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Top 500 Prospects Drafted by New York in 2016
11 – Blake Rutherford
37 – Nick Solak
65 – Dominic Thompson-Williams
117 – Nolan Martinez
214 – Mandy Alvarez
295 – Tim Lynch
371 – Joe Burton
375 – Connor Jones
384 – Taylor Widener
449 – Keith Skinner
1.18 – OF Blake Rutherford
Delvin Perez and Nolan Jones were the only players on my board that I would have considered over Blake Rutherford (11) where the Yankees selected him. That makes this a slam dunk pick for New York. Whatever trepidation there was before the draft about staying away from anointing Rutherford a real deal 1-1 candidate ceased to matter the moment he started falling past the first handful of picks. Rutherford at 1-1 (or the surrounding area) was justifiable, but admittedly tough to swallow. Rutherford at 1-18 is flat robbery. A quick look at the timeline that got us here beginning in December 2015…
Despite some internet comparisons that paint him as the Meadows, I think the better proxy for Rutherford is Frazier. Issues with handedness, height, and hair hue aside, Frazier as a starting point for Rutherford (offensively only as Frazier’s arm strength blows the average-ish arm of Rutherford away) can be used because the two both have really good looking well-balanced swings, tons of bat speed, and significant raw power. The parallel gets a little bit of extra juice when you consider Frazier and Rutherford were/are also both a little bit older than their draft counterparts.
Pretty cool that Rutherford is now teammates with Clint Frazier with the Yankees. Well, I guess they aren’t technically teammates yet but rather organization-mates. You get the idea. Here are their respective professional debuts with Frazier on top and Rutherford on the bottom…
.297/.362/.506 – 31.1 K% and 8.7 BB% – 196 PA
.351/.415/.570 – 23.1 K% and 10.0 BB% – 130 PA
Not a bad start for the Yankees latest potential star prospect. We’ll jump now to April 2016 to see what was said about Rutherford then…
At some point it’s prudent to move away from the safety of college hitters and roll the dice on one of the best high school athletes in the country. Blake Rutherford is just that. Him being older than ideal for a high school senior gives real MLB teams drafting in the top five something extra to consider, but it could work to his advantage developmentally in terms of fantasy. He’s a little bit older, a little bit more filled-out, and a little bit more equipped to deal with the daily rigors of professional ball than your typical high school prospect. That’s some extreme spin about one of Rutherford’s bigger red flags — admittedly one that is easily resolved within a scouting department: either his age matters or not since it’s not like it’s changing (except up by one day like us all) any time soon — but talking oneself into glossing over a weakness is exactly what fantasy drafting is all about. I like Rutherford more in this range (ed. note: For the sake of context, this was originally written in a mock that had Rutherford going 11th) in the real draft than in the mix at 1-1.
There’s a bit of a fantasy spin to that, but the larger point about Rutherford being better equipped to deal with the minor league grind straight away better than many of his high school class peers held up in his debut. When Rutherford starts next season in Charleston as a 19-year-old (20 in May, but still), nobody will be talking about his age relative to the competition anymore. That doesn’t change the pre-draft evaluation where his age most certainly should have been factored in as he was doing his thing against younger pitchers, but that’s all old news by now. Outside of the potential desire to track certain developmental progress indicators, those pre-draft evaluations can more or less be thrown out now that he’s 130 plate appearances into his pro career.
It took me until May 2016 before I managed to succinctly describe how I viewed Rutherford as a prospect…
His upside is that of a consistently above-average offensive regular outfielder while defensively being capable of either hanging in center for a bit (a few years of average glove work out there would be nice) or excelling in an outfield corner (making this switch early could take a tiny bit of pressure off him as he adjusts to pro pitching). His floor, like almost all high school hitters, is AA bat with holes in his swing that are exploited by savvier arms.
I’d update that now to raise Rutherford’s ceiling (above-average regular, sure, but some years of star quality output seem well within reach) and more or less nix the idea of him playing center much longer (pro guys were a lot harder on his defense than the amateur evaluators) while keeping the floor basically the same (maybe bump him up to AAA, but the difference there is minute). No player in this class save AJ Puk has been picked apart in quite the same way as Rutherford. I’m not absolving myself from guilt as I know I’ve done the same over the past year or so. So much time and energy have been spent trying to talk ourselves out of him being the type of prospect that could go first overall that his combination of polished skills and toolsy upside, a blend of talent unique to him in this entire class of hitters, has gone underappreciated. This pick really is as good as it gets in the draft’s first round.
2.62 – 2B Nick Solak
Nick Solak (37) in three quotes…
October 23, 2015
The day you find me unwilling to champion a natural born hitter with a preternatural sense of the strike zone is the day I hang up the keyboard. Solak is a tough guy to project because so much of his value is tied up in his bat, but if he build on an already impressive first two seasons at Louisville in 2016 then he might just hit his way into the draft’s top two rounds.
April 4, 2016
Nick Solak can flat hit. I’d take him on my team anytime. He’s likely locked in at second in the infield, so I don’t know how high that profile can rise but I have a hunch he’ll be higher on my rankings than he winds up getting drafted in June. I’m more than all right with that.
April 21, 2016
Nick Solak is an outstanding hitter. He can hit any pitch in any count and has shown himself plenty capable of crushing mistakes. His approach is impeccable, his speed above-average, and his defense dependable. I think he’s the best college second baseman in this class.
If you’re getting the impression that I think Nick Solak is a good hitter, then you’re on the right track. I straight up LOVE this pick for New York. I got a recent DJ LeMahieu (shorter version) comparison for Solak that I think is pretty smart. Yankees would surely be thrilled with getting that kind of hitter in the second round.
3.98 – RHP Nolan Martinez
I loved the Blake Rutherford pick. I loved the Nick Solak pick. I love the Nolan Martinez (117) pick. Three for three for the Yankees so far. Martinez is all about projection at this point. The 6-2, 165 pound righthander has a fastball (87-94, 96 peak) with crazy movement and a low- to mid-70s breaking ball with above-average upside. Those two pitches alone could be enough for him to get pro hitters out right now. It’s a lot of fun to imagine what they could do with a few years of growth behind them. Further development of a low- to mid-80s changeup could make Martinez a long-term fixture in a big league rotation. It’s not hard to imagine some good weight being added to his frame, a few extra ticks added to his fastball (could see him sitting mid-90s by the time he’s in his early-20s), a little more power added to his slider, and overarching improvements in command as the highly athletic two-way high school star begins to devote himself full-time to pitching. Martinez is a really tough player to put a ceiling on right now. I’m honestly not sure how good he can be. I’m not even sure he even realizes just yet how good he can be. Tremendous pick by New York.
4.128 – RHP Nick Nelson
I didn’t necessarily love the Nick Nelson pick, but that doesn’t stop me from loving this quote from his 2015 player page at Gulf Coast State JC. His answer to”Best Sports advice given to you” was “To be the best…you have to be the best!” Could be wrong, but I think something got lost in translation there. Typo or not, I think I actually like this version better. Sometimes direct and literal is the way to go. All advice should be so pointed. Maybe if somebody had given me this advice as a younger man, I’d be the best. Maybe…
As for Nelson the ballplayer, I wasn’t as up on him before the draft as I could have been. I can see what the Yankees liked about him: he’s an athletic, sturdily built guy coming from a two-way background with plenty of arm strength. If you’re buying him, you’re thinking that some of his issues — control and underdeveloped offspeed stuff — can be ironed out with full-time dedication to working out on the mound. I’m not quite there, but it’s easy to be incredulous without having seen him. On paper, it sure seems like he has a long ways to go before he’ll provide the value I’d want from a fourth round pick.
I can’t prove it, but players like Nelson strike me as the type that area scouts are willing to pound the table on. The pieces are there, but he hasn’t come all that close to putting it together yet. I think many scouts actually prefer guys like this. I sounds mean even though it’s not the intent, but I think players like this make some scouts feel more important in their role. It’s “easy” to point to a finished product and say “yeah, get him” because anybody who has seen a ballgame or two can likely do the same. Players like Nelson are the hidden gems of the industry that separate the “real” scouts from the wannabes. Hitting on an established name is never a bad thing, but getting a player like Nelson right is a true notch on the belt worth bragging about. I don’t know, maybe I’m projecting too much. Just a theory.
5.158 – OF Dominic Thompson-Williams
The college outfielders ranked third through ninth on my final board all came out of the SEC. That is some seriously useless trivia. It is somewhat topical here, however, in that Dominic Thompson-Williams (65), the man ranked eighth on said list, had this written about him at the time of said ranking: “lost some in the SEC shuffle, but raw tools stack up with anybody here.” Nothing has changed over the summer, so consider that statement a true testament to Thompson-Williams’s obvious physical gifts. His athleticism, speed, and center field range are enough to get him to the big leagues, and his burgeoning pop and approach at the plate give him a chance at a future much greater than that. As my pre-draft ranking can attest, I’m a believer in Thompson-Williams finding a way to continually get better as he figures out how good he can really be. Tremendous value pick here by the Yankees.
