Post-Draft Q&A with Damon Oppenheimer

With the 2009 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, how he feels about signing their high-ceiling selections, what they saw in Slade Heathcott, and much, much more!

PinstripesPlus.com: Let's start right at the top – give us a scouting report on Slade Heathcott.

Damon Oppenheimer: Slade has tools. Slade is an athlete with tools who performs with the bat and plays the game really hard. He is an old school throwback, going out and breaking up double-plays, and play the game the way guys used to play it...hard all the time. He can throw, he can run, he can hit, he's a good defender, and we're real excited with the package we're getting with Slade.

PinstripesPlus.com: The biggest question mark raised by some is with his makeup. Why are there questions with that?

Oppenheimer: The makeup is the kind of makeup that guys who succeed in baseball have. He plays the game really hard. He gets after it, he's aggressive, and he is tough.

PinstripesPlus.com: So you have no concerns with any off the field stuff?

Oppenheimer: No more than I would with any other high school kid that we sign.

PinstripesPlus.com: Everything you read about J.R. Murphy is that he's a recent convert to catcher and that he has the athleticism to move to other spots if need be. Is it the Yankees intention to develop him as a catcher?

Oppenheimer: J.R. is a guy who hasn't caught a lot, but what we've seen from him catching has been giving us all the indications that he's going to be a good catcher. He can throw, his glove work is fine, he just doesn't have a ton of experience back there. The way Julio [Mosquera] is with catching here, that's the least of our concerns because this kid is athletic. He ran a 6.8-60 [yard dash] for us at our workout, he can throw, and the bottom line is he can really hit. He's got power, he uses the whole field, he's a kid who is advanced when it comes to knowing the plate discipline. He hasn't been the big household name but I think a lot has to do with the fact that he spent his summer with the Florida Bombers last year instead of trying to hit every little showcase there was. And his performance in the summer with the Florida Bombers was exceptional. We've been on J.R. for a while and we're real excited to be getting this kind of kid in the two-hole with the kind of bat he's got, with the potential and the makeup. He's a real quality package.

PinstripesPlus.com: There's a buzz in the scouting community over Caleb Cotham. How excited were you to get him in the fifth round?

Oppenheimer: We're excited about Caleb. We saw him quite a bit this year. We scouted him a ton of times. He performed well. We're going to negotiate this and see what we can get done there. The guy's got a chance to be a solid Major League starter. We've seen him pitching quite a bit where he's 90-94 MPH, good breaking ball, good command with all of his pitches, just a complete pitcher. He's not going to blow the radar gun away with 97's or anything like that, but he's got plenty of fastball to be real darn effective and the rest of his stuff is now stuff too.

PinstripesPlus.com: Does his knee problem concern you at all?

Oppenheimer: As soon as the season was over he had the surgery. Little knee surgeries on guys like that usually clean up at that age real quick. We'll see how that goes but we ran it through our doctors and with Mark Littlefield down here as far as being aware of it. We should be in good shape.

PinstripesPlus.com: An intriguing guy is Sean Black. This kid appears to have some upside, especially where you got him the draft. No?

Oppenheimer: We're excited about being able to pick up Sean. He's got a good arm. He shows you flashes of good stuff, he's got a good body. He just needs to develop some consistency so hopefully you get him on our pitching plan with Nardi and we have a chance to get who can really get going with his career. I think out of high school there was a lot of projection and it didn't come to play as I think they were hoping at Seton Hall. We're rolling the dice that we can get him going and going the right way. He's got real good stuff.

PinstripesPlus.com: Samuel Elam seems like the same kind of guy, only from the left side. It seems the consistency isn't there. Do you see that as well?

Oppenheimer: You're right. We were trying to address some velocity in the system and Sam Elam fit that right there. He has not had success in college, you can just look at the numbers. It's easy to see. We have seen him throw the ball from the left side very hard. We've seen it up to 96 MPH and that's the kind of stuff we want to put into the system to give Nardi and the guys a chance to develop him. There's some risk with the pick because he's been in college for four years and the success hasn't been great, but it's also a chance to buy a left-handed, big arm.

PinstripesPlus.com: Adam Warren, your fourth round pick, seems the complete opposite of Elam and Black. Fair assessment?

Oppenheimer: He's a young senior. I think some people are going to look and see he's a senior, but he's a young senior. You're talking about a 21-year old senior. The stuff kept getting better as the season went on this year, the velocity kept getting better, he has always won, he has always thrown quality strikes, he's got a good now curveball, and by the end of the year in his last three starts we saw quite a few 94's [on the gun]. I think sometimes when guys get older or been at a place for a long time they get a label that 'he's this kind of guy', a pitch-ability kind of guy. I think what we've got a chance at here is a guy who can pitch and whose stuff keeps riding up the charts.

