What Went Right: 2013 Draft

Katoh. (Jeff Gross/Getty)
Katoh. (Jeff Gross/Getty)

Coming into this past season, it was obvious the Yankees needed to add some young, impact talent to the organization. They had none at the big league level and very little in the minors following a down year in the farm system. When Baseball America published their list of the team’s top ten prospects over the winter, it was hard to ignore that six of the ten missed at least a month due to injury in 2012 while two others were still way down in Rookie Ball.

The Yankees had a chance to add talent this summer during the annual amateur draft in June, which is true of every year. This draft was different though — New York had two extra picks after Rafael Soriano and Nick Swisher declined qualifying offers and signed with other teams as free agents. Add in their own first rounder and New York owned three of the first 33 selections. It was the first time they held even two of the first 33 picks since 1978. The opportunity to give the farm system a real shot in the arm was there, and, at this point, it appears the Yankees nailed it.

Three First Round Talents
Having three first round picks — it was really one first rounder and two supplemental first round picks, but whatever — doesn’t automatically mean you’ll get three first round talents. Let’s not kid ourselves here; the Yankees have made some questionable high picks in recent years and grabbing the best available talent was not a given. Rather than go off the board for a player they liked more than the consensus, scouting director Damon Oppenheimer & Co. went big and grabbed arguably the three best players on the board with each pick.

Jagielo. (Robert Pimpsner)
Jagielo. (Robert Pimpsner)

The first of the three was Notre Dame 3B Eric Jagielo, who was the club’s natural first rounder at #26 overall. He signed quickly for a straight slot $1.84M bonus and hit .264/.376/.451 (~152 wRC+) during his 221 plate appearance pro debut. Jagielo is a polished hitter and a good defender at a hard-to-fill position who should climb the ladder very quickly. The second pick was Fresno State OF Aaron Judge (#32), a monstrous (listed at 6-foot-7 and 255 lbs.) slugger with as much raw power as anyone in the draft. He took an above slot $1.8M bonus the day before the signing deadline. California HS LHP Ian Clarkin (#33), a power southpaw with an out-pitch curveball, was the third of the three first rounders.

In a normal year, landing one of those guys with a first round pick would have been a coup for the Yankees. Being able to draft all three — and being willing to exceed the draft pool to sign them, as they did by signing Judge to an over-slot bonus at the last minute — is a major win for a farm system in need of impact talent. All three of these guys are not going to work out, the odds are strongly against it because prospects are made to break hearts, but the more high-end talent they have, they better. These three first rounders were incredibly important given the state of the organization and the Yankees nailed ‘em.

Middle Infield Depth
The Yankees have been blessed with Robinson Cano and (especially) Derek Jeter for a long time, making it pretty easy to overlook just rare quality middle infielders are these days. I’m not even talking about stars, above-average guys are very hard and rather expensive to acquire. New York drafted two true middle infielders in the top four rounds in 2B Gosuke Katoh (2nd round) and SS Tyler Wade (4), both out of California high schools. Both play above-average defense at their positions and Katoh is just a strong arm away from being a shortstop. They both performed well in their pro debuts: Katoh managed 171 wRC+ (12.6 BB%) in 215 plate appearances while Wade had a 137 wRC+ (16.0 BB%) in 213 plate appearances. The performance is nice but the most important this is that both guys have the defensive chops to stay up the middle while also projecting to be something more than zeroes at the plate. These were two very strong picks after the first round.

Palladino. (Robert Pimpsner)
Palladino. (Robert Pimpsner)

Power Arms
Under Oppenheimer, the Yankees have used the middle and late rounds to draft power arms who could someday help out of the bullpen. With the new spending restrictions and Collective Bargaining Agreement all but eliminating the ability to give big money to players who fall due to bonus concerns, there’s not much more you can do late in the draft. Dig up some hard-throwers for the bullpen and focus on positions players with that one high-end tool. Not much more is available.

This summer’s crop of hard-throwers includes Texas JuCo RHP David Palladino (5), LSU RHP Nick Rumbelow (7), San Diego State RHP Phil Walby (12), and Oklahoma Christian RHP Cale Coshow (13). All four guys offer mid-90s heat while Palladino has good enough secondary pitches to start. Sam Houston State LHP Caleb Smith (14) has shown 94-95 in short outings. The Yankees have had trouble developing players overall the last few years, but they generally go a great job of unearthing these power arms and getting them far enough up the ladder that they at least serve as trade bait, if nothing else. These five guys are the newest members of the pipeline.

