Prior to the draft Aune had spent much time with the Rangers organization, both because he was an exceptional prospect and because his high school was 45 minutes from the Ballpark At Arlington. As a local kid he had a strong connection to the Rangers, working out for them on several occassions, and playing for their team in the 2011 Area Code Games. Much like the Braves in Georgia, the Rangers focus very strongly on their stomping grounds in Texas, and Aune was very much in their cross-hairs leading up to the draft.
The attention he was given draft night by the Rangers wasn't just superficial, either. Numbers had been discussed between the Aune family and the Rangers as Texas' slot at the bottom of the 1st round drew nearer, with the mutually understood and accepted figure being six figures north of the million the Yankees eventually signed Austin for. When the Rangers went on the clock and Brinson was still available, they chose the prep OF from Florida instead of Aune. Brinson eventually signed for $1.625 million.
The Rangers did take another prep bat with their second selection, but it was Joey Gallo: a big name, huge pricetag, extreme signability guy that had fallen, who would command over $2.25 million to sign. With Aune's own pricetag being in the range of $1.25-$1.75 million, him still being on the board as the supplemental round passed and the second round began, and the Yankees liking him a whole lot in the scouting process, New York started to see if it would be possible to reach a mutually agreeable number that fit into their bonus pool, even if it was below the pricetag that Aune had been discussing with other teams.
Personally, I was shocked when I found out that Aune was a seven-figure guy because I knew nothing about him, and even more confused when I spoke with Damon about it and he told me that he thought the Argyle HS star was a "good value" at the pick and price at which they acquired him, but after getting the above information from my Aune source the picture cleared up for me a bit. I'm now even more excited about such a high-ceilinged prospect coming into the Yankees system. Especially so when considering they were able to acquire him with a late 2nd round selection.
6/20/12, 10:33 AM: It's been a while since the last update here, as I've been busy and throwing most of my thoughts into the Draft Discussion thread on the forum, but I have a break in my workday this morning to summerize where I am in my thinking with everything that has been going on.
- The biggest question from everyone is regarding 1st round pick, Ty Hensley. What is going on? When will he sign? Is there a problem in negotiations? The honest answer is that I don't have any direct information indicating that there is any issue at all. However, I do have several circumstantial pieces of evidence that may point to some disharmony in the process when added together. I have had more than one non-Yankee source tell me that the rumblings are that all is not well in negotiations, that although the Yankees were lucky to have Hensley fall to them at the back of the 1st round, his bonus expectations did not change from the mid-to-upper 1st round number he was looking for. Again, this is not information from anyone directly involved in the process, it is simply from a few sources on the periphary who have heard things second and third hand and passed them along. I haven't said anything about these rumblings because I didn't have any way of substantiating them - none of the parties are willing to offer up much in the way of detail regarding the reasons behind the big Oklahoman not being signed yet. I bring them up now only because Hensley himself tweeted a message to a fellow member of this year's incoming Ole Miss baseball class saying "I might still be coming to orientation". For me there was now a little more smoke coming off this situation, and I'm somewhat nervous about the potential for fire, BUT I am still not worried about Hensley signing. What I am worried aobut is the impact it will have on any ability to sign other players beyond the 10th round. I think the new construct of the MLB Draft will leave the players with maximum leverage to lay in wait until the majority of the picks within the first 10 rounds sign, and then basically demand their slot plus any surplus remaining from the bonus pool. TO BE CLEAR AGAIN: I don't know any of this to actually be applicable to the Hensley situation, I'm speculating based on the circumstantial and indirect evidence I have.
- I've already stated in the forums and on Twitter that 2nd round pick, Pete O'Brien is the guy I'm most interested in seeing signed, as he has the greatest disparity between leverage and slot in the entirety of the 2012 Yankees draft (to go along with the obvious fact that he's a very real, legit powerhitting prospect). Being a senior selected in a slot valued at $507,800, there is enormous potential for the Yankees to siphon some pool money for use in the later rounds. The problem that arises here is two-fold: FIRST, O'Brien turned down less than $400K last year from the Rockies after being drafted in the 3rd round, because he felt the offer was disrespectful according to reports. That, in all likelihood, he now will have to accept an even lower number in order to begin his career might be even more disagreeable to him. The problem is that he doesn't have much leverage, really. If he tries to hold out his only other option is to play independent ball, and then catch on with a team next year - when he will be a 23 year old, bat first, defensively questionable catcher, who has some potential injury questiomarks. That would be even less ideal than the situation he finds himself in now. SECOND, even if they do manage to save a good chunk of change on signing O'Brien, the Yankees are likely to find themselves held up for the leftovers by Hensley in his negotiations. A ballsy move by the Yankees in this situation would be to sign O'Brien on the cheap, then spend all but $100K or so of the surplus on post 10th round signings, followed by telling Hensley "here, this is all we have left - there's no room to negotiate because this is all there is." I doubt that will happen though.
