The third day of the 2021 MLB Draft is nearing its conclusion. Ryan had a post up on the Yankees’ picks from rounds 11 through 15, and this one will focus on the selections from rounds 16 through 20. If you’re curious about the rounds from the past couple days, check out our draft pick tracker!
These rounds are likely to feature names that are unfamiliar, or perhaps some prep picks who are highly-ranked draft prospects but more seriously considering college. If the Yankees have leftover bonus slot money, that could help change their minds.
Round 16, Pick 483: Cole Ayers (RHP)
State College of Florida Manatee - Sarasota, 6’3”, 185 lbs.
This is actually Ayers’ second go-around in the MLB Draft, as he was previously picked by the Astros in the 38th round of the 2018 edition out of high school in Ohio. The right-hander elected to go to school at Kentucky, where he had a 4.05 ERA and 2.100 WHIP in 20 innings out of the bullpen. Feeling that time as a reliever stunted his development somewhat, he transferred to the JUCO level at SCF, where over the past two seasons, Ayers has posted a 3.80 ERA and 11.7 K/9 across 17 games (16 starts).
Ayers also pitched in the MLB Draft League, where he was ranked the 19th-best pitching prospect. With the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, he had a 3.52 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 30.2 innings of work. Ayers has a commitment to the University of Cincinnati that he might still honor, but it would be fun to get this wicked curve into the system:
No. 19: Cole Ayers (@_coleayers14) pic.twitter.com/6GyRXISGpq— MLB Draft League (@mlbdraftleague) July 10, 2021
Round 17, Pick 513: Grant Richardson (OF)
Indiana University, 6’2”, 210 lbs.
Wednesday was a big day for Richardson, who turned 22 and got drafted by the Yankees. Not too bad. Richardson flashed serious “moonshot” power from the left side and caught Baseball America’s eyes in the shortened 2020, when he hit .424/.453/.797 with 5 homers in 14 games at Indiana, leading the Big Ten in long balls. BA picked him as its preseason favorite for Big Ten Player of the Year in 2021, and while he had a very nice season at .320/.397/.517, the power took a bit of a dip to just 7 homers in 44 games.
Still, Richardson was named to the First-Time All-Big Ten squad and was named by BA as the 10th-best prospect in Indiana. Lefty bats and the Yankees often go well together, so perhaps there could be some Yankee Stadium dingers in Richardson’s future.
Round 18, Pick 543: Bailey Dees (RHP)
Penn State University, 6’8”, 250 lbs.
Add another skyscraper to the Yankees’ system. After taking the 6’8” Jack Neely, the 6’6” Zach Messinger, and the 6’7” Danny Watson earlier on Day 3, the Yankees took the 6’8” Dees in the 18th round. Like the outfielder Richardson, Dees showed more potential in 2020 than 2021, as in the shortened season, the right-hander had a 1.88 ERA and 0.872 WHIP in 28.2 innings (5 starts) as a junior, but saw those numbers jump to 5.59 and 1.530, respectively, in 66 innings (13 starts) as a senior. The key seems to be that he allowed just one homer in 2020 compared to nine in 2021, so he if he can keep the long ball under control, the Yankees could have an interesting starter.
Round 19, Pick 573: Dominic Keegan (C)
Vanderbilt University, 6’0”, 200 lbs.
Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker obviously weren’t going to fall to the Yankees, but hey, they got a Vandy catcher, though he might end up going back to school to increase his draft stock for 2022. Keegan was ranked by Baseball America as the 227th-best draft prospect, while MLB.com placed him even higher at No. 176.
Keegan showed some pop from behind the plate in 2021, batting .345/.427/.638 with 15 homers in 60 games, and he led the summer ball Futures League in 2020 with 19 extra-base hits in 32 games. The raw power is promising, though some scouts fear the potential for too much swing-and-miss at the pro level, particularly against higher velocity. Keegan also has to prove that he can stick behind the plate, as he was mostly a first baseman in 2020 and 2021.
Round 20, Pick 603: Sean Hard (RHP)
St. Joseph Regional HS (NJ), 6’5”, 210 lbs.
Hard was the 379th-best prospect by Baseball America’s measures, and is a Boston College commit who will be a tough sign. He absolutely flattened his high school opponents in 2021 with a 0.36 ERA and 0.62 WHIP in 50.2 innings of work for St. Joseph. Hard’s fastball already hits 95 mph with a definite potential for more as he grows stronger, though he needs to have superior breaking pitches to remain a starter. At the moment, he has a slider, curveball, and changeup, and the odds seem good that he’ll go to BC to become an even better prospect rather than going pro now.