draft picks. Aside from Atlanta, which picks two spots before the Yankees in both the first and supplemental first rounds, no team is better positioned to pay a top talent big bucks in the middle of the first round or in the sandwich round.

The question isn’t can the Yankees afford a top talent, but will there be a top talent available? These days the only players who tend to fall below their projected draft spot are injured players or good but not great high schoolers with exorbitant bonus demands. I think New York’s best shot at a top draft talent this year is either the injured Brady Aiken or Mike Matuella. I don’t see any top high school prospects falling into their laps in the first round. That doesn’t happen anymore under the new system. The large bonus pool gives the team the flexibility to pay one player big or several players slightly less big, and the latter seems more likely.

Injuries Wreaking Havoc On Top Prospects

It’s not only Aiken and Matuella who have gotten injured so far this spring. California HS LHP Kolby Allard, a projected top ten pick, suffered a back injury a month ago and won’t return until mid-to-late-May at the earliest, according to J.J. Cooper and Keith Law. Scouts won’t have much of an opportunity see him this spring. Something like this could send Allard to college — no team may decide he’s worth the risk high in the draft.

It doesn’t stop there either! Boston College 1B Chris Shaw and South Carolina HS OF Kep Brown bother suffered significant injuries last week, reports Hudson Belinsky. Shaw broke the hamate bone in his right hand and won’t return until late-May, right before the draft. Brown tore his Achilles tendon and will be out at least six months. Shaw was considered a fringe first rounder and Brown a second rounder coming into the spring.

A handful of draft prospects get hurt every year, that’s just baseball, but this spring it seems there have been more devastating injuries to top talent than at any point in the last 10-15 years or so. And the more top guys get hurt, the fewer quality prospects there will be for the Yankees to draft.

Heavy On Re-Drafts?

Every year teams will draft a player(s) they selected in a previous year. Teams do this all the time. They draft players they’ve already drafted once before but were unable to sign for whatever reason. It makes sense, right? At one point they liked the player enough to call his name, so when he re-entered the draft a few years later, they take him again.

A trio of New York’s unsigned 2012 draft picks are among the top college performers this year: UCLA OF Ty Moore (25th round in 2012), Florida State OF D.J. Stewart (28th), and Miami 3B David Thompson (38th). The Yankees took all three out of high school as late-round fliers knowing they were unlikely to sign, and indeed all three followed through on their college commitments. Here are their 2015 stats through this past weekend:

  • Moore: .375/.458/.533 with eight doubles, three homers, 17 walks, and 12 strikeouts in 32 games.
  • Stewart: .306/.506/.595 with six doubles, nine homers, 41 walks, and 31 strikeouts in 37 games.
  • Thompson: .357/.462/.667 with six doubles, six homers, 15 walks, and seven strikeouts in 22 games.

Stewart is the best prospect of the three but not only because of the stats. He is among 60 players on the Golden Spikes Watch List (baseball equivalent of the Heisman Trophy) and Baseball America (subs. req’d) and MLB.com ranked Stewart as the 21st and 28th best prospect in the draft, respectively. Neither ranked Moore nor Thompson among the top 50 draft prospects. (Keith Law didn’t rank any of the three among his top 50 draft prospects.)

The Yankees clearly liked Moore, Stewart, and Thompson once upon a time and felt they were worthwhile late-round gambles. They didn’t just pick their names out of a hat. All three players will be draft-eligible again this year and could again be targets for New York, Stewart in particular as a left-handed hitting outfielder with that classic power and patience profile the Yankees have leaned on for decades.

Dellin Betances’ struggles shouldn’t end the co-closer experiment

(Rob Carr/Getty)
(Rob Carr/Getty)

Although the 2015 season is barely more than a week old, it’s already clear Dellin Betances‘ rough Spring Training has carried over into the regular season. After pitching to a 5.40 ERA with six walks and nine strikeouts in 8.1 Grapefruit League innings, Dellin has walked six and allowed three hits against only three strikeouts in 3.1 innings across three appearances since the start of the season. Only 36 of his 81 pitches have been strikes (44%).

