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MLB Draft 2023: Yankees select George Lombard Jr. with top pick, 26th overall

The newest Baby Bomber is a high school shortstop from Miami.

2023 MLB Draft presented by Nike Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

The first round of the Major League Baseball amateur draft began earlier tonight with the Pirates taking LSU pitcher Paul Skenes with the No. 1 overall pick. As one of the better teams in baseball last year, the Yankees didn’t get to choose until 24 more names had passed.

With their pick, the Yankees drafted shortstop George Lombard Jr. out of Gulliver Prep High School in Miami, FL. If the name sounds somewhat familiar to you, it’s because his father, George Sr., was an outfielder for the Braves, Tigers, Devil Rays, and Nationals between 1998-2006 and currently serves as the bench coach for Tigers manager AJ Hinch.

Lombard the Younger is 18 and committed to Vanderbilt, but as the Yankees proved with Anthony Volpe just a few years ago, they can capably convince a draft pick to pick them over even a baseball powerhouse like Vandy. The slot value at pick 26 is worth $3,065,000 and it may take every bit of that for the Yankees to sign Lombard, so his selection is an indication that he was the top-ranked player on their board and not a choice that would allow them to save bonus pool money.

Here’s an excerpt on Lombard from Baseball America, who ranked him 31st overall (just as did) in their predraft rundown:

Lombard Jr. showed more strength last summer than he had in the past, which translated to more power and better run times during the showcase circuit, where he hit .365/.435/.554 with a pair of home runs and eight doubles in 29 logged games. He slows the game down on both sides of the ball and at the plate and has a controlled and balanced but powerful swing that starts with a slow leg kick. There’s a bit of swing and miss in his game, but Lombard has done a nice job handling velocity, handling spin and doesn’t have any obvious holes at the plate.

Lombard might not stick at shortstop in particular, but he certainly has an interesting bat to follow, with a possible above-average hit tool. The Yankees place a premium on up-the-middle athletes in the draft, and Lombard fits that profile, while perhaps his infield actions give the scouting department some comfort that he could move to third base if his 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame fills out and moves him off of short. There is not a concern about his ability to play short, but his physical development could make him a better fit at another position.

A real key to Lombard’s selection is the potential to have a player who can hit and hit for power, rather than having to sacrifice one tool for the other.

Reports all spring have mentioned Lombard’s improvement during last summer and on through this spring and the draft process. High school statistics are tough to weigh and judge because of their context, but Lombard hit .478 with six home runs this spring. He has been closing holes and answering questions about his skills, and now he’s considered to have at least average tools across the board. His arm and power are currently rated above average, and the arrow remains up on the 18-year-old.

There is a high ceiling for Lombard, and what may give the Yankees confidence in his ability to develop is what he has between the ears. A player with big-league bloodlines can be expected to have a leg up on his peers, but that may be especially true for Lombard, whose father’s character, intelligence, and baseball acumen have been lauded over the years. Baseball America calls Junior “a savvy, fundamentally sound player with strong all-around instincts for the game.”

The Yankees have drafted heavily on the college side in recent years, but the last high school player they took in the first round is now their starting shortstop. The run on college hitters early in the first round could have affected their board and dictated a shift to the high school side, but the 2023 draft is also considered to be the deepest in perhaps the last decade, meaning there were several worthy high school players available at pick 26.

Because of that depth, this draft will also be frequently second-guessed in the future, and some of the names available when the Yankees picked will be compared to Lombard, including Samuel Stafura, a shortstop from Walter Panas High School in New York who was mocked so frequently to the Yankees that many fans assumed he would be their choice if he was available. Something that may have been a separator for Lombard is the projection that he will hit for power, and that was more of a question with Stafura and some of the other hitters on the board.

Here’s what Yankees scouting director Damon Oppenheimer had to say on Lombard:

The 26th overall pick has featured terrific players in the past like Alan Trammell and Dave Henderson, but unless you’re a big believer in Boston’s Triston Casas, the biggest name from the previous couple decades is Angels outfielder Taylor Ward. Still, the Yankees seem pretty confident that Lombard will buck the trend, and both Aaron Judge and Anthony Volpe were picked further back than 26th anyway.

If and when Lombard signs, he could be assigned to the FCL Yankees, where he would join players like Roderick Arias and Hans Montero, both of whom play shortstop and have performed well so far this summer. Arias, in particular, has been the preferred shortstop of the FCL players and logged the most innings there, and he is one of the better prospects in the organization. There should be no concern, however, that the Yankees are collecting multiple shortstops in their system, as those players frequently have the athleticism to move to other positions and are often sought in trades.

Hopefully, Lombard is signed and begins his professional career with the Yankees as soon as possible.