Post-Draft Q&A with Damon Oppenheimer - Pt. 1

With the 2014 MLB Draft all over and done with, PinstripesPlus checks in with Yankees Vice President of Scouting Damon Oppenheimer for a Q&A session to talk about how he felt they did in the draft, the reasons behind all of the college selections, what they saw in Jacob Lindgren, and much, much more!

PinstripesPlus.com: First a general question. I know it's very early but overall how do you feel like the draft went for you guys this year?

Damon Oppenheimer: It was harder going from last year when you had so many picks to this year when you're not picking until [number] 55. It was a little bit of a different process to try and figure out who was possibly going to be in your mix, to really concentrate who to spend most of your time on scouting. You try to scout everybody and you try to get multiple looks but it is really difficult to try and get an idea -- most importantly not who to waste time on -- and then figure out who to spend time on. I think overall we did good. I think we addressed some things that the organization needed. We needed to add some pitching, we needed to add some left-handers, and I think we got some depth there. Obviously we're thinking we got some big league talent in the draft.

PinstripesPlus.com: Before we get to the individual picks, overall you drafted a lot of college guys. I know you don't go into a draft thinking more high school or more college guys or what have you, but did it just shake out that way or did you actually see a bulk of the talent among the college pitchers this year?

Oppenheimer: I think it was a couple of things. At times we were probably -- there were probably three to four rounds where we were a pick or two picks away from us not talking about this not being so college heavy. We could have ended up with five [more] high school guys and it's not even a conversation. The way we had the board lined up and the way guys were selected in front of us, this is the way it happened. Then with the new [slotting] system you have limited resources to sign high school guys. There were quite a few high school guys that gave us indications that their signability was going to run us out of our area too.

PinstripesPlus.com: I didn't know if organizationally -- the big scuttle-but is how the Yankees are going to make a big splash in the International market next month -- I didn't know if that fact that getting a bunch of 16 and 17-year old kids in a few weeks had any sort of bearing on all of the college players selected in the draft. Did that come into your organizational mindset at all?

Oppenheimer: It was a part of the puzzle. From talking to Donny Rowland, talking to Mark [Newman] and stuff, we're hoping to get an infusion of talent at the lower level that might be in the middle of the field, that might be more position player oriented. It did play a little bit into it but it was still based on best available for us, what we did.

PinstripesPlus.com: Last question about this then -- did the ascensions of a Chase Whitley, a David Phelps, even a Mark Montgomery at Triple-A already or a Matt Tracy getting some Triple-A experience too, have any sort of proof positive of getting to the big leagues quicker and even have some success perhaps give the idea of selecting more college guys more credence? Did that play a role in this year's draft process as well?

Oppenheimer: I think that -- obviously in terms of numbers taken we should have a few more college guys. Yes we've had some success with the college guys recently but you also look at it and say, you know what [Dellin] Betances is pretty good and it was high school. Zach McAllister is over in Cleveland and it was high school, and it was pretty good. We've got Brady Lail going pretty good as a high school guy. [Bryan] Mitchell is on the 40-man. I didn't approach it like 'we've got to take college guys'. Gil [Patterson] is doing a heck of a job and I think we've got some young high school arms that are starting to develop. If [Gabe] Encinas was healthy there would be another high school guy having success. I think they're doing a good job with both high school and college guys.

PinstripesPlus.com: Let's move on to Jacob Lindgren then, your first pick overall [but in the second round]. He's a little guy apparently with a hard fastball and a wipeout slider. The guys on the MLB Network even prognosticated that he could be in the big leagues by the end of the year. Is that something that you thought about when you made this selection or are you not really expecting that kind of movement?

Oppenheimer: I never expect that kind of movement. I do think if we keep him in the bullpen that he has the chance to move quick for sure, but it wasn't part of the equation, saying we're going to get a guy to the big leagues quickly. We thought he had quality stuff, got out hitters, had swing and miss quality to his pitches, successful. I wouldn't call him little. That term I would leave for some other guys, not him. He's just not huge. Obviously we think we're getting a big leaguer and most likely it's a bullpen big leaguer, and a guy who can come in and pitch multiple innings from the left side and get strikeouts. I think it's a real commodity.

