This year’s draft is over and done with. You can see who the Yankees selected here. Of note: first round pick Spencer Jones, an outfielder who stands at a towering six-foot-seven with big power projection. Sound familiar? Fair or not, he’s already had a left-handed Aaron Judge comp thrown around. That sure would be a fun outcome, wouldn’t it?
Like I did last year, it’s time for a retrospective of the Yankees’ draft from five years ago. Here’s the 2016 piece I penned. Let’s dive right into the facts of the club’s 2017 selections:
Made the majors: 7
Still in the organization: 8
WAR for Yankees: 0.7
Total WAR: 4.7
*Baseball Reference WAR.
Those are by far better results in terms of WAR than the ’16 draft, though the bar was very low to clear. The likes of Nick Nelson and Brooks Kriske really put a drag on the ’16 class. Granted, the Yankees made some trades out of that crop that significantly benefited the major league roster (the David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, and Todd Frazier trade).
Like the draft haul from a year prior, the Yankees didn’t hesitate to trade away some pieces from the ’17 class. In turn, they acquired the following players:
Jameson Taillon: +3.1 WAR
Joey Gallo: +0.5 WAR
Joely Rodríguez: +0.3 WAR, who turned into Miguel Castro (-0.3 WAR)
Andrew Heaney: 0.0 WAR
Now, there were non-’17 draft class players included in the trades for Taillon, Gallo, and Rodríguez, so their contributions to the major league team don’t totally stem from the prospects drafted and traded. Still, it’s worth mentioning how the Yankees improved the team via the draft, even if indirectly.
Now, let’s get into the players selected in greater detail:
With this year’s amateur draft behind us, let’s turn back the clock to 2016 and assess how the Yankees fared with its draft class five years ago. This is something we plan to make an annual feature here at Views. It’s hard to pin down an exact timeframe for closing the book on any given year’s draft, but five years out seems like a good starting point. So with that, let’s dig in.
In hindsight, and in only looking at drafted player outcomes, this was a pretty bad crop for the Yankees.
Made the majors: 5
Still in the minors with Yankees: 8
WAR for Yankees: -1.5
Total WAR: -0.9
*Baseball Reference WAR.
That’s not pretty at first glance. However, it’s worth noting that the Yankees weren’t afraid to use the players in this class in trades. The team dealt their 1st (Blake Rutherford), 2nd (Nick Solak), 5th (Dom Thompson-Williams), 12th (Taylor Widener), and 27th (Phillip Diehl) round picks in later seasons and acquired:
David Robertson: +2.5 WAR
Tommy Kahnle: +0.8 WAR
Todd Frazier: +1.0 WAR
Brandon Drury: -0.3 WAR, who turned into JA Happ: +4.6 WAR
James Paxton: +2.2 WAR
Mike Tauchman: +3.8 WAR
That’s +14.6 WAR acquired from this draft alone. Meanwhile, the guys sent away have been worth +0.6 WAR. That’s a win for the Yankees.
Obviously, things could change over time and look different. Solak and Widener are just starting their big league careers. Maybe Rutherford or Thompson-Williams will break through at some point, though things aren’t looking great for them. Diehl is not on a 40-man roster anymore. Are those five going to surpass the production the Yankees received via trade from 2017 – 2020? If they do, it won’t be for a while. And it won’t be easy.
So yeah, the Yankees may not have found success with the specific players drafted. But they deserve some praise for not prospect hugging, too. The Yankees entered a contention window the year after this draft and started to trade from it in order to help the big league club. It’s important to keep that in mind whenever evaluating a club’s draft: it’s not just for replenishing the farm system. It can also pay dividends at the major league level sooner than you think.
With those initial thoughts out of the way, let’s dive deeper into the Yankees’ 2016 selections. I’ll break down the club’s first round choice, Rutherford, opine on who I think was the best pick, and then break down the rest of the club’s selections. Let’s get to it.
After selected Trey Sweeney in the 1st round on Sunday, the Yankees made 9 more picks on Monday to add to their draft haul. Of their 10 picks thus far, 6 are pitchers and 4 are position players, all 4 of which are infielders. Notably, 9 of the 10 players selected thus far are from colleges with only 1 high schooler taken. Here’s a recap of the 9 picks from Day 2 and a look ahead to today’s Day 3.