It appears Betances’ struggles are mechanical more than anything. His fastball is still humming in around the mid-90s and his breaking ball has its usual break, but he just has no idea where the ball is going. And considering Betances had no idea where the ball was going for most of his career prior to 2014, that’s sorta scary. Mechanical issues and a lack of command are hardly new for Dellin.

“Before (in the minor leagues) I was way off. Like, not even close. Now I feel a lot better. I’m right there. I’m missing right there, but you just have to have confidence in yourself. Keep going out there and battling,” said Betances to Chad Jennings after Monday’s game. “I’m right there. I know I’m right there. I just have to attack the hitters, be aggressive in the strike zone and keep making pitches.”

It’s good to hear Dellin feels he’s close to getting back to where he was — a positive attitude is underrated! — but Joe Girardi still had to make some mid-game adjustments Monday. Betances retired just two of six batters faced and Girardi had to go to Andrew Miller for the five-out save. After the game, the skipper told Jennings he was “trying to map it out (the late innings) but it never goes strictly according to plan. I had to rework it a little bit.”

We could take that as Girardi saying he’s lost at least some trust in Betances, and at this point I couldn’t blame him even though Dellin has only made three appearances. His spring issues have carried over into the regular season and these games count now. The Yankees can afford to give Betances more time to work through his issues, just not necessarily in high-leverage spots. Keeping him away from situations like Monday night — he inherited a two-on, one-out situation — wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world.

Thankfully, the Yankees still have one elite reliever to lean on in Miller. He could step right in and serve as the closer now and no one would blame Girardi one bit. Me? I don’t think Betances’ struggles should put an end to the co-closer experiment. I like the idea of matchup based high-leverage work even if Dellin isn’t the man for the job right now. Bullpen plans have a way of not going, well, according to plan.

Rather than roll with Miller and Betances as co-closers, I’d like to see Girardi go with Miller and David Carpenter for the time being. Carpenter is a competent late-inning reliever with experience and is a righty to complement Miller. He steps into the late-innings, Betances slides back into a lower leverage role until he rights the ship, and the co-closers plan remains in place. The personnel changes, the plan stays the same.

Girardi has been very rigid with his bullpen usage during his time in pinstripes — in addition to a set closer, he’s had a set eighth inning guy and even a set seventh inning guy at times. He’s shown some willingness to be flexible this year with the co-closers setup — he was talking about this even before Spring Training, remember — and I hope Dellin’s rough start to the season doesn’t end things. Everyone seems to be on board, both the coaches and the players, so the Yankees should follow through on the plan while adjusting roles to accommodate Betances’ early-season issues.

DotF: Luis Severino dominates in season debut

Some notes to start the night:

  • According to Matt Eddy, the Yankees have released RHP Sam Agnew-Wieland, RHP Zach Nuding, LHP Rigoberto Arrebato, C Tyson Blaser, C Kale Sumner, C Jackson Valera, 1B Brady Steiger, OF Adam Kirsch, and OF Zach Wilson. Nuding’s the big name there. He 25-year-old throws very hard but had a 3.93 ERA (4.04 FIP) with an underwhelming 17.6 K% in 293 innings split between Double-A and Triple-A the last two years.
  • Double-A Trenton is on Keith Law’s list of the most talented minor league teams (subs. req’d). “The Yankees’ farm system has been hit by injuries and thinned by trades over the past two years, but there’s a strong collection of prospects at their Double-A affiliate in Trenton this spring, especially on offense,” said Law. He mentioned OF Aaron Judge, 1B Greg Bird, 3B Eric Jagielo, C Gary Sanchez, RHP Luis Severino, and RHP Johnny Barbato as the Thunder’s top prospects.

