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Yankees first round draft struggle since Derek Jeter

Fresh in your podcast feed is “The Jeter Five” — A Brief History podcast which describes how the Yankees were able to draft Derek Jeter, what happened to the five players that were picked ahead of him, and the Yankees scout that “found” him.

Jeter was without question the most significant draft pick in team history. He signifies the Yankees’ 1990s dynasty and transformation into a perennial contender for going on three decades. But since picking the high school shortstop from Kalamazoo 6th overall 27 drafts ago, the Yankees have had a first round drought.

First Round Struggles

Before taking Jeter in ’92, they selected Carl Everett 10th overall in 1990 (who was lost to the ’92 Expansion Draft) and Brien Taylor 1st in 1991 (who was lost to a bar fight).

The rest of the decade saw the Yankees take nine players in the first and supplemental first rounds. They got a total of 12 innings pitched at the major league level out of it, although two of those picks — Brian Buchanan and Eric Milton — were traded to Minnesota (along with Christian Guzman) for Chuck Knoblauch. Both Buchanan and Milton played in the bigs, just not for the Yankees.

Two of their ’90s picks, Tyrell Godwin and Mark Prior, did not sign.

Their 1999 top pick, Dave Walling, left baseball after developing a compulsion to throw repeatedly to first base when a runner was on. He even saw a sports psychologist about it but was unable to rid the problem. That is equal parts sad and funny.

The 2000s were even worse. The Yankees had one top pick that I think you can call a “success.” Phil Hughes was drafted 23rd overall in 2004, and while he didn’t turn into the ace we all expected, he was a solid major league pitcher and contributed to the 2009 championship.

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So far the 2010s have produced Aaron Judge from the first round (great!). He was drafted #32 overall in 2013, but he wasn’t even their first selection (that would be something by the name of Eric Jagielo). Maybe we’ll look back in ten years and view Judge and Jeter in the same category, but Aaron has a long way to go before we can do that.

Year after year of first round picks have gone to the wayside. David Parrish, John-Ford Griffin, C.J. Henry, Cito Culver, Ty Hensley — stop me if you’ve heard of any of these names. 

Oh look, they took Gerrit Cole in 2008! As a shock to nobody, Cole didn’t sign.

It is fair to note that every year the Yankees selected at the bottom of the first round — if they had a pick at all, because they also spent big in free agency, oftentimes losing their first round pick. But that comes with the territory. That is why I compared them to Boston and Los Angeles, two teams in their spending and winning league. Even compared to those teams the Yankees are far behind when it comes to drafting.

Since Jeter, the Yankees have had just eight players make the majors who they drafted in the first or supplemental rounds. Hughes and Judge are the most notable and successful. They got Ryan Bradley from the ’97 draft (remember those 12 innings I mentioned?), plus Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, Bronson Sardinha, Andrew Brackman and Slade Heathcott.

Simply put, that is not good.

2020 Draft Kit

With the shortened, virtual-version of the MLB draft coming up on June 10, we’ve posted a lot of draft-related content on Bronx Pinstripes lately. Check it out!

2020 Yankees mock draft results
Players the Yankees might draft this year
Biggest draft busts in Yankees history
Re-drafting the Yankees 2000s picks
Re-drafting the Yankees 2010s picks
Comparing the Yankees drafts to the Red Sox and Dodgers