In the off-season leading up to 2013, the Yankees chose not to sign any free agents that were given a qualifying offer. As a result, the Yankees netted two compensation picks, to go along with their original first-round pick, in the 2013 draft. With those picks, the Yankees replenished their thin farm system by selecting Eric Jagielo, Aaron Judge, and Ian Clarkin. The refusal to add any free agents that were given qualifying offers (minus the re-signing of Hiroki Kuroda) last off-season certainly took its toll on the big league club, but, at the very least, it helped replenish the farm.
This past off-season, however, the Yankees made a full effort to improve the big league team by signing three players (Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran) who received qualifying offers. As a result, the team will have no first round picks in the upcoming draft and will make their first pick at 55th overall. Just because they don't have a first rounder this year, though, doesn't mean there isn't talent to be had in the second round.
Looking at the Yankees' recent draft trends, PSA's Chris Mitchell found that the Yankees have, in recent years, leaned more towards high school players than they have with college players. Chris notes that this is especially true with pitchers, including guys like Ty Hensley and Ian Clarkin in the first round, as well as guys like Rookie Davis, Brady Lail, Daniel Camarena, and others in the middle/later rounds. With that in mind, here are some notable prep pitchers that could be on the board when the Yankees make their first pick:
Bryce Montes de Oca: RHP; 6' 7", 265 lbs.; Committed to Missouri
Rank: MLB.com, 65; Keith Law, 43; Scout.com, 104
Scouting report: Montes de Oca was once a highly touted prospect, but his stock fell quite a bit due to him undergoing Tommy John Surgery in 2013. He has come back in a big way here in 2014, though, as his fastball has gotten up to 97 mph with plenty of arm-side movement and sink. On the flip side, Montes de Oca's secondary pitches aren't as crisp, as his curve is a little more slurvy and his change-up is still very much a work-in-progress. The Yankees love their big, prep pitchers, and if teams are still scared off by his previous TJS, Montes de Oca could very well wind up in the Yankees' laps in the second round.
Dylan Cease: RHP; 6' 2", 175 lbs.; Committed to Vanderbilt
Rank: MLB.com, 68; K-Law, 44; Scout.com, 61
Scouting report: An elbow injury has sidelined Cease since March and there is word that the right-hander may be a tough sign given his commitment to Vanderbilt. When healthy, Cease sits in the 91-95 mph range with the fastball and can top 97. He also has the makings of a plus curve and change, with the former being ahead of the latter at the moment, but they're obviously not on that level just yet.
Cameron Varga: RHP; 6'3", 205 lbs; Committed to North Carolina
Rank: MLB.com, 47; K-Law, 47; Scout.com, 52
Scouting report: Committed to UNC, Varga's stock has risen to the point where him heading off to college seems less and less likely. He features a fastball that sits in the 90-95 mph range and his easy delivery makes his fastball seem harder than it is. Varga also has the potential for a plus curveball and his change-up has also made strides. The 6'3" right-hander will be one of the oldest high school players in the draft (20) and he did suffer through a biceps problem last summer, however, but those issues shouldn't be too much of a problem.
Trey Supak: RHP; 6'5", 210 lbs; Committed to Houston
Rank: MLB.com, 79; K-Law, 68; Scout.com, N/A
Scouting report: When Supak gets drafted, he will be the first player out of LaGrange High School (Texas) since Homer Bailey in 2004. Supak throws in the 89-92 mph range, and, not even turned 18, he still has room to fill out his 6'5" frame. He has the makings of a solid curveball, but he needs to add more power to the pitch. Supak's change-up shows some good fade, but he needs to improve his arm speed with the pitch.
Keaton McKinney: RHP; 6'5", 220 lbs; Committed to Arkansas
Rank: MLB.com, 81; K-Law, 79; Scout.com, 49
Scouting report: McKinney's two best offerings are clearly his fastball and change-up. The fastball sits in the 90-93 mph range with some arm-side sink. McKinney uses deceptive arm-speed on his change that sits in the low-80's and the pitch features good arm-side fade. McKinney's third pitch, a curveball, is a little slurvy and he needs to do a better job at showing more power and depth with the pitch.
