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Yankees Draft Profile: Beck Way

It’s been a couple weeks since our last draft profile, so today we get back on track with Beck Way. The Yankees chose Way with the organization’s fourth round selection, which was also its last in the five round draft. A reminder, for the final time: the Yankees lost their fifth round pick as a result of signing Gerrit Cole. Ho hum.

Background

Way, a 6-foot-4 right handed pitcher, was a quick riser after going undrafted in 2018 as a high schooler. He hails from central Pennsylvania but enrolled at Belmont Abbey, a Division II college located in North Carolina. Way didn’t spend to much time there, however. After spending his freshman year in the bullpen, Way transferred to Northwest Florida State Junior College.

Before we get to his one year in JuCo, we should touch upon Way’s performance in the Cape Cod League last summer. The righty appeared in 11 games, all but one in relief though he never threw more than two innings. He had a hard time with control (11 walks and 2 wild pitches in 13 2/3 innings), but impressed with 18 strikeouts. Various publications, including Baseball America, noted that his performance at the Cape helped Way gain recognition as a potential second or third rounder.

This year, Way got a chance to start primarily in JuCo. In seven games (six starts), Way threw 40 innings and recorded a microscopic 0.67 ERA. His control was much better (9 walks) and his strikeout tally remained excellent (58). The performance was impressive enough that Way committed to LSU for his junior season. That is, before the Yankees drafted him.

What the scouts say

The consensus is that Way is a better prospect than the Yankees’ third round pick, Trevor Hauver. That said, draft rankings don’t necessarily coincide with how teams choose players because of limited bonus pools. In any case, Baseball America ranked Way the 84th best prospect in the draft, MLB Pipeline had him 99th, Fangraphs 78th, and The Athletic 83rd to name a few.

From the sound of it, Way is relatively deceptive on the mound. The Athletic’s Keith Law called his delivery “funky” while MLB Pipeline noted his three-quarters arm slot. Perhaps that’s why he struggled with his command in his freshman season and on the Cape, but he’s certainly projectable given his previously noted size.

Way sits in the low-to-mid 90s but can touch as high as 97, per BA. He complements his heater with a slider and changeup, with differing reports on which secondary pitch is better. According to BA, Way’s changeup is a plus pitch, whereas his slighty flashes solid-average but is inconsistent. Meanwhile, MLB Pipeline notes that his slider is the better pitch “when he stays on top of it”. The site also says he doesn’t use his changeup much, but there’s belief it can be an average pitch.

With his frame and three-pitch mix, there’s a chance that Way can be a starter long-term as long as his command remains in check. His JuCo performance as a starter certainly added some hope that he wouldn’t be relegated to relief down the road. Still, Fangraphs and BA both note that he’s probably better off as a reliever (though that’s always a fairly safe thing to say about any draftee pitcher). On the optimistic side, Law says that Way has “clear starter upside”. Further, Law believes that there’s room for velocity growth.

Speaking of velocity, the Yankees clearly like Way’s potential on that front. Here’s what Yankees’ scouting director Damon Opponheimer says:

“There’s more in the tank with this guy when we get him in our strength and conditioning program…There’s just there’s a lot of room for growth here.”

And some more input from the Oppenheimer’s standpoint:

“Way made huge strides in Cape Cod last summer where his fastball’s been up to 98. He’s got good command of it to both sides of the plate. He has a loose, easy simple delivery to repeat (his mechanics). He’s got a really dynamic changeup that he feels comfortable using it any in any count. His breaking ball is going to be firmed up with our pitch-design guys and it’s going to be an effective out pitch also.”

Will he sign?

Way is the toughest sign of the Bombers’ three draftees. First rounder Austin Wells already signed for $2.5 million, which was just barely over slot. That leaves the Yankees with roughly $1,026,000 to play with for Hauver and Way. Slot value for Way is $438,700, but it’ll probably take more to keep him away from his LSU commitment. When I profiled Hauver, I noted that he seemed like an underslot candidate given that he was a college junior. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

My take

The Yankees seem to make mountains out of molehills when it comes to college arms, so it’s hard not to give them the benefit of the doubt here. Way checks a lot of boxes: he’s tall, projectable, and already throws pretty hard. It certainly sounds like that’ll play in relief at the least, which would be a success for any fourth round pick. At best, it sounds like the Yankees might have a mid-to-back of the rotation starter on their hands. Of course, first the Yankees need to sign him away from his commitment.

