With their third pick (94th overall) the Yankees began their trend of drafting college-level players going with University of Miami senior catcher Peter O’Brien. O’Brien is 6’4″, 225 pounds with power and agility behind the plate. The Yankees have not outwardly made their intentions known with this pick, but it does provide them with even more depth at the catcher position. The Yankees added two more catchers, Christopher Breen in the 12th round and Dalton Smith in the 36th round. This give the Yankees the ability to use one of their current minor league catchers, though not necessarily Romine or Sanchez, in a trade for whatever they deem necessary as the July 31st trading deadline approaches.
The Yankees stayed up the middle with seven more of their picks (making it ten in total or just over 24% of their selections). Beginning with second round pick, Austin Aune (89th overall), who will be converting to center field after playing predominately at shortstop during his high school career, the Yankees fulfilled their plan to go with middle of the field players. They grabbed second baseman Rob Refsnyder (5th round), center fielder Taylor Dugas (8th round) and shortstop Michael Reynolds (20th round) among them. Reynolds was the first of three shortstops selected who are college-level players.
There were a total of 27 total collegiate players drafted by the Yankees against 14 high school athletes, or just about two-thirds of all their picks. The reasoning for this could simply be the desire to provide some balance to the system where most of the heavy talent resides in the lower levels of the system, especially in Single-A ball, aside from starting pitchers Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos who are in Triple-A.
The addition of college players, while not a foolproof plan, could give the Yankees some quick movers in the system, which will either pan out for their own use or as an asset down the road. To that point, Oppenheimer mentioned in a conference call (transcript courtesy of the LoHud Yankees Blog here), that each player was selected with the feeling that they’d help the organization directly on the field or as a commodity.
We think it’s a good haul. We think we have a good group of guys. … I think it was a diverse group and a group that’s got talent. It should give us some guys who are going to impact the Yankees, whether it’s in New York or who are going to give us some depth in the organization.
There is no denying that the Yankees have the ability to utilize their wealth when they need to, or want to, but with the Steinbrenner family expressing a full commitment to lowering payroll to $189 million by 2014, the draft process has become an integral aspect of their plans. Finding and grooming young talent which is ripe with upside as with many of the high school athletes selected, as well as determining which college players can be successful and move up the ladder quickly, is essential to the overall plan for the Yankees.
Building a system that was once fully depleted has become the cornerstone of an effort to give rise to home grown players who can wear the New York Yankees pinstripes or for use as a tool to lure talent away from teams who have failed to keep pace with their own minor league systems.
The Yankees have a plan and it doesn’t involve outspending their opponents or unloading all their minor league talent at once. Instead it rests with development at each level of the system and patience with player’s growth. This mindset provides the ability to use their minor league players to fill in gaps in New York or package them for players elsewhere. A minor league system that was once barren is beginning to overflow with talent.