After not having any picks in the first round of the draft last year, the Yankees had two first round picks and a second round pick last night. Not only did they have a few decisions to make on the first day, but the Yankees also had their lowest pick (16th) since 1993 (13th). Let's take a look at the newest Yankees' draftees. James Kaprielian (RHP): The righty out of UCLA was widely expected to go in the middle of the first round. Much like their first pick last year, Jacob Lindgren, the Yankees chose another pitcher in Kaprielian who could be ready for the majors in very little time. Kaprielian started his collegiate career coming out of the bullpen, but in his sophomore and junior years the hurler took up the front spot in the rotation. Scouts believe he is a pretty solid bet to be a middle of the rotation guy on a major league team, making this sound like a smart pick for the Bombers.
Kaprielian is a big guy, standing at 6'4 and 200 pounds. Last year, he went 10-4 with a 2.03 ERA, leading the Pac-12 with 114 Ks in 106.2 innings, only walking 33, and holding opposing hitters to a .226 average. With four quality pitches, he throws in the low-to-mid 90s and uses a nice curve as his primary out pitch. Kaprielian also has a decent changeup and has been working on a slider, but the key is that he throws strikes and rarely leaves the ball up in the zone.
On the human interest side, Kaprielian lost his mother to breast cancer last year. As was her wish, he went ahead and pitched for USA Baseball that summer, going on to throw six scoreless innings against Chinese Taipei just days after she passed. He notched twelve Ks and was got the team's International Performance of the Year.
Kyle Holder (SS): With the 30th pick of the draft, the Yankees took a defense-first shortstop from the University of San Diego. This pick was compensation for David Robertson signing with the White Sox during the off-season. So far, from the reports I'm seeing, I must admit I'm fighting the comparison between Holder and another defensive first round pick the Yankees made a few years ago, Cito Culver.
First the good news. Holder is probably one of the best defensive players in the entire draft. He has an above-average arm, can throw from the hole and moves well side-to-side. Holder's first love appears to be basketball, as he stated that "I never really practiced a lot playing baseball while I was playing basketball. The first baseball game was right after our last basketball game." This may account for both why he is such a solid fielder, and perhaps also why the offensive part of his game appears to be lagging.
Holder bats lefty, and doesn't project to ever hit with much power. If he hits, it will be for contact. He did show some improvements at the plate this past season, though, hitting 50 points higher and adding 20 points to his slugging percentage. Still, the comparisons between him and players like Brendan Ryan are not likely to inspire much excitement from Yanekes fans.
Jeff Degano (LHP): Rounding out their first day of the Draft, the Yankees kept with the college theme, taking a southpaw from Indiana State University. Another 6'4, 200 pound hurler, Degano missed the 2014 season after Tommy John surgery but went 8-3 with a 2.36 ERA this past year. He hails from British Columbia and played on the 2005 Canadian Little League World Series team.
Degano is another pitcher known for throwing strikes. In fact, he struck out 126 batters over 99 innings while allowing just 28 walks this past season. Degano has great control and two plus pitches. His fastball can reach 94, though he mostly pitches in the low-90s. He also throws a hard slurve, which has resulted in a lot of swinging strikeouts. He has a decent changeup, but will need to work on using it more in pro ball.
While he has a lot of potential and in some ways may seem like he mirrors Kaprielian, Degano is not nearly as polished. He spent his first two years of college ball playing in junior college before spending a year with Indiana State, a school not particularly known for its baseball program. Degano definitely has the potential to be a back-of-the-rotation starter, but he could also make an impact on the majors as a situational lefty.
All in all, the Yankees made some solid picks yesterday and the fun continues today at 1pm, when the third round begins. The Yankees will have the 92nd pick.
** Editor's Note- No live draft blog today, but we will definitely be doing another recap post and more overall draft analysis this week. **