Cody Reed: LHP; 6'1", 260 lbs; Committed to Vanderbilt
Rank: MLB.com, 61; K-Law, 82; Scout.com 86
Scouting report: Reed has seen a pretty nice spike in velocity from his junior year of high school where he sat 88-90 mph to now more in the 92-95 mph range. His main secondary offering is a slider that has plus potential thanks to its depth, but it can get a little slurvy at times. A change-up is Reed's third pitch and it does show some nice fade when he chooses to throw it.
Alex Verdugo: LHP; 6'1", 190 lbs; Committed to Arizona State
Rank: MLB.com, 54; K-Law, 69; Scout.com, 35
Scouting report: A two-way prospect, scouts think Verdugo's best bet to make the majors is as a pitcher. Verdugo's three-quarters delivery gives him good movement on his 89-91 mph fastball that can touch 94. The fastball is expected to gain an extra bump in velocity if in fact Verdugo sticks to pitching full-time. His curve and change show promise, but they both fall behind his fastball. He does have some makeup issues, however, and the Yankees are known to like high-makeup players. We'll see if that affects his draft stock.
Michael Kopech: RHP; 6'4", 195 lbs; Committed to Arizona
Rank: MLB.com, 45; K-Law, 36; Scout.com, 46
Scouting report: The lanky Kopech uses his leverage to get fastball up to 97 mph, but sits mostly in the low-90's. Still having room to fill out, Kopech projects to get a few more ticks on his fastball. His main off-speed pitch features curveball break with slider velocity. There is excessive twisting and turning in Kopech's delivery, however, which is something that will need to be corrected. His change-up and his overall command of his pitches do need some refining, though he does do a good job throwing strikes.
Garrett Fulenchek: RHP; 6'4", 185 lbs; Committed to Dallas Baptist
Rank: MLB.com, 43; K-Law, 77; Scout.com, 100
Scouting report: Fulenchek has front-line potential thanks to his improving mechanics, command, and consistency. He uses a sinker that currently sits 90-94 mph as his go-to pitch and it could see some more velocity as he continues to fill out. His slider is his primary secondary pitch, which features late bite, but it can be a bit of an inconsistent pitch for him. Fulenchek has a decent change-up, be he doesn't use it very often.
Since the start of the 2009 draft, the Yankees have chosen one college arm (Sam Stafford in 2011) in the first two rounds. Before then, they chose Jeremy Bleich and Scott Bittle in 2008; Andrew Brackman in 2007; Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain in 2006; J.B. Cox in 2005; and Brett Smith in 2004. Clearly, they've changed course. But, here are a few college arms that could be available with the 55th overall selection, if they choose to go back to selecting college pitchers in the early rounds:
Zech Lemond: RHP; 6'3", 175 lbs; Rice University
Rank: MLB.com, 44; K-Law, 50; Scout.com, 57
Scouting report: Lemond was originally a reliever for Rice (and a very good one at that), but thanks to injuries in its starting rotation, the team shifted him to the rotation where he continued to succeed. His fastball, while even in the rotation, sat in the 92-96 mph range and had some good movement on it. His best secondary is a hard knuckle-curve that is said to have reached 85 mph. He has a change-up, but it's a bit of a newer pitch for him. A caveat for Lemond, however, is that because the team was pretty aggressive with his workload once placed into the starting rotation, the right-hander has been sidelined with elbow inflammation after five starts, which could hurt his draft stock.
Spencer Turnbull: RHP; 6'3", 195 lbs; Alabama
Rank: MLB.com, 62; K-Law, 49; Scout.com, 58
Scouting report: Thanks to an improved delivery, which has helped him with his control and velocity, Turnbull has made big strides for the Crimson Tide these last two seasons. His fastball, which he does a good job of getting downward plane on, sits in the 92-94 mph range but can get up to as high as 98 mph. His slider has improved, too, to the point where it might become a plus secondary pitch. Turnbull could find himself in the bullpen because his third pitch, a change-up, falls behind his two other offerings, and his command in the strike zone has room to grow as well.
Brett Graves: RHP; 6'1", 190 lbs; Missouri
Rank: MLB.com, 74; K-Law, 55; Scout.com, 71
Scouting report: It was because of his size that Graves didn't get drafted until the 26th round coming out of high school, but scouts still loved his arm-strength and athleticism. Graves' stock has shot up considerably since going to college, to the point where he could land in the second round. He can get both swings-and-misses and grounders from his heater, which sits at 92-94 mph. Graves' two secondary pitches, a slider and a change, are still works in progress, but the former has shown the potential to be a plus pitch.
