Last year was the 50th anniversary of the first ever MLB draft. Every Thursday, PSA will dust off the old time baseball time machine and have a look back at some of the more fruitful and interesting draft classes in New York Yankees' history.
For the second installment of the series, we turn back the clock a decade to have a look at the Yankees' 2006 draft class (PS- bring your radar guns along in this virtual time machine).
Ian Kennedy (Round 1, 21st overall)
In many ways, Kennedy in 2006 was seen in much of the same way as 2015 Yankee draftee James Kaprielian is seen today: polished, experienced college pitcher from a Pac-12 (in Kennedy's day, Pac-10) school with command of three solid pitches.
The Yankees selected Kennedy out of the University of Southern California and he immediately became one of the organization's top prospects. As expected, Kennedy quickly shot through the minor league ranks, pitching to a 12-3 record with a 1.91 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and 163 strikeouts in 146.1 innings across three levels in his first full season of pro ball in 2007. This impressive performance helped earn him a call-up to the big leagues, where he shut down the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for seven innings in his big league debut at Yankee Stadium on September 1.
Following two disappointing and injury-riddled years with the Yankees, the team dealt him to the Arizona Diamondbacks as apart of the three-team trade that brought Curtis Granderson to the Bronx. Kennedy has been a solid, if unspectacular, big league starter throughout his career, compiling a 74-64 record with a 3.88 ERA in 192 games since leaving the Yankees.
Kennedy is certainly the richest member of this Yankee draft class, as he just signed a five-year, $70 million with the Kansas City Royals last month. He will be reunited with Dave Eiland, who worked with Kennedy in the minors when Eiland was the pitching coach for Triple-A Scranton, and now serves in that role for Kansas City's big league club.
Joba Chamberlain (Round 1 supplemental, 41st overall)*
Armed with a blistering fastball and incredibly sharp-moving slider, Chamberlain made his much-anticipated big league debut almost a year after signing, striking out two against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre in two innings of work on August 7, 2007. During the last two months of the 2007 regular season, Chamberlain dominated out of the bullpen, pitching to a 0.38 ERA in 19 games, striking out 34 and allowing just 12 hits in 24 innings as a 21-year-old. Big things certainly were expected in Chamberlain's future.
Unfortunately for Chamberlain and the Yankees, that month might have been the high point of his career. With the infamous "Joba Rules" in place to protect his arm as he transitioned back to being a starter (he'd be taken out of games after five innings or 100 pitches, whichever benchmark he got to first), Chamberlain was constantly being shuttled back and forth between starting and relieving and never seemed to find his way as a starter, though he did pitch reasonably well in the first three or four months of the season in 2009.
In 260 games with the Yankees (43 starts), Chamberlain pitched to a 3.85 ERA and struck out 446 batters in 444.2 innings, though he did deal with a number of injuries (Tommy John surgery in 2011, the ankle dislocation from the infamous trampoline accident in 2012, etc.). The big right-hander spent a season-and-a-half with the Detroit Tigers from 2014-15 and pitched in six games for the Royals last season. He will look to pitch for yet another AL Central team in 2016 after signing with the Cleveland Indians this offseason.
*(As a side note, under the old free agent compensation system, teams were entitled to two draft choices in the following year's draft for losing a Type A free agent- the first round pick of the team signed that signed the Type A free agent, as well as a pick in the compensation round. In this case, the Yankees turned the loss of a then-38-year-old Tom Gordon to the Philadelphia Phillies into Kennedy and Chamberlain, respectively).
George Kontos (Round 5, 164th overall)
Kontos might be the most overlooked of the selections made by the Yankees in 2006, but he has turned in some very productive big league seasons so far.
Working almost exclusively as a starter in the Yankees' system, Kontos ranked as high as 17th on Baseball America's top 30 prospects list (that ranking came after the 2007 season). Citing "one of the system's best sliders" and "90-93 MPH sinker and solid changeup", BA claimed Kontos had "a No. 3 starter's ceiling."
