Balanced Draft has Yanks eyeing near future
NEW YORK -- The Yankees established a trend from their very first selection of the 2015 Draft, when they chose right-hander James Kaprielian from UCLA at 16th overall, the organization's highest pick in 22 years.
With the selections being delivered from a conference area outside the third-base grandstand of George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla., the Yankees aimed to import talent that can help build the future of the organization in a hurry.
"If we drew it up, this is exactly what we would have been hoping for," said Yanks vice president and director of amateur scouting Damon Oppenheimer. "We were able to get some quality pitching and some good position players. I think that in this applicant pool, we really did well."
Oppenheimer said that he does not see any significant signability concerns early. The Yankees believe that they will be able to come to an agreement with Kaprielian, who is being represented by Scott Boras. Oppenheimer said that Jim Hendry, a special assistant to general manager Brian Cashman, will assist in those talks.
"UCLA starts late, so they're still in school. They're going to have finals and things. It'll be a little bit more time than usual," Oppenheimer said. "Jim Hendry, who has helped me out on a lot of this stuff because of his relationships and stuff like that, is spear-heading this one for us and helping out. I feel confident that we'll get this one taken care of at some point, I just don't know the time frame."
The Yanks tilted strongly toward college players, with all but seven of 41 draftees coming from those ranks, and they seemed to favor predictability over upside with some of their earliest picks.
"It was not by design to go do that," Oppenheimer said. "We could have easily been real close to the first four players being high school players. It just fell that it ended up being college guys. And then as you know, the deeper you get into the Draft, signability comes into play. It becomes deeper in college just in terms of sheer numbers."
After taking college players with the first three selections, they tabbed right-hander Drew Finley from Rancho Bernardo High School in California in the third round. Finley is the son of Dodgers vice president of amateur and international scouting David Finley.
New York rolled the dice often on right-handed pitching, choosing 20 right-handers against four left-handed hurlers. One of those lefties was second-round pick Jeff Degano from Indiana State, who was scouted as a power arm with swing-and-miss stuff, but had his Draft stock affected after missing most of 2013 and all of '14 due to Tommy John surgery.
The Yankees selected a total of 15 position players, the first of whom was shortstop Kyle Holder, a defensive standout from the University of San Diego who was the 30th overall pick in the Draft -- compensation from the White Sox for losing closer David Robertson in free agency this past winter.
"I got more text messages from scouts from within the game, cross-checkers, scouting directors, about how good a pick that was, more than any other pick we took -- which surprises me compared to what I read from outside," Oppenheimer said.
In all, the Yanks selected four first basemen, two second basemen, two third basemen, two shortstops and five outfielders over the three days of the Draft. One year after selecting Mariano Rivera Jr. in the 29th round, they watched the all-time saves leader's son go to the Nationals in the fourth round.
"He was definitely in our mix to take," Oppenheimer said. "It was fairly close. We respected his ability a lot, and how far he had come since last summer. They took him; we passed and took somebody else."
Two of the Yankees' higher picks were Oregon State outfielder Jeff Hendrix (fourth round), a speedy defensive-minded player who could project as a fourth outfielder in the big leagues, and Howard (Texas) College second baseman Brandon Wagner, who slugged 22 homers in 58 games this spring but may profile better as an outfielder.
New York's picks on Day 3 included Army senior right-handed pitcher Alex Robinett, who was taken in the 32nd round of the Draft. Robinett, who was recently commissioned as a second lieutenant, was Army's ace and will sign with the Yanks after taking a physical on Thursday, though he will have to serve his military commitment.
"He will be participating with our organization depending on where the organization decides to send him, and he will pitch with us this summer," Oppenheimer said. "Then he will go take care of his commitment with the military. Hopefully we can keep him in some kind of baseball shape when he's able to finish that commitment and come back after serving his country."
The Yankees also took a name that prompted a few double takes: their 34th-round pick was 18-year-old left-hander Andrew Miller, from Sterling (N.J.) High School. Coincidentally, Miller's selection was announced just as manager Joe Girardi revealed that the Yanks were placing their closer on the disabled list with a left forearm strain.
"That was really kind of crazy," Oppenheimer said. "I was talking to [assistant GM Billy] Eppler afterwards and he goes, 'I just got text messages about this!' This kid worked out for us in Staten Island and looked like a potential guy that could come on in the summer. It was just the way it turned out."