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Draft Profile: Nick Paciorek


With the team’s seventh round selection, the Yankees chose yet another college pitcher: Nick Paciorek. He was the team’s fourth college arm draftee in a row and the fifth one overall.

Background

Paciorek, a 21 year-old right-hander, is from Sherman Oaks, California. He went to Oaks Christian High School where he was recruited not as a pitcher, but as a catcher. Following his high school career, he set off for Northwestern.

In his freshman year, Paciorek struggled at the plate. He hit .160/.261/.247 in 95 plate appearances, which was essentially the end of his career as a backstop. He did take five more at bats in his sophomore season, but by then, his conversion to the mound was in process.

Paciorek only got into three games as a pitcher during his sophomore season, all in relief. It wasn’t pretty: he allowed 13 runs.

This year, the 6-foot-2 righty started to figure things out. He threw 26.2 innings in 20 outings and posted a respectable 3.37 ERA. He did walk 18 batters, so control was a problem, but he impressively fanned 44.

What do the scouts say?

As you might imagine, Paciorek is a very raw prospect despite being drafted as a college junior. With just under 30 innings of relief work as an amateur, there’s still plenty of development ahead. In spite of his lack of experience, Paciorek cracked MLB Pipeline’s top 200 draft prospects. Though they noted he’s still a work in progress, it sounds like he has the makings of an impactful reliever:

Paciorek could have two plus offerings once he’s fully developed. His best is an 82-85 mph slider that’s a legitimate strikeout pitch. He usually works at 90-94 mph and can hit 96 with his fastball, with more velocity to come as he gets more experience.

Baseball America says virtually the same about Paciorek, though the publication’s scouting report believes that his slider could be “double-plus”, or 70 on the 20-80 scale. Additionally, BA noted that his stuff only holds up for an inning or two, making it unlikely that he’ll ever be anything more than a reliever.

Signing bonus and what’s next

The Yankees gave Paciorek a $162,500 bonus, which is below the pick value of $190,100.

Paciorek was assigned to rookie ball with one of the Yankees’ Gulf Coast League affiliates. Although most college arms are able to handle a higher level out of the gate, namely short-season A-ball in the New York Penn League, this makes sense. Paciorek hardly has any experience as the mound which affords the Yankees some patience. So far, in 8 innings, his performances have been up and down.

My take

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s hard to have a take on anyone drafted in the later rounds. That being said, Paciorek sounds interesting enough as a raw arm with setup man upside. Control may wind up being his downfall, but he certainly looks worth the gamble in the seventh round. Moreover, the Yankees have had plenty of success grooming college pitchers, so it’s not hard to envision Paciorek finding prosperity in the farm system.

Draft Profile: Hayden Wesneski

The Yankees sure love their college pitchers, huh? Hayden Wesneski, the subject of today’s profile, was the Yankees sixth rounder last month and the fourth college arm the organization had drafted to that stage.

Background

Wesneski, 22 in December, was born and raised in Houston, Texas. Before heading off to Sam Houston State, not far from where he grew up, the Rays drafted him out of high school in the 33rd round.

The 6’3″, 215 pound right-hander pitched three seasons for SHSU in the Southland Conference. He improved each season in college even after winning the conference’s freshman of the year. That season, Wesneski had a 3.93 ERA in 19 appearances (13 starts) and beat a few name-brand colleges. Louisiana, Houston, and Arizona were all in the top-25 when Wesneski bested them.

In Wesneski’s sophomore campaign, he improved his ERA to 3.50 in 17 games (16 starts). He upped his strikeout numbers to 6.2 per nine innings, which although not impressive, a step up from 5.0 per nine the year prior. The thing that kept him successful was his control; he recorded fewer than 2.76 walks per nine for a second year in a row.

Wesneski’s third and final season, as you may have guessed, was his best for SHSU. He started 15 games, threw 105.2 innings, fanned 110, walked 21, and surrendered just 5 homers. All of those marks were easily his collegiate career’s best. In particular, his strikeout and walk rates took huge steps forward.

Quick fun fact from a Reddit AMA he conducted: he liked Andy Pettitte as a kid thanks to the southpaw’s time with the Astros (Wesneski’s rooting interest). I like to forget that Andy pitched there, but hey, Wesneski will probably have a chance to meet Pettitte at some point in the near future.

What do the scouts say?

By all accounts, Wesneski was a back-end top 200 draft prospect entering this season. There’s nothing overly special about his arsenal, but he was a good performer in college even in a mid-major division.

