MLB Draft 2014: A look back at the Yankees' 2012 draft class

Rob Refsnyder doing things in college. - Harry How

The 2012 draft features quite a bit of interesting names for the Yankees.

Pinstripe Alley's look back at the Yankees' respective draft classes over the last five years continues with a review of the 2012 draft. In case you missed them, Andrew looked at the '09 draft, I examined the 2010 draft, and Tanya looked backat the 2011 draft. Now, here are the notables from the draft from just two seasons ago:

1st round: Ty Hensley
RHP, 30th overall, High School (Edmond, OK)

A pre-signing physical with the Yankees showed that the right-handed Hensley had a "shoulder abnormality," which, led to his original $1.6 million bonus being cut to $1.2 million. Hensley was able to appear in five games for the GCL Yankees later that summer, pitching to a 3.00 ERA in 12 total innings. Those five appearances, though, have been the only five games he's pitched since being drafted two years ago. Last season, Hensley had to undergo season-ending hip surgery in May, and he hasn't pitched this year after undergoing hernia surgery. He is creeping closer to finally pitching in real games, and he is expected to pitch for the Short Season Staten Island Yankees when their season starts in mid-June.

Although it's been a very rough go of it for Hensley since being drafted, there is still plenty of potential for the hard-throwing right-hander. At 6' 4", 220 lbs, Hensley can power his fastball up to 97 mph, while featuring a hard, 12-6 curve as his main out-pitch. The lost development time certainly hurts, but there's nothing we can do about that now. Hensley just, above all, needs to stay healthy so he can progress through the system.

2nd round: Austin Aune
CF, 89th overall, High School (Argyle, TX)

The Yankees were able to receive this second-round pick, which ultimately was used to draft Austin Aune, after failing to sign Sam Stafford the year before. Aune, drafted as a center fielder, was moved to shortstop after signing a $1MM bonus (nearly double what he was slotted for). He hit .273/.358/.410 in 39 games as an 18 year old in the GCL in 2012, and things were looking up.

At the same time, the shortstop experiment didn't work out for Aune, to the point where the Yankees scraped the idea altogether and moved him to right field for 2013. Aune's bat also crashed pretty hard in 2013, to the tune of .192/.230/.263 and a 72:8 K:BB in 41 games. This all comes while repeating the GCL, no less. Aune is said to have pretty explosive tools, but the dreadful 2013 raises plenty of red flags. At 20 years old, the left-handed swinging Aune is expected to play in Staten Island, where he'll look to get back on the prospect map.

2nd round: Peter O'Brien
C, 94th overall, University of Miami

Big Pete O'Brien was selected as the Yankees' natural second round pick, and so far he's delivered the goods down in the minor leagues. In fact, O'Brien has improved every season at the plate thus far: .656 OPS (GCL/SI, 52 total games) in 2012; .893 OPS (Low-A Charleston/High-A Tampa, 119 total games) last season; and a staggering 1.061 OPS (High-A/Double-A Trenton, 41 total games) here in 2014. That 1.061 OPS isn't just due to repeating High-A, either; in 11 games with the Thunder, O'Brien is hitting .304/.304/.804 with seven home runs. Ever since joining the system, all O'Brien has done has hit for power, and he's shown that power in a huge, huge way so far this season. His 17 total home runs are second-most in all of Minor League Baseball, behind Texas' Joey Gallo, who has 18.

O'Brien's power isn't just all-pull, either. If he gets a pitch on the outer half, he can take it the other way and over the wall pretty effortlessly. And it's not like homering out to right field (especially as a right-handed batter) at Arm and Hammer Park is an easy task; it really takes a lot of power to hit it out that direction. He can also power it over the wall in (right) center, and if you give him something hittable on the inner-half, he'll destroy that, too.

Now, of course, O'Brien is far from a perfect player. He pretty much has no position at the moment, and is currently splitting time at catcher and DH with Gary Sanchez in Trenton. Personally, I'd like to see him get more reps in right field, considering catcher/DH/first base is clogged up (and will be clogged up for the foreseeable future) at the big league level, and the Yankees will eventually need a right fielder, since Carlos Beltran is a major liability in the field already in just year one of a three-year deal. O'Brien did play two games in right field for the Thunder (and didn't look all that good), but has since seen more catcher and DH in recent weeks given Trenton's jam-packed outfield. Although he struggled a bit in his limited play in the outfield, he does have a rocket for an arm and the only way to improve out there is to get more reps.

Offensively, while he does have a ton of power, there is still plenty of swing-and-miss there with a lack of walks as well. Sure, it doesn't look bad that he's not walking (he has no walks in Double-A and has a MiLB career walk rate of just 6%) right now, but it could become a problem once (if?) the competition in Double-A adjusts to him. For now, though, we'll just marvel at his dingering prowess here in 2014 and hopefully beyond at the big league level.

5th round: Rob Refsnyder 
OF, 187th overall, University of Arizona

Selected as an outfielder, the Yankees moved Refsnyder to second base in 2013 following a 46-game stint in right field at Low-A to finish off 2012. Offensively, Refsnyder didn't hit much the same season after being drafted (.683 OPS at Low-A), but he exploded at the same level (.933 OPS) to start 2013 and earned a promotion to High-A. He finished off the season in Tampa by hitting .283/.408/.404 with more walks (78) than strikeouts (70).

