Stanford Athletics

We sat down with Yankees scouting director Damon Oppenheimer to discuss draft philosophy for the 2017 picks.

PinstripesPlus.com checks in with Yankees Vice President of Scouting Damon Oppenheimer for a bonus Q&A session. After discussing the various picks in our three-part series, he talks about how analytics have become a big part of their draft preparation, if having a super-deep farm system allowed him to take so many later-round risks, if the Latin American program has allowed him to take a few more pitchers, and so much more!

PinstripesPlus.com: You guys have a knack for getting some of these late-round guys to the big leagues and definitely having some emerge as 'sleeper' prospects down the road.  Which one of these later-round picks this year do you think could emerge as 'sleepers' someday?

Damon Oppenheimer: It's really hard to say.  We were looking at it the other day before we went into day three of the day.  Since 2005 we've drafted 33 guys that have played in the big leagues, 19 of them we signed.  There were some guys who went to college or didn't sign with us, or something like that.  So yeah, there's a group in there like you're saying.  .I couldn't tell you which one it's going to be.  I think we took enough of the right kind of guys [to get some] that could have success in our system but we are going to have a couple that are going to pop.  How successful they are and how hard they work at it is up to them.

PinstripesPlus.com: You've mentioned it a couple of times now, not having to draft to fill roster spots.  We know that as an organization the Yankees have signed a number of Latin American position players in particular.  Does having these kids now beginning to creep up to the Gulf Coast level, the Pulaski and Staten Island levels, afford you the luxury to take what you wanted in the draft and give you the opportunity to take more chances like the ones you took?

Oppenheimer: Yeah, I think it helped knowing that we have a bunch at these entry level leagues with position players.  It gave us the opportunity to have to jam position players into the system.  Had the right choices been there we would have taken them at the top of the draft but once you get down to where you might be filling spots we didn't need to fill them.  The guys would be sitting on the bench or taking away at-bats from some of the young kids we've taken or signed in years passed, guys we need to allow the game to tell us if they're prospects or not and get those guys at-bats and fielding chances on a consistent basis.  By taking the pitching, you always need pitching as we all know.  We didn't have to take many organizational players.

PinstripesPlus.com: Did other sides of the Yankee developmental house tell you not to draft position players?  Or did you go into the draft knowing you didn't have to draft anything in particular and that you could take whatever you wanted?

Oppenheimer: We've got the communication set up where they show me their roster projections are before the draft.  Then we go over and decide where not to compromise the talent level but [for example] we're not going to not take somebody simply because we have five outfielders set for Pulaski.  If the best player available is an outfielder then I'm going to take him.  They understand that and they know that, and everybody is on the same page with that.  Everybody agrees.  I think we work real well together with that.  It honestly just worked out in this way.  It's not like we steered it towards where we were going to stay away from this or that.  We still put the board up and what were the best available players in this draft, and go from there.

PinstripesPlus.com: I think everyone sees the number of pitchers you took and now some are even pondering if you took too many pitchers.  Are you going to be able to give all of these guys innings?

Oppenheimer: I've had this discussion before with 'Cash' [Brian Cashman] and his mind is 'you take what's best and we'll let player development figure out how to give them all of their innings'. 

PinstripesPlus.com: It's no secret that you guys have a killer farm system with a lot of depth, so much that not only do I think the national media doesn't realize how much is there at the lower levels already but even the New York media.  Having that kind of depth, what kind of luxury is that going into a draft?

Oppenheimer: We didn't look at it any differently.  All we looked at was to keep this thing going in the right direction that we have to continue to put good players in it every year, because if you miss then it creates a hole.  I know we're enjoying a lot of parts of what's going on with the Yankees at the big league level and at the minor league level, and all the scouts and player development people want to keep doing the same things so we can keep enjoying this, and that's by putting these players into the system.

PinstripesPlus.com: I'm going to ask a loaded question -- Frankie Piliere thought your draft was very good but that if you were to sign one or two of the tough signs, the draft eligible sophomores or the hard-sign high school guys, that it could push it over to a fantastic draft.  Do you agree with that assessment?

Oppenheimer: I think we've had a really good draft.  I agree with that.  The more of those kinds of guys that we could sign, yeah, the better off we're going to be, the higher the draft could be graded or evaluated at this point.  This is the kind of draft that when we combine what our scouts have seen with the analytics guys, combined with the makeup and the performance science, I think we've covered a lot of things that have gone through the system and have had success.  We're trying to do that with the draft.

PinstripesPlus.com: You've mentioned it a couple of times now, not having to draft to fill roster spots.  We know that as an organization the Yankees have signed a number of Latin American position players in particular.  Does having these kids now beginning to creep up to the Gulf Coast level, the Pulaski and Staten Island levels, afford you the luxury to take what you wanted in the draft and give you the opportunity to take more chances like the ones you took?

Oppenheimer: I talk about it a lot because we look at it and we value it.  In my mind Scott Beneke is one of the best analytics guys there is for amateur scouting.  He gets it.  He gets that not every analytic thing at the amateur level converts to being a professional.  I think that's why I talk about it so much, because he's good at it and he's steering some of our guys and talking to our guys about possible late-round guys to possibly go take a look at that you might not normally get to go see.  I think we have this really nice group over here where the scouts embrace what Scott says and Scott embraces the artistic side of what the scouts are seeing.  I think we're on the right path of the right blend. 


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