Wesneski has a bit of a funky delivery, as you can tell from the video at this post’s outset. According to MLB Pipeline, scouts don’t love his low arm slot, but admit that it allows him to get a ton of movement on his fastball. Both MLB Pipeline and Baseball America confirmed that his fastball can touch as high as 95, though he generally sits in the low 90s. Considering its movement and the Yankees’ player development staff’s propensity to build velocity, his heater could be a plus pitch. It helps that his command of the offering is good too.

Things start to drop off once you look at the rest of his options. BA called his slider average and his changeup fringe-average. Meanwhile, MLB Pipeline seems to like his “sweepy” slider because it has the opposite break of his sinking fastball. The same publication also thinks Wesneski’s changeup can be a solid pitch.

All told, both sites labeled Wesneski as either a back-end starter or or solid reliever. For a sixth rounder, that’d be great. The outcome likely depends on how much he can improve his secondary offerings.

Signing bonus and what’s next

Wesneski signed an under slot bonus of $217,500. His pick value was $241,000.

After signing, the righty joined Pulaski, one of the Yankees’ rookie-level affiliates. He’s pitched in five games, all in relief. Despite that, it’s a little too soon to make anything of his role even though there’s a distinct possibility that he’s in the bullpen long-term.

As a college draftee, I don’t think Wesneski will spend too much time with Pulaski. He should be up to Staten Island this summer where he can face more suitable competition. Next year, how quickly he moves up depends on his ultimate role. He should rise the ranks quicker if he goes the relief route.

My take

As I noted in my profile of Ken Waldichuk, the team’s fifth rounder, there’s really no way to lambaste a pick after day one of the draft. But I will say that I like the fit for the Bombers; the minor league staff seems to have a great handle on mid-to-late round college pitchers.

Ultimately, I think Wesneski’s best role is in the bullpen, and not simply because my citations said so. His delivery strikes me as one that would not be sustainable as a starter, especially against left-handed heavy lineups. In short spurts, his sinking fastball could be a big weapon and perhaps would tick up in velocity.

Draft Profile: Ken Waldichuk

In the first five rounds, the Yankees took three pitchers. All three of them are lefties, including today’s subject, Ken Waldichuk. The Bombers scooped him up in the fifth round.

Background

Waldichuk, 21 years old, hails from San Diego, California. He attended University City High School, also located in San Diego. Fun fact: Kyle Holder, the Yankees’ first rounder in 2015 also graduated from there, though his time did not crossover with Waldichuk’s.

Following high school, Waldichuk left home for St. Mary’s College, located outside of San Francisco. He spent his freshman season in the bullpen and pitched 45 innings in 22 appearances. His collegiate debut was stellar; he recorded a 2.00 ERA, 51 strikeouts, and 16 walks.

In his sophomore season, Waldichuk joined the Gaels’ rotation and was dominant. In 14 starts, the southpaw racked up 87 innings and boasted a 2.05 ERA. He fanned 118 batters and walked just 21. His performance earned him a spot in the Cape Cod League that summer with the Wareham Gatemen, where he dealt with some of his first tribulations in college. In five games (four starts), he posted a 4.91 ERA. The strikeouts were still there (9.8 K/9), but his control (3.4 BB/9) took a hit as compared to the season he had just finish with St. Mary’s (2.1 BB/9).

Waldichuk was solid in his junior year, but it was a clear step back from a season prior. In 87 frames, he posted a still solid 3.71 ERA. Again, not a bad outcome, but a decline from his sophomore campaign.

What do the scouts say?

There’s not much scouting information about Waldichuk on the internet, at least not yet. MLB Pipeline and Fangraphs left him unranked, but we do have some information from Baseball America (subs. required) and a brief comment from MLB Pipeline’s Jonathan Mayo in a moment.

BA describes Waldichuk as having the ideal pitcher’s frame: 6’4″ and 220 pounds. Sounds about right. His fastball sits in the low nineties but has touched 95 and is complemented by a slider, curveball, and changeup. BA calls his slider above-average and notes that his changeup has good fade away from right-handed hitters. Lastly, his curveball has “solid shape”. I wish there were a little more detail on the quality of his secondary pitches, but it is what it is.

Waldichuk is more of a control over command pitcher per BA. Lots of strikes, but not necessarily painting the corners.

Here are Mayo’s thoughts:

Now, why don’t we go to Waldichuk for a self-report? Pinstriped Prospects interviewed him and asked him to to do so:

I think I have a fastball with a good velocity that plays up with a high vertical break. I think I throw my slider pretty well with a pretty high spin-rate on it, I think that’s a pretty above-average pitch, and then I think that my changeup is a really good weapon against righties to keep them off of my fastball.

Signing bonus and what’s next

As you can already see from Mayo’s tweet above, the Yankees paid Waldichuk $307,000, just below his pick’s allotment.

