John Sickels at Minor League Ball is reviewing each team’s draft haul, and today he got to the Yankees. He is a rare fan of the Dante Bichette Jr. pick and also likes 13th rounder Justin James as a sleeper. “The rest of the class was focused on raw high school kids with power potential and signability issues, plus some college pitchers who look like bullpen contributors,” said Sickels in his overall recap. Make sure you heck it out, he provides mini-scouting reports on each of the team’s top ten selections.
Via K. Levine-Flandrup, the Yankees are close to reaching an agreement with 51st overall pick Dante Bichette Jr. He’ll be in Tampa to take a physical on Tuesday. No word on the money, but I can’t imagine it’s far above slot (which is approximately $695,000), if it is at all. Bichette didn’t figure to be a tough sign or anything, but it’s always good to get the deals done as soon as possible so the kid can get some playing under his belt. Assume the physical goes well, I imagine he’ll report to the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League Yankees in time for their season opener next Monday.
We’ve been recapping the Yankees’ 2011 draft haul all day (part one, part two), but now let’s get the experts’ opinions. Baseball America posted their recaps today (subs. req’d), and here’s a snippet of what they have to say about the Yankees: “[Dante Bichette Jr.] was a defensible choice at 51, but after that the Yankees seemed to reach for a lot of players and a team with the Yankees’ resources should be doing the exact opposite … The team did get some interesting upside later in the draft with Sacramento CC outfielder Justin James (13th round) and North Carolina high school righthander Rookie Davis (14th) and the team will likely need some late-round surprises to make up for uninspiring single-digit selections.”
That seems to be the general consensus, and pretty much the same conclusion I came to earlier today. Also make sure you check out LoHud for a recap of scouting director Damon Oppenheimer’s conference call this morning. Apparently the Yankees were still trying to get a look at third rounder Jordan Cote as recently as this past Saturday. Blame the weather.
Earlier today we looked at Day Two of the draft, which featured a lot of power hitters and (physically) big pitchers. Now let’s focus on Day Three, which followed a completely different theme entirely.
Day Three: Signability
Signability is a great little catch-all term that definitely has some connotations to it. It typically refers to a player that falls in the draft because of a strong college commitment and the likelihood that it’ll take an above-slot bonus to get them to turn pro, so guys like Dellin Betances and Austin Jackson and Bryan Mitchell are perfect examples. The primary connotation stuck to it is that the player also has high upside, which is not always the case. The Yankees loaded up on signability types on the final day of the draft, some of whom legitimately own big time potential.
The best of the bunch is high school hurler Adam Ravenelle (44th round), a 6-foot-3, 185 lb. right-hander touted as one of the best prep arms in New England. His fastball consistently sits in the low-90’s despite the need for sharper mechanics, and he’s shown the ability to spin a tight breaking ball and also fire off a quality changeup. It’s the kind of package you can dream on. Ravenelle is very raw and also very committed to Vanderbilt, so much so that Conor Glassey said (rather matter-of-factly) he will attend college in the fall in Baseball America’s review of Day Three.
The Yankees also landed a non-traditional signability guy in Jeremy Rathjen (41). The Rice center fielder took a medical redshirt this spring after tearing his ACL, and he has the added negotiating leverage of being able to go back to school as a fourth-year junior and re-enter the draft in each of the next two years, when he’d be coming off a (presumably) healthy year. Rathjen is a physical specimen at 6-foot-6 and 190 lbs., offering bat speed and plenty of power potential to go along with above-average foot speed and defense in center. A monster performer in wood bat summer leagues, he was expected to be a fourth or fifth rounder before the injury, though I’m guessing it’ll take more than a fifth round bonus ($200,000 or so) to get him to sign on the dotted line.
Another New England high schooler, right-hander Joey Maher (38), sports a heavy upper-80’s sinker that figures to add a tick or two as he fills out his 6-foot-5, 200 lb. frame. The secondary pitchers are still a work in progress, but you can’t teach that kind of natural movement on the fastball. Illinois righty Tyler Farrell (43) owns a 6-foot-2, 190 lb. frame that delivers fastballs up to 93 with a power curveball from a refined, old school drop-and-drive delivery. It was arguably the best two-pitch combo available out of the state this year. Chris McCue (35) has already figured out a changeup, a huge step in any pitcher’s development, and the right-hander also throws low-90’s gas and a downer curveball while standing just 6-foot-0 and 170 lbs. Commitments to Northeastern, Western Illinois, and North Carolina stand in the way of these three, respectively.
