Everyone knows that the MLB draft is different than the draft in any other sport, but the first round is still the first round. This is the round where teams, while maybe not looking for a player that will contribute the following year like in football or basketball, are trying to find a player that will be a big league regular in about three years for college players, and about five years for high school players.
That's only a best-case scenario. Usually about 70% of the first round makes the big leagues, and maybe a third, if you're lucky, have respectable careers. This year the Yankees are picking at 18th overall, which is not high enough to warrant immediate impact player potential, but it's still high enough that it isn't dominated by randomness. This is where a team needs to flex their scouting muscles, and it's where they need to find a player that matches their player development strengths.
For the Yankees, their strength is pitchers, catchers, and bat-first players, so here are some options. This is by no means an accurate representation of who the Yankees will pick; it is merely a guesstimate based on industry consensus, and players who will likely fall around 10th to 30th overall.
Anderson is, as you can see, connected to the Yankees by MLB.com, but it's definitely not a lock yet. Anderson is a Vanderbilt commit who looked to be a top ten prospect, but has since slipped this season as he has suffered from pneumonia and an oblique injury. I am of the opinion that northeast prospects are underrated because of the shorter season, but I would also put a caveat and say the risk is higher. The season in upstate New York, as I know very well, is incredibly short. There just isn't a ton of information on these players, but considering his variety of impressive skills (91-95 mph fastball, swing-and-miss curve, good control), it might make sense for the Yankees to give him a shot. They do love their prep arms.
Jordan Sheffield: RHP; 6'0"; 185 lbs.; Vanderbilt
Mock Draft Placement: Baseball America: 20; MLB.com: 20
Both BA and MLB.com have Sheffield to the Dodgers, which makes sense. The Dodgers love to take risks on players who return from injuries, and Sheffield fits in. He had Tommy John surgery in 2013, and decided to go to Vanderbilt instead of taking the Red Sox's offer in the 13th round. Sheffield is someone who clearly has a path to the majors as a late-inning reliever, but the stuff is fantastic enough that I could absolutely see him as a front-of-the-rotation starter. The fastball can reach 98 mph and has tremendous life, and his breaking ball and change have flashed plus. Considering his relatively small size, injury history, and limited repertoire, it's a significant risk. I would personally pass, but I wouldn't necessarily complain if the Yankees feel confident in his medicals and if they feel they can harness his stuff.
Cal Quantrill: RHP; 6'3"; 185 lbs.; Stanford
Mock Draft Placement: Baseball America: 8; MLB.com: 24
The name sounds familiar, and that's because it is. Quantrill is the son of former big leaguer Paul Quantrill, who had a successful 14-year career with the Blue Jays, Yankees, and many others. Bloodlines are powerful in baseball drafts, and Quantrill also has the stuff to prove he belongs in the first round. Many thought he would be a candidate for first overall until he was sidelined with Tommy John surgery last year, and has not pitched this season for Stanford. He is the classic late first round risk as a former Tommy John patient, and there's always a team that pulls the trigger. The rumor is that a few teams have already scheduled private workouts; so far the Padres have been mentioned. If he recovers--and that is always a big "if"--he has ace potential.
Braxton Garrett: LHP; 6'3"; 190 lbs.; Committed to Vanderbilt
Mock Draft Placement: Baseball America: 29; MLB.com: 7
Garrett is interesting because there are such disparate opinions on where he'll land: he has an incredibly high floor for a high school pitcher because of his amazing curve and clean mechanics, but he also has a tough agent for signability (Scott Boras). This means he would eat up a large piece of the bonus pool pie, although this means he can be grabbed anywhere in the first round based on a pre-draft deal. The Yankees have $5.7 million to work with, so it's unlikely but possible.
Matt Thaiss: C; 5'11"; 197 lbs.; Virginia
Mock Draft Placement: Baseball America: 18; MLB.com: 26
If there is a player to watch for the Yankees, it's Thaiss. He is one of the best college bats in the country, he's at a position of developmental strength for the Yankees, and he's not going to command the type of signing bonus you'd see from someone like Garrett. He might not end up as a catcher, but he has an advanced approach at the plate, and that generally screams "Yankees" in flashing neon lights.
Will Craig: 3B; 6'3"; 235 lbs.; Wake Forest
Mock Draft Placement: Baseball America: 19; MLB.com: 19
If Thaiss is the most likely selection, Craig is second. Craig is also one of the best college hitters in the country, and it will very likely play at a high level. The biggest concern is his athleticism; there's a very strong chance he becomes a first baseman, and not a very good one, so he is essentially a one-dimensional type of player. I wouldn't be angry about this one, though.
Nolan Jones: 3B; 6'3"; 195 lbs.; Committed to Virginia
Mock Draft Placement: Baseball America: 27; MLB.com: 22
The Yankees seem to be shifting away from prep bats in the first round, but Jones is a decent one. Some scouts are absolutely in love with his bat, and he profiles as an above-average defensive third baseman, or even an average corner outfielder. He's not one of my favorites, but if the bat is good, I'm intrigued.
Alex Kirilloff: OF; 6'2"; 195 lbs.; Committed to Liberty
Mock Draft Placement: Baseball America: 16; MLB.com: 14
Like with Jones, Kirilloff is a bat-first prep prospect. He also has more value than Jones because of his center field/right field potential. He has power, a strong arm, and decent athleticism, so while he may be a good prep selection, he might not be around at 18th overall.
Zack Collins: C; 6'3"; 220 lbs.; Miami
Mock Draft Placement: Baseball America: 10; MLB.com: 12
Collins is another player, like with Thaiss and Craig, who I would love to see in pinstripes. Collins also has a bat-first profile, and scouts are unsure if he will stay behind the plate. Nonetheless, he has patience and power, which once again screams "Yankee". Both BA and MLB.com think he'll be gone by 18th, but I'm still holding out hope. The bat is good.
These are just a few suggestions, and this will likely change in the next week. Who would you like to see the Yankees draft in the first round?