Like it does every year, the MLB draft sneaks up on us. In just under three weeks, the draft will begin and part of our baseball lives will turn to thinking and talking about a bunch of guys who won’t contribute to the big league team for at least a few years. But, draft posturing is always fun, and this year I plan to take a more in-depth look at players the Yankees may be targeting leading up to the draft.
There are a bunch of rules for the MLB draft, and they will be part of a post for a later day. For now, the important thing to know is the Yankees have the 30th overall pick based on where they finished in the standings last year. They also have the 38th pick which they acquired from the Reds as part of the Sonny Gray. The bar for positive contributions from that pick will not be set very high. What I am going to look at today is a few mock drafts and give some information about players the Yankees have been connected to thus far. Each week I will either update that last or write a profile on one of these players.
Jonathan Mayo at MLB Pipeline released their latest mock draft today, and they have the Yankees taking a very familiar name. Jack Leiter, son of former Yankee and YES broadcaster Al Leiter. The Pipeline prospect guide has this to say about him:
“From a velocity standpoint, Leiter often utilizes an average fastball, thrown in the 91-92 mph range, though he can go get 94-95 mph when he needs it. It plays up because he throws it with some sink and has outstanding command of the pitch. He has shown distinct breaking balls in the past, though he’s been leaning on the curve more frequently this spring, and it was a true knee-buckling out pitch during his NHSI win. He has feel for a solid changeup as well, even if he doesn’t need it much at his current level.
Leiter is much more advanced than most high schoolers in terms of his feel for pitching and command, he presents himself more like a polished college starter. There isn’t much projection in his frame, reminding some of a Mike Leake type, with slightly better stuff. He might very well be the same pitcher, albeit with a track record of SEC success, should he head to Vanderbilt. He will be sophomore-eligible should that happen.”
Couple quick things here – you always like to hear a high school player has an advanced feel and having such good connections with several former players speaks well to Leiter’s likely ability to handle the rigors of getting to the show and know how to handle himself. The other important thing about Leiter is he is committed to Vanderbilt, which is one of the harder college commitments to break. Because of the 38th pick, the Yankees have more money they can spend which could theoretically help them offer a larger signing bonus to Leiter to break that commitment. I am a bit wary of that logic, however, because Leiter comes from that family background and money likely would not impact his decision right away.
Mike Axisa, formerly of RAB and currently at CBS, published his mock draft a couple days ago. He has the Yankees taking Kody Hoese, a 3B from Tulane. According to Mike, Hoese has become a launch angle guy this year, which has led to tying for the college lead in home runs this season. MLB Pipeline ranks Hoese as the 27th best draft prospect and has this to say:
“Hoese is loaded with natural right-handed power. He’s always had a good swing and the ability to leverage the ball with his 6-foot-4 frame, and he has taken off since getting stronger. He drives the ball in the air from gap to gap with ease, maintaining a disciplined approach that has led to more homers and walks than strikeouts in 2019.”
Never let us forget Aaron Boone talking about “controlling the strike zone” during his first spring training, and Hoese certainly fits the bill. Power and more walks than strikeouts is a great offensive approach, and as a college player, Hoese could be ready for the big leagues sooner rather than later.
At ESPN, Keith Law projects George Kirby, RHP from Elon University to the Yankees. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the 20th best prospect this season, and projects him to have a 60 grade fastball as well as 55 grade curveball and slider. In their scouting report, they say he “should add more velocity as he gets stronger [and]…has feel for spinning the ball and both his curveball and slider show flashes of becoming plus offerings.”
A college pitcher with a plus fastball and two potential plus off-speed pitches? Sign me up any day. And as a college guy, Kirby is a lot less raw than most of the current top Yankee prospects at the lower levels in the system. This pick could make a lot of sense for the Yankees if Kirby is still on the board.
It seems like there are several high upside players likely to be available for the Yankees at the 30th overall spot, which is nice. Players with more upside have a chance to be stars, and that’s what you hope for on day one of the draft.
Local kid Jack Leiter (he goes to high school in New Jersey) would be the Hollywood pick, and the addition of the 38th draft pick as well makes him a more intriguing possibility. For starters, that extra pick gives you more money to offer him in case that is what it takes to break the Vandy commitment. The other benefit is having essentially two first round picks takes away some of the risk a player like Leiter has for various reasons.
This is the first time the Yankees have had multiple picks in the top 40 since 2013, and they used the last of those picks on a guy named Aaron Judge. Having multiple picks made it easier for them to justify using a first round pick on such a risky player, and I hope they are willing to do the same with one of those first two picks this time around as well. Next week we’ll check back with some more names or a deeper profile if it looks like one of these guys is looking more likely.