- To summerize the first two points: I expect both Hensley and O'Brien to sign, but I don't know how contentious negotiations are going to get, what order they get done, who acquiesces first, and what impact it will have on the bonus pool and the ability to sign guys past the 10th round.
- With regards to O'Brien, the guy is a physical beast in the context of professional baseball. He's 6'5" and 220 or so pounds, but he is extremely muscled - "jacked" if you will. When you see his physique, you have no doubt how he ascended to be one of the elite power prospects in the entire 2012 MLB Draft. He is a big, big dude for a baseball player.
- 3rd round pick, Nathan Mikolas is in Tampa today for his physical, and will hopefully be signing either Thursday or Friday if everything checks out.
- I keep hearing better and better things about 5th rounder, Rob Refsnyder. If his hit tool is as good as has been said, and the Yankees can convert him back to second base, this could be a significant pick. It has all the trappings of the kind of guy that Damon & Co. are successful in finding - the kids that just know how to hit and will work on the other aspects of the game in the system: Corban Joseph, JR Murphy, Rob Segedin, Ben Gamel, etc).
- Of the post 10th round high school guys, I think that Dayton Dawe, Dalton Smith, and Brady Lail are the three most likely to be in consideration for signing. I'd personally say that Dawe was extemely likely to be brought in, regardless of what happens, and Smith right behind him but not quite as good a chance, while Lail may not be possible if the Hensley/O'Brien scenario unfolds as postulated above.
We should know more shortly, so stay tuned...
6/7/12, 8:48 PM: Day 3 of the 2012 MLB Draft concluded yesterday afternoon, and we saw some interesting players, as well as a few significant signability cases taken. When the final pick had been made I sat down for a conversation with the man at the helm of the process to discuss both the selections he had just turned in, and his impressions of this new age of Rule 4 draft.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Stefan Lopez's scouting report says that he was a NASA intern, which might put him in a similar boat as Matt Rice was in after the 2010 draft. Seeing as you took him in the 16th round, does his intellectual ability play a role in his signability? He had relatively pedestrian results, so what was it in the scouting process that got you interested enough to pop him?
Damon Oppenheimer: No, his academics won't play a role that I know of. This is one of those guys that creates swing-and-miss with the fastball; his swing-and-miss rate is really good, and that's a big thing for us when it comes to relievers. So we think there's some deception there, and we see him getting strikeouts with something other than the breaking ball, which is a unique trait.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: 18th rounder Brady Lail said after Day 2 that he had made up his mind and was going to Arizona. Then after you guys took him, he told me that the Yankees being involved "definitely" changed things. Is this a shot in the dark, or can you make a legitimate run at him?
Damon Oppenheimer: Yeah, we're going to make a strong run at him. So we're going to get in there and talk to him enough and see what happens, but yeah, we're very interested in trying to this one done.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Is it safe to assume that 19th rounder, Dietrich Enns, a guy without flashy stuff, was selected largely based on his completely dominant performance on the Cape last summer? Does this one stand to be difficult?
Damon Oppenheimer: Well that was a big piece, but our area guy, Mike Gibbons really liked him, too. I think when you have strong support from your area guy and can bolster that with the type of results he got on the Cape, you become an attractive commodity. My guess is that we should be able to get this one done.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: In the 21st round you selected one of the smallest pitching prospects I can remember you taking in Maryland LHP, Jimmy Reed. He gets a lot of swing-and-miss with his slider, but a guy his size has to have a very strong drive to succeed. Is this one where mentality drove the selection, or was it the results?
Damon Oppenheimer: Eh, it was a little bit of both: Overacheiver? Lefthander? Those are both attractive down in this part of the draft, and we are trying to address the depth of LHP in our system, so Jimmy fits into that mix. I would hope that we could get something done here, but I'm sure it's not going to be easy, I'm sure they'll promise him that he'll be the Friday night guy at Maryland, so we'll see how it goes. We're definitely going to give it a shot, though.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: If he does sign, do you see him as a starter?
Damon Oppenheimer: If he signed, that would be the recommendation. It would depend on where he would be going and our depth there, but that would be the ideal situation, yes.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Is it safe to say that Vincent Jackson in the 23rd round was the first really big signability case?
Damon Oppenheimer: Yeah, this is a signability case, it really is. You know, we obviously identified him a lot higher than where he actually went, so we'd like to see this work out. Maybe we're able to put something together, maybe he has a change of heart, maybe he sees getting drafted by the New York Yankees as a big opportunity. We'll see if we can make this one work.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Is he going to be playing somewhere?
