The last time the Yankees wielded the 23rd overall pick in the draft was 2004, when they chose Phil Hughes. As a trusted member of the bullpen, the right-hander was instrumental in helping the franchise claim its 27th World Series championship.
Historically, New York hasn’t fared well in the first round. Derek Jeter (1990, 72.4 WAR) and Thurman Munson (1968, 46.1 WAR) remain the only players drafted by the Yankees in round one to compile 25+ career WAR.
That will likely change soon, though, as Aaron Judge has already accumulated 10.9 WAR in less than two full seasons. Judge was one of three first-round picks for the Yankees in 2013. Chosen 32nd overall, he was the compensation pick the Yankees received from Cleveland when they lost Nick Swisher to Cleveland via free agency.
Since the inception of the draft in 1965, the Yankees have selected 55 players in the first round. Only 20 of them went on to compile a positive career WAR in the majors. Two of those — Gerrit Cole (2008, 14.5 WAR) and Mark Prior (1998, 16.6 WAR) — didn’t even sign with the Yankees. New York drafted both out of high school, but they opted to attend college and re-enter the draft later.
The Yankees have used a number of those first-round picks as trade bait. Carl Everett (1990, 20.5 WAR), Scott McGregor (1972, 20.2 WAR), Eric Milton (1996, 16.5 WAR), and Ian Kennedy (2006, 14.4 WAR) all enjoyed their most productive years playing for other franchises. Ron Blomberg (1967, 9.4 WAR) made baseball history when he stepped into the batter’s box for the Yankees as the first designated hitter ever. Joba Chamberlain (2006, 7.6 WAR) contributed to three postseason victories during the 2009 title run.
Last year, the Yankees chose University of South Carolina right-hander Clarke Schmidt in the first round with the 16th overall pick. He has yet to throw a professional pitch, as he continues to recover from Tommy John surgery. The club knew he was hurt when they drafted him.
I detailed New York’s projected first-round prospects in my Draft Preview 2018. Will this be the year the Yankees use their first-round pick to snare a superstar like Judge, Munson, or Jeter? Stay tuned.