Triple-A Scranton (3-1 loss to Rochester)

  • LF Slade Heathcott: 0-4, 1 K, 1 E (fielding)
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 0-3, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — off to a bit of a slow start, which he did at Double-A last year as well
  • DH Kyle Roller: 1-4, 3 K
  • RF Tyler Austin: 0-3, 1 K
  • RHP Bryan Mitchell: 3.2 IP 5 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 7 K, 2 WP, 2/1 GB/FB — 52 of 87 pitches were strikes (60%) … that might be the most Bryan Mitchell line ever
  • LHP Jacob Lindgren: 2.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 4/0 GB/FB — 28 of 41 pitches were strikes (69%) … he’s allowed eleven balls in play this year: ten grounders and one fly ball
  • RHP Jose Ramirez: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1/2 GB/FB — 17 of 30 pitches were strikes (57%)
  • RHP Nick Rumbelow: 1 IP, zeroes, 3 K — 15 pitches, ten strikes … seven strikeouts in four innings so far

[Read more…]

Comeback falls short, Orioles hang on to beat Yankees 4-3

Sometimes you just get beat, and the Yankees got beat by the Orioles on Tuesday night. This was one of those boring “that’s baseball” games where the O’s got some timely hits, the Yanks didn’t, and that was that. Know what I mean?

(Rob Carr/Getty)
(Rob Carr/Getty)

Results Matter
This felt like another one of those starts were CC Sabathia pitched better than the line score indicates. He allowed four runs on seven hits (five singles, one solo homer, one triple) and one walk in seven innings, striking out seven and getting ten ground ball outs compared to four in the air. The O’s scored one run each in the first (Adam Jones homer), third (Jones sac fly), fourth (Caleb Joseph single), and seventh (Everth Cabrera sac fly).

Sabathia threw a first pitch strike to 18 of 29 batters faced and 63 of his 91 total pitches were strikes, including eleven swings and misses. PitchFX says he averaged 89.5 mph with his fastball and mixed his pitches well: 16 four-seamers, 20 sinkers, 24 changeups, and 30 breaking balls. And aside from the Jones homer and Joseph’s triple into right-center field in the seventh, nothing seemed particularly hard hit. But, results matter, and four runs in seven innings wasn’t good enough to win.

Sabathia has 15 strikeouts (28.3%), one walk (1.9%), and a 67.6% ground ball rate through two starts. I feel like if he keeps doing exactly that, he’s going to be successful. It hasn’t happened yet though. Despite the loss I found this start encouraging. Sabathia was efficient and limited hard contact against a very righty heavy lineup. If he can keep doing that, at some point the four runs in seven innings will turn into two runs in seven innings, right? I hope so.

(Rob Carr/Getty)
(Rob Carr/Getty)

Too Late
Man, it was hard to not notice the Yankees squaring Miguel Gonzalez up in the first and second innings. Chase Headley hit a ball to the warning track that Jones ran down, Carlos Beltran ripped a double off the very top of the right-center field wall, Chris Young drove a pitch into the right field corner for a double, and then Stephen Drew and Didi Gregorius combined to see 13 pitches (five fouls) in their at-bats. Gonzalez was fooling no one.

I saw that and thought good things were coming. The Yankees were going to light Gonzalez up the second time through the order. Instead, he retired nine in a row until Jacoby Ellsbury poked a single just beyond the reach of the second baseman for a leadoff single in the sixth. Ellsbury took second on a wild pitch then scored on Mark Teixeira‘s double into the corner for New York’s first run, cutting the deficit to 3-1.

Gonzalez managed to complete seven innings after those ominous first two innings. Kevin Gausman was summoned to pitch the eighth and the Yankees had an easier time handling his mid-90s heat and filthy offspeed pitches than they did Gonzalez’s kitchen sink. Gregorius blooped a single, Headley singled, Beltran drove in Didi with a ground ball, and Teixeira drove in Headley with a double off Alejandro De Aza’s glove in left. They ruled it an error but it was a tough play, De Aza had to run a long way.

The tying run was stranded at second when Brian McCann grounded into the shift against closer Zach Britton. The ninth inning was a little weird. Joe Girardi lifted Garrett Jones for a pinch-hitter against the lefty Britton (good!) and sent Gregorio Petit up instead (bad!). Meanwhile, Alex Rodriguez pinch-hit with two outs and the bases empty. I get saving A-Rod in case there was a man on base, but down a run, I say let the best hitter bat first so he can start the rally. Eh, whatever.

