Yanks trend toward collegiate ranks in Draft

June 11th, 2016

NEW YORK -- The Yankees think that they scored right out of the gate in the 2016 Draft, thrilled for a chance to fit high school outfielder Blake Rutherford for pinstripes with the 18th overall selection, and hope that they continued to pick winners over the course of the 40-round extravaganza.

New York's final tally for the Class of 2016 saw it select 23 pitchers -- 17 right-handers -- and 17 position players. The left-handed-hitting Rutherford was their top selection out of Chaminade College Preparatory School in West Hills, Calif., but the Yankees trended more toward the collegiate ranks, selecting 15 college pitchers and 11 college position players.

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"I think we were able to draft some guys that add value to the system, some guys who have potential for impact and some guys that if we get them signed should have some depth to add to the system," said Damon Oppenheimer, the Yankees' vice president of domestic amateur scouting. "For this Draft, we think we did well."

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Oppenheimer said that there was not much to read into the strategy of taking college players over those from the high school ranks, as the Yanks' objective in each round was to take the best available player on the board.

"I would guess if you looked at everybody's draft, that's the way it is, the way the system sets up," he said. "The first day, San Francisco didn't draft one high school player. It's the nature of the way this draft works, how much your pool is and how much money you have."

The Yanks' bonus pool for the first 10 rounds is $5,831,200, with an assigned value of $2,441,600 for their first pick. Oppenheimer said that the Yankees have a good sense that they will be able to come to an agreement with the 19-year-old Rutherford, who has a "Yankees room" in his parents' California home and posed for a photo with Derek Jeter during the captain's final season.

"Derek Jeter, that's my idol, my role model," Rutherford told the Los Angeles Daily News. "I dreamed to be anywhere close to what he was, especially off the field with the fans. He understood it all, the whole baseball thing. I'm definitely in awe that I get to wear the same pinstripes that Derek Jeter wore."

The Yanks are also looking forward to adding their second-round and third-round picks to the system, tabbing University of Louisville second baseman Nick Solak and right-hander Nolan Martinez from Culver City (Calif.) High School. Oppenheimer said that Solak is more advanced defensively than Rob Refsnyder, to whom his bat has been compared.

"When our college season is over, I think I'll be ready to sign, excited to sign and start my professional career," Solak said.

As for Martinez, Oppenheimer said, "He's a high school pitcher that we had targeted as a guy that's projectable to throw hard. He's got a good breaking ball. He throws the ball over the plate and he's athletic. We think we'll get him done."

The Yankees are optimistic that they were able to pluck some gems with their later selections, as Day 3 of the Draft carried clubs from the 11th round through the 40th.

"We're excited about, right from the start, [11th-round pick] Connor Jones is a left-hander [from Georgia] who strikes guys out," Oppenheimer said. "[Twelfth-round pick] Taylor Widener from South Carolina is a power arm guy, he's hit 97 [mph]. We've got some athletes in there that we think can swing the bat. There's a bunch of them down here that we're excited about."