Damon Oppenheimer: I don't know off the top of my head right now, but he doesn't necessarily have to play. If he plays somewhere, then great; if he doesn't, then we've still seen enough of him to where it could possibly still happen.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Have you seen him yourself? What is the standout thing about him?
Damon Oppenheimer: I didn't get a chance to see him this spring, but I've seen him in the past. I mean, we've had a lot of our staff see him, though. He is a super high-end athlete. We also really like the progress the bat has made, so it was good to see those two things in combination.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Jose Mesa, Jr. was selected in the 24th round, and his selection baffled me a little after I read some comments from him in his local paper where he said that it was all about the money when it came to signing, because money equaled respect. That seems like the polar opposite of everything you and I have discussed the Yankees pursuing over the years.
Damon Oppenheimer: You know, I haven't read that. How much money equals respect? It could be different for each person, but he's going to pitch this summer for our scout, Carlos Marti so I'll get to see him and we'll really get a chance to figure this one out. This kid has a good arm, so we're going to work on seeing this.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: At this point is he all bloodlines and velo?
Damon Oppenheimer: No, he's got a slider, so there's a little bit more to it than just bloodlines and velo.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Ty Moore was a guy who fell into your lap in the 25th round. Does he profile similarly to Mikolas in the 3rd round as a kid who may not have tremendously flashy tools or a defined defensive value, but one who can just rake?
Damon Oppenheimer: Yeah, Ty Moore can hit. We really valued his bat, and we really valued it in the upper part of the draft. The draft fell in a way where we weren't in a spot to get him where we could secure him and pay him what he was looking for. When we got to this point in the draft we just said we had to take a shot at this guy – he really likes the Yankees and we've done a lot of work on him. So we'll take a run at it – maybe he changes his mind, maybe something happens, you just never know. That's what this one is.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What was the one quality you like the most about him?
Damon Oppenheimer: He can flat. Out. Hit.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: [laughs] I haven't heard you say it exactly that way since JR Murphy in 2009…
Damon Oppenheimer: Yeah, you know, Ben Gamel was another one I thought could flat hit, and this guy can flat hit, too. I'd really like to work on this one, but we'll see what the constraints allow us to do.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: DJ Stewart in the 28th round was a really intriguing guy to me as a dual-sport athlete. Is this the kind of kid that wants to give professional baseball a shot?
Damon Oppenheimer: Once again we're dealing with a guy who is probably a little better hitter, and has a little more power than people think. You know, people hear football running back, and they immediately think he's raw. This guy has been a baseball player. He's a strong guy, and he has power, so we'll see. I know his family well – I signed his father years ago when I was an area scout for the San Diego Padres [laughs], so we have a relationship. I think right now, as we speak, DJ is probably…my guess is that it's going to be hard to get him done with the Florida State commit, but he's a quality, quality young man that has ability. Under the old system this is probably one that we're able to get done.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: You took Jose Diaz in the 29th round out of Puerto Rico. Was there more talent in Puerto Rico this year, or does it just seem that way due to the attention Correa brought?
Damon Oppenheimer: I think we all probably spent a little more time in Puerto Rico, not just because of him, but because of Berrios, and I think it was those two guys that got a lot of people down there and got some kids some exposure. You know, this is a 17 year old left-hander that needs work, but there's arm strength there and he's a live and loose athletic guy. So we're taking a chance that maybe something happens, and he's another kid that's going to come over and pitch in south Florida, so we'll be able to see him this summer.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: You got the nation's leading hitter in the 30th round by selecting Raph Rhymes. He announced on Twitter that he was going back to school, but has he made that official with you guys?
Damon Oppenheimer: Yeah, my guess is that he probably ends up back at LSU – I'm not 100% sure of that because nobody ever is, but he's one of the best pure hitters in the whole country. When you get to this point in the draft, with what else is left on the board, you can't not take a shot at one of the best hitters in the country on the chance that maybe he has a change of heart. If he doesn't, then I don't think we've lost much for taking the shot in the first place.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Why do you think such a visible college guy fell so far? I understand that he may not be a good defender, or be very projectable, but if a guy is leading the nation in hitting, and running through the SEC on top of that, how does this happen?
Damon Oppenheimer: I can't tell you why he fell this far exactly. I think there was some concern over whether he was going to sign, if he wanted to go back to school and play his senior year maybe. Some guys want to do that, and I respect him more for telling people that than I do the guy who changes his mind after you draft him. We knew going into this that there was probably a 99% chance that he was going back to school, but at the point we took him it's not going to hurt us, right?