Yankees Draft Profile: Trevor Hauver

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After taking a college hitter with the organization’s first round pick, the Yankees did the same with its next selection. With no second round pick (thanks, Gerrit Cole!), the Yankees waited a long time to choose again after Austin Wells. Finally, in the third round, the Yankees drafted Arizona State outfielder Trevor Hauver with the 99th overall pick. Hauver was actually announced a second baseman, but we’ll get more into that in a bit. Let’s dive in to Hauver, who thankfully isn’t Trevor Bauer.

Background

Hauver, a 21 year-old junior draftee, swings from the left side and throws from the right. This isn’t his first draft rodeo: the Royals took him in the 37th round back in 2017 following a strong high school career at Perry in Gilbert, Arizona. Perfect Game pegged Hauver as the state’s top shortstop, fourth-best prospect in Arizona, and 169th nationally. Rather than sign, Hauver chose to remain close to home and headed to Arizona State.

It took some time for Hauver to adjust to the collegiate ranks. As a freshman, he hit just .227/.344/.293 in 90 plate appearances. Perhaps some of his struggles can be linked to his positional switch, as he moved off of shortstop to play the outfield.

His freshman slump didn’t carry over to his sophomore season. Hauver spent most of the season in the leadoff spot and recorded an impressive .339/.433/.574 triple-slash along with 13 dingers in 289 plate appearances. Then, in his brief junior year, the left-handed hitter socked 5 homers in 83 trips to the dish while hitting .339/.494/.695.

Even though Hauver had a very good finish to his Arizona State career, he wasn’t close to being the Sun Devils’ best professional prospect. Spencer Torkelson (1st overall) and Alika Williams (37th) were off the board before Hauver’s name was called. Even Gage Workman, taken three picks after Hauver, probably is a better prospect depending on the publication of your choice. That said, for what it’s worth, Hauver was a better performer than Williams and Workman. Torkelson, of course, was on another level.

What the scouts say

From a big board perspective, Hauver could be considered a reach for pick number 99. Fangraphs, MLB Pipeline, and Baseball America ranked Hauver the 107th, 130th, and 201st best prospect in the 2020 draft. Those sites ranked the Yankees’ fourth rounder, Beck Way, higher than Hauver. Of course, the draft isn’t always about picking the best available given the bonus pool rules.

Hauver has some similarities to the Yankees’ first rounder, Wells. Now, the bat isn’t up to par with Wells, but Hauver is a bat-first prospect with defensive uncertainty. Moving off the infield as a freshman is already strike one. Strike two: Baseball America calls Hauver “an average defender or a tick below, with not enough range for center field or enough arm for right field”. If the infield is his end game, MLB Pipeline indicates that second base is the most likely landing spot. Hence the Yankees’ announcement of his position.

Fortunately, things look better for Hauver in the batters’ box. Scouts laud Hauver’s approach and barrel control. Both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline project him to have average game power or better, while Fangraphs adds that his swing has a lot of lift. That sort of offensive profile works well at second base, but would make him fringy in left field. Unsurprisingly, the Yankees want to give Hauver every opportunity to stick in the infield dirt. Damon Opponheimer elaborates:

“The idea is if he can play in the middle of the field and we can get that to be something that’s a doable thing, then you add his bat to the middle of the field,” Oppenheimer said. “It can make him even that more valuable. He’s got a desire to move back to the infield.”

On top of the keystone, the Yankees will give Hauver some reps at third base. Considering Baseball America’s note about his arm strength, it’s hard to envision him at the hot corner. Either way, second base seems to align best with Hauver’s defensive capabilities and offensive potential. The good news is that he still has plenty of time to fend off the third strike defensively.

Will he sign?

