Having once downgraded the importance of high school and college players in favor of inking inconsequential free agents, the Yankees have "seen the light," as general manager Brian Cashman puts it.
The First-Year Player Draft is once again a priority in the Bronx, and its resurgence is a point of pride for Cashman and his staff.
"We've made it what it's supposed to be -- the most important day of the year," Cashman said. "Our business is baseball, and that's the most important access to talent. If you want to be championship-caliber, there's a lot of different avenues, but one you can not skip is the amateur pipeline. That's the foundation of eventual champions."
The Yankees will have to show some patience this year, as they won't be able to call a name until the 51st pick. They lost a first-round pick, No. 31, and a compensation-round pick, No. 38, to the Rays by signing reliever Rafael Soriano.
They also sent a compensation-round pick, No. 44, to the Mets for signing reliever Pedro Feliciano. The first pick for Damon Oppenheimer, vice president of amateur scouting, comes from the Marlins as compensation for signing right-hander Javier Vazquez.
"We're going to have to sit out and wait for a little while," Cashman said. "But it's a deep enough Draft where I know Damon feels like we're still going to get access to some quality players."
Live coverage of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft begins with a one-hour preview show on Monday, at 6 p.m. ET on MLB.com and MLB Network, followed by the first round and supplemental compensation round.
MLB.com will provide exclusive coverage of Days 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player.
Recent Yankees Draft picks
|'10||Cito Culver||SS||Staten Island (A, Yankees)|
|'09||Slade Heathcott||OF||Charleston (A, Yankees)|
|'08||Gerrit Cole||RHP||Did not sign|
|'07||Andrew Brackman||RHP||Scranton/W-B (AAA, Yankees)|
|'06||Ian Kennedy||RHP||D-backs (MLB)|
Here's a glance at what the Yankees have in store as the Draft approaches:
In about 50 words
The Yankees' expectations have to be tempered by the fact that they must wait until No. 51, but this year's crop still figures to offer a promising first selection. They are especially impressed by the number of quality arms in this year's pool.
"The challenge has to constantly be that it's not good enough, and it has to get better. The simple job description that I have is to find better players than we currently have, so Damon's job is to find a better player in this Draft than last Draft." -- Cashman
The Yankees have one of the more respected farm systems in the game, and they are not shy about considering players who can serve as trade chips as well as potential future in-house talent. Pitching is the key to the kingdom, as always, and that figures to be a focus. They'll always keep their eyes open for players who might fit in as replacements for aging core talent in the big leagues, as seen last year, when they took toolsy shortstop Cito Culver, who had more than a hint of Derek Jeter in his makeup.
The Yankees like going after pitching with upside and generally seem to lean more toward college players than prep talent, but that tilt is not especially acute. In searching for position players, they would prefer to find athletic up-the-middle types who can swing the bat at a plus rating. The Yankees aren't afraid to go over slot with their pick and love when a touted player might fall to them because of other concerns -- as in the cases of pitchers Andrew Brackman and Joba Chamberlain, both of whom were considered injury risks at Draft time.
Recent Draft History
Catcher Austin Romine was the Yankees' second-round selection in 2007, and he continues to earn rave reviews for his handling of pitchers and his baseball acumen. Defensively, he could probably catch in the big leagues right now, and the only reason he is back at Double-A is because Jesus Montero needs to continue to get at-bats at Triple-A. Despite the Spring Training struggles of both players, the Yankees continue to be rich when it comes to catchers. There are those who claim that the 18-year-old Gary Sanchez, an International signee, may prove to be the best of them all.
Today, Dave Robertson has a trusted role in manager Joe Girardi's bullpen, lauded both for his strikeout ability and his penchant for getting out of tight jams, such as his calling-card moment in the 2009 American League Division Series. But in 2006, Robertson was a 17th-round pick from the University of Alabama, a hidden gem in a Draft class that was headlined by Ian Kennedy and Chamberlain.
In The Show
The Yankees' recent Drafts have produced several players who developed into familiar presences at the big league level. Those include pitchers Chamberlain (2006), Phil Hughes ('04) and Robertson ('06); and outfielders Colin Curtis ('06) and Brett Gardner ('05).