PinstripesPlus.com: I know he's a position player but could the same be said about Robert Lyerly, that he's getting better as he goes along?

Oppenheimer: Robert Lyerly can hit, he can really hit. You can look at the history there and you can see Robert Lyerly can swing the bat. He's got some pop too. I think the reason he lasted where he lasted in teams' eyes, you still have to figure out where he's going to excel defensively. We're going to try and sign him and have him play third base. You're getting a big, strong, left-handed bat. With Jody Reed, who can help guys get better defensively, you've got to take a chance at a bat like that.

PinstripesPlus.com: It almost sounds like a Youkilis type, a guy where you're drafting the bat and hoping the defensive game comes around.

Oppenheimer: That's a pretty good player, that Youkilis guy. He's an MVP candidate in the American League so I don't know that we can go that far, but yeah, we're going to try and find out where he fits best defensively and hope the bat keeps coming and coming like we think it is. Everything we've scouted, it just seems like a good chance he's going to hit.

PinstripesPlus.com: When you mentioned pop I immediately thought of Neil Medchill. What do you think of his chances of bringing that kind of value to the organization?

Oppenheimer: Physical left fielder who has some tools. He's not a bad runner, he's got a good body, and he's got big-time pop in his bat. Once again, we'll have to spend some time defensively with him but I think we're buying a chance with some tools there, a guy who's got some power and he hit against some pretty decent pitchers at times when we saw him. We like him.

PinstripesPlus.com: What can you tell me about Gavin Brooks?

Oppenheimer: Gavin Brooks was a highly touted guy coming out of high school. He's a Scott Boras guy, went to UCLA, had some decent years, and this year we saw a guy who was really starting to make some strides. Towards the end of the year he looked like he was picking it up. He's left-handed, we've seen some velocity, we've seen him show the breaking ball, and there has been some times where we haven't seen it all come together. But he's a good-bodied kid who shows you what you're there to see, it just might not be there every night you're there and it doesn't seem like it happens all at the same time. If we can get him to get it all together, we've got the chance to have a pretty good pick here.

PinstripesPlus.com: Is Tyler Lyons along the same lines?

Oppenheimer: Tyler's a guy who was a really good Team USA guy last year. Coming into this year I think he was a guy who a lot of publications had up there pretty good. He didn't have a real good year. We worked him out here at the end and threw the ball well for us. We're going to see what we can do negotiations-wise. I think their expectations were to go higher but at the time he was sitting there and we thought we had to take him. He's pitching in the Cape [Cod League] this summer so I'm going to keep my eye on him and see what we get there. He's got the chance to be a good one too.

PinstripesPlus: Brett Gerritse seems to be the projectable arm. What have you seen from him?

Oppenheimer: A high school kid out of California that's got a good now curveball. We've seen him touch 92's. He hasn't been sitting there, but he's got a good curveball. The guys we've seen in the past that have got good curveballs, that can spin it but the fastball velocity's not great, it's usually an indication of guys that have arm speed that have a chance to generate more arm strength and velocity tends to come then. He's a projectable kid that we're pretty excited about. I don't know - once again signability might come into play on this one too. He probably slipped a little bit. We weren't forced to sign a bunch of guys to fill Staten Island this year so we're going to take a chance to see if we can negotiate with these guys and get some picks like this down the road.

PinstripesPlus.com: You guys seemed to have found a little bit of gold out of Clemson with D.J. Mitchell last year. Are you hoping that Graham Stoneburner is your Mitchell this year?

Oppenheimer: You always hope ones coming along like the D.J. Mitchell one is turning out for us right now, but it's still early on that front too. With Stoneburner we're going to watch him pitch and get some more consistent innings, see if that stuff is playing up to the level we've seen him at during times this year, and make a run at him. If that's the case, I think we've got a chance at some pretty good power stuff.

PinstripesPlus: With Black, Elam, Brooks, Stoneburner, and guys like that, it seems you took a lot of college pitchers who maybe slipped in the draft because their consistency wasn't really on-par with their stuff or upside. Was that a developing philosophy that materialized on draft day or did you guys go into the draft with this in mind?

Oppenheimer: It was just the idea that we were hoping to get guys like that. It wasn't a plan or anything, but when we saw them sitting there we just said 'hey, we've got to do this' and take a shot at these guys; to see if the development comes in the summer, to see if there's a little more to sink our teeth into, kind of the way David Robertson did for us [back in 2006].

