Yankees to be patient, flexible as Draft arrives
New York's first selection comes in second round after offseason signings
NEW YORK -- To steal from an old Tom Petty lyric, the waiting will be the hardest part when the First-Year Player Draft starts for the Yankees today. Because of their heavy activity in the free-agent market last offseason, their first pick won't be until the second round, the 55th overall selection.
"This year, with where we're at, it's awful difficult to figure out what might get to you," said Damon Oppenheimer, the Yankees' vice president and director of amateur scouting. "Still, the way we're looking at it, we're going to get some good players and get some talent into the system. We've proven that we can put some stuff in at the top, toward the middle and the bottom. The whole thing is exciting."
There was a point in the winter where it appeared that the Yankees could wield a wealth of early picks, but a spending spree of nearly a half billion dollars erased that. They forfeited their first-round pick by signing Brian McCann, then lost compensation round picks by signing Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran.
That changing landscape altered the Yankees' pre-Draft approach somewhat, since Oppenheimer and his team could safely rule out several of the top-rated prospects highlighting MLB.com's latest mock boards.
"We obviously scouted everybody," Oppenheimer said. "We didn't allocate a lot of our time to those guys that we thought would be gone. We don't get to talk about those guys like we would have last year, where everybody was pretty much in play for us. This year, we know there's at least 20 to 25 guys that are gone."
Still, this is an exceptionally busy time of year for Oppenheimer's department, and general manager Brian Cashman knows it is vital to find quality players for the pipeline. The identity of pick No. 55, however, is a mystery that can only be revealed today.
"From listening to some of my competitors in the business that are picking in the top 15, they don't know what they're doing," Oppenheimer said. "At 55, it's a little hard for us. Cashman has told us, what we think is the best. Whether it's high school, college, position player, just do what's best in the long term for the organization."
Oppenheimer said that from now until the Draft kicks off, there is a regimented schedule of activity that takes place behind closed doors at the Yankees' campus in Tampa, Fla.
"We don't go from 6 a.m. until 12 at night; we just don't think that people can mentally focus that long," Oppenheimer said. "I'm a morning person, so we start early. We have usually a little bit in the middle of the day where we have a workout with some of the potential Draft kids that come in.
"Then we work again as a group until dinnertime, and usually I'll grab one scout each night that's a cross-checker and we have individual discussions just to hash out some things. And then it's the phone; it's media calls, it's agent calls, it's medical calls. It's pretty crazy, but I've got good help."
The 2014 Draft will take place on June 5-7, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network today, at 6 p.m. ET. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 7 p.m., with the top 74 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of the second and third days will begin with a live Draft show at 12:30 p.m. ET on June 6.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 200 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. Every selection will be tweeted live from @MLBDraftTracker, and you can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
In about 50 words
Jeff Nelson and Andy Cannizaro are representing the Yankees at the Draft. Patience will be a key for them, waiting until 54 names have come off the board. Oppenheimer thinks there is pitching velocity to be found in this Draft class, as well as a few bats.
Would the Yankees, who are known to have a catching-rich system, pass on a catcher in favor of a pitching prospect? The short answer is, maybe. Organizational depth can be a fragile thing that changes by the minute, but the Yankees aren't opposed to chasing big arms early in this Draft class -- especially because they think there could be trouble finding position player prospects in the middle of the diamond.
Yankees bonus pool
The Yankees have been allotted $3,202,300 to spend on their nine picks from Rounds 1-10, or an average of $355,811 per pick. The Draft pools cover the top 10 rounds and any bonus money in excess of $100,000 given to players taken in rounds 11-40. If a player selected in the first 10 rounds doesn't sign, his assigned value is subtracted from his team's pool.
A club that exceeds its Draft pool by 0-5 percent pays a 75 percent tax on the overage. The penalties get much more severe at higher thresholds: the loss of a first-round pick and a 75 percent tax for surpassing it by more than 5 and up to 10 percent; the loss of first- and second-rounders and a 100 percent tax for more than 10 and up to 15 percent; and the loss of two first-rounders and a 100 percent tax for more than 15 percent.
"I think it's just the best player that we think we can get," Oppenheimer said. "It could be a pitcher, it could be a position player, but we're not going to try to limit the applicant pool. We're just going to try to take what we think is best."
The Yankees have been taking college players early the last two years, selecting a combined total of 16 college players in rounds 1-10, but just six high school players. That's a reversal from 2010 and '11, when they took a combined 13 high school players and just seven college players in those same rounds.
Over the last three Drafts, the Yankees have consistently taken five pitchers in rounds 1-10. They took three left-handers and two right-handers last year after selecting five right-handers in 2012.
* RECENT DRAFT HISTORY *
The Yankees are pleased with the early results from their 2013 Draft class. Infielder Eric Jagielo hit 10 home runs at Class A Tampa before being sidelined with an oblique issue, and outfielder Aaron Judge is swinging the bat well with power at Class A Charleston. Left-hander Ian Clarkin is throwing with good velocity at Class A Charleston, and infielder Gosuke Katoh excelled last season in the Gulf Coast League. Shortstop Tyler Wade has impressed in the South Atlantic League, and so has right-hander Tyler Webb, who is already at the Double-A level.
David Phelps has proven to be a reliable and versatile piece of the Yankees' roster over the last three seasons, but the Notre Dame product was hardly on the organization's radar leading up to the 2008 Draft. The Yankees were scouting right-hander Kyle Weiland when they noticed Phelps. Weiland went to the Red Sox in the third round, but Phelps was still on the board in the 14th round and the Yankees took a chance.
In The Show
Current Bombers Dellin Betances (eighth round, 2006), Preston Claiborne (17th round, 2010), Brett Gardner (third round, '05), Derek Jeter (first round, 1992), John Ryan Murphy (second round, 2009), Phelps (14th round, '08), David Robertson (17th round, '06) and Adam Warren (fourth round, '09) were all selected by the Yankees in the First-Year Player Draft.
The Yankees recent top picks
2013: Eric Jagielo, 3B, Class A Tampa
2012: Ty Hensley, RHP, extended spring training
2011: Dante Bichette Jr., 3B, Class A Tampa
2010: Cito Culver, SS, Class A Tampa
2009: Slade Heathcott, OF, Double A Trenton