Now that the 2013 draft is over, I thought it would be interesting to look at how the 2011 Yankees draft class have fared so far.
In 2011, the Yankees did not have a pick until the 51st pick in the first supplemental round. They lost their first pick, pick 31, to the Tampa Bay Rays for signing Rafael Soriano. Two years later, they would get a compensation pick, pick 33, when Soriano signed with the Washington Nationals. They essentially traded 2011's pick 31 and $28 million for two years of Soriano and 2013's pick 33 that turned into Ian Clarkin, one of the top three prep lefties in this year's draft.
Pick 51 in 2011 was compensation for the "loss" of Javy Vasquez to the Miami Marlins. With it, they chose Dante's son, Dante Bichette, Jr. A family friend of Joe Girardi, the pick was seen as an overdraft with a tinge of cronyism. DBJ was drafted out of Orangewood Christian High in Orlando, Florida. In his senior year, he hit .640/.723/1.198. He was not seen as a top 100 prospect, topping out on Baseball America's draft prospect list at 108. There were questions on if he could stay at third base, and concerns that his constant tinkering with his batting stance would hurt him in pro ball. He seemed to quell these concerns after signing quickly for $750,000 and putting up a 171 wRC+ with a .335/.440/.507 line over his first 54 professional games with the GCL Yankees (and two games with Staten Island).
Since then, he has struggled offensively, while at least being able to handle the hot corner defensively. In 2012 with Charleston, he hit a weak .248/.322/.331, 84 wRC+. Returning to Charleston this year, he has done even worse, with a 61 WRC+, .204/.274/.290 line. Especially troubling, his BB% has dropped from 12.5% to 7.4%, a 41% decline, while his strikeout rate has climbed from 17.1% to 23.6%, a 28% increase. His K/BB rate has more than doubled, going from 1.37 to 3.2. At this point, all signs point to Dante being a bust. However, he is still just 20 years old, not turning 21 until September 26th. There is still the faintest glimmer of hope.
The team's second round pick, pick 88, was Sam Stafford, who had a series of health issues his Junior year at the University of Texas. In 2011, he had a 1.77 ERA over 81.1 IP, with a 2.17 K/BB ratio for Texas, but ended the season with shoulder issues. He didn't sign, probably due to a combination of the Yankees refusing to pay top dollar to gamble on his shoulder, and Stafford thinking that he could make more if he could prove his health in 2012. Unfortunately, in February 2012, he had to undergo shoulder surgery twice, and miss the entire college season. He ended up falling to the 13th round in 2012, picked by the Texas Rangers. He made his professional baseball debut this year, throwing 23.2 innings so far, with a 9.51 ERA and a 1.14 K/BB ratio. As a 23 year old in A-ball, he has a long way to go, and is unlikely to make it to the big leagues as much more than a reliever at this point.
In the 3rd round, the Yankees selected Jordan Cote, from Winnisquam HS in Northfield, New Hampshire. A cold weather player with some late spring helium, he was seen more as a 5th-10th round prospect before the season began. However, he grew a few inches his senior year, and was a tall and lanky pitcher with a low 90s fastball, and a pretty good breaking ball. He is a type of player (6'6" 215) you can see a lot of projection in and dream on what he could become. As a NH prepster, he did not have the same type of playing season as warm-weather players, so he was still raw. He wasn't in the BA top 200, but was 85th on Keith Law's top 100. He signed for $725,000 to cut his Coastal Carolina commitment, but he didn't make his professional debut until 2012. As a 19 year old with the GCL Yankees, he put up a 0.98 ERA in 27.2 innings, with a 6.25 K/BB ratio - outstanding numbers, albeit in a limited number of innings. He was shut down early last year due to some elbow soreness, and has yet to make his 2013 debut. MRIs were came back fine last summer, and I suspect he is in Extended Spring Training and will join Staten Island when their season kicks off.
In the 4th round, the Yankees selected local HS bat Matt Duran. The Fordham commit was drafted out of New Rochelle HS in New York, and signed for $335,000, and early enough to get 96 PA with the GCL Yankees. The 6'1", 220 pound third baseman put up a great 143 wRC+, .301/.365/.506 line, with 9 BB to 21 K in 2011. However, he struggled in 2012 with Staten Island, putting up a 74 wRC+, .221/.267/.314 line, seeing his K% climb and his BB% cut almost in half from 2011. Like DBJ, he is still only 20 and young enough to turn it around. If he gets pushed to 1B or the OF, there will be even more pressure on his bat developing, however. He has yet to make his 2013 debut.
The Yankees picked Greg Bird in the 5th round, and quickly converted the HS catcher to 1B. Bird was known for his big-time power and polished bat while playing with Grandview HS in Aurora, Colorado, and it took $1.1 million to sign him away from the University of Arkansas. He only got 13 PA in 2011, and split 2012 between the GCL Yankees and Staten Island. Over a 109 PA in 2012, he had a .337/.450/.494 line, with a 180 wRC+ and 23 K to 17 BB. Fantastic production, and he has built on this in 2013, with a .277/.404/.455 line in Charleston over 270 PA, with 46 BB to 66 K and a 144 wRC+. The home runs have not showed up in Charleston, but he has hit 20 doubles. Since 2011, he has a .287/.408/.452 line in his first 392 professional PA, with 7 HR, 26 2B, 64 BB, 93 K, and a 149 wRC+. He has a legit, possibly even elite, bat, which is good since he is a first baseman. In fact, he looks like he could be the eventual replacement for Mark Teixeira in a few years - he could join the club some time in 2015, and be ready to start in 2016. He is the best first base prospect the Yankees have had since Nick Johnson, and could be a top ten prospect for them by the end of the year.
