clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Top 10 draft picks in Yankees history

The names at the top might be obvious, but what other Yankees chosen from the draft have excelled for the big club?

Possibly a top 10 candidate; TBD.
Possibly a top 10 candidate; TBD.
Tim Boyles

The Major League Baseball player draft has been around since 1965, when Rick Monday was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers as the very first draft pick in baseball history. In the Yankees' first try at a draft choice, they chose a righthanded starter out of Wahlert High School in Dickeyville, Wisconsin named Bill Burbach. The kid only made it to the pros for three years with the Yanks before flaming out at age 24. This outcome is not unusual for draft picks, especially pitchers. Fortunately, the Yanks have had their share of successful draft choices that paid dividends a little while down the road, just as we hope many of their 2013 draft choices will as well. So who are the top ten?

Just missed: David Robertson, RHP

Draft choice: 17th round in 2006 out of the University of Alabama (524th overall)
Yankee years: 2008-present
Yankee stats: 295 G, 287.1 IP, 381 K, 2.91 ERA, 2.84 FIP, 68 ERA-, 66 FIP-, 11.9 K/9, 7.9 rWAR, 6.4 fWAR

While the Yankees have struggled in the draft for most of the past decade, they have been terrific at targeting relievers. Robertson is the cream of the crop, and he made it the pros just two years after the draft. The 2011 All-Star has honed his control since his younger years and is now one of the finest setup men in baseball, poised to succeed Mariano Rivera as the team's closer once the Sandman calls it quits after 2013. With a few more seasons like '11 and '12, it will only be a matter of time before he cracks the top ten.

10. Ron Blomberg, 1B/DH

Draft choice: 1st round in 1967 out of Druid Hills High School (Decatur, GA) (1st overall)
Yankee years: 1969-77
Yankee stats: 400 G, .302/.370/.486, 355 H, 60 2B, 47 HR, .384 wOBA, 149 wRC+, 9.4 rWAR, 8.6 fWAR

The original "Boomer," Blomberg is famous for becoming the first designated hitter in baseball history on April 6, 1973. His career hitting line is impressive (especially that wRC+), but Blomberg's problem was staying on the field. He had a cup of coffee in the bigs in '69, but had to miss all of '70 to injuries. He split '71 between the Yanks and Triple-A Syracuse, then hit a combined .298/.375/.493 with a 154 OPS+ in '72 and '73, the only seasons in which he played 100 games. He actually played exactly 100 games in '73 and finished 10th in the AL in WPA at 2.6, an accomplishment despite missing so many games.

A 90-game season followed in '74, and then shoulder and knee injuries fully ravaged his career. Blomberg played just 34 games in '75 and missed all but one game of '76 and '77. The Yankees gave him a World Series ring, but let him move on. He played one year with the White Sox before retiring only a month and a half after turning 30. If only he could have been healthy... Injuries, man. Screw 'em.

9. Stan Bahnsen, RHP

Draft choice: 4th round in 1965 out of the University of Nebraska (700th overall)
Yankee years: 1966-71
Yankee stats: 153 G, 139 GS, 985.2 IP, 55-52, 534 K, 3.10 ERA, 3.55 FIP, 94 ERA-, 103 FIP-, 11.4 rWAR, 8.5 fWAR

Bahnsen is probably the most forgettable Yankee in history to win a major award, but that doesn't diminish his one-hit wonder season of '68. His success made up for Burbach's failure from the Yankees' first draft class in '65,, and one could argue that Bahnsen's career might be better than his fellow Cornhusker Yankee draft pick, Joba Chamberlain. Bahnsen made it to majors for four games in September '66 just a 14 months after being drafted thanks to dominant numbers in Double-A Columbus and Triple-A Toledo. Military commitment delayed his '67 season, where he spent the duration in Triple-A Syracuse.

The "Bahnsen Burner" won a spot in the '68 rotation, then twirled an amazing rookie season in the "Year of the Pitcher." Bahnsen went 17-12 with a 2.05 ERA and 2.64 FIP (72 ERA- and 87 FIP-), pitched 267.1 innings, and won the '68 AL Rookie of the Year award. In the three years that followed though, Bahnsen could never come close to this initial success. A decent '70 season was sandwiched by two disappointing years in '69 and '71, and the Yankees then dealt him away to the Chicago White Sox for forgettable infielder Rich McKinney, Bahnsen managed to hang around the majors for 11 more years, later becoming a reliever for the Montreal Expos on their only playoff team.

8. Doc Medich, RHP

Draft choice: 30th round in 1970 out of the University of Pittsburgh (68th overall)
Yankee years: 1972-75
Yankee stats: 111 G, 108 GS, 787.0 IP, 50-43, 431 K, 3.40 ERA, 3.58 FIP, 93 ERA-, 98 FIP-, 11.2 rWAR, 10.3 fWAR

Medich is one of those names that have been somewhat forgotten in Yankees history; the fact that his years with the team came just before the team's three consecutive AL pennants from '76-'78 doesn't help. George Medich was nicknamed "Doc" since he continued his studies as a med student at Pitt, though ironically not much ever came of his degree since his medical license was suspended for possessing prescriptions drugs written to non-existent patients. Medich had an inauspicious MLB debut, giving up two singles, two walks, and two runs to the Orioles; Ralph Houk removed him before he even got an out. His ERA in '72 was infinite.