(Rob Carr/Getty)
(Rob Carr/Getty)

The #obligatoryerrors (plural!) belonged to Sabathia and Gregorius, upping the team’s MLB leading error total to eleven. Sabathia’s error was tough — it was a little ground ball along the first base line in the second inning, and his flip to first hit the runner. He didn’t really have a good angle to make the toss. Didi simply bobbled the transfer on a routine ground ball in the sixth inning.

Chris Martin was the only reliever used and he was damn impressive, striking out Jones and Steve Pearce as part of a perfect inning. He got hit around every time out in Spring Training it seemed, yet here he is throwing mid-90s gas to both sides of the plate with a nasty breaking ball in the regular season. No one knows anything about baseball.

The top four hitters in the lineup went 4-for-16 (.250) and everyone else went 2-for-18 (.111). They went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position overall, with Beltran and McCann each going hitless in two at-bats in those situations. Gonzalez struck out ten, a new career high. Gross.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. Also make sure you check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Where else are going to find how the Yankees’s win-loss record with both Michael Kay and Ken Singleton in the booth? Nowhere. That’s where. Here’s the win probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Orioles wrap up this three-game series Wednesday night. It’ll be Nathan Eovaldi against Bud Norris. Winner wins the series.

Game Eight: A Chance For The First Series Win Of 2015


For the second time this season, the Yankees have a chance to win their first series of the year tonight. They dropped the rubber game with the Blue Jays last Thursday and have lost their first two series of 2015. Last night’s win means the Yankees will have not one, but two chances to win this series at Camden Yards, though I think we all want to see a win tonight and a shot at the sweep tomorrow.

Now, the bad news: it’s raining in Baltimore. Has been for most of the day. The forecast says it’s supposed to clear up later tonight and there’s a pretty good chance the game will begin in a delay. That’s a bummer. It doesn’t look like they will need to postpone the game, however. Just a delay. That’s better than no baseball. Here is the starting lineup for Joe Girardi‘s club:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. DH Garrett Jones
  7. LF Chris Young
  8. 2B Stephen Drew
  9. SS Didi Gregorius
    LHP CC Sabathia

The Orioles are starting right-hander and, for at least a short time in 2012, Yankee killer Miguel Gonzalez. He had a 2.17 ERA in 20.2 innings against New York in 2012 (including postseason) but has a 4.22 ERA in 49 innings against the Yankees since. Here is the O’s lineup.

Like I said before, it’s been raining at Camden Yards all day and the game will probably begin in a delay. Whenever it does start, you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Update: Brett Gardner could return to lineup by Friday

Gardner with his wrist wrapped.
Gardner with his wrist wrapped.

Tuesday, 5:01pm: Gardner may be available to pinch-run or play defense tonight, Joe Girardi told reporters. He is still sore and not available to hit. Girardi said he hopes Gardner will be able to return to the lineup Friday, following the off-day.

Monday, 10:11pm: X-rays on Gardner’s wrist came back negative, the Yankees announced. Phew. No word on how long he will sidelined, however.

9:55pm: Brett Gardner left tonight’s game against the Orioles in the seventh inning with a stiff right wrist, the Yankees announced. He is going for an x-ray. Stephen Drew pinch-hit for Gardner and hit a go-ahead grand slam.

Gardner, 31, was hit by a pitch around the wrist area earlier in the game — he was hit in a similar spot over the weekend too, if I’m remembering correctly — but it’s unclear if that’s related. Gardner had debridement surgery on the wrist in July 2012 and hasn’t had any issues since.

Needless to say, losing Gardner for any length of time would be pretty bad. He’s no worse than their third best player right now. I imagine a Garrett Jones/Chris Young platoon would replace him if necessary. Let’s hope if doesn’t come to that. Stay tuned for any updates.

