The twenty-fourth part of my draft preview series is on the New York Yankees and their scouting director Damon Oppenheimer.
Owner: George Steinbrenner, bought club in 1973
General Manager: Brian Cashman, first season was 1998
Scouting Director: Damon Oppenheimer, first draft was 2005
2005 Draft: $3.7 Million Budget
1. C.J. Henry, SS, Putnam City HS (OK), #17 Overall: Henry was an ultra-athletic prep shortstop with an extremely high ceiling. He wasn’t as refined as some of the top prep names, but his tools were better than anyone’s, making him a true first-round draft prospect. Following players selected: Cesar Carrillo, John Mayberry, Mark Pawelek. Signing bonus: $1,575,000.
2. J. Brent Cox, RHP, Texas, #63 Overall: Cox was a solid college closer with fairly good stuff, though he wasn’t noted for having anything above an average fastball. He was seen as a solid 2nd-4th round draft prospect who would only need a year or so in the minors. Following players selected: Kris Harvey, Mike Costanzo, Chase Headley. Signing bonus: $550,000.
3. Brett Gardner, OF, College of Charleston, #109 Overall: Gardner was one of the best true leadoff prospects in the 2005 draft, though he looked more like a 7th-10th round prospect to a lot of clubs. HE had plus-plus speed and an above-average hit tool, but not a lot else. Following players selected: Daryl Jones, Mark Romanczuk, Joe Dickerson. Signing bonus: $210,000.
4. Lance Pendleton, RHP, Rice, #139 Overall: Pendleton was a two-way prospect at Rice, and he was a reliever when he was on the mound. He features solid stuff, with a good fastball/curveball pairing, and he was considered a 4th-6th round prospect as both a hitter and pitcher. Following players selected: Bryan Anderson, Chris Rahl, Shawn Hayes. Signing bonus: $215,000.
5. Zach Kroenke, LHP, Nebraska, #169 Overall: Kroenke was a solid college starter that was also more of a 7th-10th round prospect than a 5th round prospect, where the Yankees took him. He featured solid-average stuff, but he was considered more of a reliever, possibly only a LOOGY in the long run. Following players selected: Mitch Boggs, Greg Smith, Ryan DiPietro. Signing bonus: $155,000.
Other Notable Selections: OF Austin Jackson (8th), Ryan HS (TX), $800K bonus; RHP Alan Horne (11th), Florida, $400K bonus.
2006 Draft: $6.7 Million Budget
1. Ian Kennedy, RHP, USC, #21 Overall: Kennedy was very inconsistent in his draft year at USC, and he didn’t help himself by having Scott Boras as his advisor. The Yankees were one of the few teams that still saw him as a first-rounder, as his stuff had regressed from year to year. Following players selected: Colton Willems, Max Sapp, Cody Johnson. Signing bonus: $2,250,000.
2. Joba Chamberlain, RHP, Nebraska, #41 Overall: Chamberlain was supposed to go in the top ten to fifteen picks, but fell to the Yankees in the supplemental first round. He had top-tier stuff, but also had some questions about his durability, even back then. Following players selected: Chris Perez, Steve Evarts, Caleb Clay. Signing bonus: $1,150,000.
3. Zach McAllister, RHP, Illinois Valley Central HS (IL), #104 Overall: McAllister was a tall, projectable right-handed prep arm with good baseball bloodlines. He wasn’t the most refined prospect, but he was still a solid 3rd-6th round arm worth a good investment. Following players selected: Justin Edwards, Gary Daley, Derrick Robinson. Signing bonus: $368,000.
4. Colin Curtis, OF, Arizona State, #134 Overall: Curtis, like Kennedy, had a horribly inconsistent draft year, and he was also represented by Scott Boras. He regressed to become an average athlete with average tools across the board, dropping him from a possible first round prospect to a 4th-6th round prospect. Following players selected: Tyler Reves, Eddie Degerman, Jason Godin. Signing bonus: $450,000.
5. George Kontos, RHP, Northwestern, #164 Overall: Kontos was yet another enigma for scouts, as he also seemed to regress in his draft year. He still featured quality stuff, but his lack of a consistent arm angle and consistent secondary stuff made him hittable. Following players selected: John Shelby, Shane Robinson, Harold Mozingo. Signing bonus: $158,000.
Other Notable Selections: RHP Dellin Betances (8th), Grand Street HS (NY), $1MM bonus; RHP Mark Melancon (9th), Arizona, $600K bonus; RHP Daniel McCutchen (13th), Oklahoma; RHP David Robertson
(17th), Alabama, $200K bonus.
2007 Draft: $8.0 Million Budget
1. Andrew Brackman, RHP, NC State, #30 Overall: Brackman was supposed to be a top seven to ten overall pick, but a late arm injury ended up pushing him all the way down to the Yankees. He required Tommy John surgery, but he still got a Major League contract out of New York. Following players selected: Josh Smoker, Nick Noonan, Jon Gilmore. Signing bonus: $3,350,000*.