Outfielder Spencer O’Neil (33) apparently wants $1M to sign, which probably means the Yankees will wish him luck during his career at Oregon. He fills out a uniform well (6-foot-4, 185 lbs.) but still needs plenty of development on both sides of the ball. Righty Skylar Janisse (34) works in the 80’s with his fastball and is mostly a projection pick (6-foot-4, 200 lbs.). He’s committed to Oakland and isn’t a priority sign. Lefty Wes Benjamin (48), outfielder Ethan Springston (47), and shortstop Kevin Cornelius (42) are more lottery ticket types; the Yankees will follow their progress in the various summer showcase events before deciding on their true worth.
The Yankees also did a fine job grabbed some small/junior college players. Franklin Pierce righty Ryan Thompson (36) was born in Canada, grew up in the Bahamas, and spent two years at UConn before transferring this spring, a good move since his goal was to gain more exposure rather than be buried on a deep pitching staff. The 6-foot-3, 190 pounder throws a two-seamer fastball anywhere from 88-92 and also offers a slider and changeup. Thompson still has room to fill out and already has a reputation as being a guy that hold his velocity deep into games. He was expected to be more of a early-double digit rounds pick, so the Yankees got good value with the pick and will get better value if they sign him. Navarro Junior College righty Tyler Maples (49) has run his fastball up as high as 93. And as usual, the Yankees did select some college players to fill out rosters in the lower levels of the minors, namely LSU shortstop Tyler Hanover (40) and Missouri third baseman Connor Mach (46).
Following what seemed like a concerted effort to address the organization’s lack of power in Day Two, the Yankees followed a more traditional path and went for more upside in the final 20 rounds on Day Three. Aside from Ravenelle and Rathjen, the two real standouts of Day Three, Farrell and McCue are the two big upside picks. Farrell has a knockout two-pitch combo already in his back pocket and McCue has already shown three legitimate pitches with potential (rare for high schoolers) even if his size isn’t ideal. UNC doesn’t screw around either, that’s a powerhouse baseball program that only goes after the best, so that’s another feature in McCue’s cap.
The draft is like the regular season in that it’s a marathon and not a sprint. There are fifty rounds, fifty names, and fifty door number threes. One player or bad pick can’t sink a draft class, but one player sure can make it. The Yankees did a fine job of targeting upside yesterday while other clubs were filling out minor league rosters, but they lost out on the consensus best of the best by waiting until Day Three to go for that upside. Some of their early picks were reaches, so they’re going to need to sign some of these late guys to have a chance at some real impact players.
It was a tale of two drafts for the Yankees. They started it off with a curious pick, taking Dante Bichette Jr. with the 51st overall selection after rumors swirled about their interest in several high-priced players that were still on the board at the time. What happened after that was a bit out of the norm. Day Two (rounds 2-30) and Day Three (31-50) had entirely different feels and apparent philosophies, so it doesn’t make sense to lump them into one recap. This is the first of two parts, the second will be along a little later.
Day Two: Power & Size
Let’s rewind to early-March, when John Sickels of Minor League Ball interviewed Yankees’ VP of baseball ops Mark Newman…
SICKELS: What about your weaknesses?
NEWMAN: Corner players with power. We have (Brandon) Laird who is a solid prospect, but we are thin for corner bats otherwise in the system. We always try to take the best players available in the draft and on the international market, and doing that can result in positional imbalance. We’re aware of it, but we would rather get as many high-end athletes as we can and worry about the rest of it later. In a perfect world you get both, of course, high-end guys who fill up the slots you need to fill.
It was pretty obvious during the first 30 rounds of the draft that the Yankees were trying to address that lack of corner power bats, just like they tried to address the lack of up-the-middle athletes in 2010. In addition to Bichette, the Yankees also took high school power hitters in first/third baseman (and local kid!) Matt Duran (4th round) and catcher/first baseman Greg Bird (5). Both are bat first players that can hit and hit with authority, but they aren’t expected to provide much value elsewhere. Prep first baseman Austin Jones (7) and Arizona State first baseman Zach Wilson (21) also fit that mold. JuCo outfielder Tyler Molinaro (15) offers pop from the left side, but he also has some athleticism and can contribute with the glove.