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: You frequently discuss the pride you have in the relationships you and your staff form each year with the draft class. Is it safe to say that your area guy had a good relationship with 32nd round pick, Garrett Cannizaro?
Damon Oppenheimer: I think he might know him as well as any scout in the country [laughs]. We like Garrett, I mean we like him for more than him being Andy Cannizaro's brother; Garrett Cannizaro stands on his own as a good baseball player. He doesn't have huge, sexy tools, but this guy is a good baseball player. He should have been playing shortstop over at Tulane this year, in my opinion. If it doesn't work out with us, hopefully he goes back there, has a great senior year at Tulane, and does so playing shortstop – which is where he should be playing. We're going to watch him play some more on the Cape, and we'll see how it goes.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: In the 36th round you took Dalton Smith, a high school catcher who there isn't much information on. What can you tell us about him?
Damon Oppenheimer: Yeah: the kid's from San Diego and he can hit. He goes to the kind of high school down there that isn't the type that all the scouts run to, but Dave Keith, our area guy, did a nice job with him. We saw him with a couple of our other area guys, then watched his video, and he looks like a guy that can swing the bat. We've got a lot more work to do here, but it's kind of an intriguing, potential impact bat.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Is it fair to say that David Thompson appears virtually unsignable in the 38th round?
Damon Oppenheimer: We liked his ability – we liked it a lot higher in the draft. If he had been a baseball only guy he would have gone a lot higher than he did. My thought process on this one was that we should take a chance. Maybe he gets down there and finds that football isn't what he really wants to do; maybe he wants to be a baseball player. Some guys have that change of heart, so in the 38th round it didn't really hurt to try.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: In the 39th round Bo Decker was another HS catcher that I couldn't find much on. Is there anything you can give us on him?
Damon Oppenheimer: Just that our area guy knows this one well; thinks he's a good hitter. This is a situation where we'll watch him play a little bit this summer and see if this is a guy that wants to get out and play. Our area guy, Jeff Deardorff does a good job with hitters, and he likes this guy's bat, so it was worth it to me to take a shot at him right here.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Your final pick, Sherman Lacrus, has an interesting makeup: a native of Curacao, but playing baseball at a JUCO in Oklahoma. What was your path to unearthing him?
Damon Oppenheimer: Dennis Woody, who is the area guy, but also does a lot of work for us in the international market, said we can draft this guy and, because he's from Curacao, have him come down to workout at our complex in the Dominican. We're going to see if he might be able to catch, and basically get another look at what we've got here. He might be a signable guy for us, so I thought this was a good chance to take and see if we could learn more about him and maybe find a potential catcher.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Are there any picks that you are planning to do a conversion with, or maybe try them out in a way that fans are not expecting?
Damon Oppenheimer: I think the Refsnyder pick is probably one that people might be thinking "oh, that's just an outfielder", but I think the idea that we're going to try to work him back in at second base is something. Austin Aune played shortstop for his high school team, and I'm not sure that we're not going to exhaust the infield potential before we send him to the outfield, where some think he'll end up. We're actually talking about that now – if we should go infield first with him – so we'll see where that one ends up. Those are probably the main guys I can think of right now if we're talking about things in the realm of conversions.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: No pitching conversions this year?
Damon Oppenheimer: I can't think of any off the top of my head, no.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Before the draft you talked about how people would be kind of feeling their way trough this year to see how the new rules played out in their first real world application. What were you surprised by, and we're there any interesting takeaways?
Damon Oppenheimer: You know, until I sit down and break down each team's draft, and until we see who actually has signed, it's really hard to point at what the big changes from this draft are. I think you can see some trending that some teams followed that was maybe a little different than what has been done in the past, though.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Were any trends that you followed actually strategies that you hatched out in advance upon analyzing the new rules?
Damon Oppenheimer: No, I think we continued to follow our general practice of lining up our draft board according to talent, and we're going to try to get some of the best guys possible at the top of this draft according to the board, and then move forward after that, but within the financial restraints that were there. So yeah, we had to work with those constraints, but I think we were still able to take guys who were good players, good prospects, and get some ceiling. The biggest difference deals with some of the guys you were talking about earlier like the Jacksons, the Ty Moores, and the DJ Stewarts who we might have been able to work a little further towards getting done in the past. Now it's going to be very difficult, but it's worth the gamble.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Is it your intention to use the entirety of the bonus pool, even if the first 10 rounds come in below the ceiling? If you come in under the pool on the first 10 rounds, will you apply that excess to some of the next 30?
Damon Oppenheimer: As long as they're worth it. I mean, I'm not going to give away Yankee money to someone just because there's leftover; that wouldn't make sense. However if we think there's value, and we can get a guy signed for the value we put on him, then we're going to use every cent that they give us.