Refsnyder is now in Double-A Trenton, where he started off very slowly (.154/.233/.308, 40% K%) the first couple of weeks, but has since bounced back (.317/.364/.450, 9% K%) the last month. All told, he's settled into a solid .277/.331/.415 line with the Thunder. It'd be nice if he'd draw more walks (6.3% BB%), since it was a big part of his game last year, so hopefully it's more of him further adjusting to league than a sign of things to come.

Defensively at second, Refsnyder is still a work in progress. From watching him, I feel like he has improved defensively, and he does have the capability to be an average, or even slightly above average, defender at second, given his athleticism. He will need to further iron out his game (mainly with the accuracy of his throws) if he wants to reach those levels, however. If he is able to improve defensively, while continuing to progress with the bat, Refsnyder does have a chance to play himself in the second base picture at the big league level sometime in 2015.

18th round: Brady Lail
RHP, 577th overall, High School (South Jordan, UT)

New York very well may have themselves quite the find with Brady Lail, an 18th round selection. They lured him from his commitment to Arizona by giving him a $255,000 bonus, and he's done nothing but provide positive results since entering the system. After a quick (and successful) five-outing trial in the Gulf Coast League to finish off 2012, Lail continued to dominate GCL batters in 2013, posting a 2.33 ERA and 1.90 FIP in 12 outings. The Yankees even let him start two games in Tampa, and although he (understandably) struggled, it showed quite a bit of confidence in the Yankees' part to stick a then 19-year-old in the High-A fires after pitching three levels lower.

The Yankees continued to show confidence in Lail, as they had him skip over the New York/Penn League to full season ball with the Low-A RiverDogs. So far, it's pretty safe to say that the Yankees' confidence in Lail has paid off. In eight starts with the RiverDogs, Lail has pitched to a 3.30 ERA with a 2.28 FIP, with the latter being good for third-best in the South Atlantic League. He's also continued his strike-throwing ways, posting an outstanding 7.33 K/BB, good for fifth-best in the Sally League.

From watching him, Lail is able to pepper the bottom of the strike zone with sinking fastballs in the low-90's, which help him pick up plenty of ground balls. Lail could even gain an extra tick or two of velocity when he continues to fill out his 6' 2", 175 pound frame. In terms of secondary stuff, Lail has a change-up that shows nice arm-side fade and a big 12-6 curveball that, when right, can be used to get called strikes or bury in the dirt for swings and misses. He showed off that curve in a big way in his last start on May 16, where he struck out 11 Hickory Crawdads in six innings of work. If he keeps this up, Lail could catapult up the Yankees' prospect rankings and provide the team with another high-ceiling arm in the low minors.

In an effort to try to keep things short, here is a lightning round, featuring the rest of the notable 2012 draftees:

  • Corey Black (4th round) is a college right-hander who did well in the lower part of the system for the Yankees, but got traded last summer to the Cubs for Alfonso Soriano. He throws very hard, but at 5' 11" with control problems (5.9 BB/9 in Double-A in '14), he could very well be destined for the bullpen.
  • Nick Goody (6th round) is another college arm, this time a reliever, who exploded onto the scene soon after being drafted (1,12 ERA, 14.6 K/9). He looked to take the next step, but he had to undergo Tommy John Surgery early on in 2013. Goody is now healthy and back with the Tampa Yankees and has made a handful of appearances for them. When healthy, Goody uses a fastball that sits in the low-90's with a wipeout slider that sits in the low-80's.
  • Taylor Dugas (8th round) is an outfielder who went to Alabama and has quietly moved up the system for the Yankees. He shows very good plate discipline (as shown by his MiLB career 130:91 BB:K), and plays a pretty good corner outfield. So far with the Thunder, Dugas is hitting .287/.403/.485 in 33 games.
  • James Pazos (13th round) is currently a reliever in High-A, and you may remember him from Spring Training. The left-handed Pazos has seen a continued spike in velocity, hitting upwards of 98 mph with the heater with some life to it. So far Pazos has pitched to a 3.61 ERA and 1.81 FIP out of the T-Yanks' 'pen and he could quickly move up in the system if he keeps performing well.
  • Dietrich Enns (19th round) really burst onto the scene last year with the Charleston RiverDogs, pitching to a 0.61 ERA and 1.52 FIP in 19 relief appearances. He got bumped up to Tampa in the same year, and the Yankees even let him start, though it was a bit of a disaster (5.63 ERA, 4.15 FIP). Now back in the bullpen, the southpaw is pitching to a 1.61 ERA and 3.23 FIP thus far in 11 games for Tampa. Yet another college reliever, Enns has the chance to move quickly in the system as long as he provides good results.
Although it's still way too early to tell, I do think the Yankees' 2012 draft does have the potential to be a pretty successful class. O'Brien and Refsnyder have had their respective (early) successes at Double-A, and both (more likely Refsnyder) could see Triple-A by the end of the season; Lail may turn out to be an excellent late-round find as a right-handed starter with the makings of three plus pitches; Black was already used to acquire an important bat currently in the Yankees' lineup; plus the trio of late-inning bullpen arms that could zoom through the system; and then there's Hensley, who has the highest ceiling of them all as a potential front-line starter if he can stay healthy and put it all together.
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