PinstripesPlus.com: You mentioned "most likely bullpen" -- is there some thought he could come in and, at least in the beginning, get some development time as a starting pitcher?

Oppenheimer: I leave that to Gil [Patterson], Mark [Newman, [Pat] Roessler, and all of those guys to make up their mind after they've seen him and talked to him. I think he sees himself as a bullpen guy, but that being said it could all change.

PinstripesPlus.com: You also mentioned multiple innings though -- this isn't just a left-handed specialist, right? This is a guy who can get right-handers out?

Oppenheimer: Yeah I think if you look at his splits and stuff he had a lot of success versus right-handed hitters also.

PinstripesPlus.com: Let's move on to Austin DeCarr because he was the high school guy that guys took early. Talk about his talent -- where is his game right now.

Oppenheimer: He's obviously a little bit older. He did the post-grad year up there at Salisbury. I think it really helped him mature physically, mature mentally. He's the guy that we took who we think has that opportunity to be a power starter that you're always looking for. He's got a now fastball that's 90-96 mph, he's got a true downer curveball, and his changeup kept making strides. Up there though the changeup isn't something they have to incorporate a lot, especially at the high school level. Most high school pitchers don't. Obviously it's going to need to be incorporated more but I think it will be a quality pitch for him and we see him as a three-pitch guy who we see as a power starter. The command kept getting better as the year went on. We were really excited to land him. We thought he was one of the better high school pitchers in this whole draft.

PinstripesPlus.com: Who would you compare him to currently in the farm system? He sounds Bryan Mitchell-like. Is that a fair comparison is there a different comparison?

Oppenheimer: I think it's probably that kind of stuff with more advanced command right now when we signed Bryan. I do think he's got the chance to be a power guy that can command his fastball.

PinstripesPlus.com: Obviously signability is a big thing with these high school guys and DeCarr is no different. Right now do you feel confident in your ability to bring him into the organization?

Oppenheimer: Yes.

PinstripesPlus.com: Let's move on to left-hander Jordan Montgomery. He's not a small guy at all but he's not exactly a power pitcher either from all the scouting reports. Is he in the Lindgren mold as a future reliever type or is he a starting pitcher in your opinion?

Oppenheimer: No, no, no, we definitely see him as a starter. The guy has been South Carolina'S Friday night guy. The part about him not throwing hard -- we scouted him a lot. Our average fastball on him that he pitched at for a long time during a game, through seven innings he was averaging 91 mph. That's not a soft-tosser for us as a left-hander. There's going to be some 87s but I just think he can pitch. He had numerous times against the likes of Vanderbilt where he was running 92s and the occasional 93 [mph] six innings into the game. We don't see him as a crafty left-hander or something like that. We see him as a guy who can pitch, he's got a plus to plus-plus changeup that he gets swings and misses on that aren't chase pitches, they can be pitches in the strike zone that guys are swinging and missing at. His breaking ball we've seen good and obviously there's times where we're going to need to tighten it up. But he's a big guy who can pitch and creates a good angle, and gets ground balls too.

PinstripesPlus.com: A little Vidal Nuno-like? Or better?

Oppenheimer: No, I guess there would be some comparisons to a harder throwing Mark Redman. I know that's a while back but he pitched a long time as a starter in the big leagues. I think it's a little firmer stuff but maybe that package.

PinstripesPlus.com: Let's talk about right-hander Jordan Foley. He seems to be a big, strong guy who can throw hard. Is he tabbed for the bullpen?

Oppenheimer: No, starter again. He was a starter for Central Michigan. We saw him early at UNLV and it was a lot of 95 and 96s, and held it for a long time, 100 pitches into a game and still showing velocity. He threw strikes. We've seen the breaking ball good, we've seen it to where it needs to be more consistent, but great body, strong guy. We see him as a starter who has the chance for some power too.