6/6/2012, 9:53 AM: Before we get started on Day 3, here are some quick answers from Damon about the picks made on Day 2. For those of you looking for a discussion of strategy of whom was selected where and why, that will come after the draft is completed. For now, enjoy a discussion of the players selected yesterday:
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: 2nd round pick, Austin Aune looks to be one of those super athletic kids who has had a lot of development time taken away due to him being a very good football player as well. In my experience following your drafts, you don't usually use high picks to select athletes who have a questionable hit tool, so I'm curious what about what you tell us about his present skillset…
Damon Oppenheimer: One of the biggest parts about this guy is his hit tool – He is not in the category of raw athletes that need to learn how to hit. He's got hit, he's got power, and he's got a refined swing. If the message people are taking from reading about this pick is that we are buying "pure athlete", that's not the case at all; we're buying a guy who's a very good athlete, but who has hit skills and power.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Was his lack of top competition and/or full time playing a hindrance in evaluating him?
Damon Oppenheimer: Oh, he played – we saw him play quite a bit actually. The competition level wasn't the greatest Texas high school stuff, but he played, and he was also at Area Codes. He wasn't an unknown, I can tell you that much. I mean, he had been to Citifield for a workout with the Mets, he had been to Texas, he had been to Houston – he made all the rounds. So if people think he was kind of an unknown or a popup type guy, that's not the case. He was very clearly on the industry radar, and at a high level.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: In the 3rd round Peter O'Brien seems like the kind of guy you love: a catcher with a very strong bat who has the work ethic and mentality to grind. Does that sum him up?
Damon Oppenheimer: Yeah, you know it just kind of added up. Big, quality body, one of the better power potential guys in the whole draft, and a big arm, so with what we have seen Julio do with catching in our system, I think he gives us a chance to get a guy who can catch and hit us some homeruns.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Can his bat move quickly through the system? Does it have that kind of potential?
Damon Oppenheimer: Yeah, you would hope so, but I don't know – only time will tell.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: 3rd rounder, Nathan Mikolas reminds me bit of last year's 7th round selection, Austin Jones – a kid whose value is in a really good hit tool. What can you tell us about him and his skillset?
Damon Oppenheimer: He's strong; he's got a good, strong body. He's a corner guy, whether it's going to right field, left field, or first base, but with him it's hit, and hit with power with a good swing. You know I don't like doing this, but on a Major League comp a lot of our guys comped his swing to Tino Martinez more than anything else. We know his makeup because he played on our scout team in the summer. So he's a corner bat, we know this guy well, and hopefully we get this one done.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Is this a case where scouting helped drill down on a guy from a non-hotbed?
Damon Oppenheimer: Well, Mikolas was on the showcase circuit, so I can't say that about him. He's definitely not a guy that just popped up this spring.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Does 4th rounder Corey Black fall into the category of undervalued college velo guys with names like Burawa, Nuding, Kahnle, and Greene?
Damon Oppenheimer: I think it's a little better than just the velocity with him. I mean, we have seen the guy up to 99 MPH, so obviously there's a lot of velocity, but he's got a good breaking ball, too. He can get swing and miss with his fastball and he's got changeup, too. When we signed those other guys, with the exception of Nuding, there was probably little doubt that they would be relievers eventually, but this guy has more of a chance to stay as a starter. Could he eventually end up in the bullpen? Yes, but he's got the weapons to stay as a starter more so than the guys you named.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: So is he more of a Stoneburner type then?
Damon Oppenheimer: He probably has a little more stuff than Stoneburner.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: 5th rounder, Rob Refsnyder seems like another of the types that you like: a kid with solid hit tool, but no clear defensive position. What can you tell us about him?
Damon Oppenheimer: Refsnyder is a guy that has been playing the outfield out there in Arizona, but our scout Steve Kmetko saw him play second base and the infield as a high school kid, and thinks he can go back there. Andy Lopez, the coach out there, is a friend of mine and thinks he can go back into the infield, too. So I think the idea with Rob is that we think we're getting a bat, we're getting a guy we know has makeup, and a guy who has performed, and we think that if he can remain an offensive player in the infield, then we've got a pretty good player.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Was 6th rounder Nick Goody ever close to signing last year?
Damon Oppenheimer: We had a lot of discussions with Nick last year, but I can't remember how close it got off the top of my head. He performed at a pretty good level in the SEC this season as a closer and we were able to redraft him, so we'll see how it goes once his season ends, because he's still out there pitching. He gets swing and miss, though, and that's something that we value.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Was this a case where the relationship stayed strong even after he wasn't signed last year?