Medich rebounded to finish third in AL Rookie of the Year voting in '73 with a 2.95 ERA and 3.7 fWAR in 32 starts (235 innings), and he won 19 games in his second full season. After one more fine season in '75, he was shipped out of town, back home with the Pittsburgh Pirates. In return, the Yankees received Ken Brett of George Brett fame, Dock Ellis of LSD no-no fame, and some schmuck second baseman. Medich pitched seven more years with six different teams before his career ended in '82. His Yankee career was short, but we certainly cannot fault the Yanks for trading him considering the 18-year Yankee received from the Pirates.

7. Brett Gardner, OF

Draft choice: 3rd round in 2005 out of the College of Charleston (109th overall)
Yankee years: 2008-present
Yankee stats: 534 G, .266/.352/.377, 428 H, 62 2B, 27 3B, 21 HR, 146 SB, 80.7% SB%, 99 wRC+, 16.9 rWAR, 16.2 fWAR

Yes, GGBG has already made the top ten all-time Yankee draft picks, mostly due to his superlative defense. He's been about an average hitter since making the majors, but he does wreak havoc on the basepaths. He led the AL with 49 in 2011 after a 47-steal season in 2010, and with eight more steals, he will pass six Yankees to move into ninth on their all-time list. Gardner's defensive excellence is apparent in his 78.1 career UZR (29.5 UZR/150), his 8.1 career dWAR. Remember, he does not have a Gold Glove. Hilarious. His story is still developing, so we will leave Gardner at that for now. He can be frustrating at times, but the Yankees are lucky to have him given how depleted their outfield is at the moment.

6. Thurman Munson, C

Draft choice: 1st round in 1968 out of Kent State University (4th overall)
Yankee years: 1969-79
Yankee stats: 1,423 G, .292/.346/.410, 1,558 H, 229 2B, 32 3B, 113 HR, 44% CS%, 116 wRC+, 45.9 rWAR, 41.0 fWAR

Slight step up from 10-7, no? The Yankees' iconic captain of the '70s lived up to his high billing as the fourth overall pick in the '68 draft, reaching the majors in 13 months and winning the 1970 AL Rookie of the Year award with a .302/.386/.415, 128 wRC+ season. He soon reached his prime years from 1973-77, during which time he was an All-Star every year, hit .299/.347/.438 with a 123 OPS+ (capped by a .301/.362/.487, 141 wRC+ year in '73), and captured the '76 AL MVP.

Munson earned three Gold Gloves for his superlative defense and won two World Series rings when the Yankees repeated in '77-'78. His years behind the plate led to an early decline from '78-'79, but he was still a fine defender behind the plate (though he might not have stayed there much longer). Unfortunately, we'll never know--a plane crash took Munson's life on at age 32 on August 2, 1979, possibly the saddest day in the history of this great franchise. We'll never forget #15.

5. Jorge Posada, C

Draft choice: 24th round in 1990 out of Calhoun Community College (Decatur, AL) (646th overall)
Also drafted 48th round in 1989 (1,116th overall), stayed at CCC, did not sign
Yankee years: 1995-2011
Yankee stats: 1,829 G, .273/.374/.474, 1,664 H, 379 2B, 275 HR, .367 wOBA, 123 wRC+, 42.7 rWAR, 45.0 fWAR

When the Yankees drafted Posada, he was just some scout's son who couldn't play the infield. Thankfully for Posada, he had a natural ability to hit for great power, and hard work behind the plate made him a passable defender. He had already proven himself major-league ready by the mid-'90s, but he was stuck behind Joe Girardi on the depth chart for awhile--he did not play more than 112 games in a season until age 28. Posada played a little more than Girardi by '98-'99, and in the 2000s, he took off.

Posada dominated the position for that decade, batting .283/.386/.492 with a 129 OPS+ and five All-Star selections. He finished third in AL MVP voting in '03 thanks to a 146 wRC+ and a career-high 30 bombs, then surprised everyone in '07 with a high-average season at .338/.426/.543 with a 157 wRC+. The Yankees made the playoffs in all but one season--the one they missed was the only one of the 2000s wherein injury overcame Posada. Perhaps it is more than coincidence that it was their lone season without October baseball. By the time he hung up the spikes in 2011, Posada established himself as yet another in the long line of tremendous Yankee catchers. Now, we are stuck with the platoon of Chris Stewart and Austin Romine. Karma, you heartless bitch.