The two big position player prizes from Day Two are high school outfielder Jake Cave (6) and JuCo outfielder Justin James (13), son of Dion. The Yankees were connected to Cave pretty much all spring, opting to take him as a hitter rather than as a left-handed pitcher, where he’s also a quality prospect. He has some bat speed but also some swing question marks, projecting as more of a doubles guy. James shows huge power in batting practice and high-end foot speed, but he’s raw because he quit baseball to focus on basketball late in his high school career. Cave has to be bought away from LSU and James is just risky, but both offer upside and the ability to provide value on both sides of the ball.
When they weren’t taking power hitting players at corner positions, the Yankees were selecting pitchers, and big ones. Lefty Sam Stafford (2) joins righties Jordan Cote (3), Phil Wetherell (8), Jonathan Gray (10), Hayden Sharp (18), Jordan Foley (26), and Scott Hoffman (29) as hurlers that stand 6-foot-4 or taller, with Sharp topping the group at 6-foot-6. Four others check in at 6-foot-3. In addition to size they all share velocity, all capable of throwing in the low-90’s. Sharp again tops the group in this category; he’s run it up as high as 98 this spring.
However, despite all of these big pitching prospects, many of them are just relievers. Zach Arneson (9), Ben Paullus (19), Nik Goody (22), Brooks Belter (25), John Brebbia (30), and Wetherell were all relievers in college while Gray and Brandon Pinder (16) project to be the same in pro ball. That’s eight of the 21 pitchers they selected on Day Two. The best of the bunch is Wetherell, who sits 92-95 with a legitimate swing-and-miss splitter. Arneson sports a big time fastball (up to 96) but little in the way of secondary pitches, while the others are generic high-80’s/low-90’s guys trying to figure out a second pitch.
Now that I’ve had some time to look things over, I consider Stafford the best pitching prospect the Yankees selected in the entire draft. Southpaws that have shown 95-96 mph velocity with a curveball that can be unhittable at times are a rare breed, he just has to figure out a way to have both at the same time and work on his overall consistency. Starter Corey Maines (23) is a garden variety sinker-slider guy and Matt Tracy (24) was a two-way player at Mississippi, so his mound experience is limited.
The starting pitchers are going to have to come from the high schoolers, a group led by Cote, Sharp, Mark Montgomery (11), Rookie Davis (14), Matt Troupe (17), Dan Camarena (20), and Chaz Hebert (27). Cote is the best prospect of the group in terms of projection and upside, but it’ll take an above-slot bonus to pry him away from Coastal Carolina. He’ll sit in the low-90’s and show two distinct breaking balls, though finding consistent mechanics and turning some raw tools into baseball skills is the challenge that lies ahead. Camarena is the best prospect of the bunch in terms of present day ability; he’s a legitimate three pitch left-hander with command of a low-90’s fastball and an advanced changeup. A San Diego commitment must be bought out to get him to turn pro. Davis has garnered some attention as a low-90’s fastball/developing slider righty, but there’s some Melky Cabrera Syndrome going on here. He’s getting hyped up because he has a cool name.
From here, it appears that the Yankees went into Day Two with an agenda to find power hitters and power relievers, and that’s exactly what they did. Most of the big bat guys figure to wind up at first base though, which could lead to a logjam, but we’re a long way from worrying about that. Cote, Sharp, and Camarena are three very interesting arms that may or may not sign (I’m guessing they get Cote and at least one of the other two), but they’re all several years off. The college relief crop is deep enough that one or two of those guys will end up viable big league options down the road. The glaring weakness here is the overall lack of significant upside outside of James, Stafford, Cote, and Sharp.
Day Two of the draft wasn’t great for New York but by no means was it a total loss or anything like that. I don’t necessarily agree with hoarding useful pieces that appear to fit an organizational need more than anything else instead of gunning for players with star potential, but that’s what they did. As always, we can begin to really evaluate the talent influx once we see who actually signs, but the early returns from Day Two are somewhere between “okay” and “decent.”