Damon Oppenheimer: I think there's a good relationship here; we've got a good relationship with Nick. Jim Hendry has always had a good rapport with Mainieri down there at LSU, so that's helped, too.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: 7th rounder Taylor Garrison seems like a velo guy that might have been undervalued because of his size…
Damon Oppenheimer: [jumps in before the question is finished] Big arm. BIG arm, Kevin. I mean, he's got a big arm and we're trying to get some bullpen arm strength once we were into this part of the draft. We liked him last year and he had some success, so we felt great about getting a bullpen velocity guy here.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: 11th round pick, Caleb Frare seems like the Nik Turley type – not necessarily stunning present stuff, but a lefty developmental guy that you can project. Is that what you were going for here?
Damon Oppenheimer: It's hard to find lefthanders, you know, so you've got to develop them, and we're going to try to get a projection lefthander here. Our guys went up there and saw him, so he fits into what we're trying to do with developing some lefthanded pitching.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: I could find much on 12th round pick, Chris Breen. Can you give us some information on the prep catcher?
Damon Oppenheimer: Well, he was the catcher for Eflin's team [Kevin's Note: RHP Zac Eflin was selected 33rd overall by the Padres] so everyone was in there to see Zac Eflin pitch, and he caught our eye as a really good bodied kid with an average to solid-average arm. We liked him and thought he was actually going to go early than this after he had a really good showing at the Florida high school all-star game in Sebring. We like the way he swung the bat, so he's a good sized guy with arm strength and some strength in his swing, too, so this one could be a good sleeper for us.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: The Frare and Breen picks don't seem like the huge overslot high school signings – they seem more like the kind of kids who just want to get started and will for more in line with the post 10th round limits.
Damon Oppenheimer: Well, we'll see. There's a lot of work to do on getting guys signed still, so it's too hard to commit on anything having to do with getting actual signings done.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Is there any projectability left in 13th rounder James Pazos, or is he just simply a solid, durable, college LHP?
Damon Oppenheimer: Pazos is a tough guy, who probably is not the ultra-projection type, but what he's got now is pretty good. He's got lefthanded arm strength coming from a good program, and that's tough to find down in this part of the draft, so we're pretty happy about that. Hopefully we can get him done.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: In the 15th round you selected Dayton Dawe, which continued a trend of venturing north of the border for an arm every year. How much of this pattern is due to Denis Boucher's arrival in 2010?
Damon Oppenheimer: Denis is a big part of that. I mean, if the guy can find you a Rutckyj every other year, or a projectable guy like this, it gives us a really comfortable feeling to have Denis up there representing us. If you don't have a guy on the ground up there in Cnaada, if you don't have a guy tapped into what's going on in that area, you're probably not going to have enough information and enough comfort level to take a guy like this. So we feel good about this kind of guy.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: From what I read on him, it seems like Dawe is ready to sign and get his career started. Is that accurate information?
Damon Oppenheimer: That's what Denis says, so we'll see how everything goes now that we've actually drafted him. But that seems to be the inclination that we're getting.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Finally, you always talk about getting as many extra looks as you possibly can in the scouting process before making a decision on a guy. With the deadline moved up even further this year, is a mini D&F still possible for some of these post-10th round picks in the next four weeks?
Damon Oppenheimer: I think the D&F part of it is still possible – we've talked about that and had quite a bit of discussion on that internally. We'll still have enough time to get that part of it done, but the part of it that makes it difficult is when players are unwilling to back down off really high signability numbers. That part of it becomes really hard to try and work in a guy whose present number is going to make it almost impossible to get near.
6/5/2012, 10:58 PM: Day Two of the MLB Draft has concluded, and we will be running our daily summary with Damon tomorrow morning. In the meanwhile, it is interesting to take a look at the new drafting trend that we saw several teams, including the Yankees, employ today. Taking seniors in the first 10 rounds allows a team to build up a cash reserve to deploy on other picks, either creating a substantial offer for a later round prospect, or augmenting an already large offer to an early round round selection to break him from his school commit.
But how much is really at stake? Several fans that have contacted me have been dismissive, and even angry, about this approach, treating it as if it is inconsequential. If we look a little deeper, we can see that the reality is that taking seniors could be a huge key towards bolstering a draft class.
A senior taken in the 7th-10th rounds can expect a bonus in the $25K-$50K range. Slot in those rounds is around $130K, leaving the potential to save approximately $100K per round.
A senior taken in the in the 4th round historically can expect a bonus in the $110K-$125K range. Slot in that round is approximately $275K, leaving the potential to save $150K+ on one pick.
The key though is that the exercise becomes counter productive if you torch the chance to acquire talent for the sake of preserving your bonus pool. The way this system works is to find senior talent that has a chance to contribute something on the field, otherwise you essentially become sisyphus continually laboring, but not making any progress.
