Draft Links: 2015 Top Prospects, Changes, East Coast Pro

After running Thursday through Saturday the last two years, the amateur draft is returning to its usual Monday through Wednesday slot this year. The draft is scheduled to run from June 8-10 this year, and right now the Yankees hold the 17th, 31st, and 57th overall picks. (The 31st pick is the compensation pick for David Robertson.)

This is only the second time in the last ten years New York has held three of the top 57 picks. The other instance came two years ago, when they landed 3B Eric Jagielo, OF Aaron Judge, and LHP Ian Clarkin with their first rounder and the compensation picks for Nick Swisher and Rafael Soriano. Here are some miscellaneous draft notes.

MLB.com’s Top 50 Draft Prospects

MLB.com has published their first round of 2015 draft prospect rankings, which are topped by Florida HS SS Brendan Rodgers (video above!). Duke RHP Michael Matuella and JuCo LHP Brady Aiken rank second and third, respectively. Aiken, as you might remember, didn’t sign with the Astros as the first overall pick in the 2014 draft and will be draft-eligible again because he’s going to a junior college, not a four-year school. As always, the MLB.com rankings include free scouting reports, 20-80 scouting scale grades, and video. Great resource.

You can’t really make the straight comparison, but, if you’re interested, MLB.com has Fullerton RHP Phil Bickford and Tennessee HS RHP Donny Everett ranked 17th and 31st, respectively, the Yankees top two draft slots. Bickford passed on signing with the Blue Jays as the tenth overall pick in the 2013 draft and Everett is one of the hardest throwing high school arms in the draft class. Overall, the 2015 class appears to be very heavy on pitchers with few impact position players available.

MLB, NCAA agree to move draft to July 1st

According to Peter Gammons, MLB and the NCAA have a “general agreement” to move the draft to July 1st with a July 15th signing deadline. This isn’t final yet — MLB can’t just change the date of the draft, the whole thing has to be collectively bargained and the MLBPA has to agree to it.

Moving the draft from the first week of June to July 1st doesn’t seem like much, but it will create a bunch of logistical headaches in the lower minors. (I wrote about them at CBS.) More than anything, moving the draft seems like a precursor to an international draft, which the owners have been trying to get for years to cut costs. The international signing period opens July 2nd of each year, remember. The timing if awfully interesting.

RHP Jacob Nix enrolls in IMG Academy for 2015

Nix. (OC Register)
Nix. (OC Register)

Nix, the Astros’ fifth rounder last year, is heading to the IMG Academy in Florida for post-graduate work this year, according to John Manuel. Nix was a second or third round talent last summer who fell into the fifth round due to bonus demands. Houston was set to pay him an above-slot bonus with the saving from their below-slot deal with Aiken, but, when the Aiken deal fell apart, they didn’t have the draft pool space to sign Nix and reneged on their agreement. The MLBPA filed a grievance on Nix’s behalf and won, so the Astros had to pay him the full $1.5M they agreed to give him originally.

Anyway, the post-graduate year at IMG means Nix will again be draft-eligible this year, and he’ll presumably slot in as a projected second or third rounder again. It’ll be interesting to see how teams treat him this year. They know Nix has money now, and the fact that he is re-entering the draft rather than going to a four-year college means he wants to turn pro. Could he be a below-slot guy this year? He doesn’t have much leverage. We’ll see. Nix is 6-foot-4 and has a mid-90s fastball, which is usually the kind of prospect the Yankees love. He could be a target for that 57th overall pick. (The highest draft pick in IMG history is, of course, John Ryan Murphy.)

Yankees bringing East Coast Pro to Tampa

According to Manuel, the Yankees are bringing the East Coast Pro to Tampa this summer. It is one of the top events on the summer scouting showcase circuit. The event will be held from July 27-30 — so we’re talking about 2016 draft picks, not 2015 — and feature 150 of the best high school players in the country. The event moves around each year, so it won’t be in Tampa long-term.

