2013 Postdraft Q&A: Damon Oppenheimer, Day 2

We sat down with the Yankees Scouting Director to review the eight selections he made on Day 2 of the 2013 MLB Draft. Which guys are signability cases? Which picks were exciting to make? What are the outlooks on some of the developmental guys? All that, and more...

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Right off the bat, what does it feel like to finally get one of your redrafts back? That's got to feel pretty damn good.

Damon Oppenheimer: Oh, it's great. We followed Michael, and he wasn't healthy out of high school, so we weren't able to do much when we initially drafted him. We've watched him every year since and he just keeps getting better. He's got some really quality tools, and he's a really good athlete, so he fits right in with what we try to do; what we try to put into the system. He ran a 6.4 60 for us, he's got power, and he can really throw. He can play, and we're going to give him that opportunity - he's got a chance to be a good player.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Some prospect outlet scouting reports mention him as a tweener in the OF defensively, but what are your thoughts on that?

Damon Oppenheimer: Well gosh, he runs a 6.4 60, I'd put him up against anyone in this draft in a race. There aren't a lot of guys that we clock at a 6.4. He definitely has the ability and speed to play in centerfield, and he definitely has the raw power to play on the corners, so it's just a matter of getting both of those skillsets to play - and you know, that's why we've got the minor leagues.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: I'm assuming you saw him on the Cape last summer?

Damon Oppenheimer: I've seen him the last two summers. He's just a northern kid that keeps getting better.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Tyler Wade was a pop-up guy of sorts this year, coming on really strong out of the SoCal hotbed. What can you tell us about him?

Damon Oppenheimer: We're talking about a kid who's a shortstop at 6'2", lefthanded bat, really has a good clock for the game and shortstop in particular from what we've seen, and has plenty of arm. He just needs to get physically stronger, and that's good because that's something we can definitely help a guy do. We were excited to get this, because we think an athletic, lefthanded hitting shortstop could really be a commodity at some point.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: He seems like the kind of kid that has all the tools to be a top of the draft pick if he just physically matures - he has the perfect scouting frame to build on.

Damon Oppenheimer: Yeah, I mean, who knows what a guy's ceiling or floor truly is? We profess to try and get that question right, and we all make decisions based on our opinions in response to it, but you just don't know for sure. This kid has the attributes we're looking for, and the fact that he has tools, he's athletic, and is actually a good baseball player has us really excited. This was a good pick.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: David Palladino in the 5th round is a mountain of a prospect, standing 6'9". I've seen his weight listed everywhere from 230 lbs to 270 lbs, so can you clarify what you have him at?

Damon Oppenheimer: I think the last time we got it was around 240 lbs. If you've seen video of him, he moves well, he doesn't look like he's lumbering or anything like that. The kid moves well, his delivery works, his arm works, and we've had his velocity up to 95 MPH and even a little better at times. It's the right size, and the right durability in his body to have a guy that could have some power to him.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Is Leuzinger his area guy this year?

Damon Oppenheimer: Yeah.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: His background reminds me a little of Jon Gray in 2011 - huge mountain of pitching prospect, potential for a big arm, some now velo, coming out of JUCO with a commit to a bigtime university, and still a long ways to go...yet the chance to become a high-end arm.

Damon Oppenheimer: Well, there's only been one Jon Gray, so to try and say there's a JUCO guy that's going to go on to a four year school and end up developing like that is futile, I think - you're really blindly stabbing at that point, you know? I mean, I can't think of anybody but Jon that's done that. So we like him, and he really looks good, but we've still got development to do with him, and things like that.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Do you see him as a starter?

Damon Oppenheimer: Oh yeah, he'll start.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Is he just a big-bodied velo project at this point or does he have some pitchability?

Damon Oppenheimer: No, no, no - he throws the ball over the plate, he throws strikes. He's not just a big arm guy that's heaving it up to the plate, he's got ability and can get other pitches over the plate also.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: John Murphy in the 6th round seems to be the quintessential Damon Oppenheimer intangibles/make-up pick, no?

Damon Oppenheimer: You know what? I've seen him in the Cape, and last year he had me thinking "ok, this guy is a good player - he's got make-up and all those other things that say he's a good baseball player, but I'm not sure if he has great tools and physical ability." Then I watched him this year, and he did something. He went and got stronger, he went and got faster, the impact off his bat is better, and he's still a good player. He's got a chance to stick at shortstop with tools that could keep him there through the Major League level, and he's a lefthanded hitter.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: It seems like Nick Rumbelo in the 7th round was the first of your traditional college velo guys that you really see hidden value in - they might not be starters, they might not have the second or third pitches, they might not have command, but they can dial it up and miss bats. Is this pick one of those guys?