In the 6th round, the Yankees selected Jake Cave, a prep outfielder from Kecoughtan HS in Hampton Virginia. Cave was a toolsy OF with good speed and defense in CF, and some power potential, similar to Mason Williams from a year earlier. He was also a legitimate prospect as a LHP. He received the second-largest signing bonus, behind Greg Bird, getting $825,000 to forego his LSU commitment. Cave made BA's top 200 list at #182. He only got 2 PA in 2011, and missed all of 2012 with a knee cap injury. This year he finally made his full season debut for Charleston, hitting .264/.315/.391 in 217 PA, with a 97 wRC+. Given his lack of professional experience and the rust accumulated missing last year, that is actually a pretty respectable showing. I fully expect him to continue to improve as the year goes on. He could surprise over the next few years and jump up Yankees prospect lists.
In the 7th round, the Yankees took a prep bat with big power potential, Austin "Bubba" Jones from Edmonds-Woodway HS in Edmonds, Washington. Jones got 55 PA with the GCL Yankees in 2011, putting up an uninspiring .260/.327/.280 line, with a 83 wRC+. He didn't do much better in 2012, with a .223/.307/.297, 87 wRC+ line in 166 PA. As a first baseman, that isn't going to cut it. He has yet to debut in 2013, and one would think he probably has little chance of being a productive minor leaguer, much less a prospect.
In the 8th round, the Damon Oppenheimer went for the first of his patented college reliever picks, selecting Phil Wetherell from Western Kentucky University. He was an underwhelming pitcher in college, and in 2011 he pitched 59.1 innings, with a 4.10 ERA and only 44 K and 19 BB. He got 30 innings in with Staten Island after signing, and boosted his strikeout rate to 31.1%, and had a 2.40 ERA with a 2.73 K/BB ratio. In 2012, his ERA ballooned to 5.97 over 78.1 IP, and while his K% dropped to 21.6%, so did his BB% to 9.3%. So far in 2013, in his second go-around with Charleston, he has continued to improve, with a 2.70 ERA over 40 IP, with a 3.91 K/BB ratio (the best of his career), a 25.9 K% and a 6.6 BB%. Right now, he looks like he could be contributing to the Yankees bullpen sometime in 2015, if he continues to show this type of improvement going up the ladder. He could be a Bob Wickman type, with a good splitter and a low 90s fastball.
In the 9th round, the Yankees again went the college reliever route, selecting Zach Arneson from Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho. He transferred to L-C State from Cal-State Bakersfield, where he was a 21st round pick by the Giants in 2010. He had a 2.82 ERA over 44.2 IP in 211 college ball, with 46 K and a 2.71 K/BB ratio. He threw 17.2 innings after signing, with a 3.57 ERA, 22.1 K%, and a 2.13 K/BB ratio for Staten Island. He was limited to 4 IP in 2012 due to injury, but he did pitch in the Australian Baseball League this past offseason, throwing 20.1 innings with a 1.77 ERA and 24 K. This year, healthy and in Tampa, he has struggled mightily with his control, walking 16 in 20.2 IP. The strikeouts are still there - 21 in those 20.2 IP - but a 24 year old with no control in A+ ball rarely becomes a major leaguer.
In the tenth round, the great what-if pick of the 2011 draft, the greatest since Gerrit Cole in the 2008 draft. The Yankees selected Jonathon Gray from East Oklahoma State College. Yes, that is the same Jonathon Gray who was just drafted 3rd overall by the Colorado Rockies in the 2013 draft. Gray had previously been drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 13th round out of high school, but didn't sign then. In 2011, Gray gave EOSC 53 IP of 2.89 ERA ball, with 61 K and a 2.1 K/BB ratio. This was not the same Gray that was drafted in 2013 - he was a talented player in a community college playing against fairly weak competition. So we can play the what-if game, but it is entirely possible he would've failed in the minors, or been pushed into a bullpen role. He needed the two years at Oklahoma to become the star draft arm that he was this year.
Out of the first ten picks the Yankees made in 2011, 8 signed. Of those, Bichette and Duran have not been able to replicate the success of their first taste in pro ball in 2011. Cote, in limited action, has shown great promise. The same could be said for Cave, while Jones has failed to turn himself into a prospect. One college reliever looks very good (Wetherell) and one looks not so good (Arneson). And Bird looks like the jewel of the 2011 Yankees draft, which will hopefully take some of the sting away for not signing Gray.
So who is your favorite draft pick from the Yankees 2011 draft top ten? Who do you think is the sleeper - who do you think has the best chance of making the Yankees top ten first? And who do you think will be the most valuable player for the Yankees in the long run?