Draft week is always my favorite week of the year. I picked this week to go camping before realizing what I was interfering with. After a week of monitoring the draft on my tiny little cell phone, I’ve got a lot to get out.
Slade Healthcott was a pick from confidence. They could very easily have picked up Brett Jackson, another athletic centerfielder who had big-program college experience. But Jackson was a lower-ceiling safeish bet compared to Heathcott. A lot of teams passed on his all-star potential because of his family and ACL issues. The Yankees decided to tackle these concerns head on and go for the guy who could be a real star. At the same time, Heathcott doesn’t look like another C.J. Henry or even Austin Jackson. He has a lot of baseball experience and success to go along with the athleticism.
Even with their confidence, it is important to remember that the Yankees are still building organizational knowledge and expertise. Looking at the first two days of the draft, I was reminded of this. The Yankees haven’t had a ton of success in teaching their talented prospects how to be major league caliber professionals, but they have had some good stories under the Oppenheimer Regime: Hughes and Joba Brett Gardner, Austin Jackson, Jesus Montero, Austin Romine, Zach McAllister. These guys are all development staff (as opposed to amateur scouting) success stories.
The Yankees used yet another high round pick on a catcher when they drafted J.R. Murphy. While some see this as the Yankees picking the best player available at the time, or a lack of confidence in Jesus Montero, Austin Romine, Chase Weems, Francisco Cervelli, and Kyle Higashioka, I read it differently. I think that the Yankees are sticking with what they know works. They’ve had a lot of success teaching catchers to catch and hit in recent years (Remember, Francisco Cervelli was a converted infielder, and Romine and Montero have gotten much better behind the plate since being drafted).
Heathcott may be more of that too. The Yankees have leanred a lot working with toolsy outfielders like C.J. Henry and Austin Jackson. You learn just as much from your failures as your successes. They have also kept Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner in the big leagues.
After the top two, the Yankees went back to their old formula again. They selected five college pitchers in the next six rounds. While none are as interesting as Ryan Pope or Andrew Brackman, they are experienced pitchers with good stuff and solid track records. At least one will probably become the next George Kontos or Tim Norton.
The Yankees went with what they know. My only disappointment? They failed again to draft a credible shortstop. Derek Jeter is getting old fast, and they couldn’t even find a decent college shortstop worth a 7th round pick. Their lack of depth at the position is going to hurt them very soon.
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