For someone who keeps track of the minors as much as I do, the draft represents one of the most interesting events to watch. It is probably the most important way for major league teams to restock their farm systems. For those who don’t think the draft is important to a big-market team like the Yankees, consider how many current Yankees were drafted and signed by the Yankees. This list includes Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain, with future contributors such as Austin Jackson, Zach McAllister, Ian Kennedy, and Mark Melancon also arriving via the draft. Even a team with deep pockets like the Yankees needs to draft well, because by having cheap cost-controlled players, they can fill holes internally and have the money to shell out for big-ticket free agents such as Mark Teixeira, AJ Burnett, and CC Sabathia.
Before looking ahead to 2009, I am going to list a few of the important picks from previous drafts that the Yankees have made in the last 5 years, since the organization has become more committed to the draft. The guys I will mention are players who are still with the organization and have been ranked as legitimate prospects (by yours truly).
2004: Phil Hughes (1st), Chris Garcia (3rd)
2005: Brett Gardner (3rd), Alan Horne (11th), Austin Jackson (8th)
2006: Ian Kennedy (1st), Joba Chamberlain (sandwich), Zach McAllister (3rd), George Kontos (5th), Dellin Betances (8th), Mark Melancon (9th), Dave Robertson (17th)
2007: Andrew Brackman (1st), Austin Romine (2nd), Brad Suttle (4th), Carmen Angelini (10th), Brandon Laird (27th)
2008: Jeremy Bleich (2nd), David Adams (3rd), Corban Joseph (4th), Brett Marshall (6th), Kyle Higashioka (7th), DJ Mitchell (10th), Pat Venditte (20th), Garrison Lassiter (27th).
From these drafts, 2006 was clearly the best, and while I have listed a bunch of guys from 2007 and 2008 as prospects, they haven’t had time to bust yet. The ’08 draft was highlighted by the Yankees’ inability to sign 1st-rounder Gerrit Cole and 2nd rounder Scott Bittle (though he currently has a shoulder injury, so that looks like a smart move).
From the Yankee drafts to date, one theme that sticks out is their willingness to pay over the slot amount for players who are more talented than their draft slot (such as Brett Marshall, Dellin Betances, etc), and also to take a chance on players with questionable medicals (Joba Chamberlain, Andrew Brackman). We’re likely to see more of the same from them.
Tomorrow (hopefully), I will go over some possible draftees or prospects who have caught my eye. I’ll try to predict a few guys who they could take with their first-round pick, as well as maybe some later-round guys that are intriguing for whatever reason.