PinstripesPlus.com: Let's talk about right-hander Jonathan Holder. You seem to have taken a few teammates this year. Is this a guy you just happened to see when you were scouting Lindgren?

Oppenheimer: We had identified Holder going into the season based on scouting reports and based on what our analytic guys looked at in terms of his swing and miss, and his strikeout rate. The guy had a lot of success in the SEC, got out a lot of good hitters. He's a big, strong guy whose fastball isn't overpowering on the gun but he gets a lot of swings and misses with it. I think there's some deception to it, he's got a really good curveball that he lands for strikes that is quality, and then on top of that we saw him get extended innings and we're going to take a run at him and see if we've a starter out of it because the innings we saw when he was extended Patrick, the velocity didn't go down. It wasn't like he could only hold his velocity for an inning or two. He held his velocity and all of the stuff for multiple innings. So we're going to take a run at him as a starter.

PinstripesPlus.com: Give me a little scouting report on centerfielder Mark Payton please.

Oppenheimer: Payton's a guy that can play. We look at it as a guy who can flat play. He's not going to wow you with tools, he's not a big, tall body guy, but he's a strong, compact guy kind of in the body type of a Jason Kubel type. He's really got good instincts in centerfield. He can hit, he's got real quality plate discipline, he sees pitches, he's got an advanced approach to hitting. He's just a good baseball player that we think is going to be offensive when it comes to hit on base. And in our park he's got enough pop that if he gets to New York he could possibly use that [short] porch.

PinstripesPlus.com: He sounds a little like Taylor Dugas. Is that a fair comparison or does this guy have a bit more pop?

Oppenheimer: I think there's a little more pop in him but he's kind of in that mold.

PinstripesPlus.com: Let's move on to Connor Spencer. To me he's one of the more intriguing picks. The numbers don't say he has a lot of power but you talk to some scouts and they say there's power in the swing, and Spencer himself believes he will be a power hitter with the wooden bat. Is there some ceiling to him even though he's a college bat?

Oppenheimer: Yeah, that park, you go to play at UC-Irvine and if you're smart as a hitter you realize what it gives you. It's not going to give you power. You're going to sacrifice a lot as a hitter to try to hit balls out of the park at Irvine. Obviously coach Gillespie had been a Yankee coach and a scout with us so I was able to watch Connor take a BP early in the year where he showed raw power. He hit some balls out that make you think it's there. It's just a matter of probably getting into a park that might be more conducive to turning on a few more balls and hitting some balls out. The bottom line with him is we know we're getting a guy who can swing the bat, uses his hands real well to hit, he can deep in counts, plays good first base, etc. Obviously as a first baseman we're going to need some power numbers to show up at some point but I don't think we need to be in a hurry for those to show up. Just let him hit and develop that [power] as it comes.

PinstripesPlus.com: Let's talk about shortstop Vince Conde. Obviously he comes from a great program at Vanderbilt. How is he defensively?

Oppenheimer: We've seen Vince play for a lot of years because he was on the same high school team as [Dante] Bichette [Jr.]. So we've scouted him quite a bit; we've seen him throughout his entire career at Vandy. He just kept getting better and getting stronger. He's always been a good defender. He's very confident with his glove. He's got enough arm to go into the hole. I'd say he's an advanced defender at shortstop and on top of that he's a guy who hits in the middle of the lineup there and had been a productive hitter who just keeps getting better. We think he's going to continue to get a little bit stronger and his skills offensively are just going to keep getting better. He can play short and be really reliable. Worst case scenario we know we're getting a defender.

PinstripesPlus.com: Let's talk about Ty McFarland from James Madison University. I see you tabbed him as a second baseman, no?

