I never judge a draft class until we know which players have signed or not. The Yankees brought in some expected and some unexpected talent at the signing deadline this year, and now we can finally step back and take a look at what happened in the beginning of the June.
The Top Guys[image title="rise_slade_heathcott1_300" size="full" id="6875" align="right" ]
Slade Heathcott is a fairly typical late first round high school position player. Scouts didn’t see him at full strength during his senior year due to an ACL injury. He’s got all the tools, and particularly strong arm. With a late first round pick, the Yankees could do a lot worse than Slade Heathcott. He’s no sure bet, but he’s no Brackman-like gamble either.
J.R. Murphy was a curious signing. The Yankees paid nearly a million dollars over slot for the catcher. While Murphy had a lot of leverage, the Yankees still paid more than ever expected. Damon Oppenheimer must have really wanted his 2nd round pick. Hopefully, Murphy meets his expectations.
Do we have too many catchers in the system? The typical answer is “You can never have too many catchers.” While I agree to a point, there is something here that the Yankees need to consider. Teams need a balanced minor league system. They need players at all positions to fill holes and move up the ranks. The best way to do this is to find players who will actually develop into major league players – to pick right. The Yankees have selected and paid big money to Jesus Montero, Austin Romine, J.R. Murphy, Kyle Higashioka, and Gary Sanchez to all possibly fill one position. Only Montero and maybe Murphy have a chance of moving to another position. At some point, the Yankees need to have the confidence to feel happy at catcher and try to fill other important positions. Trade bait is a good thing to have, but we’d rather develop a fill for a need.
[image title="681285" size="full" id="6884" align="left" ]Over-slotters
The Yankees signed Caleb Cotham, Graham Stoneburner (the coolest name in pitching), Bryan Mitchell, and Evan DeLuca at the signing deadline. All other pitches, and all signed for quite a bit over slot. Being a lefty with stuff, Evan DeLuca is particularly exciting.
The Yankee strategy is different from previous late-round hauls. Guys like David Robertson, Austin Jackson, Mark Melancon, Dellin Betances, and others were high-quality products that other major league teams would be willing to pay for, but the Yankees were willing to pay more and deal with some issues (like Melancon’s elbow or Jackson’s rawness). While they were paid similar money to these guys, it is worth noting that over-slot bonuses have increased incrementally since the Yankees drafted those four.
These signings are much more like the Higashioka and Angelini signings. The Yankees are taking raw talent that usually ends up in college and seeing if they can hit gold. They have to pay a lot of money to get these promising players away from strong commitments, but are making that gamble knowing that they are long shots. Sometimes you get a lot of Angelini-like busts, but every once in awhile we’ll find a real bargain. The Yankees aren’t going to spend ten million on their first round pick like some teams, but are willing to spend the money, and this is where they will find it.
The rest of the draft was decidedly Yankee-like. They selected a lot of pitchers from second-tier Division-I programs. We’ll see if any of them work out.
Overall, I’d say this is an average draft class for the Yankees. No one drafted is all that exciting, but there are no glaring flaws either. Unlike the disaster of 2008, they signed all the picks that they wanted to sign, and even signed a few that they may not have been expecting. At least three members of this list will make my new top-30 prospect list, and more could easily jump on it by the middle of next season.
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