Looking back at the 2007 draft

They say you need five years before you can properly evaluate a draft class in baseball, so with the 2012 event less than two weeks away, let’s look back at what the Yankees did five years ago. It was Damon Oppenheimer’s second draft class as scouting director and he was coming off a banner 2006 haul that would place two pitchers — Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain — on the big league roster less than 15 months after being selected. The 2007 class wasn’t nearly as successful.

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The Top Pick
There has been no more polarizing first round pick in recent Yankees history than Andrew Brackman. The Yankees took him 30th overall after most pre-draft projections ranked him as one of the draft’s top three talents (with David Price and Matt Wieters) but concerns about his elbow caused him to slide. New York rolled the dice knowing Brackman would likely need Tommy John surgery, giving him a four-year big league contract worth $4.55M and incentives that could have pushed the total value to $13M. A week later he was under the knife having his elbow rebuilt.

After missing all of 2008, Brackman impressed in Hawaii Winter Baseball (number two prospect in the league according to Baseball America) but did not build on the success. He pitched to a 4.66 FIP in 106.2 Low-A innings in 2009, then rebounded to post a stellar 3.22 FIP in 140.2 innings split between High-A and Double-A in 2010. That had us all thinking Brackman was on his way to helping the Yankees, but he flopped in 2011 (5.77 FIP in 96 Triple-A innings) despite making his big league debut in September*. He walked three and struck out zero in 2.1 innings. After two bad years, one good year, and one year lost to injury, he was released after last season.

* Brackman was actually called up in September 2010 but did not appear in a game. He was on the 40-man roster already thanks to his contract and the minor league season had ended.

Brackman’s deal remains the largest the Yankees have ever given to an amateur player and at the time, it was potentially the richest contract in draft history. All told, he pitched to a 5.11 ERA with 7.97 K/9 and a 4.98 BB/9 in 343.1 minor league innings with the Yankees. He’s currently in the Reds organization and pitching very poorly for their Triple-A affiliate: 9.87 ERA with more walks (16) than strikeouts (13) in 17.1 innings across five starts.

(Mike Ashmore)

Reached The Show
In addition to Brackman, two other 2007 draftees have reached the show for New York. The first player to actually play in a big league game out of this draft class was Brandon Laird (27th round), who helped fill out the bench through injuries last July before coming back up in September. He has four singles and three walks in 25 big league plate appearances, all coming last year. Laird is biding his time in Triple-A and is just an up-and-down corner player for the Yankees.

The other big leaguer is catcher Austin Romine (2), who debuted last September following Frankie Cervelli‘s latest concussion. He had three singles and one walk in 20 plate appearances, starting four games behind the plate and appearing in four others off the bench. Romine had a chance to replace Cervelli as the backup catcher this season, but he’s been dealing with a back issue since Spring Training and will be out until July.

Big Money Duds
The Yankees handed out a trio of seven-figure bonuses in 2007. The largest went to Brackman, but Bradley Suttle (4) and Carmen Angelini (10) received $1.3M and $1M, respectively. Suttle has been slowed by a series of shoulder injuries that have required surgery, and he is currently away from the organization and reportedly considering retirement. He’s a .256/.334/.417 career hitter in just shy of 1,400 minor league plate appearances, topping out at Double-A. Angelini was a spectacular failure, hitting just .220/.285/.287 in 930 plate appearances at the Single-A level. He’s been hampered by injury as well, most notably a hip issue.

Last year I opined that the developmental failures of Brackman, Angelini, and Suttle have contributed to the Yankees becoming more conservative in the draft. After giving out those three seven-figure deals in 2007, they’ve handed out just four — Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, J.R. Murphy, and Greg Bird — in the five drafts since.

