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Building the best team from the Yankees’ draft history

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Let’s play a game with the Yankees’ draft history to compile the best team of players selected by the franchise.

New York Yankees v Philadelphia Phillies, Game 3 Photo by Pool/Getty Images

Debates over how the Yankees have drafted in their organizational history are nothing new. While the Yankees have produced All-Stars and Hall of Famers, the flow of that talent has been sporadic. I thought it would be an interesting exercise to build an all-time team of players that the Yankees drafted, but with a few rules.

I recently listened to a MLB Pipeline podcast where they drafted the top-10 picks of the MLB draft. The rules were that you could pick any player selected in the top-10 picks of the MLB draft, but only use each slot once, and you had to build a complete team. Using this as a baseline, how can we apply the rules to the Yankees’ franchise draft history dating back to the start of the draft in 1965.

  1. Rounds 1-5 - Pick one player from each round
  2. Rounds 6-10 - Pick three players in this range from different rounds
  3. Rounds 11-20 - Pick three players in this range from different rounds
  4. Rounds 21-30 - Pick three players in this range from different rounds
  5. Round 31 and above - Pick three players in this range from different rounds

The players did not have to sign with the Yankees to be used here. The end result will be a team that covers all the positions on the field, a designated hitter, five starting pitchers, and three bullpen arms. Let’s get started

First Round: SS, Derek Jeter, 1992, 71.3 WAR. Taken sixth overall in 1992, this pick defined a generation of Yankees fans. He has the highest career WAR of any player drafted by the Yankees, and is far and away the best shortstop available in this exercise.

Also considered: Thurman Munson, Aaron Judge, Gerrit Cole

Second Round: SP, Al Leiter, 1982, 40.0 WAR. The Yankees have not drafted well in the second round, selecting only two players who have accumulated double-digit WAR. Some of Leiter’s best seasons were in New York, just not with the Yankees. After struggling in parts of three seasons with the Yankees in the late 1980s, Leiter found more success especially when he reached the Marlins and Mets later in his Career.

Also Considered: Bo Jackson, Mike Heath

Third Round: CF, Fred Lynn 1970, 50.2 WAR. It is interesting to think that the Yankees drafted Lynn and Ron Guidry in back-to-back years in the third round. Both players put together their best season in terms of WAR in the legendary 1979 season, when Lynn with the Red Sox produced an 8.9 WAR and Guidry put up a 9.6.

Also Considered: Brett Gardner, Ron Guidry

Fourth Round: SP, Stan Bahnsen, 1965 22.7 WAR. This round was not deep with only three players recording 10 WAR or higher. Bahnsen had a very solid career, including an outstanding 1968 season where he recorded a 6.4 WAR.

Also Considered: Jim Beattie, Eric Plunk

Fifth Round: LF, B.J. Surhoff, 1982, 34.4 WAR. Surhoff peaked with Baltimore as a Left Fielder in 1999 with a 5.1 WAR season.

Also Considered: Todd Stottlemyre, and Greg Gagne

Rounds 6-10 - Pick three players

6th Round - RHP, Doug Fister, 2005, 19.5 WAR. Fister passed on signing with the Yankees, but ended up as a seventh round pick the next season.

8th Round - OF, Austin Jackson, 2005, 21.9 WAR. It is hard to pass on Dellin Betances here, but the Yankees have not drafted many outfielders who produced Jackson’s value.

9th Round - 1B, Fred McGriff, 1981, 52.6 WAR. One can only wonder what his numbers would have looked like if he was hitting towards the short porch in Yankees Stadium.

Also Considered: I left an entire bullpen on the board from these rounds with Dellin Betances, Mark Melancon, and Tyler Clippard.

Rounds 11-20 - Pick three players

14th Round - RP - Scott Kamieniecki, 1986, 9 WAR - He did enough relief work that I’m going to use him in the bullpen here.

17th Round - RP - David Robertson, 2006, 15.8 WAR - The best reliever available.

18th round - 1B - Don Mattingly, 1979, 42.4 - Mattingly can push Fred McGriff to DH for this exercise.

Also Considered: Mike Lowell, Bob Tewksbury

Rounds 21-30 - Pick three Players

22nd Round - LHP, Andy Pettitte, 1990, 60.2 WAR - A steal at this point in the draft, just as he was in 1990.

23rd Round - 3B, Howard Johnson, 1978, 22.2 WAR - Drafted as a high school pitcher by the Yankees, Johnson peaked with the Mets at third base in the late 1980s.

29th Round - 2B/3B, Justin Turner, 28.0 WAR - Turner was picked up off the scrap heap by the Dodgers and became an elite offensive option late in his career.

Also Considered: Jorge Posada (see below), Jim Deshaies, Doc Medich

Rounds 31 and above - Pick three players

34th Round - RP, Drew Storen, 2007, 4.8 WAR - Only great season, but I need another reliever.

43rd Round - C, Jorge Posada, 1989, 42.7 WAR - Drafted twice by the Yankees, I’m using the lower round here.

60th Round - SP, Steve Rogers, 1967, 44.7 WAR - Rogers had a 7.7 WAR in 1982 for Montreal.

Also Considered - Casey Blake

The Team:

C - Jorge Posada

1B - Don Mattingly

2B - Justin Turner

SS - Derek Jeter

3B - Howard Johnson

LF - B.J. Surhoff

CF - Fred Lynn

RF - Austin Jackson

DH - Fred McGriff

SP - Andy Pettitte, Steve Rogers, Al Leiter, Stan Bahnsen, Doug Fister

RP - David Robertson, Drew Storen, Scott Kamieniecki

Here it is, all within the rules laid out earlier. It is not the pitching staff I was expecting when I started this exercise. Let me know what you would change, or what I got right.