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Checking in on the Yankees 2021 draft class

The Yankees 2021 draft class is off to a strong start as their first full professional season comes to a close.

2021 Major Leauge Baseball Draft Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The 2021 draft had a number of storylines leading up to the event. Gone were the 20 rounds of picks that had populated the draft for a number of years. There was also thought to be a talent heavy pool of players after the pandemic had led baseball to host just a five-round draft in 2020, causing many players to return to college for another season. The Yankees signed 18 of their 20 picks, and while some finished out the minor league season in 2021, the first serious amount of playing time for these members of the Yankees organization came this year. Let’s take a look at how the 2021 draft class has fared so far this year.

In the first round, the Yankees selected Trey Sweeney out of Eastern Illinois University. Sweeney quickly made his professional debut, playing a few games in the Florida Complex League and then jumping to Low-A Tampa. In 2022, he started the season with High-A Hudson Valley and was promoted in early September to Double-A Somerset.

The raw numbers may not jump off the page, but Sweeney only had one bad month, as he struggled through the month of May with a .503 OPS. He has posted between an .773 and .857 OPS for each month the remainder of the season. He has shown an ability to get on base, posting a .375 OBP in 80 games since June 1. He has also stolen 25 bases in 26 attempts in that span. He continues to be ranked among the Yankees’ top-10 prospects and has surprised some scouts as a better shortstop than they anticipated pre-draft.

The biggest breakout player of the 2021 draft class has been Will Warren. A late riser ahead of the draft, the Yankees appear to have struck gold with their eighth round pick. Warren made his professional debut this season at the High-A level and was promoted by the middle of the season to Double-A. Using a plus slider that makes all his other pitches more effective, Warren is considered the Yankees’ eighth-best prospect by

Drafted a few rounds ahead of Warren was Richard Fitts out of Auburn University. Fitts was long known for his potential during college but had not put it all together in game action prior to the draft. That remained the story for him early on in the year, but he truly excelled down the stretch, posting a 0.46 ERA over his last six outings that covered 39 innings pitched. He is credited with having an above average fastball, slider and control. That is a mix that could see him move quickly over the next year on his way towards the major leagues. He earned pitcher of the week honors in both the Florida State League and the South Atlantic League this season. recently placed him as the Yankees 30th best prospect.

Another breakout player who is finishing the season next to Sweeney and Warren at the Double-A level is Tyler Hardman. Drafted after playing mostly first base in college, the Yankees believed that he could handle third, and he earned strong reviews on his defense at the hot corner to this point. Hardman is also leading the Yankee minor league system in home runs with 22 on the year. He posted an .890 OPS over his final 75 games at High-A. He will have to control his strikeout rate moving forward, but overall, the results for Hardman have been very positive in his first season, and he will have a chance to stay rolling in the Arizona Fall League.

The Yankees tenth and twelfth round picks also made a strong first impression while playing at Low-A Tampa. Infielder Ben Cowles hit .289/.388/.480 for the Tarpons in 70 games, before earning an August promotion to High-A. He did not find the same offensive success at the higher level but showed defensive versatility and the potential for a strong bat. Catcher Ben Rice split time behind the plate with highly touted prospect Antonio Gomez for much of the season, but made a strong impact with his bat. He hit .283/.394/.493 over his last 44 games and was one of the best offensive players for the Tarpons in the second half as they came up just short of a playoff spot.

The Yankees drafted and signed two prep arms in 2021, and both were impressive during the 2022 season. Sean Hermann was their 14th round pick and is now their 24th-best prospect. He pitched extremely well for the Yankees Florida Complex League team, before earning a four-game promotion to Low-A Tampa. He moved back down to the Complex League to help the team win the league championship.

Hermann was pitching alongside the team’s third-round pick from 2021, Brock Selvidge. The left-hander tossed 42.2 innings, striking out 53 batters and posting a 2.95 ERA. It was a strong season for Selvidge, and puts him on track to pitch in Low-A as a 20-year-old this coming season.

Other players from the 2021 draft class have the potential to make their mark with the organization. Brendan Beck has yet to make his professional debut after needing Tommy John surgery post draft. Jack Neely, Zach Messinger and Bailey Dees all flashed big potential at times this season but will have to find more consistency as they move to the higher levels.

The Yankees have used several players from the 2021 draft in trades. Robert Ahlstrom was traded during spring training to the Rangers as part of the Jose Trevino deal. Fourth round pick Cooper Bowman was among the franchise leaders in stolen bases this past season when the Yankees sent him to Oakland in Frankie Montas trade. After a strong start to his professional career, Chandler Champlain was traded to the Royals in the Andrew Benintendi deal.

The Yankees 2021 draft class is in the final weeks of their first full professional season. Three players reached the Double-A level and numerous others have performed well along the way. While the success of a draft class will not be fully known until much later, on this group is off to a positive start for the Yankees organization and may be directly contributing as soon as next year.