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2012 Yankees draft preview

Yankees' Oppenheimer set for eighth draft as scouting director
06/03/2012 12:31 AM ET
By Michael Axisa

Right-handers Pierce Johnson from Missouri State is on the Yankees' radar as the draft approaches.(AP)

Baseball's new collective bargaining agreement has changed the amateur draft significantly. When teams line up to call dibs on the country's top aspiring big leaguers early next week, they'll be held to strict financial restrictions and face harsh penalties for any excess spending. Those penalties include a tax and forfeiture of future picks. Every club will have to adjust their draft strategy because free spending is a thing of the past.

The Yankees own the 30th overall pick and according to Baseball America, they've been allotted $1.6 million for their first rounder and a bit more than $4.19 million total for the top ten rounds. Those ten rounds include 11 total picks because New York has two second rounders -- their natural pick plus another as compensation for failing to sign last year's second rounder. Picks after the tenth round are capped at $100,000 each though most sign for much less at that point. The Yankees have not spent less than $6.1 million total on any of the last five drafts, so something will have to give.

This will be Damon Oppenheimer’s eighth draft as scouting director and by now his tendencies and preferences have become obvious. Four of his seven top selections were high school position players and the Yankees are again heavily connected to those types of prospects. Shortstop Addison Russell (Florida) and fast-rising outfielder/right-hander Mitch Gueller (Washington) are the players most closely associated to New York and that 30th overall selection, though they also have interest in speedy outfielder D.J. Davis (Mississippi) should he remain on the board that long.

The Yankees have leaned towards polished college arms under Oppenheimer but this year's draft class is very light on college talent outside of the top five or six players. Right-handers Pierce Johnson (Missouri State) and Derick Velasquez (Merced JC) could be on the radar for New York in the early rounds, but they're more likely to change course and target prep pitchers instead. A trio of high school righties -- Shane Watson (California), Nick Travieso (Florida), and Duane Underwood (Georgia) -- could all be in the first round mix, though the Yankees have not been specifically connected to any non-position players at the moment. Gueller is a legitimate pitching prospect but New York reportedly likes him better as an outfielder.

Although the early round picks gets all the attention and deservedly so, the Yankees have done an excellent job of turning late-round picks into useful relievers at the big league level. David Robertson (17th round in 2006) is the most notable example, though David Phelps (14th round in 2008) has contributed this season as well. Single-A slider-specialist Mark Montgomery (11th round in 2011) could help as soon as next summer. The expected production from those late picks is essentially zero, but the Yankees have emphasized strikeout stuff and pitching smarts to maximize their return. Expect a similar approach in the late rounds next week with pitchers coming from every neck of the woods.

There is no drafting for need in baseball given the amount of time it takes for physical tools to develop into baseball skills, which is why the Yankees used their top choice on a third baseman (Dante Bichette Jr.) last year even though Alex Rodriguez is under contract through 2017. The new spending restrictions will give clubs a headache, but expect New York to again emphasize high school position players early and potential bullpen arms late. The shallow college talent pool could result in a prep-heavy draft class despite the new spending restrictions.

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