Traded Away
You can make an argument that Chase Weems (6) has contributed more to the Yankees without ever wearing pinstripes than any other player in this draft class has so far. The catcher was traded to the Reds for Jerry Hairston Jr. at the 2009 trade deadline, and Hairston went on to become a valuable bench player on that World Championship team. Weems flamed out in Cincinnati’s farm system and was last seen playing independent ball. The Yankees also got some trade mileage out of Adam Olbrychowski (5), trading the right-hander to the Nationals for Justin Maxwell last spring. Olbrychowski is still toiling around in Single-A with Washington.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Unsigned Gems
The Yankees drafted four players in 2007 who did not sign but have since gone on to become big leaguers. The most notable is Drew Storen (34), who turned New York down out of high school only to become the tenth overall pick in 2009 as a draft-eligible sophomore. He is currently out with an elbow injury but serves as the Nationals’ closer when healthy. Right-hander Chris Carpenter (18) had injury problems in college, went back to school for his senior year, then was drafted in the third round by the Cubs in 2008. He broke in with them last season and was actually sent to the Red Sox as compensation for Theo Epstein this offseason. Outfielders Eric Thames (39) and Erik Komatsu (38) both went back to school for another season before re-entering the draft. Thames plays semi-regularly for the Blue Jays while Komatsu has seen time with the Cardinals and Twins as a Rule 5 Draft pick this season.

The Rest
Other than Romine and Laird, the only other players from this draft still in the organization are Damon Sublett (7), Manny Barreda (12), and Craig Heyer (22). Pat Venditte (45) returned to school for his senior year and was re-drafted by New York in 2008. The Yankees signed 34 of their 50 picks in 2007, all of whom can be seen here. Romine projects as a solid big league backstop when healthy but Laird and Heyer are spare parts on a contending team. The Yankees have received no impact from this draft class and are unlikely to get any unless one of those three exceeds expectations.

Did the 2007 draft (and Gerrit Cole) scare the Yankees?

Did Brackman screw things up for future drafts? (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

This past Monday was the signing deadline for 2011 draft picks, and according to Baseball America‘s free database, the Yankees signed 23 of their 50 picks. That’s a little light compared to a typical year, in which a team will usually sign around 30 draftees. No big deal, just a bit of an anomaly. What isn’t an anomaly is the amount of money the Yankees are spending to sign these players. As Jim Callis noted in his chat earlier this week, the Yankees spent just $6.3M on this year’s draft, just about 80% of the $7.6M league average. It’s the second straight year they’ve come in under $7M spent and third time in the last four years.

Just to provide some context before we go any further, here’s the signing bonus info for the last few years (source, source)…

That’s as far back as I can find the league info, and I can’t find a simple break down of the team-by-team spending this year. Just knowing that the Yankees spent below the average is enough anyway, their actual rank among the 30 teams isn’t of dire importance.

The Yankees went big in 2007. Andrew Brackman was ranked as the 7th and 21st best prospect available right before the draft by Baseball America and Keith Law, respectively (subs. req’d for both), and New York was able to grab him with the 30th overall pick. The Yankees gave him a four-year Major League contract worth at least $4.55M ($3.35M signing bonus spread out over six years) and potentially worth $13M, which at the time would have been the richest deal in draft history. They did this knowing that Brackman would need Tommy John surgery, which he had a week after signing.

They didn’t stop there though. The Yankees gave fourth rounder Bradley Suttle (billed as the top pure college hitter by Baseball America before the draft) a $1.7M bonus, at the time a record for the round. They also handed tenth rounder Carmen Angelini a $1M bonus, which was a then-record for a non-draft-and-follow player taken in that round. Those three plus more (other notable 2007 draftees include Austin Romine and Brandon Laird) resulted in that $7.43M spending spree, topped only by the Orioles ($7.67M thanks to the $6M they gave Matt Wieters) and Nationals ($7.62M).

Less than three full years later, the start of the 2010 season, all three of those guys looked like duds. Brackman missed 2008 with his elbow surgery then was a disaster in 2009 (5.91 ERA and 4.66 FIP in 106.2 IP in Low-A). Suttle had a fine year in Low-A in 2008 (.361 wOBA), but he missed the entire 2009 season due to a pair of shoulder surgeries. Angelini was a complete disaster, posting just a .271 wOBA in 888 plate appearances between 2008 and 2009. That doesn’t mean they were bad picks at the time of the draft, they just weren’t working out.