Day 2 Recap
Round 2: Brendan Beck, RHP Stanford
Beck is the younger brother of Tristan Beck, who is now in the Giants system. Beck is a typical Yankees draftee – he has great command which makes his stuff play up. Look for them to get him on their fastball velocity development program as he now only hits 93. He’s definitely got some red ass in him as seen by this:
I would expect him to be a fast riser through the system and wouldn’t be surprised if he’s hitting 95-96 mph by this time next year.
Round 3: Brock Selvidge, LHP Hamilton High School
The lone high schooler taken thus far by the Yankees, Selvidge is a hard throwing lefty who’s already hit 96 mph with his heater. 6’3″ and 205 lbs, look for him to add a little muscle to his frame in the next couple years. He has a slider, curve, and changeup that will all need to be developed if he is to remain a starter. Here’s some video:
Round 4: Cooper Bowman, 2B University of Louisville
Teammate of 1st overall pick Henry Davis, Bowman is a quick 6′ 205 lb second baseman who has decent bat speed and raw power. There is 15-20 homer potential for him.
Round 5: Tyler Hardman, 1B Oklahoma
Hardman is a true power hitting first baseman who led the Big 12 with a .397 average this past season. He followed up a strong showing in the Cape Cod League by losing 20 lbs during the pandemic to get in better shape which has clearly paid off. One Yankees scouting director compared his power to Luke Voit’s.
Round 6: Richard Fitts, RHP Auburn
Once considered a top talent in this draft, Fitts suffered a foot injury that set him back. He has a decent fastball at 93-95 mph with good vertical life and a solid changeup and slider which lead scouts to think he could profile as a starter. Like Beck, he is known for his strong competitiveness.
Round 7: Robert Ahlstrom, LHP University of Oregon
Ahlstrom went 9-3 with a 2.50 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning in the Pac-12 this season. He transferred to Oregon after two years at a community college and found his way to professional baseball. He is a four pitch guy with a fastball, slider, curve, and changeup.
Round 8: Will Warren, RHP Southeastern Louisiana University
Warren is known for his spin rates (which the Yankees love) on his curve and fastball. He has also spoken about how he read “The Mental Game of Baseball” which helped him progress through mental blocks as a starter. The therapist in me loves that.
Round 9: Chandler Champlain, RHP University of Southern California
This pick is a bet on returning upside for Champlain who has a great frame at 6’5″ and 220 lbs. He and I both share the same dream of visiting every Major League stadium. Hopefully he achieves his dream while starring for the Yankees.
Round 10: Benjamin Cowles, SS University of Maryland
Cowles led the Big 10 with 18 home runs this season including a home run in each of the first 12 weekend series.
Day 3 Preview
By drafting two college seniors, the Yankees may have a little bonus pool money left over to try and go for 1-2 high upside players on Day 3 that they sign to overslot bonuses. There are still 19 top 100 draft prospects who have not been selected – and while most of them have likely said they aren’t going to sign – there may be a few the Yankees take a flyer on.
With the draft limited to 20 rounds instead of its previous 40, teams are less likely to take players they have no chance of signing. So although Will Taylor remains undrafted, that is clearly because he has told teams that he is going to follow through on his commitment to Clemson.
By being so college heavy thus far, I would expect the Yankees to pick a few more high school players today because they tend to have higher upside and if 1 hits, that’s a huge win.
With their first round pick in last night’s MLB draft, the Yankees selected shortstop Trey Sweeney with the 20th overall pick. You can read our initial post on him here, and continue below for a more in-depth profile on the newest Yankee prospect.
Sweeney is a 21 year old shortstop prospect who just finished his redshirt sophomore season with Eastern Illinois University. He was undrafted out of high school and EIU was the only college that he received a scholarship offer for, where he absolutely dominated play this past season earning first team All-American honors from Baseball America, Perfect Game, ABCA and at the NCAA Division I level.
