Yankees focus on pitching during Draft

June 15th, 2017

NEW YORK -- The Yankees went into this year's Draft aiming to add more quality talent to a system that is already rated among the best in the game, using their first picks on a trio of impact arms in right-handers Clarke Schmidt, Matt Sauer and Trevor Stephan.

It was a sign of what would transpire over the course of the three days to follow. New York's Draft was pitching rich, calling the names of 28 hurlers while using 28 of 40 selections on collegiate players.

"We feel real good about the haul that we were able to bring in," said Damon Oppenheimer, the Yankees' vice president of domestic amateur scouting. "I think we have a good crop of pitching. We've done a lot of research on where big leaguers come from; once you get past the first few picks, you're generally more successful when you put pitching into your system."

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The 16th overall selection was Schmidt, who starred at the University of South Carolina before Tommy John surgery ended his junior season. Schmidt was 4-2 with a 1.34 ERA in 60 1/3 innings for the Gamecocks, posting a 10.44 K/9.0 IP ratio while holding opponents to a .194 average (41-for-211).

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"Clarke Schmidt was someone that we never would have had access to, sitting at 16, without that injury," general manager Brian Cashman told Yankees On Demand. "He was the Friday night starter for South Carolina and he was one of the top four college pitchers in the industry. He would've been picked well before us if he was able to finish the season healthy."

Oppenheimer said that the signing process should be straightforward, and the Yankees expect Schmidt to be pitching at full strength in approximately 12 months. Schmidt said that he was aware of the Yanks' interest and that he "can't wait" to get a look at Yankee Stadium.

"That's something I'm looking forward to," Schmidt said. "I can only imagine how pretty that park is."

The Yanks were similarly excited by the chance to call on Sauer, a right-hander from Righetti High School in Santa Maria, Calif. MLBPipeline.com had Sauer ranked as the No. 28 prospect in this year's Draft, but Oppenheimer said the Yankees did not select Schmidt to save bonus money for Sauer.

"We weren't in it to try to take a lesser player, that's for sure," Oppenheimer said. "We were in it to take what we thought was the next best available player. I think we're fortunate that we're going to probably be able to work this thing through to get Sauer and maneuver some of our money."

New York selected two catchers, five infielders and five outfielders in the Draft, taking only one non-pitcher on Day 2: Canaan Smith, a lefty-hitting outfielder from Rockwall-Heath (Texas) High, who went in the fourth round.

"I think we attacked some things on Day 2 that we've found have been successful in this organization, some college power arms," Oppenheimer said.

The final day of the Draft produced some interesting picks. University of Notre Dame catcher Ryan Lidge, a cousin of former Major Leaguer Brad Lidge, went to New York in the 20th round. Oppenheimer and his scouts then took a few big swings in the later rounds.

Stanford right-hander Tristan Beck was selected in the 29th round despite missing all of his sophomore season due to injury; Beck has been called "the most complete college pitcher on the West Coast" by MLBPipeline.com.

Mississippi State outfielder Jake Magnum drew the attention of the Yanks in the 30th round; the speedy switch-hitter broke his hand on a slide this April, which dented his numbers, but he was the Southeastern Conference's freshman of the year and batting champ (.408) a year ago.

"We always take some guys that we think are good on Day 3 in case something crazy happens and signability comes down," Oppenheimer said. "I think we're in pretty good shape with this group."