The Yankees and the MLB Draft (Pt. 3)
by James Vlietstra
June 29, 2023
This article continues the study I shared previously. The following are the first two installments:
It generally takes five or six years before one can start getting a feel for how successful a draft has been. At that point, the players would have been subject to at least one Rule 5 Draft and the better players should have moved up through the system. The results of the last couple of drafts listed in Part Two of this series is giving me some hope for better results, although the Yankees' track record says we should be prepared to be disappointed.
The drafts that this part of the series covers are the three most recent. Not a single player from these drafts has made it to the majors.
For this, I am going to really dive in and cover every player selected from this period. As they all play practically every day, some of the exact stats are out of date quickly, so I apologize in advance that the stats may not be up to the minute of you reading this, but this should provide a general overview of how each payer is doing.
The 2020 regular season was not the only thing abbreviated because of Covid. The draft was reduced to only five rounds. During the offseason, the Yankees had signed Gerrit Cole as a free agent, forfeiting their second and fifth round picks, thus leaving them with only three overall picks.
It is hard to believe, but the players signed from college during this draft are already Rule 5 eligible during the upcoming winter meetings. In addition to their three draft picks, the Yankees signed ten undrafted free agents. Keeping with the recent trend, of the 13 total deals, 7 were RHP, 2 LHP, 2 OF, 1 C, and 1 2B. Here they are:
Austin Wells, C 1st round (28th overall) MLB Pipeline #2
This was the second time the Yankees drafted him, so they clearly like him. Currently in AA. Has shown his bat belongs at a higher with a career OPS of .871. The organization has shown zero inclination that their intent is to move him to a different position. Catcher is the only place he has played professionally. I think it’s time to get his bat in the big league lineup.
Trevor Hauver, 2B 3rd round
Was part of the trade package that was sent to Texas for Joey Gallo. Currently in AA.
Beck Way, RHP 4th round
Was traded to the Royals in the deal for Andrew Benintendi. Also in AA.
Elijah Dunham, OF UDFA MLB Pipeline #16
Has advanced all the way to AAA already. Having his worst year as a professional with only a .694 OPS
Carson Coleman, RHP UDFA MLB Pipeline #26
Is the AA Patriots' closer. On the year, he’s walking 2.7/9 and, striking out 13.5/9 good for a 5/1 ratio.
Connor Pellerin, RHP UDFA
Was released by the Yankees and signed by the White Sox. Assigned to class A affiliate
Blane Abeyta, RHP UDFA
A starter for AA team. Numbers need improving.
Ocean Gabonia, RHP UDFA
Still only 21, pitching for Tampa.
Trevor Holloway, RHP UDFA
Made 1 appearance for HV this year and was released.
Jarod Lessar, RHP UDFA
Was released in January.
Clay Aguilar, LHP UDFA
After missing all of last year, he’s having a solid year for HV.
Ben Keizer, LHP UDFA
Retired after 2021 season.
Aaron Palensky, OF UDFA
He is having a breakout season and was promoted to Somerset. His OPS currently sits at 1.146 on the season. Expect him to be on lots of top 30 rankings soon enough.
The 2021 draft was expanded beyond 2000 levels but reduced by half of the pre-covid levels. Of the 20 selections the Yankees made, 65% were pitchers, 2 C, 2 SS, and one each of OF, 1B, and 2B.
1st round (20) Trey Sweeney, SS MLB Pipeline #5
Made it to AA, a recent hot streak has his career OPS approaching .800
2nd round (55) Brendan Beck, RHP MLB pipeline #23
Recently made his professional debut as he recovers from TJS. In HV rotation.
3rd round (92) Brock Selvidge, LHP MLB Pipeline #28
The 20 year old has already thrown a career high 61.2 innings in Tampa. His k/bb rate is an impressive 4.93.
4th round (122) Cooper Bowman, 2B
Was traded to Oakland in Montas trade. In AA.
5th round (153) Tyler Hardman, 1B MLB Pipeline #18
Led organization in RBIs last year. Currently has .807 OPS in AA.
6th round (183) Richard Fitts, RHP MLB Pipeline #8
Starting to dominate in AA with a k/bb rate of 5.33.
7th round (212) Robby Ahlstrom, LHP
Traded to Texas in Jose Trevino deal. In Hi-A.
8th round (243) Will Warren, RHP MLB Pipeline #7
Has risen all the way to AAA where he’s finally being challenged and struggling some.
9th round (273) Chandler Champlain, RHP
Traded to Royals in Andrew Benintendi trade. In Hi-A.
10th round (303) Benjamin Cowles, SS
Has a .756 OPS for HV.
11th round (333) Jack Neely, RHP
Having a solid year in HV bullpen.
12th round (363) Ben Rice, C
Has a 1.082 OPS in limited time for HV.
13th round (393) Zach Messinger, RHP MLB Pipeline #22
Having a solid season in the HV rotation.
14th round (423) Sean Hermann, RHP MLB Pipeline #21
Just turned 20 this week. He’s a starter for the Tarpons.
15th round (453) Danny Watson, RHP
He’s been having a dominant season out of the bullpen. Was promoted from HV to Somerset. Combined WHIP is 0.786 and k/bb rate is 3.83.
16th round (483) Cole Ayers, RHP
Pitching out of Tampa’s bullpen with an impressive 3.56 k/bb rate.
17th round (513) Grant Richardson, OF
Struggling in HV outfield with an OPS of .636.
18th round (543) Bailey Dees, RHP
Having a nice season out of HV bullpen with a WHIP under 1 and k/bb rate of 3.5.
19th round (573) Dominic Keegan, C Did Not Sign
Drafted by the Rays in the 4th round in 2022
20th round (603) Sean Hard. RHP Did Not Sign
Pitching for Boston College.
