The Yankees made a decent splash in the 2016 MLB Draft when they took outfielder Blake Rutherford with their first round pick. Rutherford was believed to have the talent to go among the top five picks and only slipped to the Yankees because teams had questions about whether or not he'd sign.
New York's strategy from there became saving money they could use to give Rutherford. ESPN's Keith Law broke down every American League team's draft for Insiders following the draft, and his comments on the Yankees' draftees are pretty interesting.
Law reiterates that Rutherford remains the prize that teams believed him to be when everyone thought he could easily be selected with one of the first couple picks in the draft. His commitment to UCLA seemed to have teams shying away, but the Yankees were obviously confident enough that they could get him to turn pro instead. Rutherford is a Yankee fan whose favorite player is Derek Jeter, so that probably doesn't hurt.
Profiling as an above-average regular, according to Law, Rutherford is a very good hitter with power. He may ultimately end up switching from center field to left field before all is said and done, but that shouldn't negatively impact his value that much. Everything indicates that the Yankees were able to draft a guy who can be a very special player unexpectedly at 18th overall, and it will be exciting to see how that pans out. Law believes that Rutherford will ultimately sign instead of heading to UCLA, which is fantastic news.
After some lackluster first round picks in the past, it's heartening to see so many people nearly universally praise the Yankees' selection of Rutherford. There could be a lot of teams kicking themselves over passing him by if he ends up being the kind of player many think he can be.
Second round pick Nick Solak is interesting in how similar he seems to profile to Rob Refsnyder. Bouncing between positions for Louisville, the Yankees drafted Solak as a second baseman but Law believes he could ultimately end up in the outfield. Law mentions that Solak was a "quiet favorite" among scouts, and his hit tool will obviously be his key to the big leagues. Hopefully the Yankees can find him a steady position to play so he can settle in as he moves up through the system.
Like Rutherford, Nolan Martinez is a high school pick that the Yankees likely needed to plan to save money for. Law believes that Martinez's ceiling is more of a back-end starter than ace, but he mentions that the right-hander's delivery makes that ceiling more attainable. The Yankees have had a really hard time developing starting pitchers recently, and Martinez has a very long way to go if he decides to sign, but guys with a relatively high floor are always somewhat comforting when it comes to the draft.
The two other picks drawing mention from Law were right-handed pitcher Nick Nelson and outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams. Nelson's command is praised, as well as his 95 mph fastball. Law thinks Thompson-Williams could make it as an every day player in the outfield with a worst-case scenario being a fourth outfield type. His speed, pop, and plate discipline are all mentioned as positives by Law.
It's nice to see picks drawing praise from an expert like Keith Law when it seems like much of the Yankees' strategy was drafting seniors who would be relatively inexpensive to sign in order to pinch pennies for Rutherford. Finding guys with big fastballs like Nelson or good speed like Thompson-Williams while saving money along the way could add up to a pretty good draft for the team. Since drafting has been an understandable knock on the team the last few seasons, everything is at least looking up for the time being.