Just to be clear, scouts from every team will be in attendance, so this isn’t an exclusive workout for the Yankees. That said, only the Yankees will have access to the pitch tracking data available at Steinbrenner Field because they are the event host. The East Coast Pro has many big name alumni, including David Price, Justin Upton, David Wright, Zack Greinke, Madison Bumgarner, and Matt Harvey.

Report: A-Rod clears the air with commissioner Rob Manfred, no meeting with Yankees expected

My go-to photo for such matters. (Rich Schultz/Getty)
My go-to photo for such matters. (Rich Schultz/Getty)

According to Ken Davidoff, Alex Rodriguez met with new commissioner Rob Manfred early last week to clear the air and attempt to create some goodwill. Manfred officially took over as commissioner on Saturday and spearheaded the league’s investigation into Biogenesis two years ago.

A-Rod initiated the one-on-one meeting, which took place at the league’s offices on Park Avenue. The logical next step would be for Alex to initiate a similar meeting with the Yankees, though Andrew Marchand says the Yankees have declined. Here’s more from Marchand:

The Yankees have no plans to make owner Hal Steinbrenner, president Randy Levine or general manager Brian Cashman available for any similar Rodriguez make-up sessions, a source said. An official with knowledge of the team’s thinking said that Rodriguez will not receive any special treatment during spring training and will be dealt with like any other member of the 40-man roster.

For what it’s worth, Dan Martin makes it sound as though a meeting between A-Rod and the team’s brass could happen once Spring Training begins. The Daily News — which, aside from Mark Feinsand, has been aggressively anti-A-Rod throughout this whole mess — says the Yankees will try to void the home run milestone bonuses in Rodriguez’s contract, but good luck with that.

Davidoff says that as far as the league is concerned, Alex is a player in good standing who served his time. The only way he could face more trouble stemming from Biogenesis is if evidence is discovered showing he helped distribute banned substances. The only reason the Yankees haven’t released A-Rod yet is money — they owe him over $60M these next three years and could recoup some via insurance (if he gets hurt) or if he gets suspended again.

I want to say it is a bit petty of the Yankees to not meet with A-Rod so they could clear the air, but I’m not sure how much it would actually help. Their relationship is clearly (very) contentious and a hug and a handshake won’t change that. These two are stuck with each other though. A-Rod ain’t going anywhere, so if there’s something the Yankees could do to make the best out of an awful situation, they should do it. Publicly feuding with Alex is only going to add fuel to the fire.

Ranking the 40-Man Roster: Nos. 11-14

Over these next two weeks we’re going to subjectively rank and analyze every player on the Yankees’ 40-man roster — based on their short and long-term importance to the team — and you’re inevitably going to disagree with our rankings. We’ve already covered Nos. 15-16, 17-19, 20-25, 26-31, and 32-40.

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

Every team seems to have one of them, but the Yankees have more than most. The aging, past-prime former star who is making still making star money. The Yankees have done a lot of high-end shopping over the years, paying big bucks across a lot of years to players who were, at one time, cornerstones of the roster.

That isn’t the case anymore. Nos. 11-14 in our 40-man roster rankings series includes four ex-stars on the downside of their careers, who the team is still counting on to some extent in 2015. All those big seven and eight (and ten!) year contracts have come to a head at the same time. To the next batch of players …

No. 14: Alex Rodriguez

2015 Role: DH, at least at first. Maybe even part-time DH. The Yankees have made it clear A-Rod will have to earn his playing time and show he is able to contribute if he wants a regular role. They’ve spent the winter adding backup plans at third base and at DH, so the team doesn’t expect a whole lot. The Yankees are stuck with Alex though, and since they’re paying him all that money, they’re going to see if he has anything left.

Long-Term Role: More of the same, unfortunately. Like it or not, Rodriguez is owed $64M these next three seasons — not to mention his five $6M home run bonuses, the first of which is only six dingers away — and the Yankees aren’t going to eat that money just to make him go away. Not as long as there’s a chance of recouping a big chunk of his salary via insurance (if he gets hurt) or another performance-enhancing drug suspension.

