Way-too-early Baseball America mock draft sends two-way star to Yankees

We have Shohei Ohtani at home?
2023 MLB Draft presented by Nike
2023 MLB Draft presented by Nike / Alika Jenner/GettyImages

Though the New York Yankees have bucked conventional wisdom with their recent first-round picks, that doesn't mean there's no value in early speculation. It might be entertainment value, but that's value nonetheless.

In 2022, everyone and their mother projected local Walter Panas High School shortstop Sammy Stafura to the Yankees at the end of the first round, despite the team's less-than-glaring need at the position. Of course, when push came to shove on draft day, the Yankees took a different shortstop: George Lombard Jr., with Stafura landing in Cincinnati a few picks later.

All along, we thought it was somewhat ridiculous to think the Yankees would go back to that positional well, despite having Anthony Volpe, Oswald Peraza, Trey Sweeney and Roderick Arias in the pipeline -- but, hey, for a local kid, maybe it made sense. Instead, the Yankees stuck with a shortstop, but ignored the "local hero" factor entirely.

Which leads us directly into Baseball America's first 2024 Mock Draft of the season. BA's experts sent another shortstop the Yankees' way this week, predicting Southern California prepster (Damon Oppenheimer on line one) Bryce Rainer would be their pick at 26.

The interesting thing about Rainer, of course, is that he's also a pitcher.

Yankees mock draft: Baseball America says shortstop/RHP Bryce Rainer in sight

Rainer, currently committed to Texas, is listed at 6'3" and 195 pounds. He hails, predictably, from Harvard-Westlake, the same powerhouse Los Angeles program that once harbored Lucas Giolito, Jack Flaherty, and transfer Max Fried at the exact same time for one glorious year.

Flaherty, too, pitched in high school, and it's of course unclear if Rainer has two-way ambitions in the pros. But if the Yankees have the opportunity to select a standout talent from a perennial powerhouse at No. 26, they should probably jump at the chance. Perhaps the time will come this summer to flex their financial muscles and talk Rainer out of becoming a Longhorn.

Money does talk, after all. Money also says all the right things about joining a crowded shortstop field, and potentially pushes a full-time move to third base, based on size and stature. Money's an astute baseball mind, and the Yankees are lucky to have it.