As we continue our review of the 2016 MLB Draft, let’s take a look at the New York Yankees and their most recent draftees.
First Pick: Pick 18, Blake Rutherford, OF, Chaminade Prep, CA
Rutherford was seen as a legit top ten, and in many cases a top five draft prospect, by draft experts. Having him fall to the 18th pick was a coup for the Yankees, who could’ve never expected to get Rutherford going into the draft. He was someone they loved and followed for years, and they were ecstatic that perceived bonus demands dropped him to pick 18. It took the 13th-highest bonus of the first round to sign him, well above slot. But he proved worthy in his first pro season, hitting a combined .351/.415/.570 between the Gulf Coast and Appy Leagues, with a 171 wRC+. He’s already a top 50 prospect in all of baseball, according to our own John Sickels, and I may have him even higher than John.
Biggest Steal: Pick 18, Blake Rutherford, OF, Chaminade Prep, CA
The easy answer is Rutherford. However, there are some other top ten round guys that warrant some attention. Nick Solak wasn’t a steal in the second round, but he had one of the better pro debuts of draftees this summer, hitting .321/.412/.421 with a 155 wRC+, a perfect 8/8 in stolen bases, and 30 walks to 39 strikeouts in 279 PA. Brooks Kriske looks like he could be the next in a long line of successful bullpen arms drafted by the Yankees, but he could pull a Chance Adams like transition to starting. Dom Thompson-Williams is perhaps the biggest steal in perceived draft value (third rounder) and where he was picked (fifth rounder). He’s a toolsy college outfielder with some projection still in the tank. He could turn into a Brett Gardner like prospect. And my favorite top ten round sleeper they drafted was Tim Lynch, one of the top ranked statistical bats in NCAA DI this past season. As a first baseman, there will be pressure on the bat, and he’s already 23. He hit .248/.360 /.410, with a 123 wRC+ and a 1.0 BB/K ratio.
Post-10th Round Sleeper: Round 12, Taylor Widener, RHP, South Carolina
The Yankees had no bonus money to try to sign any falling players, like Isaiah Gilliam in 2015, thanks to Rutherford’s bonus. They only signed one high school player in the later rounds, Evan Alexander - a speed-first toolsy outfielder whose father was a former pro football player. They signed Jordan Scott out of the IMG Academy a year after he graduated high school. Tony Hernandez was a local community college lefty with a mid-90s fastball, and Joe Burton was a big JuCo standout power bat - both were drafted a year out of high school. Everyone else who stood out came from the four year college ranks: Connor “Lefty” Jones, Taylor Widener, Phillip Diehl, Edel Luaces, Timmy Robinson, and Tyler Honahan. However, for post-tenth round steal, I’m going with Widener. The righty put up some pretty amazing numbers, going 3-0, 0.47 ERA, 1.50 FIP, 13.9 K/9, 8.4 K/BB, 1.13 GO/AO over 13 games and 38.1 innings. I expect him to transition his low 90s fastball that has touched 97, and his plus slider, to the rotation next year. If it doesn’t work out, he will climb quickly as a bullpen arm.
Overall, the Yankees 2016 draft really hinges on their first three picks: Rutherford, Solak, and young Cali righty Nolan Martinez. Because of that, it’s hard to give them a great grade. But those three are good enough that a B seems like a good fit here.