PinstripesPlus.com: It seems the same thing, maybe not on the same scale, came into play with some college hitters too. Maybe Deangelo Mack falls into that category?

Oppenheimer: Left-handed hitting athlete with big power. He hit quite a few home runs there at South Carolina, which is a good hitting-friendly park, but he definitely has pop in his bat. He's an athlete and he just keeps getting better. When he first got to South Carolina and the progress he's made from then until now is pretty substantial. We're hoping we're getting an athlete with some tools whose game is still on the rise.

PinstripesPlus: You were able to mix in some high school guys in the later rounds too. Talk about Bryan Mitchell a little bit.

Oppenheimer: Sign-ability I'm sure came into play with him. Once again, another kid with a big curveball. He's got a good curveball and the fastball keeps developing. It keeps coming. We've seen him in short stints where the fastball has been in the 92-93 range, but he's got a now curveball. This kid's got the chance to be pretty good. He's signed to [the University of] North Carolina so we need to see what we can come up with, see if their realistic and see if we can get this to possibly work.

PinstripesPlus: Chad Thompson is another one of those apparent signability high school arms, but his is a different case since he just had Tommy John surgery and he's taller than most. What are the chances of getting him into the organization?

Oppenheimer: The idea with Thompson is to see if we can convince him that this is the best place to rehab and see if we can get a guy to comeback from - instead of rehabbing it on your own or in college, let's see if we can rehab it in a professional atmosphere and do it the right way. When you came back you'd have strict pitch counts that would be much more conducive to be a professional, that there's no reason to be in a hurry to try and win games, get innings, or anything like that to help a team. So the professional atmosphere we think is so much better for him in terms of rehabbing an injury like this and not being pushed too hard or too quick.

PinstripesPlus.com: Is he a guy you can also go to and show him Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman, and show him that you have experience working with the taller pitchers too?

Oppenheimer: Yeah, and I think we've got a fighting chance to do something here.

PinstripesPlus.com: A guy that intrigues me a bunch in the later rounds is Joseph Talerico. What are your impressions?

Oppenheimer: He's a really good athlete. This guy is a good runner and he's got good tools. He can throw, he can run, his glove work seems pretty good in the outfield and maybe in the infield, we're just not quite sure where he's going to play. We've seen him swing the bat. I've only seen him at our workouts at Yankee Stadium and he looked like a good guy to take a shot on, getting an athletic guy like this and take a run at. I like his makeup, I like talking to him, he's got a lot of desire, and so we'll see if we can get him signed and in here, see if we can get those tools and see how they play.

PinstripesPlus.com: Kevin Mahoney got some publicity this year on local television before the draft. What can you tell us about him?

Oppenheimer: He's a pretty good hitter. Kevin seems like he's going to be a good hitter. He looked fine over at third base at our workout. He's been a very, very productive guy over at Canisius and in the summers. We'll roll the dice and see if we can get a guy who can swing the bat. Guys who can swing the bat from the left side, you never know. Productive guys will plays themselves up, just like Chris Malec has done, guys like that.

PinstripesPlus.com: What can you tell us about Stephen Bruno? He's listed as a smallish shortstop. Does he have some upside?

Oppenheimer: Diminutive I guess you could call him, but if he's 5-foot-10 I'd say he's got a 5-foot-10 heart too. He plays really hard. We've been on Stephen and watched him for a long time. He was on the Yankee team that went to the Area Code games, he was on our Yankee team that was in Jupiter, he's been to Yankee Stadium for our workout, and each time things just keep getting better and better. His speed gets better, his arm gets better, his glove work is solid, and he's starting to get more impact with the bat. We didn't draft him just to draft him. We drafted him and we're going to make a run at him. We're going to try and get this one done.

PinstripesPlus.com: Does the same hold true for Judd Golson and Kyle McKenzie?

Oppenheimer: Our scout has talked about Judd and we'll see what we have here, but I know we have one heck of an athlete. He can flat fly. I don't think too many people thought about him as a baseball player, but he can really run. It looks like he's a good defender out in centerfield, it looks like he throws good, but I haven't seen him live. I look forward to seeing him this summer so we can have a little bit better evaluation of him. I've watched video of him and this kid plays with a boatload of energy and really plays hard. Something I was trying to do this year in giving us some options with athletes and power arms, and this guy fit the mold. We'll see what we get.

PinstripesPlus.com: What about McKenzie?

Oppenheimer: McKenzie's signed to go to Tulane. I'm not sure how that's going to play out. He's not a big, tall guy, 5-foot-10 or 5-foot-11, but he's got a real good arm. We've seen him up to 94 MPH and he's got a now downer curveball. The control/command is sometimes a little bit of an issue, but I'm going to battle to try and put a run together to get guys like him signed.