Late Round Gambles
The big money late-round picks don’t really exist anymore, but there is always going to be talent that slips into the late rounds. Not every “signability” guy will cost seven figures. New York paid over-slot for Georgia HS OF Dustin Fowler (18) and Missouri HS 3B Drew Bridges (20) after saving pool money by taking cheap college seniors in rounds six through ten. Fowler is the better prospect as an athletic outfielder with speed and a sweet lefty swing, but Bridges has some power potential and a knack for getting the fat part of the bat on the ball from the left side.

I think the Yankees had their best draft in several years this summer and that’s not only because of the extra first round picks, though those certainly helped. I’m talking about the quality of the players they landed with their picks. The added impact guys at the top of the draft, some important middle infield depth after that, and a lot of interesting late-round guys who could play roles down the road. This was a super important draft for New York and they did a bang-up job in my opinion.

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2013 Draft: Baseball America’s Report Card

Earlier this week, Baseball America ranked the Yankees’ 2013 draft haul the third best in baseball behind only the Pirates and Diamondbacks. They followed up with an individual draft report card on Friday (subs. req’d), which breaks down the team’s draft into a variety of categories. 3B Eric Jagielo (first round) was ranked the “Best Pure Hitter” while LHP Ian Clarkin (1s) was said to have the “Best Secondary Pitch,” for example.

I thought there were two interesting pieces of information in the report card. One, OF Aaron Judge (1s) is apparently going to play winter ball in the Dominican Republic. He isn’t listed on any rosters at the moment, however. A quad injury preventing him from appearing in a game after signing. Two, LHP Caleb Smith (14) has “a potentially plus changeup and fastball up to 94,” making him a really interesting bullpen candidate down the road. He had a great pro debut (1.93 ERA and 2.03 FIP in 51.1 innings) and ended the year with a spot start for Double-A Trenton. I wonder how fast of a track Smith will be on.

2013 Draft: Baseball America ranks Yankees’ haul third best in MLB

In a piece that is free for all to read, Baseball America broke down this summer’s draft using a variety of categories. The Yankees ranked third in the “Best Draft” category, trailing only the Pirates and Diamondbacks. Pittsburgh had two of the top 14 selections. New York, of course, had three of the top 33 selections, so having a strong draft was pretty much guaranteed.

OF Aaron Judge, the middle of those three first rounders, is said to be the fifth best power hitter in the entire draft class by Baseball America. That’s his calling card, he’s a huge dude who can hit the ball a mile from the right side of the plate. That’s a skill that is very hard to come by these days. 2B Gosuke Katoh had the third best pro debut among high school draftees according to the publication. Those three first round picks are going to make or break the team’s draft haul. In this new spending restricted system where talent goes pretty linearly, those top picks are crucial.

2013 Draft: Yankees agree to sign 36th rounder Nestor Cortes

Via K. Levine-Flandrup: The Yankees have agreed to sign 36th round pick Nestor Cortes. No word on the signing bonus, but since he was drafted after the tenth round, anything in excess of $100k counts against the draft pool. The Yankees are currently $114k over their pool.

Cortes, 18, is a left-hander out of Hialeah High School in Miami. He’s undersized at 5-foot-11 and 190 lbs., but he can run his fastball into the low-90s with good sink. His changeup is very good for a high schooler and he also spins a curveball. Cortes is also an excellent athlete with an easy delivery and arm action. There’s a definite Daniel Camarena 2.0 vibe here, though I’m not sure if Cortes has that kind of polish.

Keep tabs on the team’s draft pool with our 2013 Draft Pool page. The signing deadline is 5pm ET today.

2013 Draft: Yankees sign first rounder Aaron Judge

Friday: Judge has officially signed. In fact, here’s a picture of him signing the contract. The Yankees are currently $114k over their draft pool and will have to pay an $85.5k tax.

Thursday: Via George King: The Yankees have agreed to sign first round pick Aaron Judge to an over-slot $1.8M signing bonus. Slot money for the 32nd overall pick is just under $1.68M. This is the sixth largest bonus the Yankees have ever given a drafted player, behind only Andrew Brackman, Ian Kennedy, Slade Heathcott, Drew Henson, and Eric Jagielo. This is the pick the Yankees received as compensation for losing Nick Swisher to free agency.

Judge, 21, is an outfielder out of Fresno State. He is listed at 6-foot-7 and 255 lbs., so he’s an imposing figure on the field. “Judge profiles as a .250 hitter and is going to strike out a lot, which comes with the territory for tall power hitters with long arms … he has light-tower power. Judge is a solid-average runner with an above-average arm and will be a solid defender in right field,” wrote Baseball America (subs. req’d) in their pre-draft scouting report.

Keep tabs on the team’s draft pool with our 2013 Draft Pool page.