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Q&A with Kiley McDaniel of SaberScouting

As one of the authors of the phenomenal blog SaberScouting, Kiley McDaniel already registers a 75 on the 80 point Awesome Scale.

That he spent three years working in a big league front office, has scouting experience, and insider info pushes his rating towards an 80.

And that he agreed to answer ten questions for us about the Yanks' draft and minor leagues confirms his status as a legend in the making.

Kiley really went above and beyond in answering our questions- so read the whole article here, comment, then go over to SaberScouting and bookmark their blog- if you make it a regular part of your baseball reading you'll be a better person.

A huge thanks to Kiley for agreeing to this project.


1)  Starting with first-rounder Gerrit Cole; everyone has talked about adjusting his mechanics, so what do you think needs to be done?  Can you guesstimate a success rate for those changes?


His arm action is a little long and sweeping, and some would say that leads to a lack of deception, but that is something you're never going to change because (most) teams are smart enough to not mess with the arm action of an arm this electric.  The arm is clean and I think it might be just weird enough that it could play up the deception a bit.  So, I'm not too worried about the arm action, and his other mechanical issues seem to be standard to young power pitchers, generally putting a lot of force on the ball and not always being efficient in his motion.  I wouldn't really worry about that long-term, either.  He's a legitimate talent with a chance for three plus pitches and the Yankees are sold on his makeup.  The negotiations won't exactly be a walk in the park, though.


2)  Do you see a bat you especially like in this draft?  Who and why?


The Yankee brass really seems to like Tennessee prep 2B Corban Joseph.  I watched his draft video having not known his name and was very impressed with his swing on a first look, then I talked to a few Yankee officials and they echoed my sentiments.  He has a real nice stroke from the left side with great feel for the bat head, and the potential to stick at 2B with all the intangibles you like to see.  That will almost always lead to Chase Utley comparisons, but he profiles more like Kelly Johnson, which ain't bad at all in the 4th round.


3)  Do you see a glove you especially like in this draft?  Who and why?


There aren't too many defensive standouts in this class, but Florida HS catcher Ben McMahan impressed me with his defensive tools behind the plate.  That being said, McMahan wants a lot of money and might be the toughest sign of any pick the Yankees made, so don't count on seeing him join the system anytime soon.


4)  The Yanks have reportedly signed about 24 of their 51 picks (link  and link).  How many more should we expect to see signed, and if you can guess, who's the highest pick likely to turn down the Yanks?


This was actually something I touched on with a team official a few days ago.  The Yanks are likely to go over 30 and very well may go over 35 in this draft class.  Most teams sign 20-25 players in a draft, so this will put a lot of pressure on the low minors players to perform.  I know the club is working on all of the high profile picks, so guessing which one won't get inked is a guess at best, but I'll go with 27th rounder Garrison Lassiter (NC prep SS), as he was picked right before 30th rounder McMahan and 36th rounder Chris Dwyer (CT prep lefty), and they look to be the three toughest signs.


5)  Do you see a player (pitcher or hitter) in this draft who seems like a sleeper we should keep an eye on?


Being a UCF Alum, I was hoping the Bombers wouldn't sign Florida HS right-hander Matt Richardson, a UCF signee, as he's an arm to watch.  He was primarily a shortstop in high school and has outstanding athleticism and a lively low 90's fastball and good feel, all packed into a smallish frame (6'1, 180).  He won't get a lot of buzz, has the short right-hander stigma on him, and is a little raw with limited mound experience, but the organization really sees some potential there and likes his makeup as well.


6)  What have you seen of the Yankees' young catching trio (Montero, Romine, Cervelli)?  Which is most likely to reach the majors as a catcher?


I've seen them all and they all impress me in different ways.  Montero just wows you with his hitability and massive raw power, and seemed to improve behind the plate with each game.  Not sure if he sticks there, but it won't be for a lack of effort.  Romine is a power-power combo with the bat and arm and really wowed the club with his batting practice displays after signing last summer.  Romine's also no slouch behind the plate, either.  Cervelli is a more understated prospect in person that's solid across the board and has made a lot of progress over the last few years.  Cervelli is the best bet to reach the majors as a catcher, but Romine has the best chance to be a big league starting catcher, with Montero the most likely to be an impact bat, but with the lowest shot at being a catcher in the bigs.