Enter Peter O'Brien, a top ranked senior catcher whose bat is his calling card. The Yankees selected O'Brien in the 2nd round, where his slot is $500K. If the Yankees can sign O'Brien for $250K-$300K, they add a quarter of a million dollars to what they can spend on other players. Now add approximately $100K per round for the seniors the Yankees selected in rounds 7 through 10, and you have a total of approximately $650K. Add maybe another $150K-$200K in savings on solid but unspectacular juniors like Refsnyder, Black, and Goody, and you're looking at the potential opportunity to offer a mini D&F close to $1 million after the 10th round (or two half a million dollar offers, or three $400K offers, etc).
It's late and the math is very rough, but I think you can see the point. As long as the Yankees feel they are getting legitimate baseball value out of the picks they are looking to save their bonus pool on, they are building a cash reserve that they can deploy on bringing more significantly ceilinged talent into the organization. This also doesn't even consider the possibility of savings on Hensley and/or Aune's slots.
On to Day Three tomorrow, where I hope we see an intriguing high school kid or two taken. Stay tuned.
6/5/2012, 12:49 AM: Day One of the draft is in the books, and I just finished up a quick conversation with Damon about the Yankees 1st round selection in the 2012 draft, Ty Hensley. For me personally, the big Oklahoman's selection is the first time since Slade Heathcott in 2009 that the immediate feedback from draft fans was positive on the whole. In fact, this is the first time I can ever remember not seeing one, single negative reaction...wait a second, now I'm scared. This doesn't feel right...
All kidding aside, here is the breakdown of my talk with Damon. Hope you guys enjoy it:
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Let's start off very basic - what do you like about Ty?
Damon Oppenheimer: The thing we really like about Ty is that we think he has all of the components to be a top of the rotation starter. He's got the right kind of body to be durable, he's got a plus fastball, he's got a plus curveball, his work ethic was very good this year, and he's got desire and makeup, so we think we're getting a guy that has a chance to be pretty high-end.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: In talking to you over the years you have always been very hesitant to speculate about a draftee's potential spot within a rotation, instead simply saying that you believe a kid has a "chance to be a starter". What you're saying about Ty seems to be high praise, then. Can you clarify "top of the rotation starter" for the readers?
Damon Oppenheimer: Yeah, for me a top of the rotation guy is all the way to a third starter. Those kinds of guys don't just grow on trees, you know? I don't want someone to misinterpret that and think I'm saying "we guarantee that we drafted a number one starter" or something like that, but he's got the right components to be a guy who pitches at the top of a rotation.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: You spoke about him having a plus curveball. When you drafted Bryan Mitchell back in 2009, I remember you told me in a post draft conversation that he had a "now" curveball. Is that the type of pitch we're talking about with Ty?
Damon Oppenheimer: Yes, Ty has a "now" curveball; it's a weapon that should create swing-and-miss. It's a quality pitch.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Did his being a hitter, and a with-hitter at that, play any role in the selection?
Damon Oppenheimer: It helps. It just helps show that he's a good all-around athlete. I like it when guys hit, I think it shows that they haven't spent all their time in one place and become just a clinic guy. So I think it makes him a little more well-rounded to me.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: When in the process did you really start paying attention to him as a possible 1st rounder?
Damon Oppenheimer: He's been on our radar for well over 12 months, probably going on two years, and the progress we've seen each time out has been great, starting with last year right after the draft at Perfect Game in Fort Meyers, all the way through this year with the way he did things throughout his season. It just made us feel like the guy kept getting better.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Something I've been stressing to the Yankee draft fans out there is the strong emphasis you place on the mentality that you want your draftees to have. How does Ty fit into that equation?
Damon Oppenheimer: He checks out really well with our makeup people; he checks out really well with his work ethic; the transformation that he's done on his body, the way he's worked on his physique, shows that he's committed, ready, and has the drive to be quality. So makeup wise, as we speak right now, we feel that he's where we want him to be.
Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Was Lloyd Simmons involved with Oklahoma again this year? How many people saw him? Was Hendry among them?
Damon Oppenheimer: Oh yeah, Lloyd was involved and helped us out quite a bit. Lloyd saw him pitch a lot, but he was seen by at least nine different Yankee scouts, and yes, Jim saw him.
So there you have it, instant feedback from the man himself. Stay tuned for plenty of more news from Day 2 tomorrow...or later today, that is.
6/4/2012, 9:16 AM: Here we are again, my friends! The draft begins tonight, and we have double the excitement and anticipation that we usually experience, because not only are we set for the opening of the draft, but there is an air of uncertainty regarding the way the picks and talent will flow under the new guidelines established in last winter's CBA update.
