Yankees stick to draft plan, continue to strengthen already deep system

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The New York Yankees have gone to great lengths over the last several seasons to strengthen their farm system and emphasize the importance of growing talent in the minor leagues through the amateur draft and international signings. While fans of the other 29 MLB teams view the Yankees as a cash cow, anyone who truly examines the club can see that the Yankees are in the midst of balancing young talent with pricey superstars.

The Yankees amateur scouting department led by Damon Oppenheimer and overseen by general manager Brian Cashman, began the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft with two goals in mind. First, solidify the system with powerful upside arms and continue to build up the middle (C, 2B/SS and CF). Next, the Yankees set out to select players who may be closer to MLB-ready by gathering college-level talent. They succeeded in both respects.

Before the draft began Cashman noted that while the Yankees would typically shoot for the “best available player”, there was a caveat to that phrase, used by many around baseball, which was the player had to have the ability to survive the Bronx pressure cooker. The Yankees besides evaluating talent on the field put plenty of effort on determining the mindset of the players they rank highest on their draft boards.

With their first round pick, 30th overall, the Yankees went with high school right-hander Ty Hensley. Hensley entered the draft ranked by some evaluators in the mid-20’s or low 30’s among all draft prospects, though many of those same pundits had Hensley going as low as 18th in the draft. Hensley touts a low 90’s fastball which peaks around 94-mph. He is a confident young man as witnessed in his conference call after being selected. Here is Hensley, taken from the transcript provided by the LoHud Yankees Blog:

"I think my number one strength is definitely my aptitude. I’m able to make adjustments on the fly and to learn from pitch to pitch and not let it carry over. I need to work on refining my command, my mechanics, which will come with time and repetition. That’s what I need to work on. I feel confident in all my pitches."

Remember folks, this is an 18-year-old, not a seasoned veteran. His comment displays a person who understands his potential but also realizes the work involved in getting there. He seems to fit the mold the Yankees desire. Here is Oppenheimer on Hensley.

"We’re excited to get a guy with such a high ceiling. He has the ideal body for a high school pitcher, as well as power stuff, and has the ability to be a high-end starter. He’s demonstrated a quality makeup and has shown himself to be a hard worker, which makes him a quality pick for us. (MLB.com)"

Oppenheimer mentions two necessary components of the Yankees focus, ‘power stuff’ and ‘quality makeup’. The makeup of a player is very hard to address at this age. A person’s attitude has more or less formed by 18-years-old, so measuring this is important to the Yankees. Mechanics, of which Hensley points to as an improvement area, and which many analysts tend to agree, are something that can be honed as he works his way through the system. It takes a grounded person to demonstrate and exude confidence while knowing he has room to improve.

Speaking of the system, the Yankees have a couple highly touted catchers in Austin Romine (currently on the minor league DL with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre) and Gary Sanchez who was just named to the Class A South Atlantic League All-Star Team at the age of 19, who exemplify the Yankees depth behind the plate. Romine is ranked #7 among all Yankees prospects by MLB.com. Sanchez is ranked #3, both among Yankees prospects, as well as all catching prospects by MLB.com. Furthermore, Sanchez lands at #47 overall. This did not stop the Yankees from grabbing more backstops. (continued next page)