PinstripesPlus.com: He sounds a little bit like Matt Richardson.

Oppenheimer: He's got a little bit more right now.

PinstripesPlus.com: Andrew Aplin is another signability guy it seems who slipped in the draft. How does he compare to Golson?

Oppenheimer: This one is more of a hitter. This one is one who has been more of a better hitter and not the same type of big-time speed as Golson. He's a hitter, that's where he's built his reputation on. The rest of the tools are good, but you're buying the potential for a good bat here. If he goes to college for three years, he might be one of those guys that's a good hitter who's staring at you.

PinstripesPlus.com: Evan DeLuca, a New Jersey kid, has had some buzz about him in the scouting community. What's your take?

Oppenheimer: I like this guy's makeup for one. When I met with him at Yankee Stadium he was one of the kids that was more comfortable sitting there talking to you like it was a man-to-man conversation. For a high school kid, that was good. In the short stints we've seen some 91's and occasional 92's. In six inning games you'd probably see more 88-90 from this kid at this age, but the breaking ball has some depth and it gets in on right-handed hitters. We're going to see. I'm excited about this pick. I'm really excited about it. Where he went he's probably not so excited, but an opportunity with the Yankees, I'm not putting it by us to make a really, really strong run at a kid like this.

PinstripesPlus.com: Well you guys created a buzz taking Pat White there in the 48th round. With his seemingly firm commitment to football, is there even the smallest of chances he's a guy you can sign?

Oppenheimer: It was one of those things where we went back to our high school reports on Pat White as a third round pick or fourth round pick, whatever it was, and just how athletic he was. I'm sure the odds are really pretty rough where we took him in the draft and where he went in the NFL Draft, I'd say it's a pretty huge longshot. But you never know. The guy was a quarterback and maybe if the guy thinks he's a quarterback and somebody doesn't want him to play that position, maybe he might want to be a baseball player again. I know this much - the guy's been a heck of a winner. He's an athlete who has been a winner with real grit and competitiveness on the football field. I'd hated to have left him sitting there and somebody else got it and it was successful for them.

PinstripesPlus.com: Overall, what do you think of the draft you guys had?

Oppenheimer: All we've done right now is we picked them. Now you've got to go out and try to sign them. Having just picked them you feel really good. Your body of work that you've done throughout the year it kind of culminates into this right now. You feel like you did the things you went after. You've drafted some velocity, you've drafted some athletes, you've drafted some guys with track records. It's hard to find catching. Even though we think we've got enough, you find a catcher that you can put into the system who can hit like Murphy, I think right now we're sitting there thinking it looks pretty good. Only time will tell. I was really excited about the 2006 draft and that one has played out well so far, and hopefully this one will play out even better. We've got to sign them though, that's the next part.

PinstripesPlus.com: It seems with each passing draft and with each passing International Signing period that you guys as an organization get younger. Does that allow you to take more risks in the draft with younger guys?

Oppenheimer: Your player development team is what allows you take younger guys. You've got Pat Roessler, Nardi, James Rowson, Jody [Reed], and Julio - you know all the names, I don't want to leave anybody out - and with [Mark] Newman the way he supervises, we feel like we can give them these kinds of guys. We can give them some guys that they can work with and both sides, including the International side, have given them younger guys. So now we've got that building block of taking younger guys into Staten Island and supplement them with some college guys. And if we can keep doing that and keep moving it in that direction, the kids in Staten Island will be younger, the kids in Charleston will be younger, and if we can do that, get younger and more athletic with more impact tools into the system, we'll be a bigger threat. Those kids will become a bigger threat in New York.

PinstripesPlus.com: Is there a guy, or even a couple of guys, whether I mentioned their names or not, that you believe could be a sleeper in this year's draft class - a guy like Brandon Laird that fell deep into the draft or a guy like Mike Dunn who was a converted guy - is there a guy we should pay attention to who might not be on the mainstream radar?

Oppenheimer: 15th rounder Shane Greene's got a big arm. He's a guy who had been injured. He had Tommy John surgery, Daytona Beach Community College, he didn't pitch there. Our scout had known him from the area they lived in, worked him out, and he's got a big arm. He's got the chance to be a good one for us. Hector Rabago is a catcher from USC and he can really catch and throw. It's really quality catch-and-throw tools. He hasn't hit much so we have to see if we can develop that because he's catch, throw, and he's got makeup. We've got a chance there. Justin Milo is not a big kid but he's from the University of Vermont and he can really hit, and you know he's got big-time toughness because he played on the Frozen Four team in Vermont. You get a guy down that far in the draft who can hit and has some toughness, it gives himself a chance and it gives guys on our team a chance to see a guy who works his butt off and that helps develop other guys too.