6.188 – RHP Brooks Kriske
Brooks Kriske has the goods to pitch out of a big league bullpen one day. His fastball (88-94, 96 peak) and slider (low-80s) both have the chance to be above-average offerings and his mid-80s changeup could be serviceable assuming he doesn’t scrap it completely in the pros. A good frame (6-3, 190) and strong senior season (10.71 K/9 in 35.1 IP) bolster his case. The sixth round feels a bit early to me for these kind of guys, but a quick look at league-wide drafting trends shows that rounds five to ten are the college reliever sweet spot. Fair enough.
7.218 – C Keith Skinner
Nobody cares, but Keith Skinner (449) going in the top ten rounds helped me win a bet. He’s now one of my favorite players in pro ball. Those two things may or may not be related. Skinner’s glove behind the plate leaves some to be desired, but his power and approach at it make a seventh round pick worth it. I’m not that complicated a guy sometimes; if you hit .382/.466/.486 with 36 BB/14 K in a college season, you get noticed.
8.248 – 1B Dalton Blaser
Dalton Blaser, a highly productive college performer known best for a measured approach at the plate, went one pick before a similarly productive college performer known best for a measured approach at the plate. I’m less enthused about the Yankees eighth round pick than the guy who comes next, but can respect the rationale behind the pick.
9.278 – 1B Tim Lynch
Here he is! Tim Lynch (295) was a damn fine pick in the ninth round. He’s got a disciplined approach with legitimate big league thunder in his bat. The first base only profile makes the road to the highest level predictably challenging, but his brand of lefty power could help get him there. I think he’s got a very realistic shot to be at least a productive platoon bat with a real chance for more than that. For the cost of a ninth round pick and ten grand, that’s a steal.
10.308 – LHP Trevor Lane
Effectively wild and athletic. Those were the three pertinent words most often used to describe Trevor Lane to me. His pro debut also pointed to something else interesting about his profile: ground balls everywhere. So an effectively wild, athletic, ground ball inducing lefthanded reliever. That’s Trevor Lane.
11.338 – LHP Connor Jones
Connor Jones (375) was the man behind this should have been bold prediction that didn’t quite get there because I wimped out with all kinds of qualifying language…
It may be a little out there, but a case could be made that the other Connor Jones actually has more long-term upside than the righthanded Virginia ace. This Jones has gotten good yet wild results on the strength of an above-average or better fastball from the left side and a particularly intriguing splitter.
There’s a lot to like when it comes to Jones’s raw stuff. His fastball flirts with plus from the left side (88-94, 95 peak), his breaking ball (78-81 CB) flashes average or better, and a newly refined splitter could act as a needed strikeout pitch at the pro level. He’s also a really good athlete coming off a nice season at Georgia and a very nice trial in the GCL.
12.368 – RHP Taylor Widener
If a fast-moving reliever drafted outside of the top ten rounds is your thing, look no further than Taylor Widener (384). Check what the former Gamecock did in his pro debut: 13.86 K/9, 1.64 BB/9, 0.47 ERA in 38.1 IP. Those numbers aren’t all that out of line with what he did in his final year at South Carolina: 10.94 K/9, 2.12 BB/9, 4.06 ERA in 51.0 IP. His fastball/cut-slider combination is obviously good enough to miss bats, and his athleticism and command are on point. I like getting Widener here a heck of a lot more than I do getting Nelson and Kriske where they did. Heck, draft position aside, I just plain like Widener better. Great pick.
13.398 – RHP Brian Trieglaff
Armed with a fastball that’s been up to 96 and an above-average low-80s slider, Brian Trieglaff has the stuff to move relatively quickly in relief. His control has been inconsistent over the years and his 6-1, 190 pound frame is far from the classic intimidating late-game mound presence, but the good outweighs the bad for this thirteenth rounder. I’ll take this Widener/Trieglaff back-to-back over Nelson (fourth round) and Kriske (sixth round).
14.428 – OF Jordan Scott
There are two Jordan Scott’s on the Minor League Players section of Fangraphs when you search the name. One was born in 1991, the other in 1997. Knowing that this Jordan Scott had the latter birthday instantly gave me a dozen more gray hairs. I also got a gray hair — the disappointment kind, not the old man variety — when I realized that the only Jordan Scott I’ve written about on the site was a different Jordan Scott altogether. Decent righthanded pitcher from Liberty aside, this Jordan Scott had a solid debut in the Gulf Coast League, a not unfamiliar theme shared by many of the younger 2016 Yankees draftees. His would-be college coach seemed to offer high praise for the one who got away…
“Jordan may be the best athlete in this class,” Mountaineers head coach Randy Mazey said after Scott signed a letter of intent with WVU in November. “He can play multiple positions, hit home runs, steal bases and is also a great defender.”
Jordan Scott is now officially on my radar.
15.458 – LHP Tony Hernandez
I’ve got next to nothing on Tony Hernandez, fifteenth round pick of the Yankees. “Big fastball from the left side” is all I’ve got. I can at least note that his two junior college teams both have ties to the organization. Hernandez was first at Lackawanna College in Scranton, home of the Yankees AAA affiliate. He was most recently at Monroe College in Rochester. I do realize New York is a big state and that Rochester is over five hours away from Yankee Stadium, but when you’ve got no pre-draft notes on a guy you have to find a way to make connections when you can. Turns out a few extra seconds of exhaustive investigating reporting (some might call it Googling), makes this connection get a little better. Hernandez apparently attended the New Rochelle campus at Monroe (about thirty minutes from the Stadium), so all’s well that ends well. Here’s a quick piece from the Monroe website that caught my eye…
Hernandez, who idolized former Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez and Red Sox ace Jon Lester, was a member of this season’s Mustangs baseball team that went 38-16 overall and won a Regional Championship before being eliminated in the Eastern District final.
Either they know something we don’t or they meant Alex Fernandez, who retired from baseball when Hernandez was four-years-old. I really like to think that somebody at Monroe has a time machine or something and just broke a major offseason scoop. Probably not, though. Stupid boring reality.
(Damn. I do these draft reviews in stops and starts, so this particular player capsule was written in early September. Puts the Fernandez mistake “joke” in a totally different light. Stupid boring reality? More like stupid awful reality. Wild how the death of somebody you’ve never met can still make you feel physically ill just thinking about it a month after the fact.)
17.518 – 3B Mandy Alvarez
The Yankees challenged seventeenth round pick Mandy Alvarez (214) with an aggressive assignment to Low-A Charleston shortly after signing and he responded with a solid run in the South Atlantic League. Such a run wasn’t totally unexpected for the mature . I think he’s just good enough in all other phases of the game to stick at third base; if that’s the case, I believe in Alvarez’s bat enough to think he could be right around a league average big league player in time. I’ll even go a step further and say that I think his realistic floor is that of a quality bat-first utility guy. Getting a player with that kind of range of outcomes with pick 518 is nothing short of tremendous value for the Yankees.
Tangential thought alert! Drafting can be as hard as you make it sometimes. The Yankees made it look pretty easy in 2016. Look at their college position player picks in the top ten rounds: Solak, Thompson-Williams, Keith Skinner, Blaser, and Lynch. The combined collegiate BB to K ratio for those players (at the time of the draft) was 167 to 114. Think they have a type? In the interest of full disclosure, all but the ultra-athletic rangy in center Thompson-Williams from this group can be called bat-first prospects, so, yeah, there could be some defensive growing pains along the way, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Yankees clearly went out of their way to target prospects with above-average feel for hitting, average or better pop for their respective positions, and highly advanced plate discipline. Kudos to them for that. If you’re curious like I was, that 167 to 114 combined walk to strikeout ratio turned into a still solid 109 to 142 mark in the pros. I’d put the over/under of future big league players out of that group at 2.5 and still be inclined to bet the over with little hesitation.
18.548 – RHP Greg Weissert
On Greg Weissert from February 2016…
Greg Weissert can throw three pitches for strikes – 88-93 FB, 78-79 CU, mid-70s CB – and has missed bats at the kind of clip (10.45 K/9) to warrant his spot at the top [of the Atlantic 10].
Sounds about right. And he’s a local product (Fordham!) to boot. Weissert will attempt to be the best modern Fordham alum since Pete Harnisch. I didn’t know that Pete Harnisch was a Ram. How about that? Don’t ever let it be said that this site doesn’t teach you something new every now and then. If you knew that already then at least this site taught me something.
19.578 – OF Evan Alexander
Evan Alexander got $100,000 to sign as a nineteenth round pick. That alone makes him a name worth watching. Beyond that, all I know is that the Yankees have liked him for a long time going back to seeing him up close and personal in Jupiter of last season. That’s all I’ve got.
20.608 – RHP Miles Chambers
Miles Chambers is one of a handful of Yankees draftees with nice peripherals and ugly run prevention stats in their debuts. The righthander from Cal State Fullerton has fairly generic potential middle relief stuff (88-92 FB, SL that comes and goes). Could be better, could be worse.
21.638 – OF Timmy Robinson
I don’t always quote myself in these things, but I liked the Timmy Robinson passage from April 2016…
Timmy Robinson‘s tools are really impressive: above-average to plus raw power, average to above-average speed, above-average to plus arm, above-average to plus range, and all kinds of physical strength. That player sounds incredible, so it should be noted that getting all of his raw ability going at the same time and translating it to usable on-field skills has been a challenge. He’s gotten a little bit better every season and now looks to be one of the draft’s most intriguing senior-signs.
