Yanks fill '18 Draft plate from behind the dish
New York selects 7 catchers, with Seigler its 1st choice on Day 1
NEW YORK -- Heading into this year's Draft, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that the team's plan was to simply draft the best player available, but he also noted that "pitching is the key to the kingdom."
Although New York did select 24 pitchers, the team did not stick to that idea as much as it did last year. Instead, the bigger trend this year was behind the plate.
• Draft Tracker: Every Yankees pick
In 2017, the Yankees selected 28 hurlers. Of their first 11 picks, 10 were pitchers. This year, the approach was more balanced between pitchers and position players, but with New York selecting seven backstops, including Mickey Gasper -- who was originally announced as a catcher before switching his position to first base -- pitchers and catchers made up 31 of their 40 total picks. The trend started Day 1 with the Yanks taking two catchers off the board in the first two rounds.
• Yanks draft catchers Seigler, Breaux on Day 1
"It's hard to keep catching in your system," said Damon Oppenheimer, the Yankees' vice president of domestic amateur scouting. "It's something that at one time we had a lot of and guys were actually playing on the same team. So now, hopefully we can replenish it a little bit, and these guys will compete a little bit against each other and progress.
With the 23rd overall pick, the Yankees selected Anthony Seigler from Cartersville (Ga.) High School. The 18-year-old catcher is not just a switch-hitter, he is a switch-pitcher when he takes the mound. Seigler has been clocked at 90 mph as a right-hander and in the mid-80s as a lefty.
"There's no doubt in my mind that I'm definitely going to sign with the Yankees," Seigler said. "This is a no-brainer for me. Just being able to hear my name called out was a great honor, and then for it to be with the Yankees, too … it was just unbelievable."
Although he has the ability to play multiple positions, the Yankees are focused on keeping him behind the dish for now. The six-foot, 200-pound catcher hit .421 with 14 homers and 34 RBIs in 107 at-bats this season while throwing out 12 out of 21 attempted basestealers. He was rated as the No. 46 prospect in the Draft by MLB Pipeline.
Although it wasn't necessarily Oppenheimer's plan to target catchers in the first two rounds, the Yankees did so, taking Josh Breaux from McLennan Community College (Texas). The 20-year-old, who slashed .404/.532/.831 with 18 home runs and 82 RBIs, showcased a rocket arm that has approached 100 mph from the mound. Breaux was previously selected by the Astros in last year's 37th round.
"We were hoping that we were going to be able to get position players early in the Draft to help with where we've had to deal some of the guys in trades from the last few years," Oppenheimer said. "It was nice that it fell that way to us, and I'm pretty pleased with it."
After drafting two high schoolers in the first three rounds, the Yankees went on to draft 30 college players with their remaining 37 picks.
"It's just a product of the system," Oppenheimer said. "The system gives you 'X' amount of dollars to spend inside the top 10 rounds, and historically, high school players take a little bit more to sign than college guys, so you end up taking those guys towards the top of the Draft where your pool money is. And then it ends up being college after that. If you look at most every team's Drafts, it sets up the same way."
:: 2018 Draft coverage ::
New York selected six pitchers on Day 2, taking just two position players: Ryder Green, a right-handed-hitting outfielder from Karns (Tenn.) High School who went in the third round, and Brandon Lockridge, a right-handed center fielder from Troy University.
• After Green, Yanks stockpile pitching on Day 2
The Yankees drafted the remainder of their catchers on Day 3, including Alex Guerrero of Eagle (Idaho) High School in the 18th round, Jack Thoreson of St. Mary's College in the 26th round and Patrick Winkel from Amity Regional (Conn.) High in the 31st. In four years at Bryant University in Rhode Island, Gasper, selected in the 27th round, slashed .344/.469/.524 playing behind the dish.
Austin Wells, from Bishop Gorman (Nev.) High, was the last backstop the Yankees selected on Wednesday. Despite being ranked as the No. 170 prospect in the Draft, Wells fell to the 35th round largely due to an elbow injury that has prevented the 18-year-old from catching all spring. However, scouts were still able to evaluate his hitting.
"Seigler and Breaux, Alex Guerrero and Jackson Thoreson seem to me like the guys that we will definitely sign," Oppenheimer said. "I think after that Pat Winkel and Austin Wells will most likely go on to college. It looks like we will sign a nice amount of them."
Including Gasper as a first baseman, the Yankees drafted six infielders and four outfielders. Along with the 24 pitchers and six official catchers, Oppenheimer is pleased with his new Draft class.
"There's some exciting guys in here," Oppenheimer said. "The kid that we took in the 11th round out of Florence-Darlington Tech, Tanner Myatt, who was just at our workout. He's 6-foot-7 and was throwing 97, 98 mph. That's exciting. Isaiah Pasteur from George Washington runs a 6.2 [second] 60[-yard dash] to play center field. ... At this point, we like them all and we'll see how it all plays out once we get the pinstripes on down here and get it going."