A little over a week ago, I wrote about some projected first round picks for the Yankees' 18th overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft. Well, we can toss out most of those names. Today is draft day, and it's time to zero in on the most likely selections, just hours before we'll find out the actual answer. I'll probably be wrong.
Let's start with what hasn't changed in who the Yankees are targeting. I implied in that last post that the Yankees have been eyeing bat-first college prospects, and that hasn't changed. This puts both Matt Thaiss and Will Craig in their cross-hairs, as well as Vanderbilt outfielder Bryan Reynolds, who was named as the Yankees' pick in Baseball America's most recent mock draft.
Thaiss and Craig's abilities have been well-documented. The former is a catcher who may or not stick there, but can still hit very well, and the latter is essentially a first base/designated hitter prospect who absolutely rakes. Craig is the bigger risk because he's a one-facet prospect, but he's probably the best college hitter in the first round other than Zack Collins, who the Yankees likely won't see drop towards them. Reynolds, unlike the others, actually has a legitimate outfield position, and there's still a possibility he sticks in center field. He doesn't have the offensive reputation of the other two, but it might make sense to choose a more complete player.
If Baseball America is betting on the Yankees picking a college bat, MLB.com's Jim Callis seems to think the Yankees will choose a prep arm. He lists Forrest Whitley as the most likely selection, and he also mentions Ian Anderson and Kevin Gowdy. Anderson, who I wrote about before, has a couple of pitches that flash plus and good command. Whitley is from Texas who has confused some (some think he is a top ten prospect, while others think he belongs in the second round), but he has an above-average fastball and slider and sizeable frame. Gowdy is another Californian prospect like Anderson, and he has three average pitches and projectable mechanics, which makes him a little lower risk than most prep arms.
Considering these six players, I immediately think that the first three are the best choices for the Yankees. This is merely conjecture--I'm no scout--but here is what I know. Firstly, picks after the first ten to fifteen or so are incredibly hard to project, even with amazing scouting departments. Secondly, the Yankees flat-out stink at developing prep arms. The Yankees have only selected first round prep arms who became big leaguers four times: Scott McGregor (who was traded to the Orioles before playing a major league game), Dave Cheadle (played two games for the Braves), Phil Hughes, and Bill Burbach (160.2 career innings). That is not good.
While the ideal is always choosing the best player available, and that should be the goal, the fact is that there is a difference between the actual best talent available, and who is the best talent available based on available information. Not only that, but what's the value in getting the best talent available if that organization has a horrible history in developing at that position?
In Craig, Thaiss, and Reynolds, the Yankees get college bats, and the former two are prototypical Yankees players. Catchers are a player development strength, and the Yankees have an organizational philosophy that curates players with patience and power. Depending on who is available at the time, my money would be on Craig or Thaiss. Considering the team's abysmal drafting in the past decade, they could use a fast-rising college bat who can rake. Let's hope they get one.