Sunday, June 8, 2014

Last season the Yankees system really faltered. There was no one in AAA, or even AA, that could come up and help the big league team with injuries. This led many to demand significant changes. People wanted heads to roll, and some even wanted Damon Oppenheimer and his scouting staff released. But the team made very little changes to their main draft/development structure. They did get a few new names, but the big boys kept their jobs. Everything seemed to stay the same, but this year’s draft shows that’s not exactly true.

Day 2 of the Yankees draft showed that the team may not have changed personnel this off-season, but they were pressured to change draft philosophies. According to Brian Cashman the team would focus on college arms over prep arms if everything was equal. This is a pretty major change as the team used to really like taking prep arms. College arms are a bit less exciting, but they are generally the safer options and a team that wants results might want to go that route.

The team has had a lot more success with college arms, they drafted Adam Warren, David Phelps, and Chase Whitley out of college, and all are playing big roles on this year’s team. So it makes sense for them to change their focus. Perhaps the change is just a coincidence, as they don’t exactly have a lot of free money lying around, due to the loss of their first round picks. Most of the most exciting prep players in this year’s draft will require a sizable bonus to keep them off college.

Either way this is what they did in the first two days of the draft.

Second Round (55th): Jacob Lindgren, LHP (Mississippi State)
With their first pick in the 2014 MLB Draft the Yankees selected Jacob Lindgren. Lindgren is a college reliever, and in many ways this pick set the theme of the Yankees draft. The Yankees used this draft to take mostly college pitchers who should move through the system quickly. The A’s are a good example of a team that uses this strategy well.

Lindgren was a pretty good pick, and he could potentially be up in the majors at the end of this season. He was regarded as one of the best relievers in the draft, and he had an insane 16.3 k/9 rate in 55.1 innings this season. He really is a special arm, and while the team could’ve have gone for a prep player, this was a nice safe option.

He has two plus pitches a mid-90s fastball, and a curve. He should be used as a late inning high-leverage reliever, and might be able to help this team at the end of the year. Both Fred Lewis and Cesar Cabral have struggled this season, so adding a high-end lefty relief prospect really fills a need.

Third Round (91st): Austin DeCarr, RHP (Salisbury School)
The second day started off really well, as they got a guy they were reportedly looking to draft in the second round. DeCarr is one of the top of the prep prospects from the Northeast. He 19 years old, as he spent a year at prep school, because he was undrafted out of high school. He was undrafted because of an elbow injury, so it’s not that he didn’t have talent.

DeCarr’s fastball sits 92-94, and has touched 96. He has a power curveball which Baseball America claims has plus potential. His third pitch is a changeup and like most prep pitchers he needs to work on it a lot to be a major league pitch. He is the type of prep pitcher they should be taking, as he has some polish, and projectability. describes him as a strike thrower, so he is less of a project than many prep players.

Keith Law said he was a good pick in the third round. I agree, as he was pretty highly rated, but he has to sign, and that will take a lot out of the team’s funds. That might be a big reason as to why the team finished off the day the way they did, and took fewer lottery tickets on day 3.

Fourth Round (122nd): Jordan Montgomery, LHP (South Carolina)
The fourth round, was where the Yankees college starter strategy seemed to really come into play. They took a nice college lefty, who did well in the toughest baseball conference in college baseball. Jordan Montgomery may not have the highest ceiling, but he has always outplayed his stuff, and is a good pick. Not only will he probably save the team some money to go after DeCarr, but they also got a pretty good pitcher. Montgomery should fly through this system, and might be one of the team’s better lefty starters by the end of the year. He would give the team yet another back-end of the rotation type lefty, joining Nik Turley, and Matt Tracy, in upper-minors.

Montgomery has throws an 87-92 MPH fastball, a curveball, a cutter, and a changeup. The changeup is his best pitch, and his fastball is an effective pitch, as it has good movement, and he can locate it really well. He needs to work on his cutter, and curve, but for now he is projected to be a back-end starter. Even if he doesn’t improve those pitches he will develop quickly and be ready for the majors relatively soon.

