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Mock drafts attempt to zero in on the Yankees intentions

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With amateur baseball in full swing around the country, evaluators are narrowing down the Yankees options.

2020 Major League Baseball Draft Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images

With just under two months until the Major League Baseball amateur draft, teams are beginning to solidify their draft boards. The Yankees will select 20th overall and have their highest pick since the 2017 season, when they selected Clarke Schmidt with the 16th overall pick. Let’s take a glance at the type of players that draft watchers think the Yankees will be looking at in the first round.

Baseball America’s Mock Draft 3.0 has the Yankees linked to the player with perhaps the best fastball in this year’s draft, Wake Forest University’s Ryan Cusick. Wake Forest has garnered attention for their pitching development system over the last few seasons, and Cusick will almost certainly give them back-to-back years with a pitcher taken in the first round. He sits in the 94-99 mph range with his fastball and has been up over 100 mph on numerous occasions. His breaking pitches are currently considered inconsistent, but flash the potential to develop. On the season he has a 4.14 ERA, with 94 strikeouts in 58.2 innings pitched. His elite fastball helps scouts dream big on a mid-to-front of the rotation starter, but also helps them see his floor as an impact reliever.

MLB.com’s recent mock draft has the Yankees taking University of Miami (FL) catcher Adrian del Castillo. Considered a top-five draft prospect at the start of the season, del Castillo has struggled by his standards this season and is dropping down on most draft boards. Castillo has walked more than he has struck out in each of his three seasons at Miami and provided some good power along the way. He was slashing .358/.478/.547 through 16 games when the pandemic ended the 2020 season early.

The Yankees have used two of their last three first-round picks on catchers, but the position still seems unsettled in the organizational pipeline. Drafting del Castillo would not settle that issue any further, as scouts openly question his ability to stay behind the plate. It is possible that the Yankees could draft him for his offensive potential and immediately move him from behind the plate to the outfield.

Kiley McDaniel of ESPN has the Yankees taking South Carolina high-school centerfielder Will Taylor. A state championship quarterback in high school, he has a commitment to Clemson University as a slot receiver. He also has plans to play outfield for the Clemson baseball team if he makes it to campus. Taylor showed his elite athletic ability by also winning three wrestling state championships in South Carolina.

Taylor is an elite athlete who has earned top of the scale grades for his sprint speed and can absolutely fly. One thing that impresses scouts is how advanced Taylor is considering that he played three sports in high school, when many of his peers focused in on just one sport by this point. If he is signed, there is the chance that he will unlock more potential quickly as he hones his craft.

The team at Prospects Live has the Yankees taking Pennsylvania outfielder Benny Montgomery. Multiple scouting sources have Montgomery as the player with the best pure tools and one of the highest ceilings in the draft. He has plus tools in the speed, arm, raw power, and bat speed categories, but there are a few questions about his swing. He performed well on the showcase circuit over the summer and seems to be becoming more popular in draft talk as the spring moves on. The biggest question is if Montgomery will available for the Yankees, as most mock drafts have him off the board by the 16th pick.

All of these mock drafts were completed before the news broke that University of Mississippi starter Gunnar Hoglund would be under going Tommy John surgery in the near future. Hoglund was considered a sure fire top-10 pick prior to this news and is widely considered to have the best command of any pitcher in this draft class. He will now be in a very similar position to the Yankees’ 2017 first rounder Clarke Schimdt, who went down with a torn UCL just over a month before the draft that year.

He will not be the only top prospect recovering from Tommy John surgery, as Louisiana State University’s Jaden Hill also went down with the procedure last month. Hill was ranked as one of the top-10 draft prospects heading into the season, but uneven performances saw him fall down the rankings prior to his injury. Even with a few rough outings, Hill has major upside and could turn into a steal later in the first round or early second round. Both players may now be available for the Yankees to draft at 20th overall if they choose to repeat what they attempted to do with Schmidt a few years ago.

The headliners of the 2021 draft are coming into focus. Performances and injuries are moving players up and down draft boards all over the league. In the latest mock drafts, it looks like the Yankees will have their choice of talented players, they now just have to zero in on the right one.