PinstripesPlus.com: Last year you took Nik Turley in the 50th round and got him signed. Is there a guy in the 40-50 round range that you think could be this year's Turley? Is DeLuca that guy?

Oppenheimer: We'll see. I wouldn't have known if it was Turley last year so that one turned out good. The scouting part of it isn't over and that's why we do this, that's why we get some of these guys so we can continue to monitor them and see if we can find something like that to come along. Hopefully there is one of them there.

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Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Let's start right at the top – give us a scouting report on Slade Heathcott.
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\r\nDamon Oppenheimer: Slade has tools. Slade is an athlete with tools who performs with the bat and plays the game really hard. He is an old school throwback, going out and breaking up double-plays, and play the game the way guys used to play it...hard all the time. He can throw, he can run, he can hit, he's a good defender, and we're real excited with the package we're getting with Slade.
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\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: The biggest question mark raised by some is with his makeup. Why are there questions with that?
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\r\nOppenheimer: The makeup is the kind of makeup that guys who succeed in baseball have. He plays the game really hard. He gets after it, he's aggressive, and he is tough.
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\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: So you have no concerns with any off the field stuff?
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\r\nOppenheimer: No more than I would with any other high school kid that we sign.
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\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Everything you read about J.R. Murphy is that he's a recent convert to catcher and that he has the athleticism to move to other spots if need be. Is it the Yankees intention to develop him as a catcher?
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\r\nOppenheimer: J.R. is a guy who hasn't caught a lot, but what we've seen from him catching has been giving us all the indications that he's going to be a good catcher. He can throw, his glove work is fine, he just doesn't have a ton of experience back there. The way Julio [Mosquera] is with catching here, that's the least of our concerns because this kid is athletic. He ran a 6.8-60 [yard dash] for us at our workout, he can throw, and the bottom line is he can really hit. He's got power, he uses the whole field, he's a kid who is advanced when it comes to knowing the plate discipline. He hasn't been the big household name but I think a lot has to do with the fact that he spent his summer with the Florida Bombers last year instead of trying to hit every little showcase there was. And his performance in the summer with the Florida Bombers was exceptional. We've been on J.R. for a while and we're real excited to be getting this kind of kid in the two-hole with the kind of bat he's got, with the potential and the makeup. He's a real quality package.
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\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: There's a buzz in the scouting community over Caleb Cotham. How excited were you to get him in the fifth round?
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\r\nOppenheimer: We're excited about Caleb. We saw him quite a bit this year. We scouted him a ton of times. He performed well. We're going to negotiate this and see what we can get done there. The guy's got a chance to be a solid Major League starter. We've seen him pitching quite a bit where he's 90-94 MPH, good breaking ball, good command with all of his pitches, just a complete pitcher. He's not going to blow the radar gun away with 97's or anything like that, but he's got plenty of fastball to be real darn effective and the rest of his stuff is now stuff too.
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\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Does his knee problem concern you at all?
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\r\nOppenheimer: As soon as the season was over he had the surgery. Little knee surgeries on guys like that usually clean up at that age real quick. We'll see how that goes but we ran it through our doctors and with Mark Littlefield down here as far as being aware of it. We should be in good shape.
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\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: An intriguing guy is Sean Black. This kid appears to have some upside, especially where you got him the draft. No?
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\r\nOppenheimer: We're excited about being able to pick up Sean. He's got a good arm. He shows you flashes of good stuff, he's got a good body. He just needs to develop some consistency so hopefully you get him on our pitching plan with Nardi and we have a chance to get who can really get going with his career. I think out of high school there was a lot of projection and it didn't come to play as I think they were hoping at Seton Hall. We're rolling the dice that we can get him going and going the right way. He's got real good stuff.
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\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Samuel Elam seems like the same kind of guy, only from the left side. It seems the consistency isn't there. Do you see that as well?
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\r\nOppenheimer: You're right. We were trying to address some velocity in the system and Sam Elam fit that right there. He has not had success in college, you can just look at the numbers. It's easy to see. We have seen him throw the ball from the left side very hard. We've seen it up to 96 MPH and that's the kind of stuff we want to put into the system to give Nardi and the guys a chance to develop him. There's some risk with the pick because he's been in college for four years and the success hasn't been great, but it's also a chance to buy a left-handed, big arm.
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\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Adam Warren, your fourth round pick, seems the complete opposite of Elam and Black. Fair assessment?
