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Yankees first round draft preview

With the MLB first-year player draft beginning tonight, the Yankees find themselves at pick number 16 – the highest they’ve been in 22 years. Yes, 22 YEARS.

The last time the Yankees picked this high, they were at 13th and selected Matt Drew (who?), a 6-foot-8 inch right handed pitcher out of Sarasota High School in Sarasota, Fla. Drew spent seven years in the minors with three different organizations, and never made it to the big leagues.

The big knock on the Yankees over the years has been their lack of success in this draft. Whether it’s poor talent evaluating, losing picks from signing high-priced free agents, or poor pick positions thanks to big-win seasons, the Yankees’ homegrown talent has been few and far between compared to other teams around the league.

Things have turned around dramatically in recent seasons. Guys like Aaron Judge, Greg Bird and Rob Refsnyder, along with international signings have really revamped the farm system. The organization hopes to continue their recent string of success tonight, starting with picks 16 and 30 in the first round. GM Brian Cashman has repeatedly said that they will pick the best available player rather than go with need. It’s important to note, however, that the Yankees’ first five picks last year were pitchers.

Should they continue that trend, here are two pitchers to keep an eye on:

Projected 16th pick by Baseball America

James Kaprielian, RHP, UCLA
6’4″, 200 lb.
Previously drafted: 2012 (40th round, SEA)

Scouting grades: Fastball 50, Curveball 50, Slider 55, Changeup 60, Control 55, Overall 50.
Scouting grades are made on a scale from 20-80. 50 is considered average, 55 above average, 60 plus, 70 plus-plus, etc.

The Yankees have had more success with developing and evaluating pitching. Kaprielian features a plus changeup, and average fastball sitting between 89-92 mph. His physical build and ability to locate his fastball should make him a middle of the rotation pitcher.

Projected 30th pick by Baseball America. (compensation from David Robertson signing with White Sox)

Cody Ponce, RHP, Cal Poly Pomona
6’5″, 235 lb.
Previously drafted: never

Scouting grades: Fastball 60, Cutter 55, Curveball 45, Changeup 50, Control 50, Overall 50

The two things that stand out with Ponce are is physical size and his fastball. We know the Yankees like both, evidenced by their surplus of tall flamethrowers (Eovaldi, Pineda, Betances, Miller).

Should the Yankees seek some sluggers, here are two names to keep an eye on:

Ian Happ, OF, University of Cincinnati
Bats: S, Throws: R
6’0″, 205 lb.

Scouting grades: Hit 60, Power 50, Arm 55, Field 50, Overall 55

Happ was ranked as the top position player in the Cape Cod League in the past two summers. He played mostly at 2B in 2013, which could be intriguing for the Yankees, but he fits better as a corner OFer.

Garrett Whitley, OF – Niskayuna (NY) High

Bats: R, Throws: R
6’1″, 195 lbs.
Commitment: Wake Forest

Scouting grades: Hit 55, Power 55, Run 60, Arm 50, Field 55, Overall 55

The Yankees could be tempted with taking the NY kid. Whitley’s speed stands out, making him a prototypical center fielder. He has an advanced approach at the plate for a high-schooler, and figures to produce some power as he develops. He’s committed to Wake Forest, so there’s always a chance he’ll be unsignable.

Other hitters the Yankees might look at include outfielder Trenton Clark from Richland (Texas) High and catcher Chris Betts from Wilson High in Long Beach, Calif.

The draft in Major League Baseball is such a crapshoot. Most players don’t make it out of the minor leagues. Most first round picks don’t pan out. The  Yankees have had such failures over the years, that it would be nice to see them strike gold for once. Tune in to MLB Network beginning at 6 pm ET for full coverage.

Note: The Yankees have been assigned a bonus pool of $7,885,000, which ranks sixth in the MLB. This bonus money will be spread amongst their draft picks. The Yankees’ first pick is valued at $2,543,300.