The 2008 draft was a special case for the Yankees, who obviously shot for the moon with Gerrit Cole but failed to sign him. They would have been one of the top spenders had he agreed to turn pro. Second rounder Scott Bittle didn’t sign because the Yankees didn’t like the medicals, so that contributed to the relatively small amount of spending they did. The two compensation picks in the 2009 draft turned into Slade Heathcott and J.R. Murphy, who received over-slot bonuses in part because the Yankees had little leverage. Had they not signed those two, they wouldn’t have gotten another compensation pick the next year. Their hands were tied, they had to sign those guys otherwise it would have been two straight drafts without two top picks.

In each of the last two years, once the futures of Brackman, Suttle, and Angelini became a bit more clear and the Cole/Bittle stuff had fully run its course, the Yankees have signed their first round pick for slot money*. Last year it was Cito Culver and this year it was Dante Bichette Jr, both of whom were drafted ahead of where the consensus thought they’d go. The Yankees dropped seven-figures on just one player in each year (Mason Williams in 2010 and Greg Bird in 2011), compared to 2006 and 2007 when they handed out three $1M+ bonuses each year.

Scouting director Damon Oppenheimer told K. LevineFlandrup that the team’s draft budget is flexible and they can drop big money on a kid if they believe he’s worth it, but we just haven’t seen those kinds of deals handed out the last two years. I honestly don’t think it’s a coincidence that the draft spending has gone down since it became apparent that Brackman, Suttle, and Angelini were starting to look like flops after the 2009 season. I can’t tell you who made the decision to scale back on the spending (Oppenheimer? Brian Cashman? ownership? all of the above?), but their recent drafting a spending habits certainly suggest that someone put the clamps down.

The Yankees have more money than every other team and haven’t been using it to their advantage in the draft these last two years. They still clean up on the Latin American market, which has been and always will be the backbone of their farm system (hooray for free agency!), but the draft is the most efficient way to add high-end talent to the organization. I think the Yankees have done a fantastic job in the middle and late rounds of the draft in recent years (where they consistently spend over-slot), but the effort with top picks, when the top talent is available, is clearly lacking. I think that 2007 draft scared them away from huge bonuses, as did Cole’s rejection in 2008. They won’t feel the impact of skimping out on top draft talent for another two years or so, but they’re going to feel it eventually.

* Bichette was over-slot technically, but only by $55,200. That’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, it might as well be slot money.

Final draft signing update

A couple of high profile picks inked deals just before the deadline last night:

  • Second overall pick Mike Moustakas signed with KC for $4M. Man, I can’t even fathom what kind of fallout there would have been if this deal didn’t get done.
  • Third overall pick Josh Vitters signed for $3.2M as expected and now bleeds Cubbie blue.
  • Fifth overall pick Matt Weiters came to an agreement with Team Angelos for straight $6M bonus. The $6M payout is the largest up front bonus in draft history. Frankly, I’m shocked Weiters didn’t get a ML deal.
  • Ninth overall pick Jarrod Parker agreed to a $2.1M deal with the D-Backs. Watch out for this kid, he’s the HS version of Tim Lincecum.
  • Finally, in a bit of a shocker, the Nats and 6th rounder Jack McGeary agreed to a $1.8M bonus, a record for the round. As you may recall, McGeary had a strong commitment to Stanford and was not excepted to sign. Well, he’s still going to go to Stanford, as the deal has provisions in place that will allow McGeary to attend school as a full-time student and play baseball during the summers. The Nats also threw in an addition $200 grand to play his tuition. Since he signed a pro deal, McGeary is ineligible for the Stanford baseball squad. Talk about a sweet deal, the kid got the best of both worlds.

So, is it too early to start talking ’08 draft?