4. Don Mattingly, 1B

Draft choice: 19th round in 1979 out of Reitz Memorial High School (Evansville, IN) (493rd overall)
Yankee years: 1982-95
Yankee stats: 1,785 G, .307/.358/.471, 2,153 H, 442 2B, 222 HR, .361 wOBA, 124 wRC+, 42.2 rWAR, 40.9 fWAR

In hindsight, it is baffling that 492 players were selected before "Donnie Baseball" received the call from the Yankees in the '79 draft. Nonetheless, he slugged his way through the system, never spending more than a year at any level from Low-A to Triple-A, and though the Yankees' first base situation was crowded in the early-'80s, he forced them to put him in the lineup. After bouncing around between the outfield and first base in a fine rookie season in '83, he took the league by storm by beating out Hall of Fame teammate Dave Winfield for the '84 batting crown at .343. That was the beginning of a tremendous six-year run for Mattingly, who hit .327/.372/.530 with 257 doubles and 160 homers and made the All-Star team each season.

Mattingly complemented his potent bat with the best first base defense in the league, and he also won the '85 AL MVP before finishing runner-up to Roger Clemens in '86. That year, he set Yankee records for most hits (238) and most doubles (53). Mattingly looked like a surefire Hall of Famer at age 28, but a quick decline due to nagging back injuries greatly hurt his case and eventually ended his career young six years later. He finally made it to playoffs though, and some still maintain that he should be in Cooperstown. While that is up for debate, his status as one of the great draft steals and the best Yankee first baseman since Lou Gehrig is certainly not.

3. Ron Guidry, LHP

Draft choice: 3rd round in 1971 out of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (67th overall)
Yankee years: 1975-88
Yankee stats: 368 G, 323 GS, 2,392.0 IP, 170-91, 1,778 K, 3.29 ERA, 3.27 FIP, 83 ERA-, 83 FIP-, 47.9 rWAR, 47.7 fWAR

Holy crap, does history underestimate "Louisiana Lightning." Billy Martin's hesitance trusting young pitchers meant that Guidry had to wait until he was almost 27 for his first full season in the majors. Scouts were unsure if his slender frame would lead to a long career; they feared his wicked slider might lead to bad arm injuries. "Gator" defied expectations and stayed one of baseball's finest pitchers from 1977-87. He broke out with a strong season in '77 (2.82 ERA, 71 ERA- in 210.2 innings) before reeling off a truly tremendous 1978.

In that Cy Young-winning season, Guidry went 25-3 with a minuscule league-leading 1.74 ERA, 2.19 FIP, 47 ERA-, and 59 FIP- in 273.2 innings. He pitched 16 complete games with nine shutouts, struck out 248 men, and also led the league with a 0.946 WHIP. Eighteen of those 248 He earned World Series rings in '77 and '78, and he remained strong from 1979-85, pitching to a 3.46 ERA and 3.41 FIP while compiling 27.5 fWAR (fifth-highest in baseball). Guidry is easily the Yankees' best third-round pick in franchise history.

2. Andy Pettitte, LHP

Draft choice: 22nd round in 1990 out of Deer Park High School (Deer Park, TX) (594th overall)
Yankee years: 1995-2003, 2007-2010, 2012-present
Yankee stats: 426 G, 417 GS, 2,665.0 IP, 212-119, 1,934 K, 3.95 ERA, 3.78 FIP, 87 ERA-, 85 FIP-, 49.4 rWAR, 55.6 fWAR

True talent sure was hidden in the late rounds of the '90 draft, though not so much for Tom Wilson. The soft-spoken lefty from Texas became arguably the Yankees' best pitcher since Whitey Ford with an incredibly consistent career interrupted only by a three-year stint in Houston when, during free agency, George Steinbrenner didn't feel Pettitte was worth a call, and a brief year-long retirement in 2011. Incredibly, Pettitte has had only one over-100 ERA- season in his 18-year career (2008, 105). For the rest, he's been better than league average.

Pettitte has also pitched to a 3.81 ERA in 276.1 playoff innings, matching his regular season numbers against the best offenses baseball has had to offer since the beginning of the Wild Card era. He won the 2001 ALCS MVP with two terrific starts against the 116-win juggernaut Seattle Mariners, leading to their early five-game demise. Other playoff highlights include a near-shutout in the second game of the '03 World Series, a dominant 7 1/3 inning shutout start to clinch the '98 World Series, clinching wins in each round of the '09 playoffs, and of course his 8 1/3 scoreless innings in a 1-0 victory during fifth game of the '96 World Series in Atlanta. It remains to be seen whether 2013 will be the almost 41-year-old Pettitte's last year in the pros, but if it is, he's had a hell of a career. Kids just don't come through the system like Pettitte anymore.

1. Derek Jeter, SS

Draft choice: 1st round in 1992 out of Central High School (Kalamazoo, MI) (6th overall)
Yankee years: 1995-present
Yankee stats: 2,585 G, .313/.382/.448, 3,304 H, 524 2B, 65 3B, 255 HR, 348 SB, .365 wOBA, 122 wRC+, 72.3 rWAR, 74.5 fWAR


More from Pinstriped Bible