There’s no telling if Robinson will amount to anything more than a slightly too aggressive tooled-up just-missed ballplayer, but his physical gifts more than warrant a gamble in the twenty-first round. I like this pick.
23.698 – RHP Braden Bristo
For whatever reason I had Braden Bristo as a lefthander in my notes. Don’t let that stupid inaccuracy on my part obscure the real deal part of his quick scouting blurb. Bristo has a really fast arm that has been up to 96 in the past (90-94 generally). Both his command and control have seen ups and downs, but getting a fastball like that — lefthanded, righthanded, anyhanded — in the twenty-third round is a pretty good deal. I also had an honest to goodness dream the night after finishing this that I can’t really remember anything from except for stopping in the Braden Bristo Bistro for a glass of water. Guess the “joke” popped into my head when seeing his name (boo), I forgot about it (thankfully), and then recovered it (noooo) from deep down in the stupidest recesses of my brain while sleeping. That’s how dreams work, right?
24.728 – OF Joe Burton
Having already picked off my tenth ranked college first baseman, the Yankees go back and grab number twelve in big Joe Burton (371). Burton, the rare junior college player that I got a chance to see in person (albeit in a workout session and not a real game), is a mountain of a man with underrated athleticism, a quick bat, and a chance to hang in left field professionally. That’s exactly where he played exclusively in his debut run with the Yankees, so maybe they’ll find a way to make it work. There’s still considerable swing-and-miss to his game, but Burton’s encouraging start in pro ball reinforces his standing on the prospect map.
25.758 – OF Edel Luaces
I had nothing on Edel Luaces prior to the draft. I have nothing on Edel Luaces now. I can tell you he’s now one of four players with the given name Edel to have played professional baseball. There’s also been an Edelano (Long), Edelkis (Reyes), and Edelyn (Carrasco). No idea if any of those gentlemen went by Edel. Anyway, here’s a nice interview with Luaces via Robert M. Pimpsner.
27.818 – LHP Phillip Diehl
Thanks to above-average control and an average or better slider, Phillip Diehl is a better version of Tyler Honahan, another college lefty taken nine rounds later by New York. Both guys have enough fastball — 88-91 in the case of Diehl — to make it as a lefty specialist if the chips fall in their favor.
28.848 – RHP Will Jones
I’ve got nothing on Will Jones. Good peripherals in his debut. Not so much in the runs allowed department. Points for being an athletic two-way standout at Lander University with a low-90s heater and rapidly improving cutter. An athletic Yankee reliever known best for sawing off bats with nasty cutters? You don’t think? Nahhh…
30.908 – OF Ben Ruta
I’ve long been in favor of going with what you know in later rounds. I assume the Yankees know the prospects at Wagner College, a school that plays their home games in the very same park as the Staten Island Yankees. Ruta has pro size, a strong arm, and solid speed. He also has the exact kind of approach (college career 77 BB to 83 K) that seemingly all Yankees draftees must have to warrant draft consideration. You could do a lot worse in the thirtieth round.
36.1088 – LHP Tyler Honahan
Here’s another example of going what you know. Tyler Honahan played his collegiate home games just ninety minutes east of Yankee Stadium at Joe Nathan Field. In this case, going with what they know could result in a useful lefty reliever down the road. Honahan has always had solid stuff from the left side — 88-93 FB, 77-83 CU with upside — and his track record of missing bats is strong, so it was no shock to see him pitch effectively in his first shot at pro ball. The odds are against any thirty-sixth round pick, but Honahan can at least point to clearly defined big league skills to help his cause.
39.1178 – RHP Brian Keller
An excellent senior season (8.91 K/9, 1.80 BB/9 and 2.88 ERA in 100.0 IP), above-average command, and a fastball up to 93 were enough to get Brian Keller drafted. I would have guessed that combination would have been enough to get him drafted ahead of the thirty-ninth round (“mid-rounds” was my prediction during the season), but that’s neither here nor there at this point. It was enough to get him his chance at pro ball and he is more than making the most of it so far. Improving on all of your impressive senior season stats is good, right? Because Keller’s debut did just that: 11.20 K/9, 1.54 BB/9, and 0.88 ERA in 41.0 IP. Keller has a chance to be Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s first big league player. Very easy player to root for.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Miles Sandum (San Diego), Nate Brown (Florida), Zack Hess (LSU), Juan Cabrera (?), Bo Weiss (North Carolina), Blair Henley (Texas), Zach Linginfelter (Tennessee), Sam Ferri (Arizona State), David Clawson (BYU), Corey Dempster (USC), Bryson Bowman (Western Carolina), Gage Burland (Gonzaga)
22 – James Kaprielian
48 – Kyle Holder
83 – Drew Finley
89 – Jeff Degano
112 – Jeff Hendrix
220 – Kolton Mahoney
228 – Ryan Krill
307 – Isiah Gilliam
397 – Garrett Mundell
403 – Chance Adams
408 – Brandon Wagner
419 – Kane Sweeney
I really liked what the Yankees did in the first few rounds to restock their minor league pitching. RHP James Kaprielian (22) looked for all the world to be a “quick-moving mid-rotation arm who still might have a bit of upside left in him beyond that” before the draft and nothing in his pro debut suggests otherwise. Slick pick. New York could have done a few different things and come out just as well (Walker Buehler and Jon Harris as comparable college arms, Brady Aiken or Ashe Russell or Beau Burrows or Mike Nikorak as higher boom/bust guys, Nick Plummer or DJ Stewart as patient yet unexciting corner outfielders) and it’s always fun for me to speculate about what package a team with two early picks (16 and 30 in this case) might have preferred in hindsight (Kaprielian and Holder or Kevin Newman and Kyle Funkhouser?), but getting a talent like Kaprielian in the middle of the first is something to be pleased about no matter the what-ifs. Stuck a Michael Wacha comp on him a few months ago that I stand by today…
This all brings me to the guy I think Wacha compares to on some level, UCLA JR RHP James Kaprielian. Draft people like me who sometimes try to get too cute for own good have fought it in the past, but there’s no denying that Kaprielian warrants a first round grade this June. Well-built righthanders with four pitches (ding!) and consistently excellent results in a tough conference profile as big league starting pitchers more often than not. I’m going to just go with an excerpt of some of my notes on Kaprielian because they are among the longest running that I have on any player in this college class…
JR RHP James Kaprielian (2015): 87-92 FB, 94-95 peak; potential plus 79-84 CB, commands it well; potential plus 80-85 CU with serious sink; above-average 79-85 SL; good athlete; excellent overall command; 2014 Summer: 88-92 FB, 93 peak; above-average to plus or better 75-79 CB with plus command, still gets it up to 85 depending on situation; average or better upside with 79-82 SL; FAVORITE; average or better upside with mid-80s CU with splitter action; UPDATE: 83-85 SL, flashes above-average; average 78-80 CB with above-average to plus upside; good athlete; commands both breaking balls well; 2015: 89-94 FB; above-average 78-81 CB flashes plus; above-average 83-85 SL; above-average mid-80s CU, flashes better; 6-4, 200 pounds (2013: 12.39 K/9 | 5.09 BB/9 | 2.20 FIP | 40.2 IP) (2014: 9.17 K/9 – 2.97 BB/9 – 106 IP – 2.29 ERA)
The UPDATE and 2015 sections give the most pertinent information (88-94 FB, 95 peak; above-average 78-81 CB, flashes plus; average 83-85 SL, flashes above-average; above-average mid-80s CU with drop, flashes plus; good athleticism; commands both breaking balls ably; plus overall command), but I like including the whole thing (or as much as can be published) to highlight the growth he’s made. Kaprielian is damn good and smart team picking in the latter half of the first round will get a quick-moving mid-rotation arm who still might have a bit of upside left in him beyond that.
Fun with small samples featuring RHP Drew Finley (83). Finley’s pre-draft blurb on this very site mentioned a fastball ranging from 85-90 (early in the scouting season) to 88-92 later (94 peak) with “plus sink” that he commands quite well. It also mentioned that he throws “nothing straight” with a delivery that provides both “good deception” and “good extension.” Knowing that and only that, would you have had Finley pegged as being one of this draft class’s pitchers most prone to fly ball outs? I, for one, would done no such thing. In 32 innings (just 32 innings, mind you), Finley only got 33.7% of his batted ball outs on the ground. Finley is a good prospect, by the way. Really like that fastball (velocity + movement + command = winning pitch), really like his curve, and really like the delivery. He’s a little older than his peers and he likely won’t ever top the output of Rancho Bernardo High’s most famous baseball alum (Cole Hamels!), but I like him as a potential mid-rotation workhorse.
You an see where I ranked LHP Jeff Degano (89) right there in the parentheses. The Yankees took him with the 57th pick. After thinking it over the summer, my own pre-draft rankings be damned, I think they got a steal. He’s older (23 in a few weeks) and raw (Canadian and injured), but the flashes of brilliance are enough to sell you on his upside. I known for a fact that New York is thrilled about landing him where they did. I’ve even heard it floated that some within their developmental staff would like to see him move to relief because they think he could be their homegrown version of Andrew Miller. That’s pretty damn intriguing, but, as always, I’d give the big young lefty a chance to keep starting as long as he can do it. With a mechanical tweak or two, some honest innings under his belt, and more work on the changeup (a pitch I believe in for him), I think there’s sneaky top of the rotation (more two than one) or shutdown closer upside here. That’s not upside that is thrown around lightly here.
