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MLB Draft: A few tidbits about the Yankees and the draft

Mike Stobe

Now that the 2013 draft is over, I'm going to try to organize a few draft-related Yankees thoughts. First, let's take a quick look at the Yankees inability to draft and develop a home-grown ace. I listed all pitchers who averaged 30 starts and 200 innnings over the last four years, with a 120 ERA+. I added a couple other names, and I think that gives us a reasonable list of current "aces" - dependable, successful pitchers who you'd want to build your rotation around (or would have two years ago):

CC Sabathia: 1st round (20th overall), 1998 Indians

Jon Lester: 2nd round, 2002 Red Sox

Justin Verlander: 1st round (2nd overall), 2004 Tigers

Felix Hernandez: Internat'l Free Agent, 2002 Mariners

Jered Weaver: 1st round (12th overall), 2004 Angels

Yu Darvish: Internat'l Free Agent, 2012 Rangers

Tim Hudson: 6th round, 1997 Athletics

Stephen Strasburg: 1st round (1st overall), 2009 Nationals

Roy Halladay: 1st round (17th overall), 1995 Blue Jays

Cliff Lee: 4th round, 2000 Expos

Cole Hamels: 1st round (17th overall), 2002 Phillies

Adam Wainwright: 1st round (29th overall), 2000 Braves

Matt Cain: 1st round (25th overall), 2002 Giants

Tim Lincecum: 1st round (10th overall), 2006 Giants

Clayton Kershaw: 1st round (7th overall), 2006 Dodgers

Zack Greinke: 1st round (6th overall), 2002 Royals

The two biggest takeaways from this are that most future aces are top-20 picks, and that Cliff Lee was really drafted by the Expos. Of the 16 pitchers identified, 14 of them were subject to the draft. Of those 14, 11 were first round selections, and nine were taken in the first 20 picks. How often have the Yankees had one of the first 20 picks? Twice in the last 20 years - in 2005, when they took CJ Henry (an Oklahoma high school shortshop, which was a questionable pick at the time), and in 1996 when they took LHP Eric Milton from the University of Mayland (who they turned into Chuck Knoblauch). They also had the 13th pick in 1993 (Matt Drews), the 6th pick in 1992 (Derek Jeter), and the first overall pick in 1991 (Brien Taylor). Of course, those three picks all followed losing seasons. Combined with their seemingly annual big free agent signing, the Yankees near-annual 95 wins and playoff appearance means they are usually picking well after future aces can be reasonably expected to be available.

Speaking of losing seasons and first round draft picks, between 1978 (when they took Rex Hudler, Matt Winters and Brian Ryder in the first round) and 1990 (when they took Carl "dinosaur" Everett), the Yankees had exactly two first round picks. Total. In 11 years. They didn't have their first pick until the third round in 1987, and didn't have their first pick until the fourth round in three separate years (1980, 1983 and 1988). Yikes.

So who was the last real "ace" drafted and developed by the Yankees? With all due respect to Andy Pettitte, I'm going to go with Ron Guidry, who they drafted in 1971. Gator had a 9-year run (1977-1985) in which his average season was 32 games, 222 IP, a 17-7 record, and a 3.15 ERA (123 ERA+). Pettitte has only three seasons total with 30 starts, 200 IP, and an ERA+ of 120 or better, but one of those, and probably his best single season, was with the Astros in 2005. For the record, Andy did have a 10-year run (1996-2005) in which he averaged 30 starts, 192 IP, a 16-8 record and a 3.74 ERA (122 ERA+). In Yankees-only seasons, it was eight years averaging 32 games, 202 IP, a 17-8 record and a 3.92 ERA (117 ERA+). In the only two full seasons in the rotation before hurting his foot running the bases, Chien-Ming Wang averaged 32 starts, 209 IP, a 19-6 record, with a 3.67 ERA (123 ERA+). Incredibly enough, those are the best home-grown starters they've employed in the amateur draft era. In the modern 1993-2012 dynasty, they've used free agency and the prospects they have developed to trade for aces - Jimmy Key, David Cone, David Wells, Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, and Sabathia.

So I guess we're done with the formally organized portion of this post, and we'll just move on to random draft notes I find interesting. Okay? Great . . .

What were the Yankees most successful drafts? I'm going to go with 2006 or 1990. The class of 2006 has 10 major leaguers, including Ian Kennedy, Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson. The class of 1990 has eight major leaguers, including Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Carl Everett. 1981 was also a good one - Fred McGriff, Bob Tewksbury, Mike Pagliarulo and John Elway.

Worst drafts? 1980 produced two major leaguers, who totaled -1.6 WAR. 1969 also produced two major leaguers, and -0.1 WAR.

Did you know the Yankees drafted Fred Lynn? It's true - they took him in the third round of the 1970 draft, but he went to USC instead, and was drafted by the Red Sox in 1973.

The most recent Yankee draftee to debut in the majors is Preston Claiborne, from the class of 2010.

The most ancient Yankee draftee still playing is, of course, Andy Pettitte, from the 1990 draft.

The Yankees drafted Bo Jackson and BJ Surhoff in 1982, although neither signed.