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Yankees Draft Preview 2017: Projected First-Round Prospects

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The Yankees may be focusing on prep bats in this first round, but they have a lot to choose from.

2011 Little League Baseball World Series
This is Nick Pratto as a Little League pitcher.
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The draft is an exciting time of year for any sport, but it’s a particularly interesting time for baseball. The draft, unlike in basketball or football, for example, doesn’t attract the average fan, usually. Because baseball players are so hard to project, and could be in the farm system for nearly five years before hitting the big leagues, most fans would prefer to just wait until they’re on the cusp of promotion to pay attention.

That doesn’t mean it’s not an important time, because we all know it is. Aaron Judge was drafted in the first round of 2013; Greg Bird was drafted in the fifth round of 2011; Dellin Betances was chosen all the way back in the eighth round of 2006. Here we are in 2017, and they all matter a great deal. Picking correctly in the early rounds is often the difference between a great era for a team, or a disappointment.

This year, the Yankees have a decent amount of options to choose from at 16th overall. While the truly elite talent is saved for the top, like the already-famous Hunter Greene, the middle of the round still holds the bounty of potential big leaguers and stars. Here are some of those options:

Pitchers

David Peterson: LHP; 6’6”; 240 lbs; Oregon
Mock Draft Placement: Baseball America: 16; MLB.com: 17

Baseball America has the Yankees choosing Peterson in the first round of their latest mock draft, simply stating that they “...may find an answer to its need for a homegrown lefthanded starting pitcher.” Featuring a “low to mid 90’s fastball with plus sink and arm-side run”, a low 80’s change, and a sweeping curve with fleeting command, Peterson has a repertoire one would expect from a mid-first round selection. He certainly has the body of a big league starting pitcher, and he wouldn’t be too much of a project, either.

Griffin Canning: RHP; 6’1”; 180 lbs; UCLA
Mock Draft Placement: Baseball America: 21; MLB.com: 20

Canning is another college starter the Yankees could take a shot on, and he also projects as something like a mid-rotation arm featuring four solid pitches and fastball that’s probably considered pedestrian for this era. Nonetheless, a quality UCLA starter with decent command is nothing to scoff at. If the mock drafts have him falling a little further, meaning a smaller monetary demand, the Yankees could grab a steal and spread the money around the rest of their draft.

D.L. Hall: LHP; 6’2”; 175 lbs; Valdosta HS
Mock Draft Placement: Baseball America: 21; MLB.com: 13

Hall is one of the best prep arms in the draft, and the Yankees can’t resist a prep arm despite their total inability to develop them. He’s essentially a two-pitch pitcher, which isn’t uncommon for prep pitchers, but his curve is probably the best in the draft after it was reported that it had a recorded spin rate that would make it major league worthy. The fastball is still in the low 90’s, and the floor is immeasurably low, but the best case scenario is he’s a number-two. It’s possible he doesn’t make it to 16th, and it’s possible he goes to Florida State.

Trevor Rogers: LHP; 6’6”; 190 lbs; Carlsbad HS
Mock Draft Placement: Baseball America: 14; MLB.com: 14

It was reported by Eric Longenhagen that the Yankees have been checking out Rogers, sending special assistants to watch his starts. Like I said, the Yankees love their high school lefties. With a low effort delivery, easy heat that will likely get only faster as he fills out, and a possibly plus curve, he’s yet another lefty prep arm with the potential to be a top-of-the-rotation arm, and the floor of a LOOGY at best. There’s a good chance the Yankees don’t even get a shot at him, but he would certainly be a long shot at the future.

Position Players

Austin Beck: OF; 6’1”; 190 lbs; North Davidson HS
Mock Draft Placement: Baseball America: 26; MLB.com: 16

Beck is one of three prep bats tied to the Yankees, and he’s a player who lost a ton of value over the course of the last season, essentially falling from a top ten selection to around the end of the first round. He tore his ACL last year, for one, and there are questions as to whether he sticks it in the outfield or becomes something like a first base/designated hitter type. That said, the power is very much real—it’s Judge-esque. Look at that bat speed:

If you’re going to take a prep player, I’m not complaining if this is the one.

Nick Pratto: 1B/OF; 6’1”; 195 lbs; Huntington Beach HS
Mock Draft Placement: Baseball America: 20; MLB.com: 18

Yes, the image for this article is Pratto. He hit a walk-off single to defeat Japan in the 2011 Little League World Series, in fact. He could be a pitching prospect but my guess is that teams would prefer for him to stick with the bat. He has power, speed, defensive abilities, and we obviously know he has an arm. I’m going with Beck if I’m trying to harness the power, but I wouldn’t be too mad if the Yankees went with the more well-rounded player here.

Bubba Thompson: OF; 6’2”; 180 lbs; McGill-Toolen Catholic HS
Mock Draft Placement: Baseball America: 23; MLB.com: 23

Thompson is primarily a defense-first outfielder, and that has value in the draft and around the league because of the difficulty in quantifying and paying for defense in baseball. That makes Thompson an interesting selection. He possesses plus-plus speed, a solid arm, and enough power to possibly hit 20 home runs a year. There are obviously caveats in the report. The hit and power tool are seen as questionable, meaning he’d be something like a Mason Williams if those don’t develop. We pretty much know what those players are worth. He’s not my first choice, but he’s also not my last.

Jake Burger: 3B; 6’2”; 220 lbs; Missouri
Mock Draft Placement: Baseball America: 17; MLB.com: 15

Burger is one of the better college bats in the draft, and I don’t know if he even falls to 16th. There are clearly a lot of things to like. He has tremendous power, and a bat scouts gush over, but there are questions regarding his defense, speed, and profile. If he gains more weight, becomes more injury-prone, and becomes less athletic and versatile, the bat may be for naught. I’d still prefer him over Thompson, for what that’s worth.

Evan White: 1B; 6’3”; 200 lbs; Kentucky
Mock Draft Placement: Baseball America: 12; MLB.com: 19

White is another college bat whose value has ballooned in the past year, probably none so much as him. He had one of the best offensive seasons in college baseball, hitting a whopping .366/.442/.629 with nine home runs in 50 games. He’s another polished player like Burger, with a slightly different profile. White is more defensive-minded, and he won’t hit for as much power. He could be a hit machine with Gold Glove defense, so take your pick.

The draft is an incredibly difficult, cut-throat environment. It isn’t easy distinguishing one player’s outlook from another, and we’re almost always wrong in our predictions. The Yankees have a lot of options to choose from, and while I’ll take the poker-playing mindset that the House likely beats the Yankees, it’s still possible for them to draw aces here.