RHP Kolton Mahoney (220) could currently be what Drew Finley will be in a few years. There’s less upside (as one would expect) and a higher probability of pitching in relief, but the talent is significant. Brilliant pick and sign at this point in the draft. I also really, really like RHP Garrett Mundell (397). Guys like Mundell, a senior-sign, should not be available outside of the top ten money-saving rounds let alone free to take all the way down in round twenty-three. It’s far too easy an obvious a comp to make, but there’s some shades of former Bulldog Doug Fister in Mundell’s game…
7.40 K/9 – 2.59 BB/9 – 93.2 IP
8.36 K/9 – 3.64 BB/9 – 116.1 IP
7.43 K/9 – 4.70 BB/9 – 45 IP
7.82 K/9 – 3.10 BB/9 – 61 IP
Top set is Fister’s final two seasons at Fresno State, bottom set is Mundell’s final two seasons at Fresno State. Both are big, long-limbed pitchers (as if he “hands ball to catcher” is in my Mundell notes) who rely on keeping the ball down and getting outs on the ground. Even if you put the odds low (25%) that Mundell does anything approaching Fister’s big league work (overrated by advanced metrics in my view, but that’s besides the point), isn’t that somebody worth taking a shot on as a money-saver in rounds nine or ten? Getting Mundell this late is a coup for the Yankee front office.
I’m always stunned when a fairly straight-forward looking prospect (to me) becomes a very divisive one to others, so seeing SS Kyle Holder (48) get roasted as a major reach who can’t play after his disappointing pro debut fascinated me. This is a more complex issue than I have time to cover in my self-restricted state (time to worry more about the 2016 draft and leave 2015 behind), so I’ll do my best to be brief (note: this is not a personal writing strength). Off the bat, I’ll acknowledge that my pre-draft take on him could have been off the mark and those who have seen him more recently are on top of things in a way I am not. I could be wrong about Holder. I’ve been wrong before, I’ll be wrong a lot in the future. That said, I do have some conviction in my pro-Holder opinion that I’m far from ready to back away from.
Holder had a bad debut from a performance perspective. There’s no hiding from that. Typically in these instances, I’d assume that those critical of him would be the type that saw how badly he struggled and opted to pile on from there. In this specific case, however, I noticed very early on that people — smart people! — were underwhelmed at Holder’s game. So how does a guy go from a first round pick of the New York Yankees to (as some have claimed) overmatched org guy who only gets talked about because of his status as a first rounder? Are there legitimate concerns or is something else going on?
We’ll hit the latter point first. I maintain that the Yankees (and myself and many other teams and many other publications) didn’t completely whiff on Holder. Again, it’s certainly possible that he doesn’t have the kind of career many envisioned but that’s true of literally every player drafted each June.
I also think that part of the change in perception about Holder is who is now doing the evaluating. There’s plenty of crossover between amateur scouting and pro scouting — not enough, but still lots — yet I think the higher standard that comes with being a professional colors the evaluation of recent draftees in what is often too unfavorable a light. There’s some “THIS is pro ball and not some piddly little amateur conference now, kid” attitude among some evaluators who take odd pleasure in tearing down the draft’s best players as they enter pro ball. More kindly, I think there’s an attempt at over-correcting the occasionally too optimistic forecasts pushed by amateur scouts — a big part of the job is salesmanship, after all — to provide a necessary counterpoint and give the bosses a fuller picture of the player as they head into the offseason.
As for the former point, yes, there are legitimate concerns about how Holder’s game will translate to pro ball. The biggest concern pre-draft that persists today is his power. We talk a lot about how not every player needs to be a double-digit home run guy to be a successful big league player, but it’s undeniably important that the mere possibility of putting one over the seats every so often changes how a batter is pitched. Power is king, but the threat of power can be almost as important for certain players. Holder will need to show he has at least a little in-game pop before pitchers will realize they need to change how they attack him. Holder’s chance at being a non-zero offensively hinges on his ability to keep getting on base at a solid clip and stealing some bags along the way. There’s often an inverse relationship between a player like Holder’s on-base ability and the amount the opposing pitcher has to worry about the threat of power. I can’t say with absolute certainty that he’ll hit enough to start at shortstop, but, even in the face of his early struggles, I lean toward thinking he’ll make it work. This was the pre-draft take…
San Diego JR SS Kyle Holder is a special talent with the glove. He’s a fantastic athlete with everything you’d want to see out of big league defender: his range, hands, feet, instincts, arm, and touch are all exemplary. There might not be a lot of power to come, but he’s a smart, balanced hitter who works deep counts and battles in every at bat. With a very real clear strength and no obvious weaknesses, the well-rounded Holder could be a dark horse first day candidate. If you shoot for the moon with an all-upside first pick, then going for what could be a quick-moving rock solid big league shortstop with your second pick makes a lot of sense. The comps I have on Holder are among my favorite for any player in this year’s class: Mike Bordick, Walt Weiss, and Orlando Cabrera. I don’t know why, but that strikes me as a fun group of possible outcomes. Bordick and Weiss both feel fair in a plus glove, good command of the strike zone, enough power to keep pitchers’ honest kind of way.
The defense is going to play. I’m personally certain of that, though I’ve read many who have claimed his glove as being overhyped. That, far more so than those concerned about his bat, feels like the kind of amateur/pro scout pettiness that I described above. To paraphrase what I’ve heard: Yeah, he’s a good defender…for a college guy. In the pros he’s just one of many decent gloves. I stand by his defense at shortstop 100%. That tool alone is enough to make him a potential big league player. If the threat of power is enough for him, then the Mike Bordick/Walt Weiss comps will begin to look pretty good. We’ll see.
OF Jeff Hendrix (112). like Holder, had the kind of pro debut you spend all winter trying to forget. On the plus side, he swiped 17 of 18 bases. On the less plus side, well, there’s pretty much everything else. There’s no reason to overreact to a bad few months, though it should go without saying that an impressive debut beats a debut like this any day. Still, I remain a Hendrix fan and think he has as bright future in pro ball as I did many months ago…
Oregon State JR OF Jeff Hendrix is a fine looking prospect who hasn’t gotten much (any?) national attention just yet. If you’re starting to pick up on a trend with the Pac-12 this year, then you’re smarter than you look. On paper, Hendrix sounds damn good: above-average to plus raw power, average to above-average speed, and great athleticism. He’s made steady improvements on the field with little sign of slowing down. It’s rare that an honest to goodness potential top five round gets overshadowed like this – perhaps it has something to do with being teammates with the extremely impressive freshman KJ Harrison – but he’ll get his due before too long.
2B Brandon Wagner held his own in his debut, splitting time between 2B and 3B while getting acclimated to the rigors of the pro game. The Jersey native has presumably been followed by the Yankees for years even after winding up in Texas at Howard College. Nice get in the sixth. 1B Isiah Gilliam (307) had an even better debut season while splitting his time in between the outfield corners. I think he should settle in as a good enough glove in left field to allow his potentially above-average all-around offensive game to get him in the lineup. Getting him signed as a twentieth round pick should get raises for all the individuals who helped convince the higher-ups that he was signable. I’ll do my part to keep expectations in check by referring to him as 29th Round Pick 1B Kane Sweeney (419), but it’s hard not to be a little excited about a .320/.437/.562 debut run. There are strikes against him (age, too many whiffs, 1B only), but I like him enough that an aggressive double-jump in 2016 feels like a fair sink-or-swim assignment.
OF Jhalen Jackson has some swing-and-miss (not good) and some interesting tools to work with (good!). There are miles between where OF Terrance Robertson could wind up and where he is now, but as an overslot high school pick he’s worth knowing. OF Trey Amburgey had an outstanding debut that puts him on the map for me now when I didn’t know a ton about him a few months ago. OF Zach Zehner, the most recognizable name out of this particular subsection of new Yankee outfielders, has a weird amount of fans (at least among people I know) despite never quite solving the riddle that is the strike zone. He has power, speed, arm strength, and size, but he lacks time (24 next August) and the aforementioned plate discipline (18 BB/52 K as a senior). If nothing else, I like how New York diversified their assets here: they went Division II, high school, junior college, and Division I with these respective four outfield picks.
3B Donny Sands was not a name I was familiar with before the draft and for that I’m pretty downtrodden about. I know I’m a one-man show here, but I can’t help but kick myself over whiffing on him. It’s very early yet obviously, but his pro debut is quite encouraging. Perhaps I should temper some of that enthusiasm by pointing out that he’s one of the older players I’ve noticed in his class (19 this past May). Bryan Hoch had a cool story about Sands on MLB.com that included this bit…
The way the game worked, as the 19-year-old recalled Tuesday, was that his mother would set a clock for five minutes and begin tossing the beans. Sands would have to hit each one without missing any for the session to end; if he whiffed, the clock restarted at zero. The idea was his mother’s, cribbed from her experiences living in Mexico.
The beans in question were pinto beans. That’s phenomenal. New favorite prospect.
RHP Chance Adams (403) was the highest drafted reliever by the Yankees, so it’s no shock he’s the best of the bunch. Armed with a low-90s fastball and above-average command, he’s got the chance to pitch late in games as he keeps improving. It stands to reason he feels right at home in the pro game considering he’s basically coming from what amounts to college ball’s closest 2015 facimile: including Adams, the Dallas Baptist staff included five pitchers (Brandon Koch, Cory Taylor, Joseph Shaw, Drew Smith) that went in the first dozen rounds. Not bad.