So, without further ado, here are some general (and one specific 1st round pick prediction at the end!) discussion points about what to expect tonight.
- Do not expect the Yankees to deviate from the style they have refined over the last two years. The Yankees have become highly adept at finding very good prospects in the $125K-$1.0 mil range. As I discussed in the redraft piece I wrote for the magazine, the new CBA regulations, while more strident, are not daunting for the Yankees because they have already been operating under a budget and have had to really mine the draft to find their talent. As frustrated as many Draft fans are with upper management's imposing, what they perceive as, an unnecessarily restrictive budget, the facts are that Damon & Co. have adapted, and even thrived, with the constraints. Expect the Yankees to continue to find talented players that may not be the biggest and most popular names, but whom will have the Draft pundits revising their initial post-draft reactions three months later. I wouldn't be at all surprised if they took a player with a 900K-$1.1 mil price tag in the 1st round, just so they could have an additional $500K-$700K to spread in rounds 2-5.
- Expect big talent to drop. In my assessment of the new CBA rules, it seems that there is the very strong possibility that legitimate talent to fall, whereas in the past it was mostly just big bonus demands that were falling. What's the difference? Well, I believe that there is a chance that true, top of the draft talent could make it's way down to the Yankees pick. Historically Yankee fans have seen popular names with elite price tags make their way down to the Yankees first selection, but the Yankees proprietary evaluations did not label those players' talent levels as being elite. Under the new CBA guidelines I think it is significantly more likely that teams are forced to pass on talent because they do not want to incur the steep draft pick penalties that will result upon paying the player. In short, unlike in past drafts, teams may actually deem a player truly worth, lets say $4 million, but he might not get selected because that number does not fit into anybody's bonus pool. Previously if a player was unquestionably worth $4 million a team would almost always select him prior to the end of the 1st round where the Yankees select.
- The resulting high-excitement, low-odds scenario: If true, top-of-the-draft talent does somehow fall to the Yankees, it will be very, very interesting to see how they react. Historically, the Yankees have not passed on legitimately valued talent. Similarly, they have passed almost every time on what they perceive as overpriced players, even if the player possesses a good degree of talent. As an example, even though they were working with a draft budget, they were ready to open their checkbook and blow past it when they selected Gerrit Cole in 2008, because their internal evaluations of his talent indicated that he was worth what he was asking - even though that number was top-of-the-draft money. We haven't seen a selection like that since because a talent level the Yankees believe was unquestionably commensurate with an enormous bonus level has not fell to them at the end of the 1st round. It will be really fascinating to see what happens if a player of unquestionably elite talent, but a corresponding huge bonus demand, makes it to them tonight. Do they get the star-caliber player and subject themselves to losing multiple 1st round draft picks? The strong odds say no, but given their philosophy of doing what it takes if a truly elite player is available, the chance exists - if only slight.
- MY MOCK DRAFT 2012 YANKEES 1ST ROUND PICK IS...: Look, I routinely tell you guys that trying to do a mock draft, or even figure out what the Yankee might possibly do, is futile. Unlike other sports that have an extremely limited and well-known draft pool, the one in baseball is literally thousands and thousands of players across numerous age levels and leagues. The Yankees are scouting players nationwide, for multiple years in some cases, year round. Remembering that the lists most fans are going off is a singular media outlet's "Top 100" or "Top 200", it becomes pretty apparent that a Game of Thrones character can best sum up what is true about most of our pre-draft knowledge of the Yankees 1st round intentions: "You know nothing, Yankee draft fan."
All that said, if I had to guess at the Yankees selection tonight for fun, I'd go with Mitch Brown, a well built high school RHP from Minnesota who is reported to have an outstanding work ethic and mentality to handle the minor league gauntlet (and like 2011's top NJ prospect, Kevin Comer he has some Korean lineage, which always makes a prospect more intriguing to me personally, as my sister is Korean!). The Yankees love pursuing cold weather guys who they feel will blossom even further once they defrost them in Tampa, and he fits in perfectly with their philosophy of taking kids with a stronger desire to be a professional ballplayer than a rich teenager. Plus, what would a Yankee draft be if they didn't break a kid from USD (DeLuca 2009, Camarena 2011)? There may or may not be some other reasons, too, but sharing them wouldn't be chivalrous of me (nothing major or concrete mind you, just a couple of indirect, vague hints I've picked up along the way. Remember: the strong odds here are that I am laughably wrong).
So there are some talking points for tonight, and one ridiculous "prediction." Stay tuned both here in the Draft Blog, and on the forum for draft discussion, as we progress through the draft and into the signing period.