2. Austin Romine, C, El Toro HS (CA), #94 Overall: Romine was known as an excellent defensive catcher, though he fell down some boards after hurting his thumb on his catching hand most of the way through his senior year. He looked like an excellent 2nd-4th round prospect. Following players selected: Nick Barnese, Danny Duffy, Tony Thomas. Signing bonus: $500,000.
3. Ryan Pope, RHP, Savannah College of Art & Design (GA), #124 Overall: Pope came out of nowhere to establish himself as a 3rd-7th round prospect. The wide range was due to stuff that blossomed at the beginning of his junior year then slowly died off, leaving some scouts wondering what happened. Following players selected: David Newmann, Peter Hodge, Darwin Barney. Signing bonus: $229,500.
4. Brad Suttle, 3B, Texas, #154 Overall: Suttle was a draft-eligible sophomore who was expected to go anywhere from the end of the first round to the early second round. However, he fell due to signability questions, and the Yankees got another steal of a player that was sliding down boards. Following players selected: Dustin Biell, Adrian Ortiz, Brandon Guyer. Signing bonus: $1,300,000.
5. Adam Olbrychowski, RHP, Pepperdine, #184 Overall: Olbrychowski (try typing that a few times) was a solid college reliever with plus stuff. He was a good sinker/slider pitcher that projected to eat up innings in middle relief, and he was expected to go somewhere in the 4th-7th round range. Following players selected: Emeel Salem, Fernando Cruz, Casey Lambert. Signing bonus: $123,000.
Other Notable Selections: None.
2008 Draft: $5.1 Million Budget
1. Gerrit Cole, RHP, Orange Lutheran HS (CA), #28 Overall: Cole was a legitimate first-round prospect with a plus fastball and supreme projectability. However, midway through the summer after the draft, he set his heart on going to college, so the Yankees were unable to sign him. Following players selected: Lonnie Chisenhall, Casey Kelly, Shooter Hunt. DID NOT SIGN.
2. Jeremy Bleich, LHP, Stanford, #44 Overall: This was one of the most surprising picks in the 2008 draft, though it was overblown due to the fact that it was a Yankees pick. Bleich was considered more of a 4th-7th round arm, though he was a solid college starter that threw from the left-hand side. Following players selected: Bryan Price, Logan Forsythe, Kyle Lobstein. Signing bonus: $700,000.
3. Scott Bittle, RHP, Ole Miss, #75 Overall: Bittle was a solid college closer with a single plus-plus pitch, an advanced cutter. He was expected to go in the 2nd or 3rd round, but he was unable to come to terms with the Yankees after physical problems cropped up during the time for a physical. Following players selected: Trey Haley, Derrik Gibson, Jake Jefferies. DID NOT SIGN.
4. David Adams, 2B, Virginia, #106 Overall: Adams was a heralded prospect coming out of high school, and he had two excellent seasons at Virginia, putting him in a prime position to be a late first-round pick entering his draft year. However, he fell off the boards due to a performance slip, and the Yankees grabbed him here in the third round. Following players selected: Cord Phelps, Kyle Weiland, Ross Seaton. Signing bonus: $333,000.
5. Corban Joseph, SS, Franklin HS (TN), #140 Overall: Joseph was seen as more of a 6th-8th round prospect as an offensive middle infielder. However, the Yankees took him in the 4th round, believing that he would continue to be a well-rounded hitter with average defense for a shortstop. Following players selected: David Roberts, Pete Hissey, Mike Sheridan. Signing bonus: $207,000.
Other Notable Selections: RHP D.J. Mitchell (10th), Clemson, $400K bonus; RHP David Phelps (14th), Notre Dame, $150K bonus.
2009 Draft: $7.6 Million Budget
1. Slade Heathcott, OF, Texas HS (TX), #29 Overall: Heathcott was a late riser up draft boards, as there were questions about his makeup and his injury history, as he was recovering from a torn ACL and jammed throwing shoulder. However, the Yankees believed in his plus tools as a hitter over his possible first-day arm as a pitcher. Following players selected: LeVon Washington, Brett Jackson, Tim Wheeler. Signing bonus: $2,200,000.
2. J.R. Murphy, C, Pendleton School (FL), #76 Overall: Murphy was another player who rose up boards throughout the spring, flashing a plus hit tool and plus arm behind the plate. He was fairly new to catching, but he was still considered a supplemental first round to third round prospect. Following players selected: Alex Wilson, Kenny Diekroeger, D.J. LeMahieu. Signing bonus: $1,250,000.
3. Adam Warren, RHP, North Carolina, #135 Overall: Warren looked like a solid relief prospect after starting in his career at North Carolina. He was a senior, and he didn’t have a lot of upside, but he had been working on a solid-average to above-average fastball that could be a bigger weapon out of the ‘pen. Following players selected: Brooks Hall, Adam Buschini, Jeremy Hazelbaker. Signing bonus: $195,000.