There’s little incentive for Hauver to return for a senior season, so I’d expect him to go pro. The 99th pick’s slot value is $587,400, but an underslot deal seems plausible considering his draft stock.

My take

There’s a Nick Solak and Josh Smith vibe to this Hauver pick. Both Solak (2016) and Smith (2019) are recent collegiate bat-first middle infielders that the Yankees took in an early round (both Solak and Smith were second rounders). Solak, now with the Rangers, has hit well in his brief big league career while Smith raked in his professional debut with Staten Island last summer.

The Yankees seemingly have done well with this type of selection in recent years. That said, it’s somewhat concerning that Hauver is a tweener. He played just one game in the infield at Arizona State over three years, so the Yankees have some work to do to get him comfortable on the dirt again. And really, he’ll have to stick at second base for his bat to be playable.

Yankees Draft Profile: Austin Wells

Before this year, the Yankees hadn’t taken a collegiate bat in the first round since 2015. Austin Wells, this year’s first rounder and 28th overall selection, broke the mold. The last college hitter was Kyle Holder, the 30th selection back in 2015. Of course, Holder was and still is a glove-first prospect. Wells is the polar opposite.

MLB’s draft is always volatile, but it’s especially so after the first handful of picks. So unsurprisingly, Wells comes with warts. The big one: his defense behind the plate. Sure, Wells can really hit and his offensive profile could work elsewhere. For now though, he’s a catcher and the Yankees should exhaust that possibility until it’s no longer feasible. With that, let’s dig deeper into the soon-to-be 21 year-old’s profile.

Background

Wells first caught the Yankees’ eye during his high school years at Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas. As you likely know by now, the Yankees selected him in the 35th round of the 2018 draft, but didn’t sign him. Don’t let his draft position deceive you: Wells was the 206th ranked draft prospect by Baseball America that year. Further, BA noted that “He would have been significantly higher up the board if healthy”, alluding to an elbow injury that precluded Wells from throwing much in front of scouts for almost a year.

Instead of going pro, the six-foot-one, 200 pound catcher followed his parents footsteps and went to Arizona University. As a freshman, the catcher started all 56 team games and hit .353/.462/.552, walked more than he struck out, and earned PAC-12 Freshman of the Year honors.

Wells didn’t miss a beat after his freshman season ended. He transitioned from metal to wood bats at the Cape Cod League and continued to turn heads. At the season’s conclusion, the catcher was awarded the league’s Outstanding Prospect award.

Even though COVID-19 wrecked 2020 baseball, Wells made the most of his limited sophomore season. In 13 games, Wells added more power and more walks, all the while striking out less often than taking a free pass. He posted an impressive .354/.516/.604 triple-slash in the curtailed season.

What the scouts say

Wells is unquestionably a bat-first prospect. Each and every publication basically says a variation of this: Wells can really hit, but where will he fit defensively?

Baseball America boasted Wells’s outstanding approach and plus raw power, but knocked his ability to receive. The Athletic’s Keith Law stated that he can hit well to all fields (even though he’s pull oriented), but also called him a below-average defender. Further, Law relayed that scouts don’t think he has any chance to remain behind the dish. MLB Pipeline praised his power to all fields, good timing, and simplicity at the plate but has concerns about his inconsistent throwing. As we learned in our draft preview, Wells has a history of arm trouble.

On the bright side, it sounds like Wells could play elsewhere in the field competently. We often see bat-first catchers switch to first base or designated hitter. However, Wells actually may not be limited to those spots thanks to his athleticism. Other possibilities include either of the outfield corners. Still, those positions are less forgiving offensively than catcher, so he’ll really need to live up to his offensive billing to make any of those positions work.

Of course, the Yankees should and will give him every opportunity to catch. In an interview with the YES Network’s Jack Curry, Yankees’ Director of Domestic Amateur Scouting Damon Oppenheimer had this to say about Wells’s future in the field:

“He can probably play another position besides catcher…but he’s really turning himself into a good catcher and we had our catching people look at him and really spend a lot of time on it. Player development looked at a lot of video and they just think they can clean it up and make him tremendous behind the plate.”

