Thanks to their high-spending off-season following the 2013 campaign, the Yankees entered the 2014 MLB Draft at a serious disadvantage. They had no first round picks and they lost free compensation picks as well. All was not lost though. They spent a lot of money to import an impressive array of young, international talent after the new crop became eligible in July, and the draft still produced some players to watch going forward. The Yankees chose a mostly collegiate, pitching-centric draft class, with one name in particular highlighting the group.
1. Jacob Lindgren | LHP | Mississippi St.
The Yankees' first pick didn't come until the second round at number 55 overall, and they threw evaluators for a bit of a loop by taking a reliever with their top selection. GM Brian Cashman dubbed Lindgren a "Strikeout Factory" for his exploits as the Bulldogs' closer. He had a slider that was considered just about big league caliber already and MLB.com's Jim Callis felt that he had the potential to be the first player in the entire draft to make the majors. The Yankees decided to be conservative with Lindgren though, gradually moving him up from the low minors to Double-A Trenton by season's end. Maybe if the Yanks were closer to a playoff spot, he would have been promoted, but they weren't, and he was also getting fatigued by late August after throwing a combined 80 innings on the year. Lindgren has been filthy in his 45 1/3 minor league innings, striking out 75 batters for a remarkable 14.9 K/9 rate. Now in Triple-A for a couple months in 2015, Lindgren has a 1.31 ERA, a 2.03 FIP, and an 11.8 K/9 in 14 games for the RailRiders. He might have a 4.4 BB/9 to go along with that, but he still should be in the majors by now. I mean...
Gracious. He'll be here soon, at the very least.
2. Austin DeCarr | RHP | Salisbury Prep
Lindgren might be the most well-known name from this draft class at the moment, but it was the then 19-year-old DeCarr who received the most money. The Yankees lured him away from his commitment to Clemnson with a $1 million over-slot bonus. The third round pick was selected 91st overall and he only turned 20 in March. DeCarr boasts a fastball that has reached the mid-90s and a hard curveball which Baseball Prospectus really liked. In 23 1/3 Rookie Ball innings last year, DeCarr posted a 4.68 ERA but a 3.68 FIP, fanning just over a batter per frame. He hasn't pitched yet in 2015, but that's likely because he will report to one of the shorter season affiliates, like Staten Island or the new Pulaski team. He's already considered a Top 20 team prospect, so definitely keep an eye on him.
3. Jordan Montgomery | LHP | South Carolina
The top starter for the Gamecocks last year, Montgomery was a fourth round pick who fit the mold of many college pitchers the Yankees have taken in the past several year--Low ceiling but high floor. Although that's not flashy, high floor pitchers like Adam Warren and David Phelps have demonstrated their usefulness at the big league level over the past few years, so there's certainly some merit. Montgomery's changeup is his best pitch, and he's really used it to his advantage early on in 2015. After splitting last year between the GCL and Staten Island, he reported to Low-A Charleston and currently boasts a very nice 11.6 K/9 with solid control over seven starts, which have produced a 2.76 ERA and 2.28 FIP. Another promotion to High-A Tampa could soon be in the offing.
4. Jordan Foley | RHP | Central Michigan
The Yankees tried to draft Foley out of high school in the 26th round of the 2011 MLB Draft, but this time, they were successful. Foley did well at Central Michigan with a low-to-mid 90s fastball and a slider which could be inconsistent at time but still effective. Like Montgomery, he split time between the GCL and Staten Island in 2014 before moving on to Charleston this year. Foley was up and down in three starts this year before going on the DL with an injury not publicly known at this time. He hasn't pitched since April 19th, so hopefully it's nothing too scary.
5. Jonathan Holder | RHP | Mississippi St.
The fifth pitcher in a row taken by the Yankees, Holder was a reliever in his last couple years with the Bulldogs, but the Yankees decided to begin his development as a starter. At 6'2" and 235 pounds, he certainly has the frame for it, though he will need to work on improving his repertoire, which is highlighted by a fastball and a curve. Again: Similar story as Montgomery and Foley--Holder split time with Rookie Ball and the S.I. Yanks last season, though he is in Tampa rather than Charleston. Holder has done well with the T-Yanks as evidenced by his 2.86 ERA and 2.07 FIP over eight starts with a 7.4 K/9 and minuscule 1.4 BB/9. We'll just have to see how long he can last as a starter.