More draft signings

In addition to the Andrew Brackman megadeal (largest bonus they’ve ever given to a drafted player, and the 3rd largest they’ve ever given period, behind, ugh, Hideki Irabu & Jose Contreras), the Yanks also locked up the following players:

  • California high school catcher Austin Romine, second round ($500,000).
  • Texas third baseman Brad Suttle, fourth round ($1,300,000).
  • Texas high school outfielder Taylor Grote, eighth round ($250,000).
  • Louisiana high school shortstop Carmen Angelini, 10th round ($1,000,000).

All the deals are over slot, while the Suttle and Angelini deals are records for their respective rounds. Suttle may be the big name, but I think Angelini’s the better prospect. Overall it was a nice haul this year for the Yanks (you can see all their picks and whether or not they signed here), they added some legit position player prospects to all those arms, and continued to flex their financial muscles by taking signability guys in the later rounds. Bravo front office, bravo.

Updates on some prominent non-Yankee draftees after the jump.

[Read more…]

Weems to sign, Holle…not so much

From the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer:

Even with Wednesday’s midnight signing deadline quickly approaching, Columbus High catcher Chase Weems was never worried whether he’d sign with the New York Yankees.

Weems, who was taken with the final pick in the sixth round of June’s Major League Baseball amateur draft, is expected to sign with the Yankees today, according to his father Rick Weems.

The Blue Devils catcher was able to remain calm and relaxed being that he and Yankees agreed to the terms of his signing bonus on June 9 — the day after he was drafted — Rick Weems told the Ledger-Enquirer.

Rick Weems wouldn’t release the amount of the signing bonus, saying the Yankees asked them not to reveal it. He did indicate that it would be “way over the slotted” — or recommended — amount.

Rick Weems also said it would be about second-round money.

Second round money huh? Nice pull by Weems and his agent, that should be good for around $300-500k. Weems isn’t as good a prospect as 2nd rounder Austin Romine, but he’s a darn good prospect in his own right, and improves the Yanks’ depth behind the plate considerably.

[Read more…]

Draft signing grumblings

Bullet-point style…

  • Rick Porcello is about to become a very, very rich man kid. There’s a chance the Porcello deal could affect how much the Yanks give Andrew Brackman, but frankly, they’re rumored to already be giving him $3M, which is more than anyone else would have offered.
  • Word on the street is that second round pick Austin Romine is already in Tampa getting his workout on, although a deal has not been made official. IPK & Joba did something similar last year, and obviously they both went on to sign. I take this as a good sign.
  • Nothing new the report on 4th rounder Brad Suttle (3B, Texas) or 10th rounder Carmen Angelini (SS, some HS in Louisiana), both are expected to sign well above slot deals, Suttle around $1M and Angelini around $900k.
  • The Yanks have made some minor signings, locking up 29th rounder Matt Pilgreen (RHP, Louisiana-Lafayette) and 37th rounder Steven Strausbaugh (OF, Western Carolina). No word on where the two will be assigned.
  • Last I heard, the Yanks had signed the fewest picks from the top 10 rounds, and the fewest picks overall. It’s about quality, not quantity I say.
  • Officially, the draft deadline is midnight tomorrow, so in reality you won’t get the full details on all the deals/signings until Thursday.
  • Looking back on it a year later, I think I over-estimated how long it’ll take Yankee fans to fall in love with Joba. The cool part is that the scouting report I gave back then was accurate; Nardi Contreras cleaned up Joba’s mechanics last year during Instruction League last fall, and bam, 92-93 became 98-99.

I’ll post any signing news as I get it, so check back often.

Peavey opts for college ball

In the 24th round of the amateur draft this year, the Yanks made a Hail Mary selection when they announced their pick of Greg Peavey. Considered one of the top young arms in the nation, Peavey was impressive this summer while pitching in a summer league near Oregon State’s campus in Corvallis, and he says that he was impressed with the Yanks’ offer. However, Peavey has opted for college over the pros for now. In two years, when Peavey is draft-eligible again, expect him to go higher than he did this year.