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\r\nOppenheimer: He's a young senior. I think some people are going to look and see he's a senior, but he's a young senior. You're talking about a 21-year old senior. The stuff kept getting better as the season went on this year, the velocity kept getting better, he has always won, he has always thrown quality strikes, he's got a good now curveball, and by the end of the year in his last three starts we saw quite a few 94's [on the gun]. I think sometimes when guys get older or been at a place for a long time they get a label that 'he's this kind of guy', a pitch-ability kind of guy. I think what we've got a chance at here is a guy who can pitch and whose stuff keeps riding up the charts.
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\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: I know he's a position player but could the same be said about Robert Lyerly, that he's getting better as he goes along?
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\r\nOppenheimer: Robert Lyerly can hit, he can really hit. You can look at the history there and you can see Robert Lyerly can swing the bat. He's got some pop too. I think the reason he lasted where he lasted in teams' eyes, you still have to figure out where he's going to excel defensively. We're going to try and sign him and have him play third base. You're getting a big, strong, left-handed bat. With Jody Reed, who can help guys get better defensively, you've got to take a chance at a bat like that.
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\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: It almost sounds like a Youkilis type, a guy where you're drafting the bat and hoping the defensive game comes around.
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\r\nOppenheimer: That's a pretty good player, that Youkilis guy. He's an MVP candidate in the American League so I don't know that we can go that far, but yeah, we're going to try and find out where he fits best defensively and hope the bat keeps coming and coming like we think it is. Everything we've scouted, it just seems like a good chance he's going to hit.
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\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: When you mentioned pop I immediately thought of Neil Medchill. What do you think of his chances of bringing that kind of value to the organization?
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\r\nOppenheimer: Physical left fielder who has some tools. He's not a bad runner, he's got a good body, and he's got big-time pop in his bat. Once again, we'll have to spend some time defensively with him but I think we're buying a chance with some tools there, a guy who's got some power and he hit against some pretty decent pitchers at times when we saw him. We like him.
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\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: What can you tell me about Gavin Brooks?
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\r\nOppenheimer: Gavin Brooks was a highly touted guy coming out of high school. He's a Scott Boras guy, went to UCLA, had some decent years, and this year we saw a guy who was really starting to make some strides. Towards the end of the year he looked like he was picking it up. He's left-handed, we've seen some velocity, we've seen him show the breaking ball, and there has been some times where we haven't seen it all come together. But he's a good-bodied kid who shows you what you're there to see, it just might not be there every night you're there and it doesn't seem like it happens all at the same time. If we can get him to get it all together, we've got the chance to have a pretty good pick here.
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\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Is Tyler Lyons along the same lines?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: Tyler's a guy who was a really good Team USA guy last year. Coming into this year I think he was a guy who a lot of publications had up there pretty good. He didn't have a real good year. We worked him out here at the end and threw the ball well for us. We're going to see what we can do negotiations-wise. I think their expectations were to go higher but at the time he was sitting there and we thought we had to take him. He's pitching in the Cape [Cod League] this summer so I'm going to keep my eye on him and see what we get there. He's got the chance to be a good one too.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Brett Gerritse seems to be the projectable arm. What have you seen from him?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: A high school kid out of California that's got a good now curveball. We've seen him touch 92's. He hasn't been sitting there, but he's got a good curveball. The guys we've seen in the past that have got good curveballs, that can spin it but the fastball velocity's not great, it's usually an indication of guys that have arm speed that have a chance to generate more arm strength and velocity tends to come then. He's a projectable kid that we're pretty excited about. I don't know - once again signability might come into play on this one too. He probably slipped a little bit. We weren't forced to sign a bunch of guys to fill Staten Island this year so we're going to take a chance to see if we can negotiate with these guys and get some picks like this down the road.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: You guys seemed to have found a little bit of gold out of Clemson with D.J. Mitchell last year. Are you hoping that Graham Stoneburner is your Mitchell this year?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: You always hope ones coming along like the D.J. Mitchell one is turning out for us right now, but it's still early on that front too. With Stoneburner we're going to watch him pitch and get some more consistent innings, see if that stuff is playing up to the level we've seen him at during times this year, and make a run at him. If that's the case, I think we've got a chance at some pretty good power stuff.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: With Black, Elam, Brooks, Stoneburner, and guys like that, it seems you took a lot of college pitchers who maybe slipped in the draft because their consistency wasn't really on-par with their stuff or upside. Was that a developing philosophy that materialized on draft day or did you guys go into the draft with this in mind?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: It was just the idea that we were hoping to get guys like that. It wasn't a plan or anything, but when we saw them sitting there we just said 'hey, we've got to do this' and take a shot at these guys; to see if the development comes in the summer, to see if there's a little more to sink our teeth into, kind of the way David Robertson did for us [back in 2006].