Damon Oppenheimer: He's got a power arm, we've seen him up to 98 MPH coming out of the pen, and you're dead-on right - this is the kind of guy that we target, who pitches in the back-end of a bullpen, who hopefully keeps getting better, and who has the chance to move through our system at a good rate.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: He had some insane numbers on the Cape, I believe. How much did that factor into the selection?

Damon Oppenheimer: Well, my thing with that is that I've got Andy Cannizaro down there, very tied-in to Louisiana. Jim Hendry is my special assistant and he's very tied-in with LSU. So we think we have a good feel for LSU players. We see them a lot, we saw Rumbelo come on, and we saw him throw well.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: With all those ties to LSU, do they break your balls about taking guys like Palladino and Rumbelo?

Damon Oppenheimer: [laughs] You know what, I think it's just a part of the game; it's part of what we do. I mean it was Slade Heathcott one year signed to LSU, Jake Cave another, but then we drafted Nick Goody and Paul [Mainieri] got him, so it just kind of works out; it's the way things are. We've got a good rapport with them.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: You snagged toolsy Brandon Thomas who went from a 4th round pick last year to the 8th this year, mainly due to a bout with mono. Would you classify this one as a great value selection?

Damon Oppenheimer: We're really excited. We've seen him play for a long time, he's athletic, he plays in the middle of the field, and you know we like that, especially with the guys who can play center. He's got speed, he's got size, and he's gotten better, so we think that it's a good pick and that the kid could flourish in our system. This is one that we really feel good about.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What kind of power does he bring to the table?

Damon Oppenheimer: You know, the production hasn't been there, but you go to the games and you watch him in BP and the ball really jumps off his bat; he definitely has raw power. With raw power there's a chance for it to turn into homeruns, so we'll see what happens, but there's a good starting point.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Conner Kendrick seems to have dealt with a lot of movement in his career so far, going on his third college and being moved between the rotation and the pen. What do you think you have on your hands once you give him a little stability?

Damon Oppenheimer: Well, at the end of the year we saw a guy that could pitch - a lefthander that could pitch and showed us enough stuff to be a starter. You always try to target some lefthanders in this part of the draft, and he fit. Nobody is saying he's going to be a power guy, but nobody is saying he's soft, and we liked what we saw in terms of throwing strikes, we liked what we saw in term of the stuff continuing to improve, and hopefully it just keeps getting better.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Ty Webb is a college closer who doesn't throw hard, but has had enormous success for the Gamecocks, one of the best teams in the country, sometimes on the biggest stage. How have you seen him develop? Because this is a guy that's been around for a while...

Damon Oppenheimer: Yeah, he's been around, but it's been nice to watch. This kid is getting a little bit better each time. The fastball has got deception, it gets on hitters. Sometimes it might not read huge numbers, but then all of a sudden it's weak contact, so he should be a guy that could move at a good pace and could be a contributor for us pretty soon.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: He's generally a 90 MPH guy, so what do you point to specifically as a scout that explains his utter dominance this season in particular?

Damon Oppenheimer: You know, some guys just have that...whatever you want to call it, whether it's "late giddyup" on their fastball, they release the ball a little closer to the plate, they do something that causes their fastball to be, using the old term, "sneaky fast". That's what his is, it's just got a little something extra on it that when you measure it and the gun readings don't correlate, you say "there's a little extra fastball there".


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: So it's not that he's getting college bats with offspeed stuff, it's his fastball, even though it doesn't have top-end velo?

Damon Oppenheimer: Yeah, exactly.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: So how much does it annoy you when people refer to South Carolina as USC?

Damon Oppenheimer: [laughs] You got me on that one! Yeah, it's tough on me to listen to that. I usually qualify that with a "USC? which one are you talking about? The real one, or the one on the east coast?"


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Out of all these selections, do any of them stand out as being particularly, or potentially, difficult negotiations?

Damon Oppenheimer: You never know. Each case is different, and we'll do the best we can to get them all in, past physicals, and done. The draft is the first stage, then you've got to get them signed, and then you've got to get them to pass a physical, and you know how things have been on that front in the past. So we're excited to draft them, excited to have them, ad now we've just got to finish the process up.



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