Yankees prepped for a 'unique' 2020 Draft

June 10th, 2020

TAMPA, Fla. -- Under normal circumstances, the Yankees’ talent evaluators prepare for the MLB Draft by visiting countless diamonds across the nation, setting their eyes upon the brightest high school and collegiate talent. For Damon Oppenheimer, the club’s vice president and director of domestic amateur scouting, this will be the first time that most of that work has been performed digitally.

With radar guns and frequent-flyer accounts having been holstered for months due to the coronavirus pandemic, Oppenheimer’s department pivoted, scouring hours of available game video and polishing previous written reports in hopes of identifying the next group of top-level Yankees prospects.

Oppenheimer said that the Yankees solidified their Draft board after the organization halted travel in March, nudging area scouts to file any outstanding reports and complete their conference calls with players. The club then held weeks of digital meetings with scouts and cross-checkers, he said, preparing for what they believed could be 10 rounds of selections.

“It’s definitely a real challenge,” Oppenheimer told WFAN. “We're just trying to do the best we can with the information that we have and trying to create as much information as possible. The data really hasn't changed, so it's just more video and more knowledge of the players. That's about the only way we're able to enhance what we can do.”

Day 1 of the 2020 Draft airs tonight on MLB Network and ESPN at 7 p.m. ET, and includes the first 37 picks. Day 2 begins at 5 p.m. ET on Thursday, June 11, on MLB Network and ESPN2, and spans the remainder of the 160 picks.

Comprehensive coverage will be available on MLB.com and MLB Pipeline, which will simulcast MLB Network’s broadcast. Go to MLB.com/Draft to see when teams pick, the Top 200 Prospects list, mock drafts from analysts Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, scouting video and more. And follow @MLBDraft and @MLBDraftTracker on Twitter to see what Draft hopefuls, clubs and experts are saying and to get each pick as it’s made.

Here’s how the Draft is shaping up for the Yankees, whose first selection is the 28th overall pick:

State of the system
MLB Pipeline’s preseason rankings placed the Yankees 22nd among the 30 Major League clubs, with 17-year-old wunderkind Jasson Dominguez (No. 54 overall) highlighting a deep contingent of high upside international players who will need a few years in the Minors. Dominguez, a center fielder, had been expected to make his stateside debut this summer.

Right-handers Clarke Schmidt (No. 88 overall) and Deivi Garcia (No. 92) both earned attention for their arsenal and poise during Spring Training, and it was believed that one or both could have made their Major League debut in an uninterrupted season.

What they’re saying
“Doing it all by video has been a completely unique situation to us. I think we can use some of this to enhance what we see with our eyes, once this opens up again at some point. We’ve become semi-experts in Zoom calls. That's been quite a change, but it's been fun. The players seem to have a real comfort level of having these Zoom calls; looking at devices and talking on devices seems to be easier for them.” -- Oppenheimer

Whom might they take?
With the Yankees having forfeited their second- and fifth-round selections as compensation for signing free agent Gerrit Cole, experts believe the club will target a quality position player in the first round before seeking pitchers later.

Recent MLB Pipeline mock Drafts have connected the Yankees to shortstop Nick Loftin from Baylor University, shortstop Ed Howard from Mount Carmel HS (Chicago), shortstop Carson Tucker (brother of the Pirates’ Cole Tucker) from Mountain Pointe HS (Phoenix), right-hander Clayton Beeter from Texas Tech University and catcher Austin Wells from the University of Arizona.

Money matters
Each team gets an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of its selections in the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. This year, with a five-round Draft, all signing bonuses of drafted players will apply toward the bonus pool total.

For 2020, there is a $20,000 limit on bonuses for non-drafted free agents. There is no limit to the number of undrafted players teams may sign, but they cannot go over $20,000 per player. These bonuses do not count toward the pool total.

This year, the Yankees have a pool of $3,520,000 to spend, including $2,493,900 to spend on their first selection.

Shopping list
General manager Brian Cashman has frequently said that he subscribes to the organizational mindset of featuring “a strong spine” up the middle, a belief that was instilled in him by the legendary Gene Michael. That means focusing on catchers, middle infielders and center fielders, as well as strong pitching.

The Yankees’ top prospect is Dominguez, who has already garnered staggering comparisons to the likes of Mickey Mantle and Mike Trout. The rest of the Bombers’ top 20 prospects, per MLB Pipeline, is comprised of 11 pitchers (all but one right-handed), four shortstops, three outfielders and a catcher.

Trend watch
Last year, 31 of the Yankees’ 41 selections were from the collegiate ranks, with the club taking 10 high school players. Twenty-five of those 41 selections were pitchers, nine of them left-handed. The remaining picks were used on two catchers, nine infielders and five outfielders.

In 2018, the Yankees used 31 of 40 picks on catchers and pitchers, including seven backstops. Thirty-one of their 40 selections were from colleges. Oppenheimer views that trend as a product of a system where teams generally opt to spend allotted dollars on high school players near the top of the Draft.

Recent top picks
2019: SS Anthony Volpe (30th overall)
2018: C Anthony Siegler (23rd overall)
2017: RHP Clarke Schmidt (16th overall)
2016: OF Blake Rutherford (18th overall)
2015: RHP James Kaprielian (16th overall)