The Major League Baseball Draft is unlike many other major drafts in that even the best players selected are not expected to contribute at the MLB level for years. Drafting for a major league need is not something that teams do, but clubs will often use picks early in the draft to target positions or skillsets that the team is weak at across their system. The Yankees have commonly done this over recent years, and their trends in this department could give us a hint at what they are looking to do in the upcoming draft.
There are a number of recent examples for the Yankees drafting to a specific need. In 2017, the Yankees used 10 of their first 11 picks on pitching, including in the first three rounds of the draft. They also used over slot money in the 18th round to sign Garrett Whitlock.
The very next year the team used their top two picks on Anthony Seigler and Josh Breaux as their farm system was lacking impact catching depth at the time. While the team had to go back to the Well, specifically Austin Wells in 2020, to continue address the issue, the Yankees very soon will have those three catchers at the three highest levels of the farm system.
In 2019, the Yankees addressed multiple needs of the farm system. They used three of their first six picks on left-handed pitching, taking T.J. Sikkema, Jake Agnos, and Ken Waldichuk. They also grabbed Edgar Barclay a little later in that draft, and now have three left-handers from one draft listed among their top-30 prospects by MLB.com. There are several interesting left-handed arms in this year’s draft including Brandon Barriera and Connor Prielipp, and Cooper Hjerpe, all projected to be available to the Yankees.
Starting in that same draft, the Yankees also focused on bringing left-handed bats into the system. Since 2019, the Yankees have selected six position players in the third round or higher, five of them left-handed. It is also of note that they have used two of those bats in trades, and one was released due to off-field circumstances. I expect the Yankees to continue targeting left-handed hitters, with players like Jacob Melton, Brock Jones, Sterlin Thompson, and a few other potentially on the board when the Yankees pick.
So where does the Yankee system stand heading into this draft? The Yankees have aggressively built up the middle over the past few years, and that’s reflected on most of their top prospect rankings. The strongest position in the system is shortstop, with pitching, catching and centerfield also well represented on the list.
This does not mean that the Yankees will not continue to add to their strengths. The high attrition rate due to injury at both the catching and pitching positions means that the team could always be looking to add more depth there.
Shortstop is considered to be at the top of the defensive spectrum due to the athletic ability required to play the position at a high level professionally. Players drafted or signed internationally as shortstops are playing almost every position at the major league level on a daily basis.
The only corner outfielder currently on the Yankees’ top-prospect list is current Double-A player Elijah Dunham. While many centerfielders have the positional versatility to move to a corner, not all of them have the arm strength to man the right field position. There are scouting reports that feel that both Everson Pereira and Jasson Dominguez will be better suited for a corner outfield position in the future, but both players are still taking the vast majority of their daily reps in centerfield.
The Yankees are also not very deep on the corners of the infield. Currently only Anthony Garcia, who is playing first base for Low-A Tampa, is listed among the Yankees’ top-30 prospects by Baseball America. The team used a fifth-round pick on Tyler Hardman last year, who became the highest corner infielder selected by the team since they used a first-round pick on Eric Jagielo back in 2013.
Hardman has picked up his play over the last six weeks, and the former Big-12 conference batting champ could sneak onto some top prospect list by the end of the season. Still, the Yankees do not have highly-rated depth at the corners in their system and could look to add players with more of a corner profile moving forward.
The Yankees are drafting 25th overall in the 2022 draft that is less than two weeks away. While they certainly have a number of contingency plans, they are very much at the mercy of the 23 teams that are selecting ahead of them. Depending on how the chips fall, the Yankees may continue building up the middle as they have with the first-round picks of Seigler, Volpe, Wells and Sweeney, or with those players in place they could seek to improve the weaker spots of the minor league system.