The Runner Sports

New York Yankees Load Up On Pitching During The MLB Draft

The MLB Draft is the most unique draft out of the major sports in the United States. Unlike the NFL, NBA, and NHL, the players taken in these drafts will not be featured heavily next season. Except in rare cases, the teams who drafted these players will not see their impact on the MLB team for another three to five seasons. That is why it is difficult to project the careers for these young prospects when they are taken in the MLB Draft. Sometimes, the players taken decide to go to college or continue their collegiate careers rather than sign with the team that signed them. Meanwhile, the ones who decide to start the journey to the big leagues have to slowly progress through five levels of minor league baseball. However, it is an exciting time for die-hard fans.

For the New York Yankees, this draft was an unusual one. Over the past couple of seasons, general manager Brian Cashman has placed a focus on rebuilding the Yankees’ farm system. Heading into this MLB Draft, it was hard to pinpoint an organizational weakness or lack of depth. The Yankees’ minor league organization is the second best in baseball, only trailing the Atlanta Braves according to Jonathon Mayo at MLB.com. That being said, the two areas of interest was pitching and catching.

Pitching is normally an obvious one. An organization cannot have enough pitchers under their control. However, the position of catcher is an interesting one. Despite Gary Sanchez being the catcher for the foreseeable future, the rest of the organizational looks thin. Kyle Higashioka is the Triple-A starting catcher, but his hitless MLB stint during Sanchez’ injury gives little hope to his MLB potential. After Higashioka, there are no catchers in the system who rank on any list on MLB Pipeline. With Sanchez being the starter until he proves he cannot do it, any Yankee catching prospect would be the backup at the MLB level (or a trade chip).

MLB Draft: Overview

The Yankees went pitching heavy in this draft. Actually, that is a massive understatement. Apparently, the Yankees needed to heavily replenish their minor leagues with pitching based on this draft. Out of their 40 picks, the Yankees selected 27 pitchers. Not only did they select 27 pitchers, the organization only selected one position player in the first ten rounds. Obviously, the Yankees felt that they needed to bolster their low-level minor league teams with pitching. The first three picks for the Yankees were all right-handed pitchers. Two of those three were drafted from the SEC.

Not only were the Yankees pitcher heavy in the MLB Draft, they were college heavy as well. Out of their 40 picks, 29 of those players are coming from college or junior college (JUCO). Most of the high school players that the Yankees drafted were after the 30th round. The likely scenario is that those players will choose to head to the colleges that they committed to since they were drafted so low.

Rounds 1-10

Clarke Schmidt, South Carolina- Round 1 Pick 16

In a touching moment, this selection for the Yankees was announced by young fan Landis Sims, who was born without his hands or feet. The 11-year-old received a standing ovation from the team representatives in the MLB Network Studio.

Clarke Schmidt was a junior out of the University of South Carolina. Ranked as the 49th best prospect (according to MLB.com), the Yankees selected a pitcher who has great upside. However, that upside comes with a concern. This past April, Schmidt underwent Tommy John surgery after having his best collegiate season. In 9 starts, Schmidt posted a 1.19 ERA with 70 strikeouts in 60.1 innings pitched.

Having such great success pitching in one of the toughest conferences in college is a good sign for things to come. However, Schmidt relies on a fastball/sinker combination. His slider and curveball are considered plus pitches, but they lack consistency. Despite velocity that sits in the mid-90s, the recent surgery might have a negative impact on that. The Yankees already have one top prospect who is struggling with staying healthy (James Kaprielian), drafting one who recently had to get Tommy John might not be the best idea.

Matt Sauer, Ernest Righetti HS- Round 2, Pick 54

While the Yankees might have reached for their first selection, their second round selection in the MLB Draft might have been a steal. Matt Sauer was ranked the 28th best prospect by MLB.com. The right-hander is a tall player who has great potential. Scouts flocked to see this young man throw, who touched 97 mph this spring with his fastball. Even more impressive is Sauer’s slider, which has been scouted as a pitch with good bite, power, and deception. Also, that pitch of his can touch 87 mph.

Sauer lacks a quality third pitch, which is expected out of a high school prospect. His changeup is decent, but not at a MiLB level quite yet. That can always change with the right development. However, his largest downside is the fact that he does not project as a starter. His arm action is too low to be projected as a starter at the MLB level. Still, a strong bullpen selection out of the second round can be beneficial to the Yankees down the road.

Trevor Stephan, Arkansas- Round 3, Pick 92

Another selection out of the SEC, Trevor Stephan was the 87th best prospect in the MLB Draft. Out of the University of Arkansas, Stephan was impressive in the collegiate game. In 2017, Stephan posted a 2.87 ERA in 16 starts. He struck out 120 batters in 91 innings and held them to a .215 batting average.

Like Sauer, Stephan is not projected to be a starter at the MLB level. Sitting in the mid-90s with his fastball, the lack of plus secondary pitches point to why Stephan might be bullpen bound. His slider/cutter combination is considered average by most scouts. His arm action also does not seem MLB starter quality. Stephan could be the draft pick that surprises scouts though. He put up solid numbers against some of the best hitting conferences in college baseball. With no injury history to speak of, Stephan can be a player to look out for in the future for the Bronx Bombers.

Rounds 11-25

Pat DeMarco, Winder-Barrow HS- Round 24, Pick 722

Committed to Vanderbilt University, the odds are that Pat DeMarco will not skip out on college ball. Despite this fact, the Yankees might have selected a future first-round pick in the MLB Draft. The outfielder has impressed scouts with the maturity of his plate presence. He drives balls from gap to gap with line drives. Though he played center field in high school, odds are that he will be moved to a corner outfield spot at Vanderbilt (or the minors).

One area that DeMarco might not develop too much is power. Already an older high schooler (19), he is well built. His bat speed will give him some pop, but it will not be overwhelming. If DeMarco develops the way scouts expect, he will be a highly touted prospect in the 2019 MLB Draft.

Riley Thompson, Louisville- Round 25, Pick 752

Another right-handed pitcher selected for the Yankees, Riley Thompson is ranked 164 by MLB.com. Selecting him with the 752nd pick seems like a great steal. Before the 2015 MLB Draft, Thompson was considered a top high school pitching prospect before he blew out his elbow. Since his injury, he has been redshirted and seen little playing time at Louisville.

Thompson’s fastball can touch 98 mph, but his consistent speed has been between 90 and 94. His curveball is a plus secondary pitch and his changeup is showing promise. The most glaring weakness in Thompson’s game is his lack of control, which he lost after his elbow injury. If he can regain his control, Thompson will be a top prospect in the organization.

Rounds 26-40

Rather than break down individual players from these rounds, I will touch on three players the Yankees’ drafting who will definitely not be coming to the minors. Tristan Beck from Stanford, Jake Mangum from Mississippi State, and Tanner Burns from Decatur HS are all prospects who were ranked in the top 200 by MLB.com. Beck suffered a back injury that held him out most of the spring season. Meanwhile, Mangum and Burns are selections that will be footnotes in their future careers. Both players have more college experience to gain, which will help them rise up the MLB Draft in the coming years.

Griffin Fuller
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Griffin Fuller

Former Division 1 pitcher at Stetson University with an immense passion for the game of baseball. Grew up playing baseball from the age of 3. Student of the game of baseball in every aspect.Located out of Debary, Florida.
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Griffin Fuller
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