This is not even one-third of the extensive feature article we have in the upcoming issue of PinstripesPlus Magazine on how the Yankees prepare for the draft each year.
With the growing popularity of winter league baseball and players reporting to Spring Training earlier each year, professional baseball has gone from primarily a seasonal event to more of a year-round business, and nowhere is this more evident than in baseball scouting departments.
The Yankees have successfully rebuilt their farm system over the last few seasons on the strength of their drafts, and New York will try to improve upon their organizational depth once again this coming June, as they repeat this annual cyclical process.
After signing their first 15 picks last June, the Yankees didn't waste any time preparing for the 2008 MLB Draft, scheduled for June 5-6 this year.
"Obviously your main concern is this year's draft coming up, those are the guys we're really concentrating on," said Yankees scouting director Damon Oppenheimer. "You'll go to games and you'll see other guys, future guys that our area guys told us about or I will have seen somewhere, and you'll be like 'that's a pretty good looking kid for next year', that type of thing. But the main concentration is on the guys coming up this June."
While the Yankee scouts certainly keep a collective eye on the draft talent in future years, scouting high school sophomores and college freshmen, among others, they are mostly focused on the immediate task at hand.
"Every team probably does it differently, but the main concentration is what we're doing with the draft this year," said Yankees assistant scouting director, John Kremer. "There are a lot of things going on during a game so you try and keep your eyes peeled on who the good sophomores are, who the good freshman are, who maybe are going to be the good guys next year.
"We don't bear down on them, but we try to identify those guys so we have a better idea of them going into the summer. That's become a huge point of emphasis for all clubs [is] to go into the summer and scout the high school showcase circuit, the Cape Cod Summer League, the other collegiate summer leagues out there to get a better idea.
"We scout the guys heavily for this year for the draft, scout the players during the summer to follow for next year in the fall, and then the process starts over in the spring. That's kind of the cycle."
After making catcher Larry Day their 50th pick a year ago, the Yankee scouts gave themselves just a few days off before preparing for the 2008 draft.
"Moving forward, right after the draft, we're obviously trying to take care of signing the players," said Oppenheimer. "Pretty much a week after it's over we're going to be hitting the high school showcases in Minneapolis, then it's off to the Cape Cod League, so really you don't have time off because you go from drafting them to trying to sign them, and then you're right back into it a week later."
Attending various high school showcases and college wood bat leagues throughout the country, they come together early sometime in October to create their preliminary draft list, an initial ranking that most assuredly changes nearly weekly over the ensuing eight months leading up to the draft.
"We've got an idea at that point who our Top 100 are, but I'd say after that, probably around December we'll have a much better idea of who our Top 100 are," said Oppenheimer. "It's not really 100 – that's just kind of a round number – we've got way more than that.
"That list comes from our guys. Once the summer starts, the area guys, the cross-checkers, and myself, we're all going to these events. The area guys are all doing a lot more grass-roots stuff, going to Legion games, going to Connie Mack games, and things like that, but we're all out there going to the Northwoods League, each one of those showcase events. Our list that we work off of comes from us."
"The top guys aren't going to change that much because, in order to put them that high, you've really got to feel good about them and you've got a good history with them," said Kremer. "You don't change a guy from one to 50 based on one bad day, there are subtle changes made to the list as the year goes on."
With obvious factors like prolonged performances and injuries the two main culprits in changing the Yankees draft prospect rankings, the preliminary list is the all-important starting point to get their scouting gears in motion.
In the fall, Oppenheimer will sit down and ask his cross-checkers, 'who is our list?' He'll ask all the guys involved, 'who is on your list? You've seen guys all summer, who are your top guys? Give me your top college guys, your top high school guys.'
"Then we'll see where we're at, and he'll build a ranking in his own mind," said Kremer, "and actually put some magnets up in his office to get an idea of the players we're bearing down on, here are the guys we've got to get a better idea on going into the season of who they are and what they're going to be like. Obviously, there are players on that list now that weren't on it in October, so it is in constant flux."
"It's not a solid 1-100," added Oppenheimer. "It's kind of a flexible deal. We don't have to have them in a particular order that early so it's really flexible. The rankings change pretty regularly. They change because of how many guys have seen them, a new report will come in or something else, or a new player will pop up. It's not an iron-clad deal."
The remaining portion of this article is included in the upcoming issue of PinstripesPlus Magazine - be sure to upgrade to the annual package today!
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