Now, onto the bats. Despite the Jagielo and Judge picks from last year, the Yankees like to pick high school position players in the early rounds. Here are a few prep bats they could pick in the second round:
Milton Ramos: SS, RHB; 6'2", 165 lbs; Committed to Florida Atlantic
Rank: MLB.com, 46; K-Law, 84; Scout.com, 56
Scouting report: Ramos may just be the best defender in the entire draft class. Because he has smooth actions at short, a strong arm, above-average range thanks to his speed, and soft hands, Ramos shouldn't have much trouble at all sticking at the shortstop position. What drops him down the draft rankings, though, is his bat, where he has shown to be overaggressive at the plate. He doesn't have much power right now, but he does hit line drives to all fields and could gain some power as he grows more into his body.
Forrest Wall: 2B, LHB; 6'1", 180 lbs; Committed to North Carolina
Rank: MLB.com, 53; K-Law, 73; Scout.com, 16
Scouting report: Wall actually has the makings to be a shortstop, but it was because of labrum surgery three years ago that has moved him to second base; his arm strength hasn't fully recovered since surgery. Wall does have a quick, line-drive swing on the offensive side with surprising power for someone his size. His speed, like it does on defense, should help him on the base paths in terms of stealing bases.
Cole Tucker: SS, switch-hitter; 6'3", 165 lbs; Committed to Arizona
Rank: MLB.com, 70; K-Law, 62; Scout.com, N/A
Scouting report: Defense is Cole's calling card, as his soft hands, instincts, and range at the position should help him stick there long-term. Cole doesn't offer much in the way of power with the bat, but that's to be expected given his light frame. He is projected to hit for some more power as he continues to fill out, and his speed should help him in the meantime and down the road.
College bats are little thin in this draft, most notably those who can play a non-first base infield position. At least those who could be picked in the second round of the draft, anyway. Here are some more polished college bats the Yankees could choose when they make their first pick in the second round:
Alex Blandino: 3B, LHB; 6'0", 190 lbs; Stanford
Rank: MLB.com, 78; K-Law, 42; Scout.com, 18
Scouting report: Blandino has shown a good approach at the plate, including good plate discipline, and is able to hit the ball to all fields. Currently a third baseman, there is a possibility that Blandino could be moved over to second base given his lack of power, but he does, defensively, handle third base well for the Cardinal. Blandino has played in the Cape Cod League before, and the Yankees have always liked players who play in the Cape.
Greg Allen: CF, switch-hitter; 6'4", 170 lbs; San Diego State
Rank: MLB.com, 76; K-Law, N/A; Scout.com, 78
Scouting report: Allen is your classic slash-and-dash type of center fielder. The senior from SDSU can spray the ball to all fields thanks to a short swing, and he has good plate discipline to boot. There really isn't much power there, but if there were, he'd be projected to go quite a bit higher than where he currently sits. Once on base, Allen is a major threat to run. Allen can also go get it in center, too, as he shows good instincts in the field with a good arm.
It'll be interesting to see who the Yankees will take in this draft, considering that some of the best talent (in theory) will be gone by the time they make a pick. But there are always guys who sneak through the cracks and fall later in the draft. The Yankees will be making their first pick in the 50's (55th, to be exact), and they've only done that once since 2003 (they did it in 2011 and picked Dante Bichette Jr.), so they're sort of in uncharted waters in that regard.
Personally, I'd like to see the Yankees take a college arm in the second round, even though they've kind of shied away from that in recent years. The Red Sox have taken college arms in the early rounds (Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes, Brandon Workman, and Brian Johnson come to mind), and have had good success doing so. Perhaps the Yankees could take a page out of Boston's playbook, considering the latter has done a better job at drafting (and developing) talent than the former.
At the same time, there may not be many college arms that are worthy picks for the Yankees in the second round, though there are some guys who should still be there in the third round or later. In that case, I feel like a prep pitcher is the way they'll go, if in fact they choose to go with an arm in the second round. The Yankees drafting someone like Bryce Montes de Oca would not be a surprise; they love their big, projectable pitchers. It'd just be nice if they could get a college player with their first pick, since they're more polished than high school players and can move up in the farm system more quickly