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.
The Yankees host the Rangers for the first of two September series with the AL West foe.
Their Story So Far
At 67-71, the Rangers are 12.5 games back of the second wild card, no longer having realistic postseason hopes. The team is coming from a 3 p.m. start in Texas for the 1 p.m. start today. That means the Rangers won’t be entirely fresh on Labor Day.
The Rangers are headlined by starters Mike Minor and Lance Lynn, who will both face the Yankees this series. Both veterans have peaked this season in Texas and drew significant trade interest. Slugger Joey Gallo has star potential, but he’s out for this series.
The Yankees play the Rangers in Texas to end the season. That will close out Texas’ current park, and the Yankees visit there next April for the new one.
The Rangers are missing some key hitters, namely Joey Gallo (hand surgery), Hunter Pence (back strain). Nomar Mazara (oblique) is back for this series.
Meanwhile, pitchers Jesse Chavez and Nate Jones are out for the season, while Jesse Biddle and Taylor Hearn likely are, too.
Player Spotlight: Nick Solak
The Yankees traded two prospects in a three-way trade to acquire Brandon Drury during 2018 Spring Training. One of those prospects was Solak, who went to Tampa Bay before he was traded to Texas.
Is Solak the most interesting player on this roster? No. Gallo, Lynn and Minor are borderline great, while Shin-Soo Choo, Elvis Andrus and Willie Calhoun are intriguing/fun to watch. However, like J.P. Crawford with the Mariners, Solak is the type of player the Rangers need to hit on to get out of their reload/rebuild.
Solak is a bat-first infielder, who has primarily played second base. He doesn’t have prodigious power like many prospects, but he has good walk and strikeout rates. The Yankees didn’t and wouldn’t have room for him; The Rangers have all the playing time to hand him and see what he can do.
The Rangers can be back in the postseason soon if they hit on a few players like Solak and fill out their pitching staff. That new stadium could attract players who were put off by their current park exposed to the elements. But veteran signings only get you so far; You also need to build from within.
Shin-Soo Choo, DH (.263/.369/.453, 112 wRC+)
Elvis Andrus, SS (.275/.313/.401, 79 wRC+)
Nomar Mazara, RF (.268/.318/.464, 94 wRC+)
Nick Solak, 3B (.333/.451/.524, 152 wRC+ in 51 PA)
Willie Calhoun, LF (.275/.315/.550, 114 wRC+)
Danny Santana, 1B (.288/.315/.550, 112 wRC+)
Rougned Odor, 2B (.194/.272/.397, 65 wRC+)
Delino Deshields, CF (.250/.335/.347, 78 wRC+)
Jeff Mathis, C (.161/.214/.225, 5 wRC+)
Rangers have a packed bench with Sept. call-ups. It’s composed of backup catcher Jose Trevino (58 wRC+), 1B/INF Logan Forsythe (76 wRC+), 1B Ronald Guzman (68 wRC+), C/INF Isiah Kiner-Falefa (64 wRC+) and OF Scott Heineman (44 wRC+). Guzman had a 3-homer game against Masahiro Tanaka and the Yankees last August.
Minor leads American League pitchers in Baseball Reference’s WAR with 7.0 bWAR so far this season. At 31 years old, Minor has pitched to a 3.25 ERA over 174.1 innings, striking out 175 in a career year. He hasn’t been as effective in the second half, sporting a 4.71 ERA and allowing 10 homers in 57.1 innings.
The left-hander is in the second year of a three-year contract with the Rangers and is a first-time All-Star. He would be a prime trade candidate this offseason, though the Rangers may want him to pitch Opening Day at their new park.
Minor attacks with a low-90s fastball with a 99th percentile spin rate. He plays off of it with a changeup, as well as a slider and curveball. The changeup is his most-used and most-effective offspeed offering.
Jurado is a 23-year-old right-hander and part of the younger contingent in the Rangers’ rotation. In 112.2 innings split between the rotation and bullpen, he has a 5.19 ERA, which is good for a 99 ERA+ in this run environment and pitching his home games in Texas.
The right-hander has a low strikeout rate and allows a well-above-average 88.8 avg. exit velocity as well as a high hard-hit rate. He throws five pitches, leading with a low-90s sinker and fastball, before mixing in a slider, change and curve.
Jurado faced the Yankees last year and gave up four home runs to players not on the active roster: Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, Miguel Andujar and Neil Walker.
Wednesday (6:35 p.m. EDT): TBD vs. Lance Lynn (vs. Yankees)
Remember Lance Lynn? The Yankees had the right-hander for the final two months of last season before he joined the Rangers on a three-year deal in the offseason. He comes into today with the best Fangraphs pitching WAR in baseball thanks to sterling peripherals while pitching in Texas.
Lynn has a 3.77 ERA compared to a 3.01 FIP as he’s struck out 202 and walked 50 in 176.2 innings. He leads the AL in batters faced and has been a workhorse, all while limiting homers. In all, he’s the same fastball-heavy pitcher he was with the Yankees, just more effective with higher velocity.
The right-hander uses variations of high-spin fastball about 85 percent of the time with occasional curves and changeups.
Here’s who they have in the pen:
RHPs: Emmanuel Clase, Luke Farrell, Ian Gibaut, Taylor Guerrieri, Jonathan Hernandez, Shawn Kelley, Rafael Montero, Adrian Sampson LHPs: Brett Martin, Jeffrey Springs
Shawn Kelley leads the team in saves with 11 while the team traded relievers Jose Leclerc and Chris Martin. Chavez is out for the season, while LHP Brett Martin leads active Rangers in games pitched out of the bullpen.
The guy to watch is Emmanuel Clase, a 21-year-old flamethrower with a 3.46 ERA. He averages 99 mph on his fastball, which is often a cutter, and backs it up with a 91-mph slider. He’s far from a finished product and doesn’t have elite strikeout rates yet, but the stuff is electric. Here’s a glimpse of a 100-mph cutter.
The rest of the bullpen? They needed a full bullpen game yesterday, so they’re going to be tired. There aren’t really any other standouts in the bullpen right now and there’s a whole bunch of them with Sept. call-ups.