Yesterday, Jason reviewed the Yankees' 2013 draft class, which had the benefit of three first round picks and thus helped make it pretty productive. The next year's draft though came on the heels of the Yankees losing top picks to sign Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran. For better or for worse, that was the Yankees' 2013-14 offseason, and as a result, their highest pick in the subsequent draft class was 55th overall. Unsurprisingly, this group does not appear to be particularly impressive.
Thus far, the only player to debut from the 2014 draft class is the top pick, lefty reliever Jacob Lindgren. Quickly earning the catchy "Strikeout Factory" moniker, Lindgren used a wicked slider to rocket through the system and become the first Yankee since Deion Sanders to make his MLB debut within a calendar year of being drafted. He also earned another fun fact when he became the first player younger than Nationals prodigy Bryce Harper to face him in a professional game (it took 2,302 plate appearances for that to happen between the majors and minors).
Unfortunately, those were Lindgren's only real highlights last year. He only made it into seven games during which time he allowed four runs on five hits and four walks before he was optioned back to Triple-A. Just a few days later, it was announced that he needed surgery to remove a bone spur from his left elbow, ending his 2015 early. Lindgren was expected to compete for a bullpen job this spring but looked incredibly shaky in limited action and was one of the first cuts. The Yankees sent him down to High-A Tampa to work on his mechanics but after just six games, he was placed on the DL with an unknown elbow injury. Ominous. Pitching prospects are fickle beasts.
Speaking of the uneasy nature of pitching prospects, the Yankees have been burned early by their second pick of that draft too. Considered perhaps the most talented player selected by the team in 2014, Austin DeCarr earned plenty of praise for his efforts at Salisbury Prep in Connecticut and scouts really liked his fastball/curve combination. After spending 2014 in Rookie ball though, DeCarr was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery in May 2015. One TJS is far from a death knell for a 21-year-old prospect, but it is obviously a hurdle in DeCarr's path to the big leagues. Hopefully, he will return to the mound in the minors later this year.
So far, the biggest triumph from the 2014 draft class has been fourth round pick Jordan Montgomery. The 6'6" lefty from the University of South Carolina has been terrific under the radar, recording a 2.95 ERA with almost a strikeout per inning in 25 games with Low-A Charleston and Tampa. The Yankees rewarded him with a promotion to Double-A Trenton for 2016, and he has begun the year with a 2.19 ERA in seven starts. He has to work on his control a little bit, but as Caitlin mentioned in her recent mailbag post, there does seem to be a pretty clear path for Montgomery to reach the majors sometime next year.
After Montgomery, it's a hodgepodge of middling to poor prospects. Relievers Jonathan Holder (sixth round), Jordan Foley (fifth round), and Matt Wotherspoon (a 34th round sleeper) have all had decent success in their climbs up the minor league ladder. Holder has taken the biggest step forward in 2015, striking out 34 batters in just 21 2/3 innings with a mere 1.7 BB/9, mostly with the Trenton Thunder. He seems like the best candidate to join the Scranton Shuttle in due time. Foley currently has a 2.89 ERA in 18 2/3 somewhat wild innings in Tampa, and Wotherspoon has a 2.77 mark early on this year too, including a brief three-game stint in Scranton. If only they could have persuaded Mariano Rivera Jr. to sign with them as well.
The Yankees didn't take many position players in this draft, and the lack of depth produced is obvious. Seventh round pick Mark Payton, an outfielder, got off to a terrific start in 2014, storming through A-ball with a .915 OPS in 48 games, and later reaching Trenton on June 2, 2015. There, he sputtered, batting just .250/.315/.348 in 72 games, prompting him to be sent back to Tampa for the start of 2016. Payton might be on his way back to New Jersey soon, as he's hit .309/.418/.469 in 24 games with the T-Yanks this year, but he will have to be more wary of the adjustments at a higher level. There's a reason the jump from High-A to Double-A is considered the most difficult one to pull off in the minors.
The only other position player to note is first baseman Chris Gittens, a 12th round pick out of a community college in Texas. He has some pop in his bat with 13 homers in 349 minor league plate appearances over the past few years. In full-season ball for the first time with Charleston in 2016, he has hit .254/.392/.447 early on in 34 games. The 22-year-old is just a touch older than the average Low-A player, but Gittens is still worth keeping in the back of the head. While Connor Spencer, Vicente Conde, and Bo Thompson are all still around too, Gittens provides much more intrigue.
So the 2014 draft class has not exactly stood out so far, but the continued success of Montgomery and Holder, as well as healthy bouncebacks from the likes of Lindgren and DeCarr, could make it a little better. We are still not quite two full years out from this draft, so there's certainly time. Fingers crossed.