clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Yankees Draft 2009: Thinking About Needs

The Yankees have produced more from their recent drafts than since the dawn of the '90s dynasty.  Still, they face constant comparision to the Red Sox, who have clearly gotten more from their draft strategies.  But on the whole, since Brian Cashman inserted himself into the drafting process in 2006, the Yankees have transformed their farm system by drafting risky, paying far overslot, and focusing on high upside pitching.

But is that the right approach going forward?

The Yankees still seem loaded with good pitching prospects.  John Sickles' 2009 top 20 prospects (actually 21) includes 14 righties and 3 lefties.  For point of comparission, the Tampa Bay Rays had 12 pitchers total; the Baltimore Orioles had 10 pitchers ranked; the Toronto Blue Jays and the Boston Red Sox had 9.  I didn't search every system, but I would expect 17 out of 21 to be the highest percentage of pitchers in the majors.

The strategy has made sense in a variety of ways. 

With the infield locked down for the forseeable future, drafting bats doesn't seem to have the high reward of drafting pitchers.  There seems to be at least one elite bat available every offseason, and with the Yanks' resources, they are always in the discussion for elite bats.

Conversely, there are almost never pitchers in their primes available.  CC Sabathia was the first legitimate ace under 30 available since Billy Beane traded off Mulder and Hudson.  Furthermore, pitchers are reroutable in a way that fielders are not.  Imagine a team developed 10 average starters symotaneously; that's a blessing.  10 average middle infielders on the other hand (see 2006 Blue Jays), that's a logjam.  A pitcher can easily move from the rotation to the bullpen, and he may often perform better there, but a second baseman can't become a center fielder (unless he's Craig Biggio). 

So it has made sense for the Yankees to take pitchers with their picks.  Fragile or inconsistent pitchers with great potential can often be had in the late rounds where the Yanks have their chance.   But there are bats to be had.  The 2005 draft drew a lot of attention to the top spots- Justin Upton, Alex Gordon, Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, and Cameron Maybin were all top 10 draftees.  But in the third round there were still MLB contributors to be had: Taylor Teagarden and Brett Gardner.  Obviously, neither of these guys are superstars of the caliber of the top 10, but while they are young and cost controlled they are pieces that can be used to build a successful roster.  Every dollar saved on the bench is a dollar that can be used elsewhere.

Another part of the conundrum is the scouts.  If you have scouts who have proven themselves to be strong evaluators of pitchers but mediocre evaluators of hitters, then you have to play to your strengths.

I want the Yankees to take a draft of hitters, to apply that pro-risk philosophy to the fielders' side of the ball.  But the truth is, for the Yankees, they can only take the best talent on the board when their number is called. 

It's always interesting to see the draft day philosphy.  With their fewest number of draft picks available in a long time, will the Yanks stick to their draft low and overpay pattern of the last several years?  The Yankees only have early picks because they failed to sign last year's 1st and 2nd rounders; this means they get nothing if they fail again this year, so expect them to draft someone they're sure they can sign.  Without a supplimental round, I also expect the Yanks to play a little more cautiously in terms of drafting someone who they are sure can make it to the majors.  With Brackman, Betances, et al toiling in the minors, I expect to see a fast mover from the early rounds this year.  An Ian Kennedy or David Robertson who can hustle up the latter, so the front office can point to a quick success story.