Where have all the outfielders gone?


As we go through the draft, you will note that not only have the Yankees passed on several quality outfielders, they haven’t put much of a priority on drafting outfielders at all. Of course, in the draft you select the best player available, rather than choosing for organizational need. Still, if the Yankees are taking the best available player in each slot, those players should actually prove to be better than players selected subsequently. That hasn’t often proved to be the case.

We’ll look at the third round, then pause to consider the outfielders the Yankees actually did select from 2003 to 2007, players who, had they Yankees hit on an outfielder of value, would have been ready by now. Keep in mind one important fact, one so important that I’m going to repeat it several times below: the lower you go in the draft, the more expectations should be tempered, if not non-existent. Farm systems are vast and not every player can be a prospect; quite often, teams just need a guy to stand in right field so that they can field a functional nine. When you see that the Yankees blew their #31 draft choice on a player who washed out in the Gulf Coast League, keep in mind that 98 percent of the time everyone blows their #31 draft choice on a player who washes out in the Gulf Coast League. Being critical of this would represent a failure to understand the system.

After we dispense with the draft, we’ll consider the international talent market, specifically the recruitment of young talent in Latin America.  

Third Round:
Jordan Schafer (2005/HS), Daryl Jones (2005/HS),  Nick Weglarz (2005/HS), Scout Cousins (2006/C), Cedric Hunter (2006/HS), Angel Morales (2007/HS), Kyle Russell (2008/C), Roger Kieschnick (2008/C).

What the Yankees did:
The Yankees picked 29th in the third round of the 2005 draft, and while Weglarz went at #14 and Schafer went at #27, the Yankees drafted Brett Gardner. The Cardinals took Jones with the last pick of the round. In 2006, they picked 28th and selected Zach McAllister, a very promising righty who is now carrying a 2.13 ERA at Trenton. With the last pick in 2007’s third round, they went with another righty, Ryan Pope, also at Trenton, a pitcher who emerged from the unlikely cradle of the Savannah College of Art & Design. He’s shown good control in the minors but has also been knocked around quite a bit.

In 2008, five outfielders were selected after the Yankees wasted their pick on Bittle. Two of them are on the list above. Russell, selected by the Dodgers at #16 in the round, is a left-handed power-hitter with a long swing, now playing in the Midwest League and hitting .271/.365/.544 with 24 home runs. He has also struck out 156 times in 421 at-bats, which is something that might relegate him to a Russ Branyan-style career. That said, Branyan is a more productive hitter than anything the Yankees have on the outfield shelves right now. Kieschnick, taken by the Giants with the fifth pick of the round, is also a lefty power-hitter, batting .298/.344/.535 with 23 home runs in the California League. The Yankees took second baseman David Adams at #29, a pick which has yet to resolve for good or ill — Adams has been a solid but unspectacular performer thus far. In the supplemental phase of the third round, the Padres selected University of Kentucky Sawyer Carroll, one of those “polished college hitters” who have a mature approach at the plate but don’t promise to develop too much. In 114 pro games taking him up to Double-A, the 23-year-old Carroll has batted .314/.412/.485 with seven home runs and a nice 72 walks.


We pause here to switch gears, and instead of looking at the outfielders the Yankees passed up or didn’t get a shot at due to draft position, let’s look at the outfielders they did draft in the years 2003 to 2007. If the Yankees took you out of high school as an 18-year-old then in 2003, you’d be 25 now. That should give even the late bloomers enough time to manifest themselves.

2003 Outfielders: Estee Harris (#2), strikeout machine Tim Battle (#3), Jose Perez (#7), and two others who did not sign. Harris stalled at High-A and went off to the Atlantic League. The Yankees nursed the athletic Battle until the end of last season, when they finally conceded that his swing would never be of Major League quality. Perez didn’t make it past Staten Island.

2004 Outfielders: Rod Allen (#12), Robert Vilanova (#15), Jon Tierce (#17), Scott Rich (#21), and four others who did not sign. Allen’s career ended in High-A. Villanova got a cup of coffee–in the Midwest League. Tierce topped out at High-A Tampa. Rich was cut after 42 games at Staten Island.

gardner_bible_082009.jpg2005 Outfielders: Brett Gardner (#3), Austin Jackson (#8), James Cooper (#9), Joel Perez (#14), Chris Valencia (#41), and four others who did not sign. Gardner and Jackson you know about. They should be good role players or part timers, but anything beyond that is still in doubt. Cooper, now 25, is playing at Trenton this year. In 391 career games he’s hitting .264/.353/.351, and his chances of being more than organizational filler have long since passed. Perez’s career ended in the Gulf Coast League. Valencia is currently playing for Brockton of the Canadian-American Association.