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: It seems the same thing, maybe not on the same scale, came into play with some college hitters too. Maybe Deangelo Mack falls into that category?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: Left-handed hitting athlete with big power. He hit quite a few home runs there at South Carolina, which is a good hitting-friendly park, but he definitely has pop in his bat. He's an athlete and he just keeps getting better. When he first got to South Carolina and the progress he's made from then until now is pretty substantial. We're hoping we're getting an athlete with some tools whose game is still on the rise.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: You were able to mix in some high school guys in the later rounds too. Talk about Bryan Mitchell a little bit.
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: Sign-ability I'm sure came into play with him. Once again, another kid with a big curveball. He's got a good curveball and the fastball keeps developing. It keeps coming. We've seen him in short stints where the fastball has been in the 92-93 range, but he's got a now curveball. This kid's got the chance to be pretty good. He's signed to [the University of] North Carolina so we need to see what we can come up with, see if their realistic and see if we can get this to possibly work.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Chad Thompson is another one of those apparent signability high school arms, but his is a different case since he just had Tommy John surgery and he's taller than most. What are the chances of getting him into the organization?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: The idea with Thompson is to see if we can convince him that this is the best place to rehab and see if we can get a guy to comeback from - instead of rehabbing it on your own or in college, let's see if we can rehab it in a professional atmosphere and do it the right way. When you came back you'd have strict pitch counts that would be much more conducive to be a professional, that there's no reason to be in a hurry to try and win games, get innings, or anything like that to help a team. So the professional atmosphere we think is so much better for him in terms of rehabbing an injury like this and not being pushed too hard or too quick.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Is he a guy you can also go to and show him Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman, and show him that you have experience working with the taller pitchers too?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: Yeah, and I think we've got a fighting chance to do something here.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: A guy that intrigues me a bunch in the later rounds is Joseph Talerico. What are your impressions?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: He's a really good athlete. This guy is a good runner and he's got good tools. He can throw, he can run, his glove work seems pretty good in the outfield and maybe in the infield, we're just not quite sure where he's going to play. We've seen him swing the bat. I've only seen him at our workouts at Yankee Stadium and he looked like a good guy to take a shot on, getting an athletic guy like this and take a run at. I like his makeup, I like talking to him, he's got a lot of desire, and so we'll see if we can get him signed and in here, see if we can get those tools and see how they play.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Kevin Mahoney got some publicity this year on local television before the draft. What can you tell us about him?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: He's a pretty good hitter. Kevin seems like he's going to be a good hitter. He looked fine over at third base at our workout. He's been a very, very productive guy over at Canisius and in the summers. We'll roll the dice and see if we can get a guy who can swing the bat. Guys who can swing the bat from the left side, you never know. Productive guys will plays themselves up, just like Chris Malec has done, guys like that.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: What can you tell us about Stephen Bruno? He's listed as a smallish shortstop. Does he have some upside?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: Diminutive I guess you could call him, but if he's 5-foot-10 I'd say he's got a 5-foot-10 heart too. He plays really hard. We've been on Stephen and watched him for a long time. He was on the Yankee team that went to the Area Code games, he was on our Yankee team that was in Jupiter, he's been to Yankee Stadium for our workout, and each time things just keep getting better and better. His speed gets better, his arm gets better, his glove work is solid, and he's starting to get more impact with the bat. We didn't draft him just to draft him. We drafted him and we're going to make a run at him. We're going to try and get this one done.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Does the same hold true for Judd Golson and Kyle McKenzie?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: Our scout has talked about Judd and we'll see what we have here, but I know we have one heck of an athlete. He can flat fly. I don't think too many people thought about him as a baseball player, but he can really run. It looks like he's a good defender out in centerfield, it looks like he throws good, but I haven't seen him live. I look forward to seeing him this summer so we can have a little bit better evaluation of him. I've watched video of him and this kid plays with a boatload of energy and really plays hard. Something I was trying to do this year in giving us some options with athletes and power arms, and this guy fit the mold. We'll see what we get.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: What about McKenzie?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: McKenzie's signed to go to Tulane. I'm not sure how that's going to play out. He's not a big, tall guy, 5-foot-10 or 5-foot-11, but he's got a real good arm. We've seen him up to 94 MPH and he's got a now downer curveball. The control/command is sometimes a little bit of an issue, but I'm going to battle to try and put a run together to get guys like him signed.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: He sounds a little bit like Matt Richardson.
