The 2014 MLB Draft is only a couple weeks away, so the Pinstripe Alley staff is taking this opportunity to look back at Yankees' draft classes in recent years to see how they have performed. Andrew reviewed the 2009 class on Monday and Jesse looked at the 2010 draft class yesterday. Today we move on to the 2011 class to see how some of those notable draftees have done in three years as professionals.
1st round: Dante Bichette Jr.
3B, Orangewood Christian HS (Maitland, FL), 51st overall
The Yankees selected the son of MLB All-Star Dante Bichette with their first pick in the 2011 draft. Bichette Jr. was committed to the University of Georgia but passed up the opportunity to become a Bulldog to sign with the Yankees out of high school. At the time of the draft, Yankees vice president Damon Oppenheimer praised Bichette Jr.'s power potential that could maybe one day have him slotted into the middle of the Yankees' lineup. DBJ rewarded the team's faith in him by raking in his time with the Gulf Coast League Yankees. Unfortunately, the raking ended there.
Bichette struggled to find the same Rookie Ball success after being promoted to Low-A Charleston in 2012. His .248/.322/.331 batting line was well below the .335/.400/.507 marks he had achieved in the GCL. Bichette repeated the level in 2013 with even worse results than the year before, with his batting average dropping down to .211 for the year despite coming into the season ranked #9 in the Yankees' system by MLB.com. Though it looks like DBJ may be another failed first round selection by the Yankees, he has shown signs of progress in 2014 with the High-A Tampa Yankees. In 42 games so far this season, DBJ is hitting .263/.358/.401 with three home runs. Those aren't numbers like he had in Rookie Ball, but they are markedly better than what he showed in his time with the RiverDogs. Bichette has been mostly displaced at third base by 2013 first rounder Eric Jagielo, and has instead been getting the majority of his playing time at DH.
5th round: Greg Bird
C, Grandview HS (Aurora, CO), 179th overall
Greg Bird was first noticed by teams scouting his battery mate, Kevin Gausman, at Grandview High School in Colorado. Bird was committed to playing baseball at the University of Arkansas before ultimately deciding to pass up college in favor of getting his professional career started early. Injuries have been a bit of a story for Bird in his young professional career with a back injury forcing the Yankees to move Bird from behind the plate to first base permanently. He played only four games with the GCL Yankees in 2011 and only 28 games between the Gulf Coast League and Short Season-A Staten Island in 2012.
Last season was truly a breakout season for Bird. He stayed healthy playing for the Low-A Charleston RiverDogs and tore through the South Atlantic League on his way to a 107-walk season to go along with 20 home runs. Bird finished the 2013 season with a .288/.428/.511 batting line that was actually hampered a bit by playing in a pitcher-friendly ballpark in Charleston. Another injury kept Bird out of the first month of the 2014 season, but he has picked up where he left off in his first season with the Tampa Yankees. In 11 games so far, Bird is hitting .302/.412/.535 with two home runs and four doubles. The lack of real first base prospects in the Yankees' system means that Bird is really not blocked at any level along the way. Following up his tremendous 2013 with another strong season could get him to Double-A Trenton by the end of the year.
6th round: Jake Cave
CF, Kecoughtan HS (Hampton, VA), 209th overall
Cave, another high school draftee, passed up his commitment to Louisiana State University in favor of signing with the Yankees as their sixth round pick in 2011. By drafting Cave the Yankees got an athletic center fielder who was also able to top 90 mph as a pitcher. So far, the outfield thing has worked for Cave as a professional but at least he has the pitching thing to fall back on. Cave has a strong arm in center field and possesses an above-average hit tool. He was forced to miss a chunk of time after breaking his kneecap on a collision at home plate in 2011 that ended his season before re-injuring the same knee and missing the entire 2012 season to recover and rehab.
The 2014 season has been kind to Cave so far, as he is hitting .319/.364/.432 in 43 games with High-A Tampa. He's stolen six bases and tallied nine doubles. With Mason Williams' star fading a little more by the day, Cave could be the next big Yankees' center field prospect that doesn't come with the same injury concerns as Slade Heathcott. A crowded Trenton outfield may keep Cave in Tampa regardless of how he performs for the majority of this season, but he has done a good job so far of putting his name into the conversation.