Waldichuk made his professional debut last week for Pulaski, one of the Yankees’ rookie-level affiliates. He threw two innings and allowed four hits and two runs. The lefty also struck out two batters and didn’t allow a walk or a homer. He was on the mound again last night as well. There’s a decent chance he makes a cameo in Staten Island later this summer.

My take

There’s a lot to like about Waldichuk. He’s well built to remain as a starting pitcher and seemingly has shot to develop into a fourth or fifth starter. I’d be thrilled with that outcome, especially for a fifth rounder in a draft that was relatively thin in terms of pitching.

Given his size, I’m not sure if there’s any more velocity the Yankees can squeak out of Waldichuk. Yes, the team is known for getting just about anyone to start throwing in the mid-to-high nineties regularly, but it will probably be tougher to do so with Waldichuk. That’s fine though in this instance; he already has enough in the tank to get by. And at worst, he’d theoretically throw harder in relief.

The command comment from BA doesn’t concern me, at least not yet. The fact that he is a strike thrower already is a good foundation to build upon. And if he never can harness his command, the bullpen is always a fallback option as Mayo tweeted.

As I’ve said ad nauseam in our draft coverage, it’s difficult to be upset about picks on day two or later. Just about all picks from that point on should garner an indifferent reaction, though I must say I’m intrigued by what Waldichuk brings to the table, even if he lacks a high ceiling.

Draft Profile: Jake Agnos

The Yankees continued their post-Anthony Volpe run on college players with their fourth round pick, Jake Agnos. He’s a left-handed pitcher from East Carolina University.

Background

Agnos was born and raised in Virginia and had a prolific high school career at Battlefield High School in Haymarket, Virginia. Listen to this: in 2015, Agnos struck out 21 consecutive hitters after allowing a leadoff home run to start a game. That outing also included three immaculate innings. Sheesh. Anyway, Agnos was a fairly notable prospect during his prep days, but went undrafted in 2016.

The southpaw pitched for East Carolina University over the next three seasons while also making two summer league appearances in Cape Cod. He also got to pitch out of the bullpen for the collegiate team USA last summer.

In his first two seasons with ECU, Agnos split time between the rotation and bullpen. His numbers weren’t terribly impressive, though they weren’t necessarily bad either. The lefty did take a bit of a step forward with regard to missing bats in his sophomore season when he struck out 86 batters in 63.2 innings. In his freshman year, he fanned 64 in 64.1 frames.

Junior year was a step forward. Agnos pitched exclusively in the rotation and made 17 starts. In 102 innings, he recorded an impressive 2.29 ERA and struck out a remarkable 145 batters. Additionally, Agnos walked 43 opponents, just five more than his previous season’s total in far more innings.

What do the scouts say?

It wasn’t until this season that it appeared Agnos could stick as a starter. He had a history of control issues that he hammered out this spring, as previously noted. While most publications still envision Agnos as a reliever due to his small frame (5-11, 205 lbs), it certainly seems like he’ll at least get a chance to start in the minor leagues.

Depending on what you read, Agnos throws either three or four pitches. Baseball America (subs. required) notes that he throws a fastball, curveball, slider, and changeup. Both Fangraphs and MLB Pipeline don’t mention the slider in their reports.

Agnos, who turned 22 back in February, throws his fastball anywhere between 89 and 94 miles per hour, though he’s hit 96 per Fangraphs. His yakker is his best offering, thrown in the high seventies with 12-6 break according to Baseball America. It projects to be an above average pitch by all accounts. Agnos’s slider is something he’s toyed with, though Baseball America doesn’t add much else about it. His changeup is a work in progress, though it could potentially become an average pitch. MLB Pipeline notes that Agnos tends to struggle with his feel for the pitch, though he can deliver a decent one from time to time.

All told, it’s pretty clear that Agnos has at least two solid pitches (fastball and curveball). That might lead him into a relief role, as has been suggested, though a developing changeup (and better command) leaves some hope for him to start. One other thing that could make it hard for him to start is his high effort delivery that you can see in the video up top.

Signing bonus and what’s next

As the draft’s 135th selection, Agnos was slated for $414,000. He wound up signing for slightly less: $411,500.

Like most college draftees, Agnos will probably spend a big chunk of time in short-season A-ball. That means he could be in Staten Island’s rotation at some point this summer. The Yankees haven’t assigned him to a team yet, which probably means he’s down in Tampa at the organization’s complex readying himself for professional ball.

My take

It’s a lot harder to get a sense of a prospect’s future at this point of the draft. Things fall off pretty quickly in the first round alone, so it’s more or less luck of the draw at this point. Still, I like the sound of Agnos because he theoretically has a high floor. It appears that he’s capable of becoming a middle reliever given his profile, and to get that in the fourth round would be a very good outcome.