With a solid one-two fastball (88-92) and slider punch, LHP James Reeves is a fine looking middle relief prospect. His last year of college (10.89 K/9 and 2.65 BB/9 in 95 IP) and his first year in the pros (9.23 K/9 and 4.10 BB/9) both look good from here. The signing of LHP Josh Rogers is an impressive bit of investigative work by the New York scouting staff.
rSO LHP Josh Rogers gets swallowed up by the FUNKHOUSER hype, a perfectly understandable yet unfortunate matter of fact that happens when you share a the top of a rotation with a potential top ten pick and one of the nation’s top freshmen (LHP/1B Brendan McKay). Rogers, a Tommy John surgery survivor, has decent velocity for a lefty (85-90, has been up to 92-93 in the past) and a workable breaking ball. He’s always gotten results when called upon (8.13 K/9 and 2.08 BB/9 last year, 7.65 K/9 and 2.18 BB/9 this year), so, if signable (non-stars with two remaining years of eligibility don’t always jump at the first pro offer they get) there’s really no reason why he shouldn’t be drafted and tried as a pro starter this summer.
Interesting to note that the Yankees chose him to pitch a few late-season innings in Low-A. Little moves like that don’t necessarily mean much more than that’s how the ebbs and flows of the minor league season work (31st round pick RHP Hobie Harris also got some Charleston innings, for example), but they can sometimes clue us outsiders into the what insiders think of the players we spend so much time thinking about ourselves.
RHP Will Carter is more of a ground ball guy than a strikeout specialist. His sinker has some serious juice (87-94, up to 95), but it’s tough to get ahead as a minor league reliever without that put-away pitch in your back pocket. RHP Bret Marks has a fastball (88-92) with similar sink (plus an average or better slider and interesting split-change) with a better history of missing bats. RHP Brody Koerner takes the ground ball thing to the next level (78.8 GB%) with a very slider heavy approach. The fact that the Yankees had an area scout stick with Koerner and a progressive enough front office willing to overlook some ugly run prevention (7.55 ERA in 62 IP at Clemson this year) to see the raw talent the young right possesses. The peripherals remained good (9.15 K/9 and 3.19 BB/9), so, at the risk of speculating irresponsibly, it would seem to me, based on the pro data we have, that much of Koerner’s 2015 problems at Clemson were related to him pissing off the BABIP deities. For that reason and much more, I like Koerner a whole lot. The Yankees drafted Carter, Marks, and Koerner in that order; I happen to like them in the opposite direction.
RHP Josh Roeder has an absolutely electric slider that seriously ranks as one of the best in the class. Paired with good heat (88-92, 94 peak), good command, and a good track record at Nebraska, and you’ve got yourself a pretty good relief prospect. I swear I’m not intentionally trying to be this positive (it’s the YANKEES, after all), but grabbing guys like Roeder and Koerner when the Yankees did is really good work.
RHP Mark Seyler has a good arm (88-92) and a solid track record. RHP Cody Carroll can crank it up to 95 at times (sits low-90s). It’s an odd universe where RHP Paddy O’Brien gets selected by New York and not Boston. RHP Icezack Flemming should become friends with Christian Turnipseed if he’s not already. RHP David Sosebee spots his upper-80s fastball seemingly wherever he likes. I saw RHP Chad Martin at Delaware where he looked like a decent mid-round minor league reliever. RHP Christian Morris has the stuff to start (FB/CB/CU) but not the command.
The more I think about Peter O’Brien as a prospect, the more I think a comparison to Tommy Joseph makes sense. Both are big guys, both have some questions about their defensive future (Joseph has put most of these concerns to rest, but it has taken time), and both have the one plus tool that will keep them getting work for the foreseeable future: huge raw power. He had an auspicious pro debut, but that doesn’t change his basic scouting profile. If he can catch, he’ll be a star. Unlike many other catchers with questionable futures behind the dish, O’Brien should bring enough offense to give him a shot even if moved to first base. They key phrasing there is “give him a shot”: the bar is so darn high for the position that I’m not bold and/or stupid enough to say he’s a definite starting caliber big league first baseman. Not for nothing, but I had him ranked 94th on my final pre-draft big board…and the Yankees picked him with the 94th overall pick. Blind squirrel, acorn, etc.
100 plate appearances doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, but I have to admit to being a teeny tiny bit worried about Nathan Mikolas’ professional debut. Worse prospects than Mikolas have had worse pro starts (.134/.290/.171) and still gone on to bigger and better things, so I think it is time to put that teeny tiny bit of doubt to bed. Mikolas may or may not be a good big league hitter, but those 100 plate appearances shouldn’t sway me one way or another. All that aside, I really believe in Mikolas’ bat. The limb I wouldn’t go out on for O’Brien is one that I’m happy to hop on for Mikolas. His bat is good enough for every day first base duty, though it will take some time. Matt Snyder was old for Staten Island, but he did the job he was asked to do. He has some righty-mashing platoon potential, though I’m not sure that the Yankees, or any team for that matter, has such a role in mind for their DH spot. You can copy that last sentence and apply the same logic to Saxon Butler. It’ll be interesting to see what the Yankees do with their three new lefthanded hitting first base prospects. I think Mikolas’ bat is advanced enough for full-season ball (ugly pro debut notwithstanding), but the presence of college sluggers Snyder and Butler creates a logjam in the system’s lower levels. The tea leaves seem to indicate that Butler will be in Tampa (A+), Snyder in Charleston (A), and Mikolas in Staten Island (R).
I love the OF to 2B conversion, so it should go without saying that the news of Robert Refsnyder moving from Arizona outfielder to Riverdogs second baseman made my day. Unfortunately, the transition appears to be on hold, at least for the time being. As a second baseman Refsnyder becomes a really intriguing prospect. He’s a great athlete with above-average speed, sneaky pop, and the grinder mentality that endears him to scouts, coaches, and teammates. He more than held his own with the bat at Charleston – strong walk rate, good success stealing bags – but it does without saying that his well-rounded offensive profile plays a lot better in the middle of the infield than it would as a corner outfielder. It still sounds like second base is in his future, but we’ll know more in a few months. A natural comparison here is Phillies draft prospect and fellow OF to 2B Andrew Pullin; it’ll be fun to track their two careers over the next few seasons.
Yankees fans have every right to be excited about Austin Aune as a prospect. As a former football star, there’s plenty of untapped raw talent and athleticism waiting to turn into actualized baseball skills with the help of consistent at bats and good coaching. If that was all Aune was, that would be enough. His tools are that good. There’s more to his game than just doing whatever comes naturally athletically. Aune is more advanced as a ballplayer than many give him credit, from his sweet lefthanded swing to his ability to make consistent hard contact no matter where the ball is pitched. As his body fills out and his raw power begins showing up more often when the lights come on, watch out.
Aune is joined in the 2012 Yankee draft class outfield by Taylor Dugas. I won’t try to put too fine a point on this, so I’ll just come out and say it: I love Taylor Dugas. He’s got three average or slightly better tools (hit, speed, defense), one slightly below-average tool (arm), and one well below-average tool (power). That skill set isn’t entirely uncommon, but what sets Dugas apart is his phenomenal plate discipline. I understand those who think he’ll top out in the high minors after pitchers, with little fear of an extra base hit, begin daring him to hit pitches in the strike zone. But just because I understand it doesn’t mean I agree with it. If Dugas fails to make the big leagues, I’ll do something crazy. Like eat a sautéed mushroom, the most disgusting food I can think of at the moment. Now that’s confidence! I will admit that there is some weirdness with Dugas being a Yankee. He feels like he should be a Padre. That said, his being a member of the Yankees organization does give him a perfect player to emulate in pro ball: Brett Gardner. That’s a pretty fantastic comp, if I do say so myself. Dugas should follow the Gardner path – Staten Island in year one, then Tampa and Trenton in year two – if all goes according to plan. I’m hoping that’s the case since I’m only 50 minutes on the train away from beautiful downtown Trenton, New Jersey.
I consistently get Ty Hensley and Shane Watson confused, so it was only fitting that the Yankees selected the former ten picks before the Phillies popped the latter. The two righthanders, born roughly two weeks apart, are very similar prospects across the board. Hensley has a little bit of bulk on Watson, but they are like twins otherwise. Like Watson, Hensley has a pro body, plus fastball, curveball with plus upside, and quickly emerging changeup that should be at least an average pitch in time. The overall package is rather impressive. Both Hensley and Watson should rank at or near the top of their respective organization’s pitching prospect rankings. Both pitchers have big league average upside (no small feat for a starting pitcher) or better. I’m just spitballing here, but I think Hensley is second only to Manny Banuelos in the Yankee pitching pecking order with the chance to rank as high as fourth overall (also behind both Gary Sanchez and Mason Williams) in the entire system.
