It has been almost two months since the Yankees chose their 2014 MLB Draft class. Statistics at this point can be finicky and suspect of small sample size at this point, but there have been a few players who have done commendable work in meeting draft day expectations in the early goings.
The fastest-rising name in the Yankees' draft class so far has unsurprisingly been lefty reliever Jacob Lindgren, their top pick. When he was drafted out of Mississippi State, MLB.com prospect expert Jim Callis said that he had the potential to be the first player in the entire MLB Draft to reach the majors due to his wipeout slider and low-to-mid 90s fastball. He struck out so many players that the Yankees front office gave him the amazing nickname of "the Strikeout Factory." Remarkably, Lindgren has been sensational, and he does not seem like he will stay in A-ball for very long. In 13 1/3 innings mostly with Low-A Charleston and High-A Tampa, Lindgren has fanned 30 while recording a WHIP of 0.750. The K/9 is off the charts at 20.2, and he's pitched to a 0.68 ERA to boot.
Callis mused back in June that he could potentially reach the majors this season; while that would still be a surprise, Lindgren has not been intimidated by anyone so far. Given his incredibly quick All-Star Break promotion from Charleston to Tampa after only five innings, it would not be a stunner to see him earn another promotion up to Double-A Trenton before too long, though the four walks and five wild pitches might be a concern. At the very least, Lindgren is putting himself in the Yankees' mind when considering their 2015 bullpen, quite the feat for a 21-year-old second round pick. MLB.com ranked him ninth in the Yankees' system in the midseason prospect list update.
Well, would you look at that! No stopping the Strikeout Factory.
Lindgren has been the standout pitching prospect, and the top position player was likewise the Yankees' highest-drafted position player. It took them until the seventh round to draft one, but it appears that the wait was worth it, as former Texas center fielder Mark Payton has hit the ground running. The 22-year-old had been drafted twice before, the first time out of high school by the Twins in the 31st round of the 2010 draft, and the second time as a college junior in the 16th round of the 2013 draft by the White Sox. Fortunately for the Yankees, Payton waited, and now he's flourishing in the low minors with his eye on one day patrolling the outfield at Yankee Stadium.
At 5'7", Payton is much smaller than the average MLB player, even two inches shorter than Brett Gardner. Don't let his size fool you though; the lefty surprised scouts with a .357/.443/.500 triple slash and a 166 wRC+ with Charleston. On draft day, Baseball America noted that he was more of a "situational hitter" who didn't have much power, but he registered seven extra-base hits in 22 games while he was on the RiverDogs. While again this could be possibly be another example of small sample size anomalies, it's more encouraging that he found success in Low-A rather than Rookie Ball, which has produced countless mirages of talent in the past. The Yankees liked Payton's work in Charleston enough that they just promoted him to Tampa a couple days ago; he made his debut alongside Lindgren last night, when he went 1-for-3. Payton will certainly have several challenges ahead of him, but it's wonderful that he's already catching people's attention around the minors.
Although it will obviously be quite some time before the story of the Yankees' 2014 draft class is written, it is nonetheless promising that there have already been intriguing developments with Payton and Lindgren. They're not the only ones, either. Third round pick Austin DeCarr was bumped up into the Yankees' top 20 prospects when they traded Rafael De Paula. Lefty first baseman and eighth round pick Connor Spencer is mashing to the tune of a .324/.355/.402 triple slash in 27 games with Short-Season Staten Island, the same team that features unheralded 18th round pick Justin Kamplain, a lefty with a 0.43 ERA and 0.524 WHIP in 21 innings so far that have included five starts.
Lindgren and Payton have been the the breakout stars so far though. Be sure to keep an eye on them as they further develop.