Vice President of Domestic Amateur Scouting Damon Oppenheimer had this to say about Sweeney:
We are really excited to have selected Trey Sweeney. He has excellent raw power and contact ability, and he can hit to all fields with strong plate discipline.
At shortstop, he has a good clock, doesn’t play rushed and has good field awareness. His timing for both getting to ground balls and getting the ball across the infield is excellent. We also really like Trey’s makeup as he’s smart with good instincts. With his overall tool set, we believe he has the potential to be an impact player.
And to his credit, Sweeney said all the right things on draft night where he attended in-person:
After leading his Louisville, KY high school to a state championship, Sweeney dominated at the college level, albeit against weak competition. As a freshman in 2019, he slashed .271/.342/.354 with 2 home runs, and 18 walks to 24 strikeouts – which is a great ratio for anyone, let alone a freshman.
That theme of great BB:K ratio continued throughout Sweeney’s career. After his freshman year, he played in the Wood Bat Prospect league and hit an eye-popping .354/.453/.524 with 7 home runs and more walks than strikeouts (36 BB & 25 K).
In 14 games last year before the pandemic, Sweeney was off to an incredible start hitting .351/.439/.456 with 8 BB and just 9 K. He followed that up with a strong showing in the wood bat Coastal Plain League where he was 2nd in the league slashing .397/.481/.676 with 4 homers, 11 walks, and 13 strikeouts in 17 games.
This year, Sweeney absolutely smashed to the tune of .382/.522/.712, bashing 14 home runs with an incredible 46:24 BB:K ratio. That’s nearly twice as many walks as strikeouts! That line and increased power earned him the All-American accolades as well as being named the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the year. He moved up draft boards after a series against Kansas State (the best college competition he faced) where he went 5-15 with 1 HR and 6 RBI. He also hit 3-4 with 2 RBI against Jordan Wicks who was selected one spot after him in the draft:
Here is a scouting video of Sweeney:
There is a discrepancy between how scouts and analytics folks view Sweeney as you’ll see in a moment – namely scouts are low on him whereas analytics people love him.
MLB Pipeline ranked him 55th overall in this class, giving him a 60 hit grade and a 50 overall grade. They rave about his hand-eye coordination and arm strength. Here is a snipped of their scouting report:
Sweeney has a big leg kick and a hitch and a lot going on in his left-handed stroke, but he has outstanding hand-eye coordination and makes the timing work at the plate. He has good feel for the barrel, controls the strike zone and makes hard contact to all fields against lefties and righties, good velocity and tough offspeed pitches. His hitting ability, arm strength and bat speed should produce at least average power, perhaps more if he adds more loft to his swing.
Sweeney’s below-average speed limits his effectiveness at shortstop and will necessitate a position change at the next level. He has reliable hands and solid strength but doesn’t cover enough ground at short. He profiles well at third base, should be able to handle any corner infield or outfield position and may be playable at second base.
Baseball America also ranked Sweeney 55th in this year’s class, though they are more optimistic about the longterm defensive projection for Sweeney and believe he could stick at short longterm. They mention he “has a big leg kick and a big bat tip in a noisy swing” and they wonder “what he might do against tougher competition.”
FanGraphs ranked him 60th overall highlighting his pro frame, plate discipline, and power.
Keith Law of The Athletic was the lowest on Sweeney, ranking him 89th overall and highlighting the contention between scouts and stats folks in their view of Sweeney.
There is a difference between looking at Sweeney in a vacuum and in context because before last night, he was viewed in reference to who else the Yankees could draft whereas now that is no longer relevant, though it is difficult to disentangle the two.
Drafting a guy who is ranked no higher than 55th in the first round seems like a reach upon initial glance, though that is par for the course with the Yankees. Anthony Volpe, T.J. Sikkema, Anthony Siegler are all first rounders in recent years who were ranked lower by scouts than where the Yankees took them, which says the Yankees have their own secret sauce and most likely favor their own analytic models.
That is clearly the case with Sweeney who reportedly has high exit velo numbers and performed well in wood bat leagues. Those are two things the Yankees are known to value along with strong makeup which by all accounts Sweeney has.