I’ve said before that I don’t really believe in the concept of a sleeper. Look at Corey Black, the Yankees fourth round pick out of tiny Faulkner University in Montgomery, Alabama. All signs point to a sleeper, right? I mean, I’ve read on other sites that he was a sleeper, so it must be true. Well, Black’s career doesn’t begin and end at Faulkner University. He was once a big name at San Diego State. Before that, like many so-called sleepers, he was a standout prep prospect. I don’t think it is a stretch to say that Black has been on the draft radar going on five years now. I get that I devote far more time and energy to this stuff than the vast majority of the baseball consuming population, but it still burns me up when mainstream media types tout players as sleepers who are in no way sleepers. To some it seems that any player taken after the first day is a sleeper. Pandering to an audience that, let’s be honest, doesn’t give a darn about amateur baseball 364 days out of the year may be part of the job at some of the industry leaders, but don’t pretend that you’re a draft expert when you aren’t. Baseball America and Perfect Game are largely exempt from my rant, by the way. To a man the employees of both outlets do consistently excellent work on draft coverage. Moving on…
Corey Black’s upside depends on how great of a chance you think he has to start. As a starter, he has mid-rotation upside thanks to an excellent fastball, above-average change, and whatever breaking ball he can get over on a daily basis. Bonus points should be awarded for his ability to hold his velocity late into games. He’s also likely to be one of the better hitting pitchers wherever he goes. If left to his own in the bullpen, however, he has a chance to pitch some serious late inning, high leverage innings. Like most guys, you’ve got to try him as a starter and let him pitch in the rotation until he shows you he’s a reliever.
New York hit up many traditional scouting outposts like the Oklahoma and Texas prep ranks, as well as poaching players from talent-rich universities like Miami, Arizona, and LSU. What stood out to me, however, was their willingness to go beyond the typical talent boundaries and expand their search to exotic locales like Wisconsin, Montana, Ontario, and Utah. Mikolas is the poster boy for New York’s nationwide quest for talent, but he’s not the only cold weather prospect of note. Brady Lail, out of Utah, is an unquestionably great pick way down in the 18th round. In many respects, Brady Lail is Mr. High School Pitching Prospect. Like so many high school pitching prospects, Lail sits mostly upper-80s yet has a frame that suggests more velocity is in his future. Lail also features a breaking ball that can and should be a well above-average big league offering in time. However, like so many high school pitching prospects, he currently lacks the necessary third pitch to make it as an effective starter in pro ball. Lail gives you a lot to work with, so much so that it isn’t a stretch to say he has the potential to someday be in a big league rotation. Bridging the gap between what he is and what he’ll be, however, is where the fun comes in.
The trajectory of Lail’s career will be fascinating to follow, especially if you buy my thesis that he’s Mr. High School Pitching Prospect. Every young player’s career can go in an infinite number of directions at this developmental point, with so much depending on factors that are ostensibly outside of the player’s control. We’re talking things like coaching, injury, and opportunity here. Different developmental staffs have different ideas on how much of a difference they can really make in any young player. Some young arms just seem to get it in pro ball, some don’t. Some staffs believe certain pitches – most often breaking balls – are either in an arm or aren’t, others believe that any pitcher gifted with a big time arm can be taught how to spin a ball over time. Lail’s career won’t offer any particular insight into prospect development, especially with the limited information available to those removed from the process; he will, however, become another cog in the proverbial high risk/high reward baseball prospect machine.
Nick Goody had an excellent start to his pro career, something that really isn’t all the shocking considering the excellent season he had at LSU. As a general rule, relievers who dominate SEC competition fare quite well in the low minors. I can definitely see Goody becoming a favorite of the numbers-first crowd. Those who have seen him pitch share similar affection thanks to a sneaky fast fastball and well above-average breaking ball. Taylor Garrison is cut from a similar cloth. Comparable fastball, command, and breaking ball all wrapped up in a diminutive (i.e. under 6-foot) package. Garrison has a better third pitch (changeup), but Goody’s overall package is still stronger. Both seem likely to start the season in Tampa with Goody holding an outside shot at beginning a step ahead in AA.
Derek Varnadore is mostly fastball/slider coming out of the bullpen. He’s a clear step below both Goody and Garrison in the pecking order, but could still be one of those guys who hangs on long enough and someday gets his chance in the bigs. My favorite (pre-draft) reliever drafted by the Yankees is Stefan Lopez. I think Lopez has a chance to be a really fine bullpen piece. His fastball is one of those pitches that hitters can know is coming and still not make solid contact. Combine that with an above-average slider and decent feel for the slow stuff, and you’ve got yourself a potential big league reliever. That’s a really nice outcome for a player taken in the 16th round.
The Yankees collection of draft lefties isn’t something to write home about, but there are a few interesting names that should be familiar to fans of college baseball. Eric Erickson is one of the better stories to emerge from the 2012 draft class. I know for a fact that seeing him pitch well in pro ball pleased a lot of the scouts who have followed him over the past few seasons. He’s overcome a great deal from an injury standpoint to get this far, and he has a lot of fans in the industry who would like nothing more than to see him continue defy the odds. Now here comes the splash of cold water. Erickson has an incredibly tough road ahead of him if he ever wants to reach the highest level. Erickson will start next season having already turned 25 years old. As a point of reference, Dietrich Enns, another college lefty drafted by New York, turns 22 in May of next year. The two guys had weirdly similar underlying numbers in their debuts, but those three years make a big time difference going forward. Age alone doesn’t make Enns the better prospect – I’d go so far as to argue age is overrated for pitching prospects, especially guys with ceilings that top out in the bullpen – but with similar scouting profiles, statistical backgrounds, and body types, the edge goes to the younger, healthier arm.
No matter what happens in Erickson’s professional future, I hope he takes comfort in being able to say he pitched for the Yankees (Staten Island) in pro ball. That’s something nobody can ever take away from him. Stories like Erickson’s bring us back to remembering that the players drafted each year are real life living people. Becoming a successful big league player is the goal for everybody, but keeping the incredible journey along the way in perspective is plenty important in its own right.
As for the aforementioned Enns, well, he’s a little bit like the MAC version of Michael Roth. Unless that’s Kent State lefty David Starn. Turns out that high pitchability lefthanders with unexciting stuff aren’t so uncommon in college after all. Who knew?
More words were typed on the other guys, but I like James Pazos from San Diego the most out of the bunch. He did a nice job out of the bullpen for Staten Island, though I’d like to see him get a chance in a rotation starting next season. He has enough of a three pitch mix to get by, and his ability to induce groundballs is encouraging.
I didn’t write much or anything about the non-Lail trio of prep arms the Yankees managed to sign for $100,000 apiece past round 10. Caleb Frare, from noted baseball hotbed Montana, is a lefty with reasonable upside, Dayton Dawe of the Great White North has an advanced arsenal for a high school arm and good athleticism, and Jose Mesa Jr. is, well, Jose Mesa Jr. The world is a better place with a Joe Table in pro ball.