Slot bonus values for 2015 draft and 2015-16 international signing period

This year it'll be Rob Manfred at the podium. (Getty)
Rob Manfred will be at the podium this year. (Getty)

Last summer the Yankees made up for their lack of high draft picks with an unprecedented international spending spree that saw them hand out more than $17M in bonuses along, according to Ben Badler. This summer they will have to do the opposite and make up for a lack of international spending ability with their two first round draft picks, Nos. 16 and 30 overall. (No. 30 is the compensation pick for David Robertson.)

So, with both the draft and the 2015-16 international signing period slowly but steadily approaching, let’s look at the team’s draft pool situations for both. Here is a breakdown of the overall pool situations and all important slot values.

2015 Amateur Draft

A few weeks ago we heard the Yankees will have a $7.885M bonus pool for the top ten rounds of the 2015 draft. That’s the sixth largest pool in baseball thanks to Robertson pick. Four of the five teams with larger bonus pools are the teams with the top four picks (Astros, Diamondbacks, Rangers, Rockies) and the fifth is the Braves, who have an extra pick for Ervin Santana plus two Competitive Balance Picks.

The bonus pool applies to the top ten rounds — any money over $100,000 given to a player drafted after the tenth round counts against the pool as well — and teams can pay one pick an overslot bonus and save money by paying another underslot. If a team fails to sign a player, they lose the bonus money associated with that pick, which is pretty significant. Here are New York’s slot values according to Baseball America:

2015 Draft Slots

The bonus pools have gone up considerably this year, roughly 9%, so New York has three seven-figure slots. That’s pretty cool. That 16th overall pick is the Yankees’ highest pick since they selected RHP Matt Drews out of a Florida high school in 1993. This will also be the first time the team has two of the top 30 picks since 1978, when they had three of the top 30 picks.

The Yankees will have the option this year of going big and signing one top talent to a huge overslot bonus (Brady Aiken? Mike Matuella?) and signing cheaper players elsewhere, or they could spread the money around and select several solid but not top prospects. Both are viable strategies and it depends on how the draft shakes out as much as anything. There might not be an Aiken or Matuella available for that 16th pick.

Last year scouting director Damon Oppenheimer told Chad Jennings the Yankees lean towards college players these days because “we’re getting some college guys up there a little quicker and through the system a little quicker,” and this draft is loaded with college pitching. Really pitching in general, high school and college. The consensus is there is a lack of quality bats this year. But it’s only April. A lot will change between now and June.

2015-2016 International Signing Period

Because of the penalties associated with last summer’s spending spree, the Yankees can not sign an international amateur to a bonus larger than $300,000 during the 2015-16 signing period. (And 2016-17 as well.) They do still have a regular sized bonus pool, however. Back in February we heard New York has a $2.2628M pool for the upcoming signing period.

Each team gets a $700,000 bonus base plus four slot values for international free agency. Those four slots are tradeable — clubs can’t just trade X amount of international dollars, they have to trade the individual slots — however a team can only acquire 50% of its original draft pool. So the Yankees could only acquire another $1.1314M, for example. Here are New York’s individual international bonus slots, via Baseball America:

  • Slot No.18: $687,300
  • Slot No. 48: $414,700
  • Slot No. 78: $218,100
  • Slot No. 108: $180,700

Because the Yankees are limited to $300,000 bonuses, it would make sense to trade one or two of those bonus slots this year. Then again, that money doesn’t have a ton of value. The Marlins acquired a 25-year-old bullpen prospect (Matt Ramsey) for over $1M in international money over the winter, for example. Think of it as trading bonus slots Nos. 18 and 48 for another Branden Pinder.

The Yankees have done an excellent job of finding quality international prospects on the cheap over the last few years. Jorge Mateo ($250,000) and Luis Severino ($220,000) both signed for $300,000 or less in recent years, as did fellow top 30 prospects Abi Avelino ($300,000), Angel Aguilar ($60,000), and Thairo Estrada ($49,000). That $2.2628M bonus pool equals seven full $300,000 bonuses. The Yankees have shown they can turn relative small bonuses into quality prospects.