4. Caleb Cotham, RHP, Vanderbilt, #165 Overall: Cotham was a frustrating college prospect, as he had solid sinker/slider stuff, but he never used it to his advantage, getting hit hard by polished SEC hitters. He was also a draft-eligible sophomore, putting his signability in question and making him a 5th-7th round prospect. Following players selected: D’Vontrey Richardson, Matt Way, Seth Schwindenammer. Signing bonus: $675,000.
5. Rob Lyerly, 3B, Charlotte, #195 Overall: Lyerly seemed like more of a fill-in pick for the Yankees, as a lot of clubs saw him as organizational filler. He had below-average athleticism, but a solid bat, and he looked like a left-handed bench option in the 8th-12th round range. Following players selected: Hiram Burgos, Steven Inch, Branden Kline. Signing bonus: $125,000.
Other Notable Selections: OF Neil Medchill (11th), Oklahoma State, $125K bonus; RHP Bryan Mitchell, Rockingham County HS (NC), $800K bonus.
If I was writing this draft preview five years ago, I’d be talking about how dysfunctional the Yankees’ scouting was when teamed with the rest of its front office. After all, scouting was almost completely separate, being run out of Tampa without any oversight from the general manager level in New York. However, when Damon Oppenheimer was moved into the scouting director’s chair, things changed, and it has been wildly successful when compared to previous regimes. Oppenheimer became a part of the Yankees’ organization as a scout in the early ‘90s, and he’s held just about every position you can before becoming scouting director. He has the advantage of having run a player development program under the same general manager in Brian Cashman, so he knows what he’s looking for in players when it comes to them getting through the system. Such an advantage is great, and it’s also advantageous that Oppenheimer doesn’t have to run both departments simultaneously like a few scouting directors have to do, which makes things hectic. Think about how much a scouting director must work during the year, and then add more hours to run a farm system well. You just can’t do both with the same effort and expertise. Something has to give. However, Oppenheimer has the best of both worlds, running only a single department while having the experience in the other. Looking at the trends in his first five drafts, we can see that Oppenheimer generally likes to jump on players that fall for one reason or another. Kennedy, Chamberlain, Brackman, and Cole all fell to the Yankees in either the first or supplemental first round when they shouldn’t have, and Oppenheimer’s happy to jump on players like that when they’re available. Looking at positional trends, he prefers up the middle athletes with bats that project to have plus hit tools. With pitchers, he generally likes collegiate arms, but he’s fine getting some upside with specific arms that he likes. He has built a solid system with good drafting, and these trends are the reason for that success.
One of the greatest trends for Yankee fans is a trend towards higher draft spending since Oppenheimer took over. In the five years since Oppenheimer has taken control, the Yankees have spent the 8th-most on draft bonuses, a solid spot. Oppenheimer himself has gotten an average budget of $6.22 million per year, good for 10th-largest when compared to other scouting directors’ averages. Either way, the Yankees allocate plenty of resources to their drafts. They were 9th in draft spending in the 2009 draft, so it’s obvious that the trends are solid and fairly predictable. In 2010, the Yankees own picks 32, 82, 112, 145, and every 30 picks after that. That’s a pick in their natural slot in each round, no compensation picks going either way. That’s fairly unusual for the Yankees, a team that’s normally quite active in free agency, either getting compensation picks or signing high-priced free agents. Using past budgeting, we can make an educated guess about how much the Yankees are likely to spend. I predict budgeting somewhere in the $6.5-7.5 million range, which should be in the top half of all spending for the draft. I expect that small decline from 2009 simply because they’ll have more leverage against their picks this year, compared to last year when their first and second round picks were both compensation for not signing picks the year before. It should be another solid year for spending, and the Yankees won’t shy from getting their man, no matter the cost.
Connecting the Yankees to specific players is difficult, simply because I don’t know what player might drop all the way to the last pick of the first round. We don’t know who the Andrew Brackman or Joba Chamberlain of the year will be until shortly before the draft, so it’s best to wait and see for any final connections to this team. However, let’s take a look at who I’ve connected to them so far. In my latest mock draft, I have them selecting Cameron Bedrosian, a quick-armed prep righty from Georgia and the son of former Cy Young award winner Steve Bedrosian. I’ll be seeing Cameron in person next week, so stay tuned for reports. Other players I see as options at the end of the first round are Manny Machado, James Paxton, LeVon Washington, and Austin Wilson. Later options might include Rob Brantly, Garin Cecchini, Bryan Morgado, and Robbie Aviles for the second round, then names like Connor Narron, Michael Fuda, John Gast, Tyler Cannon, and Brandon Cumpton for later rounds. These are all speculative right now, but simply keep these names in mind when thinking about the Yankees. In general, the Yankees will be very unpredictable when it comes to drafting until right before the draft, so buy my Draft Notebook for the updated version of this draft preview in June.
*Bonus information came from BA.
What do you guys think? What will the Yankees do?