The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all aspects of our society, and one area that has seen its landscape shift drastically is MLB. Ignoring the ongoing disagreement between owners and union regarding player compensation and the format of the 2020 season, one area in which a concrete change was agreed upon and implemented was the 2020 MLB Draft. The Draft, which concluded yesterday, was shortened from 40 rounds to only five, giving far fewer young ballplayers, at least in this years’ class, a chance to pursue their dreams as a major leaguer.
With only three picks in the abbreviated draft, the Yankees were under pressure to make each of those selections count. While in a normal length draft, there is ample opportunity to address areas of need in the later rounds, the shortage of selections for the Yankees may have steered them more toward the approach of taking the best player available. Let’s see which strategy they employed and evaluate how they performed with their selections.
First Round: C Austin Wells, 28th overall
With their first pick, the Yankees selected Austin Wells, a catcher out of the University of Arizona. The lefty slashed .357/.476/.560 in 71 college games and was ranked 27th by MLB Pipeline and 21st by Baseball America.
Wells is the second catcher selected in the first round by the Yankees in the last three years, and third taken with a top-50 pick. Anthony Seigler was drafted in the first round of the 2018 draft, and the Yankees followed that up by picking Josh Breaux in the second round. Both catchers came with sterling pedigrees, but faced injury difficulties in their first seasons, with Seigler missing time to a knee injury and Breaux to elbow issues.
Given the delay to those two prospects’ development, and some people’s perpetually lingering questions about Gary Sanchez’s durability and long-term health, it can never hurt to have more depth at the catcher position (to be clear, I have zero belief that Wells will challenge Sanchez as Yankees catcher).
When asked what they thought of the pick, PSA readers graded it at around a B+, and I am inclined to agree with that assessment. His hitting and power tool are clearly what will carry him to the majors, as he is a below-average receiver behind the plate, and struggles with elbow injuries have hindered his throwing ability.
Wells also brings some intangibles to the plate, with his willingness “to do whatever it takes to get to the big leagues...So if that’s at another position, I’ll just hit home runs at Yankee Stadium and play wherever they need me to,” indicating his maturity. His fiery competitiveness has drawn comparisons to Bryce Harper, while his frame, power, and positional questions call to mind Kyle Schwarber.
Third Round: 2B/OF Trevor Hauver, 99th overall
With their second pick, the Yankees selected Trevor Hauver, outfielder out of Arizona State University. Hauver set the table for first overall pick Spencer Torkelson with the Sun Devils, posting a 1.007 OPS in 57 games as a sophomore in 2019 and slashing .339/.494/.695 through 17 games before the season’s cancellation. Despite these commendable numbers, MLB Pipeline had him ranked at 130th while Baseball America had him even lower at 201st.
Hauver is a former high school shortstop with no standout tools, but a good makeup and maturity levels. I’ve heard this story before. It is interesting to note that Hauver was announced as a second baseman during the draft, so, like Wells, it remain to be seen at which position he will stick in the Yankees’ organization.
The Yankees may have reached a bit by taking him at 99th overall, however I don’t fault the Bombers for drafting underslot here, given their draft bonus pool allotment of $3,520,000 for 2020. With around $2.5 million probably going to Wells, saving a little money with their third round selection is understandable.
Fourth Round: RHP Beck Way, 129th overall
The Yankees partially make up for their underwhelming third-round selection by taking Northwest Florida State College RHP Beck Way with the 129th pick. Way is the top JUCO prospect according to Baseball America, and was listed at 85th by Baseball America, 80th by FanGraphs, and 83rd by The Athletic’s Keith Law.
Way’s primary offering is a fastball that sits at 91-94 while occasionally touching 97 miles per hour. He also sports a slider, changeup, and cutter, and posted a 0.67 ERA with 58 strikeouts and nine walks 40 innings of the abbreviated 2020 college season.
One area of mild concern: Beck made a verbal commitment to LSU, but could forgo D1 ball for a chance to join the Yankees. Given his comments that “The perfect scenario would be if my name gets called within those five rounds... That’s a dream come true,” I think it is fairly safe to assume he will be signing with the Yankees in the coming weeks.
The Yankees appear to have snagged an above-slot starter with their fourth round selection, and could use the savings from drafting Hauver to secure Way’s signature. There is always a need for lively arms on the farm, and the Yankees scouts must be impressed with Way’s consistent, repeatable delivery and command of the strike zone.
And now I turn it to you, our readers: how would you grade the Yankees’ overall draft? Let us know by voting in the poll below and by sharing your thoughts in the comment section.
What grade would you give the Yankees for the 2020 MLB Draft?
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