Days One and Two of the draft were … interesting for the Yankees, I think that’s the best way to put it. They eschewed the consensus “big names,” instead opting to draft to the beat of their own drum and select what we fans perceive to be “lesser” players in pretty much all 30 rounds so far. That’s not to say the Yankees completely botched the draft, far from it, but it definitely hasn’t gone down as we expected so far. A recap of all the team’s picks can be found here, and you can listen along to the last 20 rounds this afternoon via MLB.com’s Draft Tracker. The actual liveblog is after the jump…
Through two days and 30 rounds, the Yankees have yet to select a middle infielder in this year’s amateur draft. In fact, they’ve taken just nine position players total, and only two are projected to stick at an up-the-middle position long-term. That’s unusual, but I’ll talk about that more in-depth in tomorrow’s grand recap. For now, we’ve still got the final 20 rounds to worry about. The draft resumes at noon ET and can be followed on MLB.com’s Draft Tracker. Audio of the conference call is available through that link. Based on last year, today’s liveblog should last “only” five hours, which sounds great after yesterday’s ordeal. Here’s a collection of links regarding the last two days…
- Here’s what Keith Law had to say about the Yankees’ haul in his AL Day Two recap (Insider req’d): “I always expect them to shoot more for upside than they do; they did go for some with New Hampshire prep righty Jordan Cote (3) and Virginia prep player Jake Cave (6), listed as an outfielder (he’d be a corner bat with doubles power) but also a prospect as a left-handed pitcher. Greg Bird (5) can hit but is fringy behind the plate. Right-hander Philip Wetherell (8) is probably a reliever in pro ball. Right-hander Zach Arneson (9) from Lewis & Clark State has two average pitches and probably also goes to the pen.”
- My favorite pick of Day Two: 20th rounder Dan Camarena, a high school southpaw from California. He reportedly sits 88-91 with his fastball and backs it up with a very good changeup and a solid curveball. I’m not sure if he’ll add any velocity given his almost maxed out frame (6-foot-1, 205 lbs.), but Camarena is lauded for attacking hitters and being aggressive. High school kids with three legit pitches are fantastic picks in the double digit rounds, especially ones that could have gone as high as the third or fourth round.
- Last month, KLaw mentioned 18th rounder Hayden Sharp as a pop-up guy (someone that burst onto the scene this spring), noting that he has run his fastball as high as 98 at times while often sitting 93-96. That’s huge velocity from anyone, but especially from a high school kid with room to fill out his 6-foot-6 frame.
- Joe and I talked about the concept of drafting makeup guys and how their work ethic could help them improve weaknesses in their game (especially on defense) on yesterday’s podcast, and scouting director Damon Oppenheimer pretty much confirmed that yesterday. He told Jack Curry that “talented kids who are willing to work at defense will succeed.” First pick Dante Bichette Jr. fits that mold, but so do kids like Matt Duran (4th round) and Greg Bird (5th).
- Speaking of Bird, he played the whole “it’s a win-win situation” card when asked by The Denver Post if he’s rather turn pro or follow through on his commitment to Arkansas. Third rounder Jordan Cote had the same reaction when speaking with The New Hampshire Union Leader. You’ll hear a lot of that, but it’s just agent speak. Kids will cost themselves a few bucks if they come off as overly anxious to sign.
- As for Bichette, Oppenheimer told Curry he doesn’t “think we’ll have any trouble signing him. He wants to play.” He might be under contract in time for the rookie level Gulf Coast League season, which starts in less than two weeks. Chad Jennings recapped the Joe Girardi-Dante Bichette relationship last night, in case you missed it.
You can see all of the Yankees’ selections right here. Probably should have mentioned that earlier.
Update: After running through Baseball America’s list of the top 200 draft prospects, the following players are still available …
- Jake Reed, RHP, California HS (ranked 128th overall)
- Dante Flores, 2B, California HS (148th)
- Chris Mariscal, SS, California HS (168th)
- Michael Cederoth, RHP, California HS (169th)
- Pat Connaughton, RHP, Massachusetts HS (170th)
- Ricky Jacquez, RHP, Texas HS (189th)
I wrote about Jacquez earlier this spring, and I’m a definite fan. He’s probably going to end up going to school though.
Update Part Deux: Here’s a great article on Cote from The Concord Monitor. It says he’s already asked the Yankees for more than slot money, which isn’t surprising. Slot for the 118th overall pick is somewhere around $250,000.