The bat is Sweeney’s calling card, and it better play for him to reach the big leagues. By all accounts, Sweeney excels at both the physical and mental aspects of hitting. In the MLB report they say he has “good feel for the barrel, controls the strike zone, and makes hard contact to all fields against lefties and righties, good velocity, and tough offspeed pitches.”
All of that is music to my ears because what more can a guy do beyond hit the ball hard all over against everyone? The concern with Sweeney is two-fold: 1. what is up with those mechanics and 2. can he hit against tough competition?
All scouts see a huge load and loopy swing that makes Sweeney susceptible to high velocity and tougher pitching, which connects to the second concern. Check this out:
That is…concerning. In a league where everyone seems to throw 100 mph nowadays, how Sweeney handles high velocity is a thing to watch. It is worth noting that Sweeney did excel in the Coastal Plain League where he likely saw faster pitching. Ryan Cusick, he of the 100 mph fastball, did play in that league for example.
So, although there are concerns about how Sweeney’s performance from the OVC will translate in pro ball, Sweeney did dominate against whatever tough competition he faced in the Wood Bat league, Coastal Plain League, and against Kansas State this past season. The power increase this season (going from 2 hr to 14) is also intriguing and likely what led the Yankees to Sweeney.
There are conflicting reports on Sweeney’s defense with MLB Pipeline, FanGraphs, and Keith Law all saying he is ticketed for the hot corner whereas Baseball America and Damon Oppenheimer believe he can stick at short. You don’t need me to tell you that a shortstop is more valuable than a third baseman, and if you’re going to spend a first round pick on a guy with some offensive concerns, you better believe Sweeney can stick at short longterm.
Sweeney is far from the first middle infielder or even college middle infielder the Yankees have picked lately. Josh Smith, Trevor Hauver, and Anthony Volpe all fit the mold of middle infield prospects drafted recently who have so far worked out well.
Volpe has rocketed up the Top 100 prospect lists hitting .309/.452/.635, which is better than anyone expected from him this season, and Smith has a fantastic .341/.461/1.135 line. You may know Hauver as the “Hauver Heat Check” in DoTF thanks to his .299/.460/.962 line.
All of that is to say, despite the Yankees miserable track record with first rounders, their recent infielder picks have appeared solid.
For now, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt that they can help Sweeney clean up his swing and stick at short, and I look forward to him mashing in rookie ball shortly.
Welp. Leave it to the Yankees to select a player we hadn’t profiled or really heard anything about until today. Such goes the whims of the draft.
With the 20th overall pick, the Yankees selected shortstop Trey Sweeney out of Eastern Illinois University – a school most famous for being Tony Romo’s alma mater.
Sweeney had quite the season for EIU this year slashing .382/.522/.712 in 48 games and was named the OVC Player of the year. Sweeney put himself on the map in 2019 with his showing in the Wood Bat Prospect league where he hit .354/.453/.524 with 7 home runs and 36 walks compared with just 25 K’s.
He followed up that impressive wood bat showing last summer in the Coastal Plain League where he hit .397, which was 2nd in the league overall. The Yankees are known to love guys who hit well in wood bat leagues, so that tracks.
Here is video of Sweeney against Jordan Wicks, who was selected one spot after him:
We’ll have a more thorough write-up on Sweeney tomorrow, but here’s the Spark Notes:
The bat is his calling card. As you saw in those numbers above, Sweeney will make his living at the plate. MLB Pipeline notes he has outstanding hand-eye coordination, good feel for the barrel, and he controls the strike zone. Then there’s this from Kevin Goldstein of Fangraphs:
Others such as Keith Law of The Athletic are lower on Sweeney highlighting that he has concerning swing mechanics and will likely have to move to 3B fairly quickly.
He has great size. He’s listed at 6’4″ 210 lbs. which combined with his ability to get the barrel to the ball likely intrigued the Yankees and they believe he can tap into his power as a professional.
In the draft primer this morning, I said the Yankees haven’t taken a college hitter in the first round since Aaron Judge, and if Sweeney works out 1/10th as well as that pick, it’ll be a home run. Stay tuned for our profile of him and more draft coverage tomorrow!