2.94 Miami C Peter O’Brien
8. Miami SR C Peter O’Brien: nothing has changed when it comes to O’Brien’s basic scouting report: plus-plus power and a strong arm, but below-average everywhere else; what has changed is his level of competition – doing what he did in the ACC has opened some eyes, and rightfully so; his hit tool isn’t as strong and he’s a better bet to stick behind the plate, but I think a comparison between O’Brien and last year’s preeminent college power hitter CJ Cron has some merit – if O’Brien had been moved off of catcher coming into the year, I wonder if scouts would appreciate his bat more rather than focusing on the negatives of his defense; 6-5, 225 pounds
3.124 Bradford HS (WI) 1B Nathan Mikolas
1. 1B Nathan Mikolas (Bradford HS, Wisconsin): strong hit tool; above-average power upside; good athlete; really smart young hitter; quick bat; can hit to all fields; questionable defender and athlete; best position is batter’s box; has also played some OF; 6-2, 200 pounds
10.337 Mississippi 1B Matt Snyder
26. Mississippi SR 1B Matt Snyder: mature approach pairs well with mature, physical, strong as an ox frame; well above-average raw power; average at best hit tool, but better than that of most college senior sign sluggers; below-average defender; below-average speed; 6-6, 215 pounds
33.1027 Samford 1B Saxon Butler
39. Samford SR 1B Saxon Butler: unheralded junior college transfer who has hit a ton since getting to campus; above-average present power; not a lot of projection nor is there much to his game outside of the batter’s box, but should be quality pro hitter; 6-2, 225 pounds
5.187 Arizona 2B Robert Refsnyder
129. Arizona JR OF Robert Refsnyder: plus athlete; 55 speed; big raw power, but currently to gaps (10 HRs a year?); strong arm for RF; gets most out of tools; strong hit tool; 6-1, 205 pounds
2.89 Argyle HS (TX) OF Austin Aune
20. OF Austin Aune (Argyle HS, Texas): pretty lefthanded swing; great athlete; first round tools; football star who is a questionable sign; good runner; strong arm; can hit the ball anywhere it is pitched; 6-3, 190 pounds
8.277 Alabama OF Taylor Dugas
63. Alabama SR OF Taylor Dugas: advanced idea of strike zone; above-average speed; good athlete; gap power; average at best arm; little power; good CF range; leadoff profile; earned one of my all-time all-caps FAVORITE designations going back to his sophomore season; drills high velocity with no problem; smart on bases; as much as I love him, I understand he has a limited ceiling and will have to continually drastically outperform more physically talented players to keep moving up through a system; 5-7, 175 pounds
1.30 Santa Fe HS (OK) RHP Ty Hensley
29. RHP Ty Hensley (Santa Fe HS, Oklahoma): 88-93 FB, 94-95 peak; velocity has been up at times, sitting 92-95, peaking 97-98; good FB command; really good 74-79 CB with plus upside that he relies on heavily; emerging 79-82 CU; 84-86 SL that he has difficult commanding; strong hitter; two potential plus pitches and a big league frame are a great start, but he’ll have to continue developing a third pitch, likely his nascent change, going forward; as is, he has first day stuff; 6-5, 220 pounds
4.157 Faulkner RHP Corey Black
56. Faulkner (AL) JR RHP Corey Black: 90-95 FB, 96 peak; holds velocity late; velocity way up in 2012: sitting 94-96, 98-99 peak; above-average 81-84 CU; occasional CB, average SL; transferred from San Diego State; good fielder; nice line drive swing; 5-11, 180 pounds
6.217 LSU RHP Nick Goody
180. LSU JR RHP Nick Goody: 88-92 FB, 94 peak; promising 78-82 breaking ball that falls somewhere between slider and power curve; good deception in delivery helps his fastball play up; has the small sample size of any one-year college reliever, but really hard to find fault with his 2012 performances (below); 6-0, 190 pounds
7.247 Fresno State RHP Taylor Garrison
187. Fresno State SR RHP Taylor Garrison: 89-93 FB, 94 peak; good command; good SL with cutter action; above-average CU; also throws CB; 5-10, 160 pounds
9.307 Auburn RHP Derek Varnadore
290. Auburn SR RHP Derek Varnadore: 89-92 FB, rare 94 peak; improved SL, has really firmed up – now 86-88 and an above-average pitch; shows CU; good deception; total package adds up to a solid mid- to late-round senior sign and a potential middle reliever if he hangs on long enough; 6-4, 215 pounds
13.427 San Diego LHP James Pazos
291. San Diego JR LHP James Pazos: 88-92 FB, 93 peak; good CU; SL with upside; has the repertoire, delivery, and demeanor to potentially start in pro ball; 6-3, 225 pounds
16.517 Southeastern Louisiana RHP Stefan Lopez
144. Southeastern Louisiana JR RHP Stefan Lopez: 89-94 FB, 95 peak; good FB command; relies heavily on FB; good 84 SL that he should use more of; might throw one CU per outing, if that; recovered from torn ACL in 2011; I’m on an island with this one, but I think pro coaching and continued progress as he heals from his knee injury could turn Lopez into a viable late-inning big league pitcher, potentially a closer; 6-2, 190 pounds
18.577 Bingham HS (UT) RHP Brady Lail
143. RHP Brady Lail (Bingham HS, Utah): 86-90 FB, 92 peak; good athlete; good 74-77 kCB; very good command, especially on breaking ball; shows CU, but still a raw third pitch; 6-3, 180 pounds
19.607 Central Michigan LHP Dietrich Enns
485. Central Michigan JR LHP Dietrich Enns: 88-92 FB; good CU; one of the country’s smartest pitchers and a lot of fun to watch him work; 6-1, 190 pounds
34.1057 Miami LHP Eric Erickson
356. Miami SR LHP Eric Erickson: 88-90 FB; CB; CU; 6-0, 190 pounds
I like what New York does more than most people because I have a lot of respect for the way they let their strong scouting staff do the job they were hired to do. There isn’t a lot of upper-management meddling and nobody within the organization seems to worry about what the national pundits seem to say about the players they select. I do my best to not talk about “value” or “overdrafts” when discussing top ten picks because, in baseball more than any other sport, beauty is in the eye of the beholder on draft day. Maybe the Yankees could have waited until their second or perhaps third round pick before taking Dante Bichette; if they could have pulled that off, nobody would have claimed he was overdrafted and instead they would have praised the excellent value the Yankees got with their pick. At some point on draft day, however, you have to take the players you love. My one cross-sport reference of the day harkens back to last year’s NFL Draft when the Vikings “overdrafted” QB Christian Ponder. I didn’t particularly love Ponder as a prospect, but Minnesota did. If he was the highest rated player on their board and they had even the slightest doubt he’d be around for their next pick, then they were wise to take their guy, value be damned. The comparison isn’t perfect – the ability to trade down in football’s version of the draft complicates things a bit – and I realize they’ll always be an opportunity cost with taking players a round or two “earlier” than projected, but the point of the draft is to come away with as many players you love as possible. Draft who you want, ignore the haters.
Alright, now time for me to start hating…
The fact that Orangewood Christian HS (FL) 3B Dante Bichette hit really well during his first taste of pro ball is great. Even better are the reports on how quickly he adjusted his swing (shortened to help find consistency and designed to help him hit to all fields more effectively) and better than expected defense at the hot corner. Makes the pre-draft notes on him (below) seem downright prophetic, right? There is still a Dante Bichette Sr. sized gap between what Junior is and what he might be, and I’d be lying if I said I felt good about his future from an instinctual standpoint, but, hey, so far so good.
I’ve gone back and forth on Bichette for over a year now. The first thing I noticed when watching him hit is how his inside-out swing looks a lot like his father’s. This is a positive when he’s going well, as it is a really good looking swing that helps him generate plus bat speed and well above-average raw power. It is a negative when he is going poorly because, as much as I like the swing for an experience professional, it may have a little too much length and too many moving parts to allow him to pull it off consistently. I can’t help but wonder what his first pro hitting instructor’s advice will be. I should also note that I’ve slowly come around to the idea that Bichette might be able to stick at third base professionally because of his much improved athleticism and surprising nimbleness.
Not signing Texas LHP Sam Stafford is a serious black eye for the Yankees draft. It can be excused somewhat because of the reason behind it (a pre-signing physical showed something that scared the Yankees off from offering even slot money), but the final result of not signing a pick in the top 100 is bad news any way you slice it. Stafford has been a frustrating prospect to follow because of his general inconsistencies and lapses in command. If his stuff wasn’t so good, you might be inclined to write him off as a first day prospect altogether. Lefthanders with great size who hit the mid-90s and show the makings of two average or better offspeed pitches (love his low-80s power curve/slider hybrid, still hopeful the change gets better) get every chance to convince teams that they’ll figure out that pesky command thing in pro ball someday.
Texas JR LHP Sam Stafford: 88-92 FB, peak 94-95; FB command issues hold him back; holds velocity well; good 80-85 SL; 73-78 CB is ahead of SL; average 83-85 CU; 6-4, 190
Winnisquam HS (NH) RHP Jordan Cote was a surprise pick this early in the draft. The Yankees place a lot of trust in their area scouts, especially those based in or close to New York, to advocate for players they love. Somebody must have really gone to bat, so to speak, for Cote. That doesn’t mean Cote wasn’t deserving of a third round pick. His fastball is fine, he’s shown some aptitude with a pair of breaking balls, and his size and relatively fresh arm both hint at more velocity to come.
RHP Jordan Cote (Winnisquam HS, New Hampshire): 88-90 FB, 92-93 peak; good CB; SL; raw CU; 6-5, 200
If Cote represented the Yankees willingness to trust their scouts based in and around New York, the selection of New Rochelle HS (NY) 3B Matt Duran takes it up a notch. Not only is Duran a native New Yorker, but he’s also one of the draft’s youngest prospects. In addition to drafting heavily from the Northeast, New York has focused on another of the draft market’s inefficiencies: age. Duran, like last year’s first pick and fellow New York resident Cito Culver, is very young for a high school senior. He has but one plus tool, though, as said many times before, if you’re going to have only one tool, it might as well be power. I for one find it pretty nuts that the Yankees drafted three of the draft’s most interesting prep first base prospects (Bichette, Duran, and Rookie Davis), as well as the promising Austin Jones. New York could have a fun problem on their hands in a few years if Bichette, Duran, and Davis don’t take to their new positions.
If Grandview HS (CO) C Greg Bird can catch, his massive power makes him a big-time prospect. If he can’t, then he’ll join the potential logjam of Yankees first base prospects taken in this year’s draft. I had a scout compare him to Jesus Montero, but with a few huge caveats. First, he only made the comparison after the Yankees drafted Bird and admitted the appeal of comparing two players in the same organization influenced his typically stellar (right…) decision making. Second, he only was talking power upside and defensive ineptitude. That’s all. To build on that, he backtracked even more by saying Montero is way ahead of Bird as a hitter, in terms of both contact ability and plate discipline. In other words, Bird and Montero aren’t all that alike besides the fact they both play “catcher,” they both have ample present power (a rarity for young hitters more than people think – big difference between present power and raw power), and they are both Yankees. I love comps.
Bird came into the year a big prospect, but much of the hype that came with catching Kevin Gausman last year seems to have disappeared after Gausman went off to LSU. The Colorado high school catcher has a little bit of Cameron Gallagher to his game. Both prospects are raw defensively with impressive raw power that has been seen firsthand by area scouts at the high school level. That’s an important thing to note, I think. We hear so much about raw power, so it is worth pointing out when a player has plus raw power and average present power. That’s where I think Bird is currently at. There might not be a ton of projection to him, for better or worse.