Oppenheimer: Ty's always been a guy who has had to play third base at JMU. He's a good sized kid who physically resembles Johnny Damon some. He's another guy who answers a lot of things we like offensively; left-handed hitter who has been playing in the infield in college, a guy who hits, he has production, plate discipline, which is huge for us. He came out to work out for us and he hit balls into the seats. We saw that and we're excited about the chance that there's some power in there and have the opportunity to hit with us and maybe develop it [the power] and be productive. I think we're going to give him a shot like Refsnyder and try him over at second base, and see if we can maximize his offensive ability in the infield. He's a good hitter, he's got makeup, his dad is a baseball guy -- he's been a coach in baseball for a lot of years, Spanky McFarland. We identified him going into the season as a hitter we'd be looking to get with the traits that he brought. We're pretty happy to get Ty.

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Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: First a general question. I know it's very early but overall how do you feel like the draft went for you guys this year?
\r\n
\r\nDamon Oppenheimer: It was harder going from last year when you had so many picks to this year when you're not picking until [number] 55. It was a little bit of a different process to try and figure out who was possibly going to be in your mix, to really concentrate who to spend most of your time on scouting. You try to scout everybody and you try to get multiple looks but it is really difficult to try and get an idea -- most importantly not who to waste time on -- and then figure out who to spend time on. I think overall we did good. I think we addressed some things that the organization needed. We needed to add some pitching, we needed to add some left-handers, and I think we got some depth there. Obviously we're thinking we got some big league talent in the draft.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Before we get to the individual picks, overall you drafted a lot of college guys. I know you don't go into a draft thinking more high school or more college guys or what have you, but did it just shake out that way or did you actually see a bulk of the talent among the college pitchers this year?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: I think it was a couple of things. At times we were probably -- there were probably three to four rounds where we were a pick or two picks away from us not talking about this not being so college heavy. We could have ended up with five [more] high school guys and it's not even a conversation. The way we had the board lined up and the way guys were selected in front of us, this is the way it happened. Then with the new [slotting] system you have limited resources to sign high school guys. There were quite a few high school guys that gave us indications that their signability was going to run us out of our area too.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: I didn't know if organizationally -- the big scuttle-but is how the Yankees are going to make a big splash in the International market next month -- I didn't know if that fact that getting a bunch of 16 and 17-year old kids in a few weeks had any sort of bearing on all of the college players selected in the draft. Did that come into your organizational mindset at all?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: It was a part of the puzzle. From talking to Donny Rowland, talking to Mark [Newman] and stuff, we're hoping to get an infusion of talent at the lower level that might be in the middle of the field, that might be more position player oriented. It did play a little bit into it but it was still based on best available for us, what we did.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Last question about this then -- did the ascensions of a Chase Whitley, a David Phelps, even a Mark Montgomery at Triple-A already or a Matt Tracy getting some Triple-A experience too, have any sort of proof positive of getting to the big leagues quicker and even have some success perhaps give the idea of selecting more college guys more credence? Did that play a role in this year's draft process as well?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: I think that -- obviously in terms of numbers taken we should have a few more college guys. Yes we've had some success with the college guys recently but you also look at it and say, you know what [Dellin] Betances is pretty good and it was high school. Zach McAllister is over in Cleveland and it was high school, and it was pretty good. We've got Brady Lail going pretty good as a high school guy. [Bryan] Mitchell is on the 40-man. I didn't approach it like 'we've got to take college guys'. Gil [Patterson] is doing a heck of a job and I think we've got some young high school arms that are starting to develop. If [Gabe] Encinas was healthy there would be another high school guy having success. I think they're doing a good job with both high school and college guys.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Let's move on to Jacob Lindgren then, your first pick overall [but in the second round]. He's a little guy apparently with a hard fastball and a wipeout slider. The guys on the MLB Network even prognosticated that he could be in the big leagues by the end of the year. Is that something that you thought about when you made this selection or are you not really expecting that kind of movement?