UDFA Kyle Battle, OF
Struggling mightily for HV to the tune of a .224 OPS.
UDFA Calvin Starnes, RHP
Was released without making a professional appearance.
Eight of these picks are top 30 prospects. Another three were used in trades to upgrade the big league roster. It is nice to have optimistic views on this class.
The 2022 draft had its now typical 20 rounds. The Yankees signed an additional nine players for a total of 29. These include 19 RHP, 2 LHP, 4 OF, 2 3B, 1 SS, and 1 2B. This time every single pick was a collegiate athlete.
1st round (25) Spencer Jones, OF MLB Pipeline #3
Solid year at HV with a .844 OPS. His k% is above 33% and is the reason why he hasn’t been promoted.
2nd round (61) Drew Thorpe, RHP MLB Pipeline #6
Becoming the ace of the HV rotation, he’s averaging almost 6 innings per start and a k/bb rate of 3.55
3rd round (100) Trystan Vrieling, RHP MLB Pipeline #15
Has yet to make his professional debut. Apparently has an elbow injury and team policy is the Yankees don’t typically discuss injuries to farmhands.
4th round (130) Anthony Hall, OF MLB Pipeline #19
Having a solid year for Tampa. A recent hot streak increases his OPS to .853
5th round (160) Eric Reyzelman, RHP
Has yet to play this year. Currently on the 60 day IL so apparently he has suffered some sort of injury.
6th round (190) Chase Hampton, RHP MLB Pipeline #24
Has dominated in HV and was recently promoted to Somerset. Combined he has a 5.31 k/bb rate and 14.4 k/9.
7th round (220) Cam Schlittler, RHP
Has only appeared in 3 FCL games so far.
8th round (250) Brett Barrera, SS
Struggling to a .317 OPS for Tampa.
9th round (280) Matt Keating, RHP
Throwing almost identical solid stats in Tampa as his year in college.
10th round (310) Will Brian, LHP
Has only appeared in 2 games for Tampa, but managed to walk 10 batters.
11th round (340) Ryan Harvey, RHP
Has pitched in 2 games and struck out 9 while walking only 1
12th round (370) Jackson Fristoe, RHP
Has only made one appearance for FCL.
13th round (400) Geoffrey Gilbert, LHP
Having a successful debut season in Tampa out of the bullpen.
14th round (430) Kris Bow, RHP
Up to 5 appearances for Tampa. Results aren’t there yet.
15th round (460) Tayler Aguilar, OF
Struggling in Tampa with a .590 OPS
16th round (490) Shane Gray, RHP
Pitching well out of the Tampa bullpen including a k/bb rate of 3.45.
17th round (520) Hayden Merda, RHP
Getting his feet wet in the Tampa rotation. Needs to work on his 5.0 walks per nine.
18th round (550) Sebastian Keane, RHP
Has only made 3 FCL appearances, but so far he’s been dominant.
19th round (580) Beau Brewer, 3B
Playing sporadically for Tampa with only an OPS of .517.
20th round (610) Trevor Kirk, 3B
Has yet to make his professional debut.
UDFA Alex Bustamante, RHP
Settled into a regular role in the Tampa bullpen.
UDFA Harrison Cohen, RHP
Has pitched well out of the HV bullpen including a k/bb rate of 3.67
UDFA Jackson Lyon, OF
On the IL and has not played at all this year.
UDFA Hueston Morrill, RHP
Hasn’t made his professional debut yet. On the 60 day IL. Have seen reports he may also be a SS.
UDFA Jake Palmer, 1B
Has appeared in one FCL game.
UDFA Kevin Stevens, RHP
On the 60 day IL
UDFA Adam Stone, RHP
Has made 5 appearances for Tampa.
UDFA Baron Stuart, RHP
Getting regular work in the Tampa rotation.
UDFA Mason Vinyard, RHP
Was excelling in Tampa’s bullpen and earned a promotion to Hudson Valley.
Currently five of last year’s draft picks are in the top 30. Selecting a lot of college players was a strategic decision on the Yankees’ part. Perhaps with less rounds they have determined it’s better to pick more advanced players. I am not sure if the injured players were strategic bargains or unfortunate luck.
So, as the 2023 draft is quickly approaching, what should we expect to see? Well, for starters, the Yankees are once again without a second or fifth round pick. This time it’s from the free agent signing of Carlos Rodon.
This leaves the Yankees with 18 selections: Numbers 26, 97, 129, and 192. Then every 30th pick is theirs (222,252,282, etc). When the draft is complete, they will likely sign another 7-10 as UDFA. They could also trade for compensation picks. Possibly using their depth of Rule 5 eligible talent to acquire multiple picks.
With the first selection, they will take the best available talent. Beyond that, recently they have favored college players that have played on the Cape as well as Southern California pitching, near where Damon Oppenheimer is from.
Of the roughly 25 players they sign, 15 or so will be RHP, 2-3 LHP, 2-3 OF, and 0-2 each of C, 1B, 2B, SS, and 3B for a total of about 5-6. They usually grab a couple whose star has fallen and have dropped in the draft, possibly because they require TJS.
After the draft , most of the position players will get 20-50 at bats in the FCL. The pitchers typically get 4-5 outings after signing, unless they have already exceeded any previous innings totals. In that case, they probably will be shut down for the duration of the season.
There is another theory that has been floated out there recently that the Yankees may try to blow up the draft and accept the penalties that follow. That would include taking high school talent early and often and sign them to deals that exceed their bonus pool amount and would result in losing their next two first round picks…. Picks that are already destined to drop 10 spots already because of their willingness to spend over the tax threshold.
Along with the draft and the influx of 20-30 new players, they usually also make room in their system by releasing 20+ players.
More to come in the final installment of this series...