6. Mark Payton | CF | Texas
Director of Amateur Scouting Damon Oppenheimer finally selected a position player in the seventh round, drafting Texas center fielder Mark Payton in the midst of his College World Series play. Payton is an even smaller version of Brett Gardner, measuring in at just 5'7" and 165 pounds with attention-grabbing defensive skills and a quick bat, though without the basestealing abilities. Of course, he shouldn't be judged by his size alone--he had been drafted twice before by other teams before this year, so it's obvious that big league clubs liked his skillset. Payton has done nothing but impress early in his minor league career, hitting the tar out of the ball over 22 games in Charleston last year (.357/.443/.500), and he's kept up an impressive pace over 59 games in High-A Tampa combined with the end of 2014 and the start of 2015. He's hit .289/.395/.427 with the T-Yanks and once the outfield logjams at the higher levels resolve themselves, another promotion will likely be in the offing soon.
7. Connor Spencer | 1B | UC Irvine
Spencer doesn't have a power bat, but the former left fielder has been fine defensively at first in the early goings. The eighth round pick did quite well for Staten Island last season, hitting .364/.389/.444 in 51 games. He's off to a nice start with the RiverDogs this year too, notching a .288/.391/.346 triple slash. Perhaps the most concerning part of his game though is that he just has no power--he still has yet to hit a professional home run. For a first baseman, that's quite odd. Will his contact-focused bat and decent glove be enough to carry him to The Show?
8. Vince Conde | SS | Vanderbilt
Well after seven straight picks who have had either decent or above-average results so far, the Yankees were bound to run into an early dud. Minor League Ball thought enough of Conde before the draft to rank him 233rd overall, which was over a full round ahead of when he was ultimately taken (272nd). Conde has not played well for the Yankees at any level. He struggled to a .224/.323/.254 triple slash with Staten Island last year and has been even worse splitting time as a backup between Tampa and Trenton in 2015. Baseball America already had doubts about his limited defensive abilities at shortstop, so that doesn't bode well either. Hopefully he can turn it around soon because man, it has not been pretty so far.
9. Ty McFarland | 2B | James Madison
The tenth round pick reported to Staten Island last year alongside most of the last few picks and did well for himself with a .278/.345/.430 batting line, smacking 17 doubles in 62 games. This year... has not been so hot yet. His season didn't begin until the start of May and in 12 games early on between Charleston and Tampa, he's only hitting .195/.298/.220. The bright side is that it's still quite early. McFarland's likely big league projection appears to be more of a bench role, as his hit tool is only okay and he has already demonstrated the ability to play a number of positions around the infield, particularly third base.
10. Matt Borens | RHP | Eastern Illinois
Borns pitched for the S.I. Yanks last year and split time between the rotation and the bullpen, recording a 3.89 ERA over 37 innings (six starts). Considered the fourth best prospect in the Ohio Valley Conference at draft time, he had a reputation for good control that has mostly held up early on with a 2.7 BB/9 in 46 total minor league innings, though his offspeed-focused repertoire might not be quite enough to reach the majors. Since he was previously in extended spring training, he only just made his 2015 debut yesterday, and surrendered four earned runs over seven innings for Tampa while filling in for Rookie Davis.
After their top 10 picks, the Yankees continued to mostly play it safe, drafting only six high schoolers in the entire draft. Other names of mild intrigue after Borens in the 11th round were Alabama southpaw Justin Kamplain (2.58 ERA and 1.099 WHIP in 87 1/3 innings with Staten Island and Charleston), switch-hitting Stanford outfielder Dominic Jose (138 wRC+ in 38 GCL games last year and the son of former big leaguer/brief 2000 Yankees player Felix Jose), and of course, Iona pitcher Mariano Rivera III, who elected to return to college and has greatly improved his draft stock in the past year. Perhaps the Yankees will try to grab Mo's son again in 2015.