In my last post, I looked back at some of the significant players taken in recent Yankee drafts. I am going to look at some potential first-rounders here, but first let’s see some recent first-round picks, and how they fared.
2004: Phil Hughes (#23). A polished high school pitcher who became everything they could have hoped for in a high school pitching prospect.
2005: CJ Henry (#17). Was a 5-tool high school athlete with a basketball scholarship, but unlike fellow draftee Austin Jackson, was unable to turn those tools into skills.
2006: Ian Kennedy (#21). A possible top 10 pick before a subpar junior season dropped him down the board, Kennedy was a fairly safe pick, a college righty with success at a big program (USC) and no injury concerns.
2007: Andrew Brackman (#30). A top-5 talent and a 6’10″ forward at NC State who slid down the board due to an elbow injury and Scott Boras. He ended up getting a big major league deal and Tommy John surgery, and so far hasn’t justified the expenditure (though there’s plenty of time).
2008: Gerrit Cole (#28). Cole was a top-15 talent, a high-school righty who could touch the high 90′s. He slid down the board because of signability issues, and even the Yankees were unable to sign him away from UCLA, despite offering a bonus way over the slot amount.
From these recent 1st-rounders, there is no major pattern in terms of favoring high school versus college players, though it is worthy of note that 4 of the 5 players they drafted were pitchers, and the only position player, Henry, was a bust. One recent trend for the Yankees is to draft players who were projected to be drafted higher, but for a variety of reasons, including injury concerns (Brackman), signability (Cole), or a strong college commitment fell in the draft. It is hard to acquire high-ceiling players at premium positions at the back end of the first round, where the Yankees usually pick, so to obtain these talented players, the Yankees will have to take some risks.
So with those criteria in mind, let’s take a look at a few guys who would fit the bill for the Yankees with their first pick, at #29 overall. While their organizational need is more for position players than pitchers, this is a pitcher-heavy draft, so they are likely to get better value with a pitcher, and most likely with a high school player. They aren’t likely going to get a crack at “risers” who have helium going into the draft, but “fallers.” Here are a few talented fallers that may be available at #29.
Matt Purke, lhp, Klein HS (Texas): Purke, at 6’3″ 180 is a projectable lefty who can hit the mid-90′s with his fastball, which already makes him a very desirable commodity. Add in a good slider and changeup as well as reliable control, and you have all the makings of a top-10 draft pick. Why might he fall? One potential concern is durability, as he is thin and his mechanics are not great. But the main reason is signability, as he is reportedly demanding a bonus in the range of 3-5 million in order to pass up a scholarship with TCU. I don’t know if he’ll get that type of money, but I could see the Yankees giving him around 3 million if he falls to 29, as Keith Law and Kevin Goldstein have recently projected he will.
Luke Bailey, c, Troup County HS (GA): Bailey has been considered probably the top high school catcher available, and with good reason. He has a good hit tool, plus power, and most importantly, he is likely to stay at catcher in the future, as he has good hands, footwork, and a plus arm. A player with Bailey’s profile is usually gone in the top 15 picks, but Bailey will likely slide because he tore an elbow ligament, necesitating Tommy John surgery. While this is not as big of a deal for a position player as a pitcher, he will still need time to rehab, and this could set back his development. While he doesn’t have outrageous bonus demands, and will likely turn down a scholarship to Auburn if he goes early in the draft, a lot of teams might be wary of drafting a catcher who just had elbow surgery, so he could be available at 29.
Donovan Tate, of, Cartersville HS (GA): Tate is a 5-tool high schooler with the potential for plus tools across the board. His hit tool is a little raw, but his power, running, arm, and defense are all above-average to plus. What makes Tate more intriguing is that he hasn’t focused on baseball full-time, as he is also a big-time football prospect, whose father played football at UNC. Tate has been offered a scholarship to play safety or quarterback for the Tar Heels on top of playing centerfield for the baseball team. With this very appealing offer ahead of him, the talented Tate has a lot of leverage, and may be asking for over 5 million to sign in the bigs. Tate has probably the highest ceiling of any player in the draft, and if signability were not a concern, he would be easily a top 10 pick, possibly top 5. However, with his huge asking price, he could be available at #29, and if the Yankees don’t take him, he could fall even farther.
Jacob Turner, RHP, Westminster Christian Academy (MO): Turner is a 6’4″ righty who can pitch in the mid-90′s touching 98 with his fastball and has a good sharp curveball. However, he is a Scott Boras signee reportedly looking for Rick Porcello money (though he is not the same level prospect as Porcello). Like Porcello, Turner has committed to UNC, a historically tough commitment to break at a baseball powerhouse. However, he will likely sign if somebody will show him the money. He seems to be less likely to fall than Purke, but there’s a chance that he could be available if his demands seem unreasonable.
I would love it if the Yankees were able to draft and sign any of these guys, but there are 2 things to keep in mind even if they do slip:
1. The Red Sox pick just before the Yankees at 28, and could also be looking for falling talents of their own to sign for overslot bonuses.
2. The Yankees have less leverage with their pick because it was compensation for failing to sign Cole last year. As a result, if they fail to sign this pick, they do not get another pick next year. So you would have to imagine that the Yankees will not draft somebody without being willing to meet their demands. They can’t afford to play hardball with this pick, and they need to be sure (unlike with Cole), that the player is willing to sign.
That’s all for tonight. More draft talk in the next few days as I’ll examine some guys who based on talent should be available at 29 (assuming these guys don’t fall) as well as some projections/hopes for later picks.
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