7)  The Yanks don't seem scared of pitchers who need TJ (Brackman, Sanchez, Melancon, etc etc), can you tell us why that might be?  Do the Yanks do anything different with their rehabbers or is it just experience?


Some of these guys aren't really preference, like Sanchez or Garcia, as they needed to go under the knife after coming into the organization, but Brackman and Melancon were guys the Yankees seemingly sought out because of their injury.  I hate to use an internet baseball buzzwords, but this may be a market inefficiency, or at least a subset of players ripe for a big draft spending team to exploit.  The Yankees look for players in the draft who have top-line talent and fell for whatever reason, be it draft year performance (Kennedy), injury (Melancon), inflated price (Brackman), or general risk (CJ Henry, though he didn't work out).  You can disagree on the specific player, but these are the ways to get your hands on elite talent, like how the Pirates did this year with Tanner Scheppers in the 2nd round; you have to assume risk.  If you're a team looking for as many top talents as you can find, you can't do much better than Damon Oppenheimer has, and he's using multiple avenues to find that talent.  That's why he's a guy you'll see running a whole organization sooner rather than later.


8)  Did you see the Hardball Times' analysis of Phil Hughes? 

Combined with Frank's great April write-up on Hughes 'leading' his followthrough with his shoulder, do you think Hughes issues are correctable or is there too much going wrong here?

I did, and liked both articles, but am getting a little sick of the mechanical breakdowns of Hughes at this point.  If we do another one, you can assume it was purely for the hits (thanks for the links, everyone).  Every player, especially young players, and particularly young pitchers, are inconsistent in general, and this includes their mechanics.  Everything Hughes does is being analyzed with a fine-toothed comb and if the same thing were applied to, say Matt Garza, not only would you see a lot of the same things, but he might be a worse pitcher for all the attention.  That's not to say Garza or Hughes is weak mentally, but Hughes has been some unlucky and some inconsistent, and has the internet's bullseye on him for some reason.  Hughes needs some work, like any young pitcher, and I'd be skeptical if anyone can say with certainty whether he'll make those adjustments.  I don't have too much to add to the discussion.  Maybe Yankee fans could follow their instincts and start getting inside the heads of Red Sox pitchers with never-ending discussions of velocity and mechanics?


9)  Have you seen anything of Jose Tabata recently?  He's really struggling at AA; is it mental, physical, or both?


I haven't seen Tabata this year, so I can't say for sure what his problem may be, but I saw him regularly in the GCL when he burst on the scene and in the FSL with Tampa last season and have never really thought he was as good as the hype made him out to be; good, just not great.  The power has always been projection and inconsistent in games, and his body didn't have any projection in it---even at 16---which isn't his fault, he's just a big guy.  So, I was always skeptical about the starting right fielder profile with the power in question and was never really a big fan of his on-field demeanor, but you tend to forget about that sort of thing when he's hitting.  He can really hit and is blessed with an unusual amount of athleticism given his stocky build.  He'll be as good as he wants to be, and I get the impression from people I've talked to that he's dug himself into a bit of a hole with a bad start and started to press and get inside his own head.  He's really talented and just needs to relax and play the game.  He looks to be making a lot of contact the last few days and may be getting out of his funk.


10 Have you heard anything about why the Yankees refuse to use Chris Britton?  Is it just the logic that anyone traded for Jaret Wright must suck, or do they really hate fat people?


I haven't heard anything specifically about Britton, but I can say the Yankees always have a good reason when they keep a hot reliever in AAA, just look at what happened to Edwar Ramirez.  He's got a filthy change, everything else is solid, and his numbers were out of this world, but he got hit hard in the big leagues because he couldn't command his fastball well enough to keep big league hitters off of his changeup.  He still showed flashes in the big leagues, but was ultimately a liability in the short-term.  Ramirez seems to have figured that out and crossed that line to now being an asset this season.  Guys like Colter Bean have had better numbers than Britton in AAA and just aren't long-term big league fits for whatever reason and ride the shuttle between the city and Scranton when injuries crop up.  Now, the Yankees could simply be wrong about Britton, but there are a lot of smart people in the organization, and if he pulls an Edwar and figures it out, I think he'll get a chance.  It may never happen, or it may happen with another team, there's really no telling with relievers.