The 2021 MLB Draft is in the book, and the Yankees used the 20 rounds to add prospects who they feel are the best talent and fit for the organization. The Yankees grabbed a group of players that included the Pac-12 pitcher of the year and the Big-12 batting champ. Let’s take a look at some of the players the Yankees drafted and see how they fit in the Yankees’ system.
In the first round, the Yankees selected shortstop Trey Sweeney from Eastern Illinois University. Shortstops are routinely among the best athletes on the field, as they need the quickness and arm strength to cover the position. There are many second baseman, third baseman, and outfielders in the major leagues who were drafted as shortstops before moving down the defensive spectrum for any variety of reasons. Yankees amateur scouting director Damon Oppenheimer stated that the Yankees plan on playing Sweeney at shortstop, where he will join the deepest position group in the Yankees system. Oswald Peraza, Anthony Volpe, Josh Smith, and Alexander Vargas are all considered outstanding shortstop prospects in the Yankees system.
Despite Oppenheimer’s assurance, almost every available pre-draft scouting report feels that the 6-foot-4 Sweeney will move to third base at some point. If that is the long-term plan, then he would immediately become the Yankees’ top third base prospect. Only the FanGraphs organizational prospects rankings have a third baseman listed among the top 30 prospects in the Yankees system. That player is 19-year-old Marcos Cabrera, who is currently playing for the Florida Complex League team.
Sweeney also fits with the Yankees’ more recent trends of selecting players with strong plate discipline and a low strikeout rate. They have done this repeatedly over the last few drafts, most recently with catcher Austin Wells. Like Sweeney, those players are capable of power production, but have higher expectations than the three true outcomes. Sweeney was just the 55th-best draft prospect by both Baseball America and MLB.com, and with an improving Yankees system, there is a good chance he will join the Yankees’ prospect ranks somewhere between Nos. 8-15.
With the 55th overall pick, the Yankees grabbed Stanford University starting pitcher Brandan Beck. The four-year player took a big step forward coming out of the pandemic, and he was named the Pac-12 pitcher of the year in 2021. Beck brings a mix of four pitches that he commands effectively.
Experienced college starters frequently move quickly through the lower levels of the minor leagues, and Oppenheimer suggested that he could move quickly. In the past, a pitcher coming off a full college season would have likely headed to Short Season-A Staten Island, but with that level gone, he will likely see time with Low-A Tampa.
Beck has already logged a career high 108 innings this year. It would not be surprising to see the Yankees use him in two-to-three inning stretches on a starter’s schedule. They have done this in the past with some of their players drafted at the end of their college season. He is likely to land in the Yankees’ top 30 prospects around Nos. 20-25.
Another area that the Yankees are continuing to address is left-handed pitching. After adding TJ Sikkema, Jake Agnos, and Ken Waldichuk during the 2019 draft, the Yankees once again used a high draft pick on a promising southpaw. In the third round, the Yankees selected Arizona high schooler Brock Selvidge. The 18-year-old was once considered a potential first-round pick, before seeing his stock drop slightly during his senior season. Still a strong prospect, he will likely slot into the back end of the Yankees’ top 30 prospects when they are updated in the near future.
Beyond the top three rounds, the Yankees continued to add a lot of talent and depth to their system. Cooper Bowman signed with the Yankees on Thursday, and he stole 64 of 74 bases during his three years in college. He will fit the opportunistic baserunning culture being fostered by Yankees minor league baserunning coordinator Matt Talarico. Bowman will join a talented group of middle infielders such as Trevor Hauver and Ezequiel Duran, who are a step or two ahead of him in the Yankees’ system.
Tyler Hardman is among the top first base prospects in the Yankees system now that he has signed with the team. He won the Big-12 batting crown this past year hitting .397 and previously won the Cape Cod League home run derby in 2019. The Yankees have no first basemen ranked among their top prospects and Hardman has a chance to hit his way into those lists in a hurry.
The MLB Draft allowed the Yankees to add a fresh wave of talent to their rapidly improving farm system. The Yankees used their picks to both solidify strengths of the system while also filling in some gaps that existed.