If you think the title sounds familiar, you are right. I’ve written about the New York Yankees 2013 MLB Draft here before. It was back in 2015, discussing how some of the young pieces in that draft were rebuilding an empire.
That draft still serves as a turning point today. It has just played out a little differently than that article may have expected.
The most glaring and obvious place to look is the first round. The Yankees farm system had sunk to some pretty low depths during their Core Four era, and part of that was due to missing on first-round impact picks. Looking at the five years before the 2013 MLB Draft (and you could go back further, but this isn’t a book, just an article) that is evident.
Gerrit Cole was the best first-rounder in 2008 but he obviously didn’t sign and headed to Cal. The Yankees also snagged Jeremy Bleich in that same first round. Remember him? It’s ok, neither does anyone else.
Slade Heathcott was selected in 2009, and he made an All Star appearance last year. In Double-A for the San Francisco Giants. Now across the bay, the Oakland Athletics will be his fourth team in three years. Cito Culver went in 2010, Dante Bichette, Jr. in 2011 and Ty Hensley in 2012. None are currently New York Yankees, none netted any big piece in return.
Enter 2013. The Yankees had three first round picks, one of which consisted of this guy.
Aaron Judge is the face of the franchise, coming off a historic Rookie of the Year campaign. He was sandwiched in between two other first-round picks, the first Eric Jagielo and the backend Ian Clarkin. Sure, neither are with the Yankees, but look what their departure got in return. You can argue that Jagielo helped get the Yankees Aroldis Chapman (which he did) AND Gleyber Torres (who the Yankees turned Chapman into). Clarkin was part of the deal that got the Yanks Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle.
How would you grade that trade?
This wasn’t the perfect draft mind you. There were some misses. Gosuke Katoh is taking some time to develop. Michael O’Neill — Paul O’Neill’s nephew — is now in the Giants system, where he had a breakout 2017 of sorts.
Tyler Wade has become the cult favorite amongst Yankees fans, our own Ricky Keeler coining him the next Rob Refsnyder (you can take that for what it’s worth). Wade had his best year yet in 2017 with the RailRiders, slashing .310/.382/.460 with 22 doubles, seven home runs and 26 stolen bases. He’s fast and can play multiple infield positions, even dabbling in the outfield when the Yankees called him up.
While many want to see him on the roster, the Yankees have a lot of depth at his super-utility position. Tyler Austin can play a few positions, Ronald Torreyes became a fan-favorite sparking the team in his super-sub role, and even Billy McKinney is learning how to play first base to add to his outfield repertoire. Wade deserves a chance, it’s just a matter of how and where.
Nick Rumbelow came in that draft. Rumbelow was recently used to acquire JP Sears and Juan Then from the Mariners, two young and promising pitchers. Tyler Webb — also part of that draft — netted Garrett Cooper when seemingly every other Yankees first base option went down with injury last season. You see, a lot of the picks in this draft, even if they weren’t starring player for the Yankees, were good enough to get something in return.
Look deeper in this draft, particularly at picks 554 and 1094. Dustin Fowler went from 18th-rounder to a a huge breakout in 2016. His debut was highly anticipated for the Yankees, and then became one of the more gut-wrenching stories of the season. Even injured, he played a part in bringing Sonny Gray to New York.
Nestor Cortes was pick 1094. The 36th-rounder continues to defy the odds. He has modest stuff, but throws it a variety of ways (he can go from traditional pitching style to sidearm against the same batter) and speeds. He fills the strike zone, sometimes throwing in the upper-80s, others the lower-60s, and has been very difficult to hit or score off of for the past two seasons. Cortes has a Ramiro Mendoza feel to him, which could in fact, prove very valuable to any team. Currently on the Orioles after the Rule 5 Draft, if they can’t make room, he could easily further assist the Yankees.
(video courtesy of The Minor League Prospect Video Page)
Is it the best draft ever? Probably not, but it could very well be the most important of the current era. The Yankees farm system was a series of misses for more than a decade before the 2013 draft class. The Yankees, both in the Bronx and on the farm, have been on the turnaround ever since, taking some misses for the organization and turning them into value.
Coincidence? Well, that’s for you to decide.