He’s far from the most exciting pick, however. His size lacks projectability and his command woes, even if improved this season, appear to make it highly unlikely that he sticks as a starter. So even though he may have a ceiling as a back end starter, the chances of him reaching that seem very slim. But again, it’s not like you hope to find a star at this point. Getting a middle reliever would be more than fine.

Draft Profile: Jake Sanford

With the team’s third-round pick, the Yankees drafted Jacob Sanford, an outfielder and first baseman from Western Kentucky University. Let’s familiarize ourselves with the draft’s 105th overall selection.

Background

Sanford is from Nova Scotia, Canada where he essentially went unnoticed in high school. Understandably so, it’s not exactly known for being a baseball hotbed. It really wasn’t until this year that he jumped up on anyone’s radar as a legitimate prospect.

With nowhere to go after high school, Sanford enrolled at McCook Community College in Nebraska. He walked on to the baseball team and played out his freshman and sophomore seasons there. In 108 games, Sanford hit .356/.424/.671 before transferring to Western Kentucky for the 2019 season.

In his only season at WKU, Sanford won the Conference USA Triple Crown. The lefty swinging outfielder hit .398/.483/.805 (.805!!!) with 22 homers and 66 RBIs in 56 games. Look, it’s not the SEC or another big conference, but it’s hard to not be impressed by those sort of numbers.

Lastly, here’s an interesting tidbit: Sanford’s head coach at WKU was John Pawlowski, who was the head coach at the College of Charleston when Brett Gardner walked on there.

What do the scouts say?

Raw power is the name of the game for Sanford. MLB Pipeline noted that he put on prodigious power displays in batting practice and had one of the best raw power tools in the draft. Baseball America (subs. required) gave Sanford plus-plus power; in other words a 70 on the 20-80 scale.

Of course, there are questions about whether or not Sanford can unlock his raw power in game action. The quality of competition he faced in college is questionable and Fangraphs calls out the fact that he’s yet to see big time velocity. With MLB Pipeline indicating some concerns about his deep pre-pitch load and occasional balance issues, it’s easy to understand why. Still, where Fangraphs and MLB Pipeline seem to disagree is bat speed. Fangraphs denotes that Sanford is “strength over bat speed”, whereas MLB Pipeline says Sanford has a quick stroke and impressive bat speed.

Power isn’t everything, of course. It’s definitely Sanford’s best tool, but he also has plus speed per MLB Pipeline. At 6-2, 215 lbs. he moves well enough to play the corner outfield though he isn’t a stolen base threat. Interestingly, Baseball America says that Sanford is a below average runner.

Defensively, Sanford profiles in left field or at first base. He lacks the arm strength requisite for right field.

In sum: everyone agrees on the raw power, though there’s reason to be skeptical about his ability to get to it in games. There’s some disagreement about his foot speed. Moreover, the consensus is that his throwing arm will force him to play left field or first base. Considering Sanford’s lack of exposure prior to 2019, it’s understandable why there are some differences of opinion in terms of bat speed and running speed. Nonetheless, one thing’s for sure: the Yankees drafted him because of his offensive potential.

Speaking of why the Yankees chose Sanford, let’s get Damon Oppenheimer’s thoughts:

If this one can do what Gardy did, then we’ve had a hell of a draft on its own. He really reminds us of Brad Hawpe. He’s got huge power; it’s easy, he drives the ball the other way. The combination of the power and the speed he has, being a guy who is kind of young and just starting at this thing, it made him real attractive to us.

Signing bonus and what’s next

Sanford agreed to a $597,500 bonus, which is just above the $554,300 slot value for the 105th pick.

Western Kentucky’s season ended in late May, so Sanford probably will spend a little time in extended spring training before his first professional assignment. As a college bat, I expect him to spend most of his time with Staten Island this summer, though he could get a tune up in rookie ball first.

Considering how raw some of his tools are, he may be a bit slower to develop. Just guessing here, but that probably means he will spend a full season in A-ball (Charleston, perhaps?) in 2020 before jumping up to higher levels.

My take

The entire MLB draft is basically a crapshoot, though at the stage Sanford was chosen, things start to really get wonky. You’re not going to find any well rounded or polished prospects; many will have some glaring flaws. Sanford is precisely that: talented, but with big question marks.

So with that in mind, Sanford seems like a sound selection (what do I know, though). A left-handed hitter with ridiculous raw power? Pretty easy to dream on that potential at Yankee Stadium. Chances are the Sanford will bust, but his power potential is very enticing.

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