After making his debut with a seven game stint with the Yankees in 2011, the right-hander was traded by the Yankees to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for catcher Chris Stewart. In the four seasons since the trade, Kontos has pitched to a solid 2.99 ERA in 193 games for the Giants, all of which have come in relief.
Dellin Betances (Round 8, 254th overall)
Drafted out of Grand Street Campus High School in the borough of Brooklyn, it was hard not to be excited about the potential of Betances. Featuring a powerful fastball, devastating curveball, and signature height (6-foot-8), many wondered if Betances could become a right-handed Randy Johnson. It was always a question if he could harness his mechanics, like Johnson eventually did.
While Betances hasn't become a dominant starter like Johnson, he has become one of baseball's elite relievers over the past two seasons. The move to the bullpen saved Betances' career, as being a reliever allowed him to work from the stretch, which helped tighten and control his delivery. We all know what the results have been- two seasons of over 130 strikeouts and sub-2.00 ERA to go along with two All-Star selections as an anchor in the back of the Yankees' bullpen.
Mark Melancon (Round 9, 284th overall)
Back-to-back rounds, back-to-back All-Star relievers.
Unlike Betances, Melancon was developed as a reliever throughout the minors, and he made he big league debut in 2009. The righthander would only pitch in 15 games for the Yankees across two seasons before being dealt (with Jimmy Paredes) in 2010 to the Houston Astros for Lance Berkman.
After two solid years in Houston and one dreadful year with the Boston Red Sox, Melancon found a home with the Pittsburgh Pirates, pitching to a 1.85 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in three seasons there. In 2015, Melancon set a Pirates single-season record with a league-high 51 saves, and he has racked up 121 career saves to date.
David Robertson (Round 17, 524th overall)
Another selection, another elite reliever. This time, it came in the 17th round in the form of Robertson out of the University of Alabama. Robertson was the Tide's closer during his final season in college, but many scouts did not see him as a closer at the next level despite his promise. Here is what Baseball America had to say about Robertson after his first full season of pro ball in 2007 when it ranked him as the team's 24th best prospect:
"In his pro debut last year. Robertson dazzled with a curveball that he didn't throw in college. It's a plus downer with bite, angle and depth, and he can throw it for strikes or bury it. His slider already was a plus pitch, and his 90-92 mph fastball has natural cut action on it. Despite his small frame, he makes his mistakes down in the strike zone and has yet to give up a homer in pro ball. Robertson proved durable in his first pro season and could challenge for a big league role after finishing last year in Double-A. His size seems to be the only reason scouts don't project him as a future closer."
So much for size being a hinderance. After three solid, but not great, big league seasons from 2008-10, Robertson broke out in 2011 and hasn't looked back. From 2011-15, Robertson rode that curveball/fastball combination to the tune of a 2.46 ERA and 440 strikeouts in 321.1 innings. Robertson had the unenviable job of replacing Mariano Rivera as the team's closer in 2014, and used that excellent season to cash in on the free agent market, signing a four-year, $46 million deal with the Chicago White Sox.
In a pitching heavy draft class (the first round featured selections such as Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum, Max Scherzer, Luke Hochevar, and Andrew Miller, with others such as Jeff Samardzija, Zach Britton, Alex Cobb, and Mike Leake taken later on), the Yankees certainly didn't miss out on all the fun, coming away with several above-average big league pitchers.
Other notable selections the Yankees made in this draft include outfielder Colin Curtis, second baseman Kevin Russo, and pitchers Zach McAllister and Daniel McCutchen. While McAllister and McCutchen never played in the Bronx, they both were both included in deals that were aimed at improving the big league roster, with McCutchen being apart of the 2008 trade that netted Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte from the Pittsburgh Pirates, while McAllister was dealt to the Cleveland Indians for Austin Kearns in 2011.
According to Baseball-Reference.com, eleven of the team's 50 draft picks in 2006 reached the majors, with those eleven big leaguers producing a combined WAR of 46.7.