For the first time since 2013, the Yankees have a first round pick in the draft. They actually have two picks, and one of them is in the compensation round for losing David Robertson to free agency. With two first round picks, the scouting department is going to pick very carefully. This is a franchise that has to rely less and less on free agent talent, and acquiring competent talent in the draft is one way the team can diversify where they get their production from.
We've already seen that shift--2013's draft of Eric Jagielo, Ian Clarkin, Aaron Judge, Nick Rumbelow, and Tyler Webb is considered quite a good haul, and they followed that up in 2014 with a great pick in Jacob Lindgren. With two months until this year's draft, you can guarantee the front office is zeroing in on potential picks. Here are a few that could fall to them when they pick at 16th overall:
Daz Cameron, OF (Eagle's Landing HS, Ga.)
The last name is familiar, and that's because it is. Daz Cameron is the son of former big leaguer Mike Cameron, and that gives him a higher profile to begin with. He was once considered the top high school player in the country, but his stock has since fallen. Kiley McDaniel even tweeted about him just recently, and he wasn't too thrilled with his performance:
Saw Daz Cameron last night. I was kinda eh on him over the summer relative to the hype. Scouts are eh on him this spring. I continue with eh— Kiley McDaniel (@kileymcd) March 28, 2015
When asked about his "eh" feeling, McDaniel stated that teams don't care about hype, and that's true. Because Cameron was seemingly at every showcase and shows a pretty good toolset, the hype machine built him up to be a potential 1-1 candidate, and he never was that. For a team like the Yankees in the middle of the first round, however, Cameron isn't a bad pick. It's certainly a risky pick that comes with a high ceiling and a very low floor, but it's justifiable. Cameron is a player that already flashes plus speed, and there's a possibility he develops into a five-tool player. Considering the Yankees have been leaning towards college bats, shooting for him seems unlikely. This means the next possible pick makes a lot of sense.
Kevin Newman, 2B/SS (Arizona)
Newman is a really solid college shortstop, and he possesses one of the best hit tools in the NCAA. There isn't one skill set he truly dominates with, but his game is generally devoid of holes. He has decent speed, decent enough defense that could eventually play well at second base, and his hit tool is a 50-60 future value, potentially. He has no power whatsoever, but his doubles-power would be enough to hold his own at second base. The other plus is that the floor is pretty high. While a player like Cameron is someone you can dream on, Newman is the player that could shoot through the minors and develop quickly into a major league regular. He's the "safe" pick, and he could be someone to watch if he's available when the Yankees are up.
Mike Nikorak, RHP (Stroudsburg HS, Penn.)
There are a lot of questions about whether Nikorak builds upon the tool set he has, and what a tool set that is. He features a dynamite fastball that is currently a 55-60 but could develop into a 70, a plus breaking ball, a 50 future value changeup, and a body that doesn't have that much more room to grow. The Yankees love their high school pitchers--they still took Clarkin in a more college-focused first round in 2013--and Nikorak is the type of high school pitcher to take a gamble on. There are some who believe he's the best high school pitcher in the country, and there are some who think he belongs late in the first round round. If you take the median value, that lands in the Yankees' wheelhouse. I don't know if they use their top pick on a high school pitcher, but I don't know if I could fault them if they choose Nikorak.
Cody Ponce, RHP (Cal Poly Ponoma)
This would be a risky pick, but I could see the Yankees taking a risk for a couple of good reasons. Well, the first is that Ponce could be a really good pitcher. That could mean great closer, but they would take that as well. Ponce's repertoire consists of a fastball that goes above 95 mph (if needed) and a slider that could be of a 70 future value quality, and a changeup that's a bit fringy. The two plus pitches could be enough to get him to the big leagues as a reliever, but I'm sure a team would want to try him as a starter for as long as possible. He's also a massive dude (six feet, six inches tall and 240 pounds), and we all know how much the Yankees love tall pitchers. Then there's the risk. Ponce has experienced some shoulder issues this season, and the last thing the Yankees would want is a draft pick to quickly lose their career to shoulder problems. That being said, this issue could allow the Yankees to acquire him below slot, or they could draft him in the compensation round. Either way, there's a chance the Yankees could acquire him without the risk of being a full blown, at-slot value 16th pick.
Richie Martin, SS (Florida)
Martin at one point was considered one of the best college bats in the country, and his stock has fallen a bit over the past few months. He absolutely wrecked the competition in the Cape Cod league, and then scouts were touting his possible plus hit tool and 50 power tool. His defense is adequate as well, and it wouldn't be the end of the world (like with many shortstop prospects) if he ends up moving to second base. Martin could end up being snagged between the Yankees' first and second picks, but he could be worth the risk if the team thinks he will fulfill his potential.
This is a sample of but a few of the picks that could fall to the Yankees, either at 16th or during the compensation round, and this will likely change as we get closer to the draft. One thing is certain right now--with a team that needs young talent and with a very weak draft class, the front office should pick wisely.