11th round: Mark Montgomery
RHP, Longwood University (Farmville, VA), 359th overall
The Yankees have had some success with college relievers that have the ability to move fast through the system a la David Robertson and Montgomery is very much cut from the same cloth. Featuring a devastating slider that helped Montgomery wipe out every lower level of the minors before reaching Triple-A, it's possible that he becomes the first of this draft class to see the majors as early as this season. Montgomery faced real adversity for the first time in 2013 after reports from Yankees vice president Mark Newman suggested that the club was not happy with the shape that Montgomery showed up to camp in. He pitched to a 3.38 ERA in 45.1 innings.
Montgomery has fared a little better in his second trip through the International League with a 2.25 ERA in 20 innings so far this season. He hasn't been the dominant reliever that he was at every level prior to Triple-A again just yet, but better results are heartening. It's possible that reliever turnover could lead to an opportunity for Montgomery in the Bronx later this season. Quickly moving up through the system, as you would expect from a college draftee, has left him only one step away.
14th round: Rookie Davis
RHP, Dixon HS (Holly Ridge, NC), 449th overall
Rookie Davis received a $550,000 signing bonus after he fell to them in the 14th round of the 2011 draft. He put up monster numbers for Dixon High School, but teams higher in the draft passed on his monetary requests, allowing the Yankees to pick him up later. He was committed to playing baseball at East Carolina University before signing on to begin his professional career as a Yankee.
Davis started 13 games in 2013 with the Staten Island Yankees, pitching to a 1.90 ERA in 52 innings. After starting the 2014 season off with the Charleston RiverDogs, Davis has a 4.58 ERA in 35.1 innings. He has struck out 30 and allowed just one home run across that span. Davis only turned 21 in April of this year, so there is no real rush in getting him through the minor league levels.
16th round: Branden Pinder
RHP, Long Beach State (Long Beach, CA), 509th overall
Pinder was a starter-turned-reliever that saw his velocity increase upon a move to the bullpen, like many do. Like fellow 2011 draftee Montgomery, the slider is one of Pinder's dangerous weapons to go along with his 95+ mph fastball. Pinder struggled between HIgh-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton a year ago, but found plenty of success against Eastern League hitters to begin his 2014 season. In 16 innings this season with Trenton, Pinder pitched to a 0.56 ERA with 18 strikeouts. He held opposing hitters to a .130 batting average against him. The Yankees promoted him to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he has a 3.18 ERA in just 5.2 innings. Obviously far too small of a sample size to make any real declarations about his performance. If Pinder continues to pitch at the level he did with the Thunder, he could be in line for a call-up to the majors later on this season.
20th round: Dan Camarena
LHP, Cathedral Catholic HS (San Diego, CA), 629th overall
Camarena was committed to the University of San Diego when his favorite team drafted him in the 20th round of the 2011 draft. Although Camarena does not feature overpowering velocity with his high-80s to low-90s fastball, what Camarena does bring to the table is exquisite control of his arsenal. If he is to make it to the majors, that will be his calling card. With the Charleston RiverDogs last season, Camarena pitched to a 4.42 ERA in 112 innings. He's been bumped up to High-A Tampa this season where he has a 2.47 ERA in 47.1 innings, holding batters to a .253 batting average against him. In his most recent outing, Camarena pitched five hitless innings before departing after six innings of one-hit ball.
It's still too soon to judge this draft just yet, but there are a lot of promising players that could end up as big players for the big league club. Bird's breakout season allowed his prospect stock to rise into the Top 10 conversation and Dante Bichette's resurgence hopefully means that his prospect status isn't ready to die just yet. Mark Montgomery and Branden Pinder could both be valuable bullpen options as early as later on this season. There is a lot of reason to hope among the names from this draft. It's just a matter of waiting to see if they can perform well enough to make it from prospect to big leaguer successfully.