Look, nobody expected Opponheimer or the Yankees to concede that its prized draftee probably can’t catch. It’s still the right approach to work with him and give him every chance to catch, of course. Wells will be most valuable if he can stick behind the plate.

Will he sign?

The 28th pick’s slot value is $2,493,000, though all but $100,000 of whatever bonus Wells signs for will be deferred for a couple of years. The draft-eligible sophomore could gamble and return to Tuscon, but all indications are that he’s ready to sign. I don’t anticipate his bonus varying much from the allotment.

My take

The Yankees have made a habit of whiffing on first rounders, so I have to admit I’m typically skeptical of the player the team chooses first — especially when drafting a bat-first prospect whose defensive future is uncertain. I can’t say I was thrilled to find this out about him either, but hey, I guess he’ll fit in with his new organization.

On the bright side, the Wells selection isn’t necessarily a head-scratcher like we’ve come accustomed to. Unlike Anthony Seigler or Cito Culver, the fact that Wells wasn’t a surprise is a positive. Wells was mocked to the Yankees by various sites and was a strong collegiate performer.

Left-handed power and Yankee Stadium go hand in hand, so it’s easy to dream on Wells’s offensive future. If you’re optimistic, maybe there’s a glimmer of hope he sticks behind the plate too. Given everything we’ve read, I can’t help but be doubtful, but there is a reason for some hope in catching guru Tanner Swanson. Maybe Swanson’s wit will rub off on the entire organization and benefit Wells. Should that be the case, Wells could blossom into quite the prospect.

Draft Day 2: Two more picks for the Yankees

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Update, 8:10pm: The Yankees drafted Arizona second baseman Trevor Hauver. Not unlike Wells, he’s a left handed hitter with power but also an uncertain defensive future.

Update, 9:50pm: Beck Way rounds things out for the Yanks at 129. He’s a six-foot-four junior college righty who’ll need to be signed away from LSU.


One pick down, two to go. Tonight, the Yankees will add two more names to the organization when the draft resumes at 5pm eastern. MLB Network and ESPN2 will have live coverage.

The Bombers have the 99th and 129th picks in the third and fourth rounds, respectively. I’ll update this post with more information once those picks are announced. Who will they be? Couldn’t tell ya. Especially now that a number of players I had brief write-ups on in our draft preview are off the board:

  • Carson Tucker: Cleveland, 23rd
  • Jared Shuster: Atlanta, 25th
  • Bobby Miller: Los Angeles Dodgers, 29th
  • Nick Loftin: Kansas City, 32nd
  • Slade Cecconi: Arizona, 33rd
  • Tanner Burns: Cleveland, 36th

J.T. Ginn is the only player remaining from my prospect capsules that hasn’t been drafted, but there’s just about no chance he makes it to the Yankees. In the off chance he does, I’m not so sure the Yankees would be able to fit him and Wells in their draft pool, though I’m certainly no expert.

More to come.

Yankees draft catcher Austin Wells with first round pick

After failing to sign Austin Wells out of high school in 2018, the Yankees selected the draft-eligible sophomore with tonight’s first round pick. He’s a lefty-swinging catcher with plenty of power, though there are concerns about his glovework. Here’s what I wrote for Wells’ prospect capsule in our draft preview yesterday:

Austin Wells, C, Arizona – Video

The Yankees drafted Wells just two years ago out of high school, so there’s clearly some affinity here. He’s a lefty-swinging catcher with lots of power, though there is some uncertainty about his ability to remain behind the plate long-term. Nonetheless, it seems like his power will be able to play at another position should he prove unable to last as a catcher.

There’s quite a bit of skepticism about Wells’ receiving, though one can’t help but wonder if that’s something Tanner Swanson and the organization can fix. On the other hand, arm strength seems to be a problem. Baseball America notes that he has a record of elbow issues dating back to high school while Eric Longenhagen’s brief report states that Wells had shoulder surgery in the past.

There were two players mocked to the Yankees at various points who didn’t last until the 28th pick. Cleveland drafted Carson Tucker with the 23rd pick, Atlanta took Jared Shuster at 25.

I’ll have a profile on Wells in the coming days.

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