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: I never expect that kind of movement. I do think if we keep him in the bullpen that he has the chance to move quick for sure, but it wasn't part of the equation, saying we're going to get a guy to the big leagues quickly. We thought he had quality stuff, got out hitters, had swing and miss quality to his pitches, successful. I wouldn't call him little. That term I would leave for some other guys, not him. He's just not huge. Obviously we think we're getting a big leaguer and most likely it's a bullpen big leaguer, and a guy who can come in and pitch multiple innings from the left side and get strikeouts. I think it's a real commodity.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: You mentioned \"most likely bullpen\" -- is there some thought he could come in and, at least in the beginning, get some development time as a starting pitcher?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: I leave that to Gil [Patterson], Mark [Newman, [Pat] Roessler, and all of those guys to make up their mind after they've seen him and talked to him. I think he sees himself as a bullpen guy, but that being said it could all change.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: You also mentioned multiple innings though -- this isn't just a left-handed specialist, right? This is a guy who can get right-handers out?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: Yeah I think if you look at his splits and stuff he had a lot of success versus right-handed hitters also.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Let's move on to Austin DeCarr because he was the high school guy that guys took early. Talk about his talent -- where is his game right now.
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: He's obviously a little bit older. He did the post-grad year up there at Salisbury. I think it really helped him mature physically, mature mentally. He's the guy that we took who we think has that opportunity to be a power starter that you're always looking for. He's got a now fastball that's 90-96 mph, he's got a true downer curveball, and his changeup kept making strides. Up there though the changeup isn't something they have to incorporate a lot, especially at the high school level. Most high school pitchers don't. Obviously it's going to need to be incorporated more but I think it will be a quality pitch for him and we see him as a three-pitch guy who we see as a power starter. The command kept getting better as the year went on. We were really excited to land him. We thought he was one of the better high school pitchers in this whole draft.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Who would you compare him to currently in the farm system? He sounds Bryan Mitchell-like. Is that a fair comparison is there a different comparison?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: I think it's probably that kind of stuff with more advanced command right now when we signed Bryan. I do think he's got the chance to be a power guy that can command his fastball.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Obviously signability is a big thing with these high school guys and DeCarr is no different. Right now do you feel confident in your ability to bring him into the organization?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: Yes.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Let's move on to left-hander Jordan Montgomery. He's not a small guy at all but he's not exactly a power pitcher either from all the scouting reports. Is he in the Lindgren mold as a future reliever type or is he a starting pitcher in your opinion?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: No, no, no, we definitely see him as a starter. The guy has been South Carolina'S Friday night guy. The part about him not throwing hard -- we scouted him a lot. Our average fastball on him that he pitched at for a long time during a game, through seven innings he was averaging 91 mph. That's not a soft-tosser for us as a left-hander. There's going to be some 87s but I just think he can pitch. He had numerous times against the likes of Vanderbilt where he was running 92s and the occasional 93 [mph] six innings into the game. We don't see him as a crafty left-hander or something like that. We see him as a guy who can pitch, he's got a plus to plus-plus changeup that he gets swings and misses on that aren't chase pitches, they can be pitches in the strike zone that guys are swinging and missing at. His breaking ball we've seen good and obviously there's times where we're going to need to tighten it up. But he's a big guy who can pitch and creates a good angle, and gets ground balls too.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: A little Vidal Nuno-like? Or better?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: No, I guess there would be some comparisons to a harder throwing Mark Redman. I know that's a while back but he pitched a long time as a starter in the big leagues. I think it's a little firmer stuff but maybe that package.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Let's talk about right-hander Jordan Foley. He seems to be a big, strong guy who can throw hard. Is he tabbed for the bullpen?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: No, starter again. He was a starter for Central Michigan. We saw him early at UNLV and it was a lot of 95 and 96s, and held it for a long time, 100 pitches into a game and still showing velocity. He threw strikes. We've seen the breaking ball good, we've seen it to where it needs to be more consistent, but great body, strong guy. We see him as a starter who has the chance for some power too.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Let's talk about right-hander Jonathan Holder. You seem to have taken a few teammates this year. Is this a guy you just happened to see when you were scouting Lindgren?