Looking back at the Yankees’ 2017 Draft

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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:

  • Signed: 23/40
  • 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:

Re-June-venated: Gallo showing signs of life

2022 was set to be a big year for a big guy in the Bronx. Outfielder Joey Gallo, after a relatively disappointing Yankee debut last year, would be more comfortable and looking for a bounceback heading into his free agency. However, the season got off to a terrible start, with plenty of boos to go along with the bad performance. Luckily, Gallo has turned it on a bit more in June as the Yankees have steamrolled the competition so far this month.

In June, Gallo is hitting to a .360 wOBA, good for a 139 wRC+. This surge has brought his season wRC+ up to a respectable 94. In April (76 wRC+) and May (87 wRC+), this level of production seemed near impossible, but here it is, along with some tangible reasons for it.

One tangible reason is a lack of ground balls. After running up grounder tallies in the mid-30’s for each of the season’s first two months, Joey has dropped down to under 17% grounders in June. Considering the shifts Gallo sees, this is huge. It’s happened across the board, too:

June has seen Gallo drop his ground ball rates dramatically on breaking and offspeed pitches, as well as fall to literally zero against fastballs. Not surprisingly, this has come with a corresponding jump in launch angle, especially against said fastballs:

A rise in power has corresponded, naturally, with these competing batted ball results as his ISO has climbed every month: .115 to .161 to .326.

Speaking of pitch types, aside from crushing fastballs in June (.368 ISO), he’s made a big improvement against breaking balls. With four hits against them–including a double and a homer–he’s got more against breaking balls in June than he did in April (1) and May (0) combined. So what can he do to keep this up?

Aside from not driving the ball into the ground, one thing Gallo may want to do is swing less. His swing numbers have jumped way up this year, encapsulated by his overall percentage, which has jumped from 40.4 to 50.7. This includes jumps at or around ten points in, zone swing rate and chase rate as well as a near 20% jump (!) in first pitch swings. This is most definitely costing him runs.

Gallo’s takes are plus 10, which is good. But he’s given all that value back with -17 swing runs, especially around the shadow of the plate, ones he probably should be taking. Maybe if he gets back to swinging at those ones less, his production will ramp back up over the closing months of the season.

Joey Gallo seems like a good dude who’s easy to root for. He put himself in fan’s negative sights early on, but he’s starting to come out of it. As he does, I hope those who booed begin to cheer just as vociferously.

Jose Trevino’s Transformation

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Entering this season, the Yankees essentially planned to punt offense at the catcher position. Kyle Higashioka (lifetime 63 wRC+ through 2021) and Ben Rortvedt (40 wRC+ in 98 MLB plate appearances) were set to share time behind the plate as defense-first backstops while the team showed Gary Sánchez the door. Then, a Rortvedt injury led to the Yankees making what seemed like an innocuous trade: the acquisition of Jose Trevino.

Trevino was cut from the same cloth as Higgy and Rortvedt: a plus defender without much to offer as a hitter. He posted a measly 66 wRC+ in 519 plate appearances for the Rangers pre-trade. Now that he’s donned pinstripes, he’s suddenly hitting like an All-Star: .300/.346/.490 (141 wRC+) in 107 trips to the plate. Where did this come from?

The easy answer, as always, is small sample size noise. It’s just 107 plate appearances, after all. And if you really slice and dice it, the period in which he’s been a great hitter is even shorter:

  • Through May 15: 51 PA, .170/.235/.191, .195 BABIP (27 WRC+)
  • After May 15: 56 PA, .415/.446/.755, .425 BABIP (245 wRC+)

Trevino inevitably will cool off. That’s baseball. But at the same time, there is some evidence that Trevino is an improved (or at the minimum, a different) hitter.

Sliding Fast: A Look into Gleyber’s Power Surge

Last night, Gleyber Torres hit his 12th home run of the year. This number is not remarkable in and of itself, but when we consider that Torres hit just nine home runs in 2021, it’s a damn good sign.

Earlier this past week, Shanti Sepu-Chepuru at MLB.com took a look at Gleyber’s resurgence both in power and overall at the plate. She highlighted his more aggressive approach, his hitting to all fields, and his hard hitting. After, I took a look and found some other details that have helped Gleyber get his power groove back in 2022. His power has increased big time against both fastballs and sliders.

The State of the Blog

As you may have noticed, the frequency of posts here at Views has declined significantly over the last month or so. On Opening Day, we outlined our plans for 2022 season coverage, which noted reduced content this season for various reasons. Unfortunately, even that plan was too ambitious.

This isn’t the end of Views, at least, not yet. We’re going to keep the site running until at least next February — we’ve prepaid the server costs through then already — but we don’t want to make any promises regarding the extent of our coverage or what happens beyond February 2023. Whether it’s one post or multiple articles a week remains to be seen. At the very least, our Twitter account will remain pretty active.

My personal goal is to write one post per week, similar to what Matt does. I know I was writing a bit more often than that even after my daughter was born, but I think I was running on adrenaline. Doing DoTF, the chat, and one other post a week simply wasn’t sustainable for me.

So, that’s where things stand. We’ll do our best to keep things going, but again, our time is very limited. As always, we appreciate all the support you’ve given us over the years, and we hope you stick with us through quieter times.

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