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Yankees need to draft better in the first round

The draft is already hard, so there’s no reason for the Yankees to make it harder.

MLB First Year Player Draft Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The MLB Draft is all about teams making impossible decisions on players you can’t even begin to properly project. Outside of the top 10 picks it’s all basically a crapshoot, and as luck would have it, the Yankees are outside of that range. With the 23rd pick in the 2018 Draft, Brian Cashman and Damon Oppenheimer are going to have to be smart, resourceful, and clever in order to make their first round pick mean something one day. In that sense, this team needs to do better.

Despite the incredible surge of young talent coming up in the system, only three of the team’s top 10 prospects came through the draft, and only one was actually picked by the Yankees. The big league team is filled with former draft picks, but that first round pick has been a tricky one for them. The Yankees succeeded in developing Aaron Judge after taking him in 2013, but he’s the exception, not the rule. In fact, the only other first round pick to even make the majors with the Yankees was Slade Heathcott from 2009, and he didn’t really work out.

Part of the problem is Oppenheimer’s insistence on taking high-risk prospects in the first round of the draft. He’s been good with finding great talent in some of the later rounds, but it’s as if he’s almost daring these prospects to fail. The Yankees have made a habit of taking guys with clear red flags going in, and that’s never a great way to start.

Some of their picks have had questionable medicals. This includes 2007 pick Andrew Brackman, who needed Tommy John surgery and 2012 pick Ty Hensely, who had medical red flags from the beginning and couldn’t stay healthy. They only just drafted Clarke Schmidt last year, and he’s still out after having undergone Tommy John surgery. If the Yankees can get through the first round without drafting someone who is hurt, that would be swell.

Other questionable picks have included their decision to take corner infielders with questionable defensive profiles. They took Dante Bichette Jr. in 2011 and Eric Jagielo in 2013, and neither were up for sticking at the hot corner. When their bats eventually fell apart as well, it left them with very little value.

The Yankees have the opposite problem when it comes to shortstops. They love glove-first, light-hitting shortstops, which is how Cito Culver and Kyle Holder somehow were considered good ideas. Culver’s selection in 2010 was immediately questioned, but it was clear they thought he would blossom once he experienced Florida baseball. They thought Holder, another light-hitting infielder, was a good selection in 2015, and they are still waiting for him to develop.

This brings us to the 2018 MLB Draft and who the Yankees are expected to take with the 23rd overall pick. Several mock drafts, including one by Jim Callis for, has the Yankees taking California high school shortstop Brice Turang. This kid was once considered a possibility to go first overall, but he has essentially stopped hitting since the summer. As a result, his ranking has dropped considerably. The scariest thing about this is it feels like the kind of move the Yankees would make.

Oppenheimer would absolutely think that taking a 23rd overall pick with the upside of a no. 1 would be getting a steal. The Yankees just took Clarke Schmidt last year, despite his injury, because they could offer him less and use the extra money to get Matt Sauer in the next round. It’s not about getting the best available talent in this case, it’s about getting the best value for your money. If Turang falls to the Yankees, you better believe they will be tempted, but it feels like the kind of chance they don’t really have to take.

Developing prospects out of the draft is hard enough without the Yankees trying to get overly cute with it. If someone’s value has fallen, there’s usually a reason for it. Don’t make this harder than it already has to be.