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: He's got a little bit more right now.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Andrew Aplin is another signability guy it seems who slipped in the draft. How does he compare to Golson?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: This one is more of a hitter. This one is one who has been more of a better hitter and not the same type of big-time speed as Golson. He's a hitter, that's where he's built his reputation on. The rest of the tools are good, but you're buying the potential for a good bat here. If he goes to college for three years, he might be one of those guys that's a good hitter who's staring at you.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Evan DeLuca, a New Jersey kid, has had some buzz about him in the scouting community. What's your take?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: I like this guy's makeup for one. When I met with him at Yankee Stadium he was one of the kids that was more comfortable sitting there talking to you like it was a man-to-man conversation. For a high school kid, that was good. In the short stints we've seen some 91's and occasional 92's. In six inning games you'd probably see more 88-90 from this kid at this age, but the breaking ball has some depth and it gets in on right-handed hitters. We're going to see. I'm excited about this pick. I'm really excited about it. Where he went he's probably not so excited, but an opportunity with the Yankees, I'm not putting it by us to make a really, really strong run at a kid like this.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Well you guys created a buzz taking Pat White there in the 48th round. With his seemingly firm commitment to football, is there even the smallest of chances he's a guy you can sign?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: It was one of those things where we went back to our high school reports on Pat White as a third round pick or fourth round pick, whatever it was, and just how athletic he was. I'm sure the odds are really pretty rough where we took him in the draft and where he went in the NFL Draft, I'd say it's a pretty huge longshot. But you never know. The guy was a quarterback and maybe if the guy thinks he's a quarterback and somebody doesn't want him to play that position, maybe he might want to be a baseball player again. I know this much - the guy's been a heck of a winner. He's an athlete who has been a winner with real grit and competitiveness on the football field. I'd hated to have left him sitting there and somebody else got it and it was successful for them.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Overall, what do you think of the draft you guys had?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: All we've done right now is we picked them. Now you've got to go out and try to sign them. Having just picked them you feel really good. Your body of work that you've done throughout the year it kind of culminates into this right now. You feel like you did the things you went after. You've drafted some velocity, you've drafted some athletes, you've drafted some guys with track records. It's hard to find catching. Even though we think we've got enough, you find a catcher that you can put into the system who can hit like Murphy, I think right now we're sitting there thinking it looks pretty good. Only time will tell. I was really excited about the 2006 draft and that one has played out well so far, and hopefully this one will play out even better. We've got to sign them though, that's the next part.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: It seems with each passing draft and with each passing International Signing period that you guys as an organization get younger. Does that allow you to take more risks in the draft with younger guys?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: Your player development team is what allows you take younger guys. You've got Pat Roessler, Nardi, James Rowson, Jody [Reed], and Julio - you know all the names, I don't want to leave anybody out - and with [Mark] Newman the way he supervises, we feel like we can give them these kinds of guys. We can give them some guys that they can work with and both sides, including the International side, have given them younger guys. So now we've got that building block of taking younger guys into Staten Island and supplement them with some college guys. And if we can keep doing that and keep moving it in that direction, the kids in Staten Island will be younger, the kids in Charleston will be younger, and if we can do that, get younger and more athletic with more impact tools into the system, we'll be a bigger threat. Those kids will become a bigger threat in New York.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Is there a guy, or even a couple of guys, whether I mentioned their names or not, that you believe could be a sleeper in this year's draft class - a guy like Brandon Laird that fell deep into the draft or a guy like Mike Dunn who was a converted guy - is there a guy we should pay attention to who might not be on the mainstream radar?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: 15th rounder Shane Greene's got a big arm. He's a guy who had been injured. He had Tommy John surgery, Daytona Beach Community College, he didn't pitch there. Our scout had known him from the area they lived in, worked him out, and he's got a big arm. He's got the chance to be a good one for us. Hector Rabago is a catcher from USC and he can really catch and throw. It's really quality catch-and-throw tools. He hasn't hit much so we have to see if we can develop that because he's catch, throw, and he's got makeup. We've got a chance there. Justin Milo is not a big kid but he's from the University of Vermont and he can really hit, and you know he's got big-time toughness because he played on the Frozen Four team in Vermont. You get a guy down that far in the draft who can hit and has some toughness, it gives himself a chance and it gives guys on our team a chance to see a guy who works his butt off and that helps develop other guys too.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Last year you took Nik Turley in the 50th round and got him signed. Is there a guy in the 40-50 round range that you think could be this year's Turley? Is DeLuca that guy?
\r\n
\r\nOppenheimer: We'll see. I wouldn't have known if it was Turley last year so that one turned out good. The scouting part of it isn't over and that's why we do this, that's why we get some of these guys so we can continue to monitor them and see if we can find something like that to come along. Hopefully there is one of them there.
\r\n
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