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: We had identified Holder going into the season based on scouting reports and based on what our analytic guys looked at in terms of his swing and miss, and his strikeout rate. The guy had a lot of success in the SEC, got out a lot of good hitters. He's a big, strong guy whose fastball isn't overpowering on the gun but he gets a lot of swings and misses with it. I think there's some deception to it, he's got a really good curveball that he lands for strikes that is quality, and then on top of that we saw him get extended innings and we're going to take a run at him and see if we've a starter out of it because the innings we saw when he was extended Patrick, the velocity didn't go down. It wasn't like he could only hold his velocity for an inning or two. He held his velocity and all of the stuff for multiple innings. So we're going to take a run at him as a starter.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Give me a little scouting report on centerfielder Mark Payton please.
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: Payton's a guy that can play. We look at it as a guy who can flat play. He's not going to wow you with tools, he's not a big, tall body guy, but he's a strong, compact guy kind of in the body type of a Jason Kubel type. He's really got good instincts in centerfield. He can hit, he's got real quality plate discipline, he sees pitches, he's got an advanced approach to hitting. He's just a good baseball player that we think is going to be offensive when it comes to hit on base. And in our park he's got enough pop that if he gets to New York he could possibly use that [short] porch.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: He sounds a little like Taylor Dugas. Is that a fair comparison or does this guy have a bit more pop?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: I think there's a little more pop in him but he's kind of in that mold.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Let's move on to Connor Spencer. To me he's one of the more intriguing picks. The numbers don't say he has a lot of power but you talk to some scouts and they say there's power in the swing, and Spencer himself believes he will be a power hitter with the wooden bat. Is there some ceiling to him even though he's a college bat?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: Yeah, that park, you go to play at UC-Irvine and if you're smart as a hitter you realize what it gives you. It's not going to give you power. You're going to sacrifice a lot as a hitter to try to hit balls out of the park at Irvine. Obviously coach Gillespie had been a Yankee coach and a scout with us so I was able to watch Connor take a BP early in the year where he showed raw power. He hit some balls out that make you think it's there. It's just a matter of probably getting into a park that might be more conducive to turning on a few more balls and hitting some balls out. The bottom line with him is we know we're getting a guy who can swing the bat, uses his hands real well to hit, he can deep in counts, plays good first base, etc. Obviously as a first baseman we're going to need some power numbers to show up at some point but I don't think we need to be in a hurry for those to show up. Just let him hit and develop that [power] as it comes.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Let's talk about shortstop Vince Conde. Obviously he comes from a great program at Vanderbilt. How is he defensively?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: We've seen Vince play for a lot of years because he was on the same high school team as [Dante] Bichette [Jr.]. So we've scouted him quite a bit; we've seen him throughout his entire career at Vandy. He just kept getting better and getting stronger. He's always been a good defender. He's very confident with his glove. He's got enough arm to go into the hole. I'd say he's an advanced defender at shortstop and on top of that he's a guy who hits in the middle of the lineup there and had been a productive hitter who just keeps getting better. We think he's going to continue to get a little bit stronger and his skills offensively are just going to keep getting better. He can play short and be really reliable. Worst case scenario we know we're getting a defender.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Let's talk about Ty McFarland from James Madison University. I see you tabbed him as a second baseman, no?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: Ty's always been a guy who has had to play third base at JMU. He's a good sized kid who physically resembles Johnny Damon some. He's another guy who answers a lot of things we like offensively; left-handed hitter who has been playing in the infield in college, a guy who hits, he has production, plate discipline, which is huge for us. He came out to work out for us and he hit balls into the seats. We saw that and we're excited about the chance that there's some power in there and have the opportunity to hit with us and maybe develop it [the power] and be productive. I think we're going to give him a shot like Refsnyder and try him over at second base, and see if we can maximize his offensive ability in the infield. He's a good hitter, he's got makeup, his dad is a baseball guy -- he's been a coach in baseball for a lot of years, Spanky McFarland. We identified him going into the season as a hitter we'd be looking to get with the traits that he brought. We're pretty happy to get Ty.
\r\n
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