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  • James Vlietstra

The Yankees and the MLB Draft (Pt. 1)

by James Vlietstra

June 22, 2023

***

The 2023 MLB Rule 4 Draft is quickly approaching. More commonly referred to as the “June Amateur Draft”, this year, it will take place from July 9-11, 2023 in Seattle. Someone in the commissioner’s office must be a loyal reader of Start Spreading The News because in this article (https://www.startspreadingthenews.blog/post/the-lockout-mlb-vs-mlbpa-my-solutions) I suggested that the draft coincide with the All-Star Game, and that is exactly what is happening in Seattle on July 11.


They still need to incorporate the Hall Of Fame induction ceremony into the same weekend so we can have a celebration of baseball’s greatest players from the past, present, and future all together in one location at the same time.


Another spot that I feel the league needs to address is the ability to trade draft picks. First off, it would make for intriguing television as there’d be recognizable names being traded. Secondly, it would kick off the trade deadline season and lots of Rule 5 eligible players that are close to MLB ready would be able to be traded for future assets. There’d be an increased reliance on scouting and the ability to pull off several franchise altering deals.

This is General Manager Brian Cashman’s 25th year at the top of the New York Yankees franchise. I decided to run a short series reviewing how the Yankees' draft picks have fared since he has been in charge. One thing to keep in mind is that they have been above .500 each of these years, so the first selection that the Yankees make is usually in the 20s. The Yankees do not get to pick early in the draft.

This first segment will review the Yankees’ picks from 1998-2011. The second will be 2012-2019. And the final segment will cover the last three years as well as a preview of what to expect this year.

1998-2011

As I went through the older drafts, I realized that the Yankees had long stretches of time with atrocious results. Like several years in a row where not a single player that was selected and signed earned so much as a single WAR in the majors.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the draft used to be even longer, but during this period of time, it was 50 rounds. The Yankees would typically sign 40-60% of their selections to contracts.

So what I am going to include is how many players they signed, as well as, how many Major League games were played by the first round picks, how many players they signed that made it to the majors and their combined WAR. Also, I’ll include any prominent players that did not sign.

1998

Signed 25/51 picks

1st round Andy Brown (24th pick) - 0 MLB games

1st round Mark Prior (42rd pick) - Did not sign

4 signed players made MLB combined WAR -1.5

Mark Prior (who did not sign) had a career 16.6 WAR

1999

Signed 22/50 picks

1st round Dave Walling (27th pick) - 0 MLB games

3 signed players made MLB combined WAR -0.4

Total WAR 1998-1999: -1.9

2000

Signed 28/50 picks

1st round Dave Parrish (28th pick) - 0 MLB games

4 signed players made MLB combined WAR -0.9

Total WAR 1998-2000: -2.8

2001

Signed 23/53 picks

1st round John Ford Griffin (23rd pick) - 13 MLB games

1st round Bronson Sardinha (34th pick) - 10 MLB games

1st round Jon Skaggs (42nd pick) - 0 MLB games

7 signed players made MLB combined WAR 0.5

Total WAR 1998-2001: -2.3

2002

Signed 34/48

0 First Round Picks

5 signed players made MLB combined WAR 3.2

Total WAR 1998-2002: 0.9

Let’s take a moment to review these first five drafts. While The Yankees were wrapping up a dynasty, their six first round picks amassed a grand total of 23 MLB games played. They signed 132 out of 252 selections, 23 of which reached the Majors, and combined for a total WAR of 0.9.

That’s about as bad as can be. Not a lot of people really paid attention, because of the success the Yankees were having in the Bronx. That nucleus of players played together for close to two decades. Along with their aggressive approach to signing free agents, they were still able to be successful.


But, the Yankees poor drafts did not put them in a position to help their future.


2003

Signed 24/50

1st round pick Eric Duncan (27th pick) - 0 MLB games

4 signed players made MLB combined WAR of 19.5 these were led by

Tyler Clippard at 15.9 WAR (but only 0.3 as a Yankee)

Daniel Bard (who did not sign) 9.4 WAR and

Brandon Kintzter (did not sign) 6.9 WAR

2004

Signed 28/53

1st round Phil Hughes (23rd pick) - 290 MLB games

1st round Jon Poterson (37th pick) - 0 MLB games

1st round Jeff Marquez (41st pick) - 4 MLB games

4 signed players made MLB combined WAR of 14

Led by Phil Hughes at 11.0 (5.8 as a Yankee)

Chris Davis (did not sign) - 11.8 WAR

2005

Signed 28/50

1st round CJ Henry (17th pick) - 0 MLB games

4 signed players made MLB combined WAR of 66

Led by Brett Gardner - 44.3 WAR and

Austin Jackson - 22.1 (0.0 as a Yankee, he never played for NYY)

Justin Turner (did not sign) - 35.3 WAR

Doug Fister (did not sign) - 19.6 WAR

2006

Signed 31/50

1st round pick Ian Kennedy (21st pick) - 492 MLB games

1st round pick Joba Chamberlain (41st pick) - 385 MLB games

10 signed players combined for WAR of 74.6

Led by David Robertson - 19.5 (12.9 as a Yankee)

Ian Kennedy - 17 (-0.1 as a Yankee)

Mark Melancon - 13.4 (0.1 as a Yankee)

Dellin Betances - 11.1 and (11.4 as a Yankee)

Joba Chamberlain - 7.6 (6.9 as a Yankee)

This four year window was a very bright spot for the Yankees organization when it comes to success in the amateur draft. Six players that were drafted during this period eventually contributed on the 2009 team that would go on to win the World Series.

The combined total during these four years is 111 / 203 signed. 22 signed players made the MLB with a total WAR of 174.1 (but only a small percentage of that WAR came as players for the Yankees. Brett Gardner (44.3 WAR in NY) was, by far, the star of those classes.

2007

Signed 36/50

1st round pick Andrew Brackman (30th pick) - 3 MLB games

4 signed players made MLB combined WAR -1.5

2008

Signed 34/51

1st round pick Gerrit Cole (28th pick) - (did not sign)

1st round pick Jeremy Bleich (44th pick) - 2 MLB games

9 signed players made MLB combined - 6.3 WAR

Gerrit Cole (did not sign) - 36.2 WAR (13.6 as a Yankee, after acquiring him via free agency)

2009

Signed 27/49

1st round pick Slade Heathcott (29th pick) - 17 MLB games

6 signed players made MLB combined 8.5 WAR

Led by Adam Warren - 6.6 WAR (7.4 as a Yankee)

2010

Signed 28/50

1st round pick Cito Culver (32nd pick) - 0 MLB games

9 signed players combined for 4.6 WAR

2011

Signed 23/50

1st round pick Dante Bichette (51st pick) - 0 MLB games

7 signed players combined 6.2 WAR

Jon Gray (did not sign) - 13.8 WAR

During this four year period, the quality of the Yankees draft selections once again regressed. 35 players made it to the big leagues totaling a WAR of 24.1, but most of that came away from the Bronx. Of their first round picks, they totaled 22 Major League games.

Overall, during these first 14 years of the Cashman tenure, his drafts have been pretty terrible.


It’s a good thing that the Yankees dominated free agency and did well on the international market.

***

More to come in Part 2...

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