So what’s the best case scenario here? I suppose it’s A-Rod hitting well enough — not like peak A-Rod, but maybe something like .270/.330/.420? — to deserve a regular lineup spot while showing enough mobility to play third base on occasion. That’s about it. The worst case scenario is that he’s cooked and not worth a roster spot, in which case the Yankees will probably stick him on the DL every time he feels the slightest twinge. What a mess.

No. 13: Carlos Beltran

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

2015 Role: Middle of the order bat, hopefully. The Yankees want Beltran to produce at the plate first and foremost. His defense in right is suspect at best and disastrous at worst, and I expect the team to mitigate the damage by using Chris Young in right field in the late innings of close games. Most importantly, they need Beltran to hit. For average, for power, the works.

Beltran had a bone spur removed from his elbow this offseason after playing through it for most of 2014. He absolutely mashed at the start of the year, but once the bone spur flared up, Beltran had no impact the plate. Hopefully having a healthy elbow means he will produce like he did before getting hurt going forward. That guy was really good.

Long-Term Role: Beltran is signed for another two seasons at $15M annually — unlike the other players in this post, the Yankees didn’t give him a 7+ year contract, just a three-year contract at age 36 — so he isn’t going anywhere. Joe Girardi is going to have to juggle DH at-bats between A-Rod and Beltran, which might not be all that difficult since both are known to visit the DL from time to time. Again, his role is middle of the order hitter. Both now and next year. If Beltran is unable to produce in that role, he doesn’t have a whole lot to offer to the Yankees.

No. 12: Mark Teixeira

2015 Role: Everyday first baseman and middle of the order power bat. Unlike Beltran, Teixeira is a two-way player who is still an asset in the field. In fact, he might be more valuable in the field than at the plate these days. Teixeira put up a .216/.313/.398 (100 wRC+) batting line with 22 homers last season, though that was split into 17 homers and a 125 wRC+ in the first half and five homers with a 62 wRC+ in the second half. He fell off big time after the All-Star break.

Teixeira missed just about the entire 2013 season following wrist surgery and there’s at least some hope he’ll improve at the plate as he gets further away from the procedure. Wrist injuries are known to sap power for quite some team even after the player is cleared to play. Teixeira said he wasn’t strong enough last year, hence the second half fade, so he started his offseason workouts earlier this winter. That sounds nice but it may not mean anything at his age. His offense has been trending down for years, after all. We know Teixeira can still play a mean first base. But his offense is a major question.

Long-Term Role: More of the same. Teixeira is entering year seven of his eight-year contract and will continue to play first base and bat somewhere close to the middle of the order. Aside from Brian McCann, he is the team’s best power source, so at a minimum the Yankees would like to see some dingers out of Teixeira while they ride out the remainder of his contract. They acquired a nice backup plan in Garrett Jones — better than the “we’ll play anyone at first base” approach they had last year, anyway — and that was necessary given Teixeira’s continually mounting injury problems. He’s no longer an impact player, but the Yankees still need something out of him.

(Scott Halleran/Getty)
(Scott Halleran/Getty)

No. 11: CC Sabathia

2015 Role: Innings eater, if the Yankees are lucky. Sabathia’s days as an ace are almost certainly over, and at this point it’s unclear if he can even be counted on to chew up innings. A degenerative knee condition limited him to only eight starts last season, and eventually Sabathia needed a clean-up procedure, which was a positive only because he didn’t need a much more serious microfracture surgery.

The thing is, even when he was healthy in 2013, Sabathia wasn’t any good, pitching to a 4.78 ERA (4.10 FIP) in 211 innings. The innings are nice, the Yankees want a lot of innings from their erstwhile ace this coming season, but not when he’s allowing runs at that rate. Best case scenario, Sabathia replaces the 2014 version of Hiroki Kuroda, pitching to a league average-ish ERA and taking the ball every fifth date. Anything more would be gravy.

Long-Term Role: There are two years plus a vesting option left on Sabathia’s contract, so he’ll potentially be around through 2017. (The vesting option is based on the health of his shoulder, not his knee.) Three more years of the 2013-14 version of Sabathia would be very bad. The Yankees need him to salvage these next few years by at least staying healthy and eating innings every fifth day, even if he is nothing more than the de facto fifth starter.

