Yanks look for grace under NY pressure in Draft
Talent must go hand in hand with ability to play in the Bronx
NEW YORK -- The process that general manager Brian Cashman calls "vital" to the club's long-term success is upon us, as the organization prepares for its upcoming selections in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft.
The Yankees have the 30th overall selection in the Draft, a three-day event that begins on Monday. New York's next selections come in the second round, in which they will make the 84th and 89th overall picks.
"Because we've had as much success as we've had on a regular basis, we're always picking at the back end," Cashman said. "It's difficult. There's a lot of waiting, and it puts us at the back of the boat in every round, but the philosophy is the same no matter what, which is to take the best player on the board."
Damon Oppenheimer, vice president of amateur scouting, will have full control of the Draft board from the Yankees' war room in Tampa, Fla. Oppenheimer said that the Yankees have a unique situation in that they are charged not just to find big league-caliber players but to predict if those young athletes can handle playing in New York.
"We're always looking to get players who can play for the New York Yankees and not just be Major Leaguers," Oppenheimer said. "That is our shopping list, to see who can impact us. It's not easy to be a Yankee, so sometimes we will take a little more risk to find somebody who can fit for us.
"There's a big combination to be a guy that can play in New York. You have to be exceptionally talented, with high-end makeup and really special tools, because the guys that we have are guys that have All-Star potential and All-Star ceilings. We're looking for somebody that can unseat one of those guys when it's time."
Live coverage of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft begins with a one-hour preview show on Monday at 6 p.m. ET, on MLB.com and MLB Network, followed by the first round and the supplemental compensation round.
MLB.com will provide exclusive coverage of Days 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players.
This is the second time that the Yankees have had the 30th overall selection in the Draft. The other was in 2007, when they selected right-hander Andrew Brackman from North Carolina State University. Brackman pitched in three games for the Yankees last season and is now in the Reds' farm system.
Last season the Yankees' top pick, with the 51st overall selection, was infielder Dante Bichette Jr. from Orangewood Christian (Fla.) High School. Bichette hit .342 with three homers and 47 RBIs in 52 games for the Gulf Coast League Yankees last year and is currently playing at Class A Charleston.
New York's top pick in 2010 was shortstop Cito Culver, from Irondequoit High School in Rochester, N.Y.. The switch-hitter was taken 32nd overall and is playing at Charleston. Culver, who idolizes Derek Jeter, batted .250 with two homers and 33 RBIs in 69 games last year at Class A Staten Island.
The top choice in 2009 was outfielder Slade Heathcott, who went 29th overall from Texas High School in Texarkana, Texas, and has been sidelined this year after undergoing shoulder surgery. Heathcott has batted .264 with seven homers and 47 RBIs in 523 professional at-bats.
"I think Damon Oppenheimer has done a fantastic job of finding talent at the back end of each round," Cashman said. "He and his staff have been exceptional at what they've been doing."
Following is a glance at what the Yankees have in store as the Draft approaches.
In about 50 words
The Yankees do not seem as elated with this year's Draft class as they were in past years, but they believe there are quality players to be obtained at their spots. They figure to especially focus on power arms, catchers, middle infielders and center fielders.
The Yankees' wait isn't as long as it was last season, and they still felt they were able to score a hit with Bichette. Their budget for the Draft is tighter than in previous years, which may affect their recent strategy to attack players who have moved down other boards for various reasons.
"There's always talent to be had," Cashman said. "You've got to find it, and sometimes it can grow before your eyes over time."
As do most teams, the Yankees say that they do not base their selections on needs throughout the organization, instead focusing on the top player available at the time of their pick. But with 29 selections ahead of them, it's hard to forecast exactly which player will have his name spoken by CC Sabathia, who is attending the Draft's first day in Secaucus, N.J.
The Yankees had been linked in published reports to Louisiana high school catcher Stryker Trahan, but recent buzz suggests that is not the case. MLB.com's prospect rankings name Texas A&M outfielder Junior Naquin, Florida high school right-handers Walker Weickel and Nick Travieso, and Nevada high school first baseman Joey Gallo within the Yankees' selecting range.
Yankees bonus pool
Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team has an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the value of that club's selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. The signing bonuses for a team's selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any bonus greater than $100,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.
Any team going up to 5 percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75 percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5 percent to 10 percent gets a 75 percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10 percent to 15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100 percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more results in a 100 percent tax, plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.
"We haven't been one of the top spenders, so it's not necessarily that it puts us at a disadvantage," Oppenheimer said. "I think what it does is, it's possibly going to change who the pool of players are deeper into the Draft."
The Yankees' farm system is generally regarded as one of the best in baseball, boasting several players with star potential at lower levels -- especially on a stacked Charleston roster. A catcher always seems to be on the radar, even with such talents as Gary Sanchez and J.R. Murphy in the chain, as are such high-ceiling pitchers as Jose Campos, acquired from the Mariners in the Michael Pineda deal. The Yankees didn't select an outfielder until the 12th round last year.
"I think every system could use an influx of pitching -- power arms and premium position players up the middle; catchers, middle infield, center field," Cashman said. "That's your recipe for success, long-term."
Recent Draft History
Outfielder Mason Williams, a fourth-round pick in 2010, has opened eyes inside and outside the organization with five-tool talents that already have some people forecasting his arrival at Yankee Stadium. Williams has more ground to cover -- he's at Class A Charleston -- but he has already amassed glowing scouting reports and impressed the Yankees, who called him up from Minor League camp for a few looks this spring.
Yankees' recent top picks
|2011||Dante Bichette Jr.||3B||Class A Charleston|
|2010||Cito Culver||SS||Class A Charleston|
|2009||Slade Heathcott||OF||Extended spring training|
|2008||Gerrit Cole||RHP||Class A Bradenton, Pirates (Did not sign with Yankees)|
|2007||Andrew Brackman||RHP||Triple-A Louisville, Cardinals|
It's difficult to find a better custom-made story for New York than that of Dellin Betances, an eighth-round pick in 2006. Born in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan and raised on the Lower East Side before attending high school in Brooklyn, Betances has gone from the Yankee Stadium bleachers -- where he watched David Wells' perfect game in 1998 -- to the Yankee Stadium mound. He got a taste of the bigs last season, pitching 2 2/3 innings, but he needs to hone his control if he wants to stick. He's currently at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
In the Show
Despite the Yankees' reputation as a club that writes checks for free-agent talent, their Draft pipeline has sent several very recognizable names to the big league level. That list includes Joba Chamberlain (2006), Brett Gardner (2005), Phil Hughes (2004), Jeter (1992), David Phelps (2008) and David Robertson (2006).