Unfortunately, the 2015 season ended for the Yankees a lot earlier than fans had hoped. In June and July, this looked like a team that could be special. However, fatigue and cold streaks rained down on the team (along with a certain team in Canada refusing to lose any games, ever), and the Yankees fell out of first place in the division to the top wild card spot. Forced to survive a one-game "win or go home" playoff, the team was only able to muster three hits against Dallas Keuchel and the Houston Astros, and ultimately was forced to choose the "or go home" option. That effectively ended the Yankees 2015 season, making fans wonder about what moves they need to make in the off-season to contend and possibly make a run next year.
What has a lot of fans excited is the presence of young and talented players, a lot whom were acquired via the MLB Amateur Draft. The notion among rival teams and fans was that the Yankees had a depleted farm system and had no talent being developed or waiting to get a shot. Anyone they did have always seemed to be traded for useless older veterans. While that may be true for certain prospects, there were a few that Brian Cashman and the Yankees organization were reluctant to trade away, and seemingly for good reason.
In 2015, the Yankees and their fans saw the emergence of Luis Severino and Greg Bird, two very young, very talented players who made an immediate impact on the team. While Severino was an international signing, Bird was drafted in the fifth round of the 2011 draft. In addition to him, there are a few other prospects the Yankees have who could make an impact and help the team out in the near future. Aaron Judge (Round 1, 2011), Rob Refsnyder (Round 5, 2012), Jacob Lindgren (Round 1, 2014), Slade Heathcott (Round 1, 2009), and Mason Williams (Round 4, 2010) are a few names that immediately come to mind.
Baseball’s draft is unlike the other three major sports, there are a lot more rounds (MLB’s 40 rounds compared to NBA’s two rounds and the NFL and NHL’s seven), players take a lot more development time, and they don’t necessarily even make it to the Majors, let alone make an impact. Due to these "quirks", I never really paid any mind to the MLB Draft. I usually just let it happen while reading Pinstripe Alley and gave it a nice little shrug. With the knowledge that the Yankees have started a youth movement of sorts, and have the talent to back it up, 2015 was the first year I actually paid attention to the MLB Draft. It was exciting seeing the players the Yankees drafted and thinking of the possibilities they could help the team out (or looking for 80 grade names and the respective puns that could be made). Although there’s still a whole off-season and start to the regular season between then and now, since the Yankees season ended, I started wondering about the 2016 draft.
Granted, there are still a lot of things that could happen before the draft. The Yankees could lose one or some of their picks as compensation for signing marquee free agents who will likely have draft pick compensations tied to them, and seeing as the Yankees don’t have any free agents who are worthy of a qualifying offer, the Yankees probably would not be able to make up any potential lost pick by gaining one that way. If the Yankees don’t sign any of those particular free agents, it’s worth exploring where they would currently stand to draft. For those who are unaware, the way the draft order is determined is by using the reverse order of the regular season standings for the 2015 season. If two teams are tied, the team with the worse 2014 record gets the higher pick.
The top 10 picks in the draft are protected, so if one of those teams loses a free agent who rejects their qualifying offer, then the team only has to give up their next best pick, not one of the top 10 picks. Both of these scenarios played out in projecting 2016’s draft order. The Padres and the Tigers both finished with a 74-88 record, but the Padres received the higher pick (8th overall) over the Tigers (9th overall) by virtue of their 2014 record. Then the White Sox and the Mariners also finished for a tie, at 76-88, but the White Sox got the 10th overall pick because they had the worse 2014 record. For the Padres and Tigers, it may not matter much, but the White Sox "lucked out" and received the last protected pick, which could end up mattering depending on where Hisashi Iwakuma and Jeff Samardzija end up, since both might get qualifying offers from their respective teams.
With all things considered and if things were to remain the way they are now, the Yankees would get the 22nd overall pick in the 2016 draft, thanks to their 87-75 record. Fortunately for the Yankees, "falling" to 22nd in the draft isn’t as bad as it would be in the NFL or NBA. While obviously it’s nice to have a higher pick as the better rated talent is available there, there are 40 rounds and an organization can find a gem literally almost anywhere. One good thing to always remember is that higher drafts picks usually equal losing seasons, and putting up with a whole summer of mediocre baseball just to draft a guy who might or might not one day play for the team is not a sacrifice I’d be willing to make as a fan.
I’d much rather take the Yankees' full season of competing, and still having just as good a shot to find a talented player who could one day help the big league club into contending and maybe even winning a World Series. The same applies to what positions are being drafted as well. Unlike the other major sports, where a team might draft for need more than talent, or at least some combination of both, MLB teams can always just draft for talent, as anyone who is drafted is still likely a couple years away at least from playing in the pros. So if a team needs a second baseman now, drafting one who is a couple years away doesn’t really make sense, as the second base situation could be much different then than it is currently. This is why it’s always smart to just go best player available, or BPA.
So while I may not put too much stock into which players the Yankees draft, or what position they play, I’ll still enjoy and even look forward to keeping up with the Yankees' moves in the 2016 draft, and following those players' development through the minor league system. I’m excited and curious to see what the 22nd overall pick brings to the team, whether it be a draftee, or whether that means that Zack Greinke in pinstripes. If the Yankees do end up using that pick, let’s hope he has an 80 grade name or at least something near the caliber of Icezack Flemming, because that name is just awesome.