If you want a reason why Sabathia might be effective this year, it’s that his strikeout (9.39 K/9 and 23.0 K%), walk (1.96 BB/9 and 4.8 BB%), and ground ball (48.3%) rates were all excellent before he went down with the knee injury last year. If he repeats those rates — they aren’t out of line with his 2011-13 performance — then he’ll have a better chance of keeping runs off the board. Sabathia is no longer an ace, but he is under contract for at least two more years, and the Yankees would like him to be a reliable part of their rotation during that time. Not want, really. Need.

Coming Tuesday: Nos. 6-10. Five veteran players, including three position players expected to contribute both at the plate and in the field.

Fan Confidence Poll: January 26th, 2015

2014 Record: 84-78 (633 RS, 664 RA, 77-85 pythag. record), did not qualify for postseason

Top stories from last week:

  • The Yankees held a private workout for Cuban wunderkind Yoan Moncada. Moncada still has not been unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control and is not yet eligible to sign.
  • Although they are not seriously pursuing him, the Yankees have inquired about Phillies ace Cole Hamels. Their interest is more out of due diligence than anything.
  • Gonzalez Germen was traded to the Rangers for cash and Eury Perez was lost on waivers to the Braves.
  • The Yankees are leaving My9 and are bringing their over-the-air broadcasts back to WPIX.

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?

Weekend Open Thread

Happy Friday, everyone. Pitchers and catchers report only four weeks from today, and that’s pretty cool. I’m going to be out of town the next few days, so unless there’s some sort of breaking news, I don’t plan to post anything this weekend. Here are some links to get you by:

  • Over at CBS, we’re in the middle of a fun series looking at the bests and worsts in the history of each franchise. Best and worst teams, trades, uniforms, etc. All sorts of fun stuff. Here is the Yankees post. I didn’t write it and I disagree with Carl Pavano being the worst free agent signing. It’s this ugly A-Rod contact, hands down.
  • Jonah Keri wrote about the upstart Marlins, who cycled between being awful and winning the World Series the last two decades. The team finally appears to be in position to have sustained success thanks not only to Giancarlo Stanton, but to a deep and well-rounded core of 20-somethings with their best years ahead of them.
  • At the FanGraphs community blog, a user wrote about the adjustments Brandon McCarthy made after being traded to the Yankees and how they might apply to Nathan Eovaldi. The team tweaked McCarthy’s pitch selection a bit and also got him to pitch inside more, especially to righties.
  • And finally, Jeff Long looked at Rays lefty Jake McGee, who has emerged as an elite reliever despite throwing almost nothing but fastballs. From July 9th through September 20th last year, McGee threw 473 fastballs out of 476 total pitches, and had a 2.37 ERA (2.14 FIP) with 40 strikeouts and seven walks in 30.1 innings. It’s a classic “it’s so good, you know it’s coming and you still can’t hit it” pitch.

Use this thread to talk about whatever’s on your mind this weekend. The Yankees, the NHL All-Star Game, college hoops, the Pro Bowl (lol), anything. Have at it.

Braves claim Eury Perez off waivers from Yankees

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

The Braves have claimed outfielder Eury Perez off waivers from the Yankees, the team announced. The Yankees designated Perez for assignment last week to clear a 40-man roster spot for Stephen Drew.

Perez, 24, was claimed off waivers from the Nationals in September. He went 2-for-10 with a stolen base and three strikeouts for New York late last season and actually started two games in center field in the final series against the Red Sox, after the Yankees were eliminated from postseason and while Jacoby Ellsbury was nursing an ankle injury.

The Braves have added a ton of former Yankees this offseason, including outfielder Zoilo Almonte, infielder Corban Joseph, and lefties Francisco Rondon and Manny Banuelos. Zoilo might hit cleanup for them this year. Gordon Blakeley, a long-time scout with New York, left the Yankees for a job in Atlanta’s front office this winter. Maybe he’s behind all of this.

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