The 2019 MLB Draft is in the books, and the Yankees will now turn their attention to signing their picks and officially adding them to the farm system. All in all, the Yankees made 41 selections, 10 from the high school ranks, two from junior college, and 29 from four-year colleges. Here’s how the past few days of draft action all went down.
The first round
Many speculated that the Yankees would select infield prospects in the early rounds, and that’s exactly what they did. They decided on high school shortstop prospect Anthony Volpe with the 30th overall selection. The 5-foot-11 Volpe attended the Delbarton School in New Jersey, but really made waves as a standout on Team USA’s 18-and-under team, and again at USA Baseball’s National High School Invitation.
MLB Pipeline ranked Volpe as the 63rd best prospect on their top 200 list, but he gets stellar reviews for his work ethic and makeup; the Yankees obviously see more upside than most for the young infielder. He’ll need to be signed away from a commitment to Vanderbilt, but it’s hard to imagine the Yankees would draft him in the first round without a strong indication that he’s willing to sign.
With the 38th overall selection, the Yankees drafted left-handed pitcher T.J. Sikkema out of the University of Missouri. Sikkema, similar to Volpe, isn’t widely considered a high-upside prospect, but scouts like his competitiveness and overall demeanor. There’s some conflicting opinions if his future is in the bullpen or towards the back of a rotation, but he has a high floor and a great track record against strong SEC competition.
The six-foot, 220 pound southpaw pitches in the low-90s and has good command of his slider and changeup. He doesn’t dazzle with velocity, but he recently passed Max Scherzer on the all-time strikeout list at Missouri. That record should tell you all you need to know about his ability to work with his offerings. Sikkema pitched to a 1.36 ERA in 17 appearances (13 starts) for the Tigers this season and was named a Golden Spikes Award Nominee for his efforts. That’s a solid body of work for the draft pick the Yankees acquired in the Sonny Gray deal this past offseason.
The early rounds
The Yankees made another attempt to strengthen their system’s infield depth in the second round by selecting second baseman Josh Smith out of LSU. Smith is considered a high-floor prospect that could be a future utility player. New York clearly put a lot of stock in college results this year, as Smith is another player who had a big year in the talent-rich SEC. The left-handed hitting infielder isn’t known for any one tool, but is solid across the board. He batted .346 and clubbed nine home runs for LSU this season, after missing most of his sophomore year with a back injury.
In the third round, the Yankees took a chance on a player who basically came out of nowhere this season, left-handed hitting outfielder Jacob Sanford from Western Kentucky. Sanford received no Division I baseball offers coming out of high school in Canada, and he chose to walk on at McCook Community College. He transferred to Western Kentucky this season and won the triple crown in Conference-USA by slashing .402/.488/.828. He has a funky load in his swing, but it’s hard to argue with the results. The Yankees took their first real swing for the fences in round three.
A flurry of pitchers
The Yankees turned their attention to the mound and selected pitchers in rounds four through eight. They took back-to-back southpaws in the fourth and fifth rounds, American Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year Jake Agnos and Ken Waldichuk out of St. Mary’s. At 5-foot-11, Agnos reaches the mid-90s with his fastball and is known for his lethal 12-6 curve, which accounted for many of his 124 strikeouts in 83 regular-season innings for East Carolina.
Waldichuk is a six-foot-four, 220 pound left-hander who went 5-6 with a 3.69 ERA in 15 starts for St. Mary’s this season.
The Yankees used their next three picks on righ- handers Hayden Wesneski (Sam Houston State), Nick Paciorek (Northwestern), and Zach Greene (South Alabama).
Taking a flyer
After Volpe, the Yankees selected 20 straight players out of four-year colleges. Then they selected Volpe’s high school teammate Jack Leiter in the 20th round. It’s widely believed Leiter, the son of former Yankees pitcher Al Leiter, is set on honoring his commitment to Vanderbilt, but the Yankees figured it was worth a shot on a first-round talent.
Finding a sleeper
In the ninth round, the Yankees selected first baseman Spencer Henson from Oral Roberts University. The six-foot-two, 235 pound Oklahoma native won the Summit League triple crown in 2018 with a .364/.433/.541 slash line, and followed it up with an even better .362/.509/.768 line in 2019. The Yankees’ front office could very well see some Luke Voit in Henson’s physique and production.
The Yankees targeted another college slugger in the 19th round when they selected Chad Bell with the 585th overall pick. The six-foot-three, 210 pound left-handed hitter blasted a school-record 21 home runs at the University of Louisiana-Monroe in 2019 and his 1.096 OPS reflects the power and patience he brought to the Warhawks offense.