I almost always guess wrong on what position a two-way prospect will play professionally, so it’s nice to see the Yankees think the same way I do about Kecoughtan HS (VA) LHP Jake Cave. True, almost everybody thought Cave would be a pitcher, but I’ll take any tiny victory I can get. On the mound he’ll give you an excellent fastball (93-94 peak), a potential plus mid- to late-70s change, and a breaking ball that has shown flashes but needs significant work. The reason I like Cave a lot more than even his raw stuff suggests is his elite athleticism. Long-time readers of the site know that I value athleticism (and all the ancillary benefits, most notably the ability to repeat one’s delivery) in young pitchers very, very highly.
LHP Jake Cave (Kecoughtan HS, Virginia): 88-91 FB, peak 93-94; 75-77 SL or CB; potential plus 74-79 CU; good athlete; power potential; good speed; strong LSU commit; 6-1, 180
Edmonds-Woodway HS (WA) 1B Austin Jones is a little bit like a less publicized version of Greg Bird. Bird received more pre-draft ink because he’s been on the radar longer due mostly to catching Kevin Gausman in high school. Bird also received more pre-draft love because, quite honestly, he’s a better prospect than Jones. Think of Jones as Bird-lite: not quite as much power, not quite as good defensively. That second reason has already been put into practice by New York as the Yanks have moved Jones out from behind the plate and made him a full-time first baseman.
Western Kentucky RHP Phil Wetherell has the two pitches needed to succeed in a bullpen and an arm with minimal wear and tear, but his pedestrian performance at the college level left me lukewarm about his pro prospects. Then he went out and dominated (41 K in 30 IP) for Staten Island. I’m not one to put too much weight in rookie ball stats, but you’d still rather see a guy perform well than not.
Like Wetherell, Lewis-Clark State RHP Zach Arneson is a reliever all the way due to a limited arsenal of pitches and questionable arm action. Also like Wetherell, Arneson put up good numbers (17 K in 17.2 IP) for Staten Island. I prefer Arneson’s fastball to Wetherell’s, but Wetherell has the better secondary pitch (his splitter). Both guys are iffy bets to pitch in the big leagues, but because quality relievers are always in demand, you just never know. I might not be getting paid to write this, but that’s some professional quality hedging right there.
Lewis-Clark State RHP Zach Arneson (2011): 96 peak FB
Eastern Oklahoma State JC RHP Jonathan Gray also fits the Wetherell/Arneson mold. As an unsigned prospect, he’ll have another year of development to mature into something more. He has the fastball/slider combo needed to at least get a look as a potential reliever at some point.
My favorite college relief prospect drafted by New York is Longwood RHP Mark Montgomery (Round 11). Montgomery has been overlooked in the past due to his lack of size and physicality, but he’s close to big league ready with his fastball and plus low- to mid-80s slider. All Montgomery has done is perform at a high level (48 K in 30.1 college IP) everywhere he’s been (41 K in 24.1 IP in the Sally). If he keeps pitching this well next year at Tampa, he’ll officially be a relief sleeper per the national pundits. Get on the ground floor with him now.
Longwood JR RHP Mark Montgomery: 88-92 FB; peak 94; hard 82-84 SL with plus upside; really consistent numbers over three years; 6-0, 205 pounds
Remember when I said I always guess wrong on what position a two-way prospect will play professionally? Come on down, Dixon HS (NC) RHP Rookie Davis! I would almost always rather a young prospect try hitting first – seems to be less variability in development and can get a young arm through the injury nexus in the event he moves back to the mound later on – but I can see why the Yankees prefer Davis, what with his potential for two solid pitches and imposing size, as a pitcher. I like him more as an athletic first base prospect with plus raw power, but I get it.
My biggest concern with ranking Rookie Davis this high is based on the nagging thought some team will pop him as a pitcher instead of a hitter. Currently equipped with two above-average future pitches (good low-90s fastball and an emerging mid-70s curve), Davis’ future could be on the mound. Like most two-way prospects, I think he’d be best served by giving hitting a go from the start. If that’s the case, then his plus raw power, classic slugger’s frame (6-5, 220), and strong track record hitting with wood could help him get drafted in the first few rounds and give him a chance to become pro baseball’s first ever Rookie.
For what it’s worth, I prefer unsigned Northridge HS (CA) RHP Mathew Troupe (Round 17) to the signed third rounder Jordan Cote. Troupe’s secondary pitches rank as some of the better offerings of this year’s high school class. His curve is a really good pitch when he commands it, and his changeup, thrown with the same arm speed as his fastball, flashes plus. His strong commitment to Arizona and fluctuating fastball velocity kept him from going earlier, but he could pop up as an early round pick in three years.
RHP Matt Troupe (Northridge HS, California): 90-92 FB, 94 peak; very good CB; plus CU; SL; inconsistent FB velocity so he sometimes sits 87-88, peak 91
The trio of Morris HS RHP Hayden Sharp (Round 18), Cathedral Catholic HS (CA) LHP Daniel Camarena (Round 20), and Bedford HS (NH) RHP Joey Maher (Round 38) make for an impressive compilation of late round big money prep pitching prospects. For good reason, the athletic lefty Camarena got the biggest bucks. His three pitch mix should help him adjust to a full-time starting pitching load as a professional. Of the three, he’s probably the safest bet going forward. The pitcher with the most upside of the troika is Sharp. His big fastball (upper-90s peak), plus athleticism, and pro body are all easy to dream on. Lacking the security of Camarena’s well-honed secondary stuff and the razzle dazzle of Sharp’s heat, Joey Maher is the least impressive prospect of the three. The raw righty from New Hampshire is a long way away from even reaching his modest (fifth starter?) big league upside.
LHP Daniel Camarena: high-80s FB with late life, 90-91 peak; above-average future 70-73 CB; average 70-75 CU; line drive hitter; good approach; power upside, but hasn’t shown too much yet; RF arm; 6-0, 200 pounds
Memphis RHP Ben Paullus (Round 19) is interesting for a couple reasons. First and foremost, his stuff (good low-90s fastball and plus hard curve) is big league quality. Second and not foremost, his delivery, while sometimes so herky jerky that it is hard to watch, gives him tremendous deception and makes him very tough to hit. Texas A&M RHP Adam Smith (Round 25) reminds me some of Robert Stock. I really liked Stock as a catcher and have been happy to see St. Louis stick with him behind the plate so far, despite the growing sentiment that wants his plus arm on the mound. Smith played third base for Texas A&M, but is expected to pitch full-time going forward for the Yankees. I wish he’d get a chance to put his awesome physical tools to use as an infielder – remember, he could always move to the mound in a year or three if needed – but, again, I get why New York would want to put an arm like Smith’s on the mound from the start.
At some point, he has to do it on the field, right? Adam Smith is such a force of nature from a tools standpoint that you have to believe someday he’ll put it all together and show why so many have touted his ability for so long. He has the plus arm and plus defensive tools you’d expect from a former pitcher/shortstop, and his pro frame (6-3, 200) generates plenty of raw power on its own. What he doesn’t have is a good idea of the strike zone or a consistent at bat to at bat swing that can help him put said raw power to use. I’d love for my favorite team to take a chance on him after round ten (tools!), but probably couldn’t justify popping him much sooner than that (production…). One thing that would make gambling on Smith the third baseman a little less risky: if he doesn’t work out as a hitter, his plus arm could be put to good use back on the mound.
Arizona State 1B Zach Wilson (Round 21) is a gifted natural hitter, but the bar is simply too high at first base and/or the corner outfield to ever expect him to earn consistent playing time in the big leagues. His professional future could evolve into a career path along the lines of “professional hitters” Dave Hansen’s or Mark Sweeney’s.
[very talented natural hitter; average power; average runner; no real defensive home]
Now that we’ve watched out last meaningful pro game until the spring, it is time to turn our attention to baseball’s next opening day. No sense waiting until April for the pros to start up again when college starts six weeks sooner, right? The Yankees couldn’t come to terms with three players expected to play major roles on some of college baseball’s finest teams this spring. Louisiana State SS Tyler Hanover (Round 40), Rice OF Jeremy Rathjen (Round 41), and Missouri 3B Conner Mach (Round 46) all return to school with plenty to prove. What Hanover lacks in physical tools he makes up for in plus plate discipline and veteran-level defensive positioning. I love him as a potential utility guy down the road and think he could have a career similar to – deep gulp – David Eckstein. Rathjen is the anti-Hanover, but still a really good prospect. He gets himself into trouble by being too aggressive at the plate and on the bases, but his tools rank up near any other right fielder in all of college baseball. If he returns healthy in 2012 as expected, he could wind up a top three round selection. Mach is a personal favorite as an above-average hitter with some defensive versatility.
Hanover: above-average speed, but more impressive as an instinctual base runner; very good defender – arguably his best present tool; competition for best tool includes a shocking plus-plus arm from his smaller frame; just enough pop to keep a pitcher honest, but mostly to the gaps; size gets him in trouble (attempts to do much), but this is inarguably a good college player; little bit of Jimmy Rollins to his game in that he is a little man with a big swing – again, this often gets him in more trouble than it should, as he is far, far less talented than Rollins on his worst day; great range to his right; definite utility future due to experience on left side; can get too jumpy at plate and swing at pithes outside the zone, but generally a patient hitter; 5-6, 155
Rathjen: [above-average speed, raw power, and arm; too aggressive at plate; good defensive feel; average range in corner; gap power at present that could turn into HRs in time; 6-6, 200 pounds]