In 2014, the New York Yankees did not have a first round pick due to their activity on the free agent market during the 2013-14 off-season.
However, they did make the most of their first selection, picking a polished college lefty reliever with a devastating slider named Jacob Lindgren with the 55th overall pick. Lindgren rose through the system quickly, making his debut in May 2015 and pitching seven games. Though his season was cut short following surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow, the 22-year old has a chance to compete for a big league bullpen spot this season.
While Lindgren was the Yankees' one quick riser in the 2014 class, the 2015 draft was filled with talent that could make an impact in the big leagues very soon. Let's take a look at who might be the first in the draft class of 2015 to find his way to the Bronx.
RHP James Kaprielian (Round 1, 16th overall pick)
Prior to the draft, baseball experts saw Kaprielian as a starting pitcher who was going to move quickly through the system of whatever team drafted him because of his college college career at UCLA and his ability to throw four pitches consistently.
According to Baseball America, the 6-foot-4 right-hander projects as a mid-rotation starter with a fastball that tops out at 96, a plus slider, a change-up with depth and a sharp curveball, which the magazine rated as the best curveball in the Yankees' entire system in 2015. BA predicts the Yankees will have Kaprielian start the year with High-A Tampa, with the hope of having reach Double-A Trenton by the end of the season. This could put him in line, assuming all goes as planned, for a potential call-up during the 2017 campaign.
LHP Jeff Degano (Round 2, 57th overall pick)
Drafted out of Indiana State University, the left-hander made ten appearances (eight starts) at two levels in his first year in pro ball. The 6-foot-4 native of Canada pitched to a 3.80 ERA in 21.1 innings, striking out 22 and walking nine.
Degano is two years removed from Tommy John surgery, which is why the Yankees had him throw just over 20 innings in his pro debut (he threw 99 innings in his final season at Indiana State). According to John Sickels of MinorLeagueBall.com, Degano has a "low-90s fastball and effective breaking ball combined with sharp command...", and in an interview with PA's Jason Cohen, Sickels called Degano a "rapid-riser and a possible number three starter if he maxes out his ability."
RHP Chance Adams (Round 5, 153rd overall pick
Out of all the draftees in this list, Adams might be the favorite to move the quickest through the Yankees' minor league ranks. The 21-year-old dominated at three levels in his first season of professional ball, ending his season with High-A Tampa after making stops with the Staten Island Yankees and Charleston RiverDogs. His combined numbers are simply overwhelming: 35.1 innings, 45 strikeouts, just nine walks, 0.93 WHIP, 1.78 ERA, and a strikeout percentage of 32.2%.
Our very own Tanya Bondurant wrote this about Adams when he was selected:
"Adams stands 6'0" and 205 pounds, and his mid 90s fastball that Jim Callis of MLB.com said was easily at 95 or 96 mph seems to be his calling card. He mixes in a slider that gives him two plus pitches, which is plenty for a solid reliever. The Dallas Baptist bullpen was full of promising arms, and Adams was able to work his way into a trusted late-innings role because of his impressive repertoire."
Considering Adams already threw five games in Tampa to end last season, he will likely reach Double-A Trenton in very short order, and if he continues to progress the way he did in 2015, Adams just might reach the big leagues near the end of this summer.
RHP Will Carter (Round 14, 423rd overall pick)
Carter was drafted out the University of Alabama where he started eleven games during his junior year. He also made two relief appearances, and the bullpen is where his future likely lies. After struggling as a starter with Alabama, 6-foot-3 Carter pitched almost exclusively out of the Staten Island Yankees bullpen, pitching to a 2.04 ERA in 17.2 innings (nine relief outings, one start). Carter struck out 13, but, as was the case in college, struggled with walks, allowing nine in his brief pro debut.
Carter reportedly throws very hard (94-97 as a reliever) and generates a lot of ground balls (2.67 ground outs/air outs, which roughly works out to a ground ball percentage of between 55-60%; for reference, according to Fangraphs.com, only 23 out of 137 qualified ML relievers had a GB% over 55%). His control is obviously an issue, and he also apparently does not have much in the way of secondary pitches. However, a pitcher who throws hard and gets a lot of balls hit on the ground is a good starting point, and if he shows signs of improvement next season, he may shoot up the system rather quickly.
To this point, you probably noticed that all the names mentioned have been pitchers. Obviously, this makes sense since a pitcher with a power arm and decent location can at least make the big leagues as a reliever pretty quickly.
We've seen this happen in recent years with pitchers such as Joba Chamberlain (who made his debut nearly a year after he officially signed with the Yankees out of the draft), David Price (who waited just over a year after signing with the Tampa Bay Rays), Chris Sale (who waited all of two months and 10.1 minor league innings before the Chicago White Sox called him up in 2010) and Brandon Finnegan (who pitched in the College World Series with TCU and the World Series with the Kansas City Royals in the same season after being called up two months after he was drafted in 2014). Though all the above examples were early round draft picks, pitchers drafted even in later rounds can rocket through the minor leagues (former Yankee David Robertson, for example, was drafted in the 17th round in 2006, and was in the Bronx nearly two years later).
Unless you are Bryce Harper, the same generally cannot be said for position players. It typically takes a much longer amount of time for a hitter master the minors and reach the majors. Even some of the best in recent times take at least a couple years.
The Yankees didn't draft a position player in 2015 that is expected to move very fast through the system. However, someone like shortstop Kyle Holder, who was drafted 30th overall, already has an elite skill- his fielding- that could allow him to be the first position player from this draft to reach the majors. He was listed as the best defensive player regardless of position prior to the draft. Just having an elite glove, however, will still likely not be enough to speed up his rise through the system if his bat doesn't show signs of life (slashed .213/.273/.253 in 56 games with the Staten Island Yankees). Still, it's only 56 games in a short-season league.