Fifth Round (152nd): Jordan Foley, RHP (Central Michigan)
Like I said weeks ago, this team loves going back and re-selecting players. And Foley may have been the best player to re-draft --though they did have a couple of other good options-- that’s because there are times when Foley really plays like a much better starting pitcher than his final stat line suggests. On occasion he touches 96 MPH, throws a killer slider, and has a good splitter. This combination suggests that he would be a good starter, but he often has trouble putting it all together, and occasionally loses his slider. As a 5th rounder this is a pretty good selection, and if he’s the type of college player that they select, I don’t mind if they ignore some prep guys.  

Sixth Round (182nd): Jonathan Holder, RHP (Mississippi State)
Holder was actually the closer at Mississippi State, despite the fact that Lindgren is the better prospect. Lindgren was used for multiple innings while he was used just for the 9th. He did well as a closer and broke the SEC record with 21 saves in 2013. With the need to save money it made a lot of sense to pick a college reliever here. So far he is the second reliever taken by the Yankees.
As a reliever he is pretty highly rated and was BA’s 286th best prospect. BA states that he is a two pitch pitcher; he throws a low 90s fastball, and a low 70s curve. He attacks the zone well, and barely walks anyone.BA described him as a potential 5th or 6th round pick, by a performance driven team, so the Yankees taking him makes a lot of sense. The team has done a good job of developing relievers, and have so many that some might be annoyed with the selection, but if they took a prep player here they probably lose the entire slot value. This is the point of the draft that teams go for college picks, so there’s no reason to complain. Holder sounds like he can become a good major league option.

Seventh Round (212th): Mark Payton, CF (Texas)
Payton was the first non-pitcher taken by the Yankees. He is a 5’8’’ senior who did very well in the Big 12. He currently has an on-base streak of 100 games, which is a Big 12 record. He even hit a homer the other day, which is really rare for him. In many ways he resembles current Yankee Taylor Dugas, who is currently in AA. He is rated as BA’s 270th best prospect. He should be a quick mover, and might start the year at Charleston. As a senior he should allow the Yankees to save some money, which is very important in today’s draft. By saving money here they might have enough money to sway Garret Cave or others into signing.

Eighth Round (242nd): Connor Spencer, 1B (UC-Irvine)
The 8th round  pick is one where the more I think about it the more intrigued I become. I like that he is described as a hitting-machine. Sure he is a first baseman but truth-be-told first baseman aren’t the type of power hitters they used to be, Freeman, and Loney are both prove that you no longer need power to be a major league first baseman. Furthermore he did hit in a terrible park, and has a frame that suggests he has some untapped power. Why not take him? It’s certainly a nice change of pace, from taking a college reliever, which what they usually take in this round. Maybe he surprises people. The only problem I see with this pick is that the Yankees already have a few other first base prospects, plus they drafted more in this draft. I don’t know where he will start, but I’m confident there will be a crowd at first wherever he goes.

Ninth Round (272nd): Vince Conde, SS (Vanderbilt)
All-SEC shortstop Vince Conde, was the Yankees first up-the-middle draft selection. They usually focus on this area, but with the presence of Thairo Estrada, and Jorge Mateo in Staten Island, and with all the infielders they plan to sign in July, they ignored this area until the 9th round. Conde is an interesting player, but mostly serves as an under-slot signing. He might not be able to stick at short, and could end up at second base. Baseball America did mention that he has quick hands, and good bat speed, and Aaron Fitt did seem to like him. So maybe there’s more to him, than most seem to think.

Tenth Round (302nd): Ty McFarland, 2B (James Madison)
McFarland was the only player on day 2 that didn’t get a quick-take profile. The reason for this is simply, that I couldn’t find enough info on him, to reach an opinion. He was a good college player, but I have no idea what his true potential is, and all I really know, is that he went to a pre-draft with the Yankees and seemed to do well-enough to get picked.


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