2006 Outfielders:
Colin Curtis (#4), Jeff Fortenberry (#11), Donald Hollingsorth (#14), Brian Aragon (#22), Nick Diyorio (#38), Chase Odenreider (#49), and two other players who did not sign. Curtis, now at Scranton, began promisingly but hasn’t hit in three years. His career averages in 413 games are .265/.336/.378, which won’t get you to the Majors. Fortenberry, 25, showed a little home run power early, but has never hit for any kind of average. The Yankees promoted from Tampa to Trenton this year after he hit .180/.272/.354; he’s hitting .160/.259/.256 at Trenton. Hollingsworth had a good eye but had almost literally zero power and failed to advance past the Sally League. The players taken in the later round care organizational filler/hope to get lucky guys. Suffice it to say that the Yankees got neither.

2007 Outfielders:
Taylor Grote (#8), Austin Krum (#9), Isiah Howes (#11), Dave Williams (#15), Taylor Holiday (#19), Matt Morris (#23), Gary Gattis (#26), Steven Strausberg (#27), and three others who did not sign. Grote is currently playing at Low-A Charleston. In 154 career games he’s hit .242/.322/.329. Just 20, it’s in the realm of possibility he could get better, but it seems pretty darned unlikely given how far he has to go. Krum has made it to Double-A Trenton at 23. A center fielder, he is willing to take a walk and will steal the odd base, but the aggregate — this year he’s hitting .263/.371/.351 — doesn’t get you anywhere. Howes washed out at Staten Island. Williams didn’t show anything with the bat and was not promoted out of the Sally League after hitting .249/.321/.367. Holiday hit .215 in the Sally League and that was that. Morris hit .207 up through the Sally League and… Gattis stopped in the Gulf Coast League. Again, good players are rarely found this far down in the draft, so that the Yankees didn’t score here doesn’t necessarily indicate anything. Stausbaugh was apparently cut from Tampa earlier this year.


In our next entry, we’ll pause for some present-day stuff, then pick up with the top 86 outfielders and the fourth round of the draft.


  1. rich_in_nj

    Oppenheimer wasn’t put in charge of the draft until 2005, and while he has improved the farm system, I don’t think he has had enough success to warrant keeping his job.

  2. paulrice28@mac.com

    Hi Steve

    Always enjoy your writing, logic and thought process
    You make a compelling case even when I may differ (based completely on gut feelings…don’t have the ability or time to execute your research)

    My question I notice as you have pointed out Austin Jackson has slowed somewhat in AAA

    Jackson has been in 116 Games (as of 8/20) with 436 AB’s
    Miranda 109 Games
    S. Duncan 108
    E. Duncan 92
    The next player to 82 dropping into the 70’s 60’s for subsequent players

    Why so many games for Jackson
    Did he slow due to minor injuries or just fatigue?
    Interesting to use a top prospect in this way given Joba Rules
    Paul from New Mexico

  3. darkseid

    This comment is more directed towards rich_in_nj:

    Oppenheimer has in no way done anything to warrant him losing his job. There is way more that goes on during the drafting process than any of us can even bother to comprehend. The scouting director can only do so much. There are other scouts who go out and look at all these kids play. If there is a scouting issue, then it should be taken up with the other scouts. You want outfielders? Grab a couple scouts from the Pirates organization and we’ll see what happens. But also keep in mind the Pirates will always pick before the Yankees because they’ll always stink. And why bother drafting outfielders when the Yankees can probably trade a few pitching prospects for one out of Pittsburgh’s system anyway, right?

    Now for your post: The Yankees have had SEVERE pitching issues over the last decade. This is a fact. They have had issues with the starting rotation, and they have had issues in the bullpen, and a lot of the times both at the same time. Also a fact: you can never have too much pitching. So the Yankees organization, once Damon came in, has selected many pitchers. And it has paid off. Pitchers selected in the last 3 years who have had success on the big club: Joba Chamberlain (yeah, funny how you left him out on your last post, right?), Ian Kennedy, Phil Coke, Mark Melancon, and David Robertson. And several others who are making their way in the next year or so. And as we’ve seen the last couple of years, the Yankees are starting to select position/outfielders in the first couple of rounds. By no means am I saying the draft has been perfect. It hasn’t. But they’re making their way to having an even better farm than they have now. And don’t forget that the international signings play a huge part as well.

  4. rich_in_nj


    You want to give Oppenheimer credit for any hits, but simultaneously you blame the scouts for the misses. That’s patently unfair, and it makes your argument weaker, not stronger.

    Then you are cite the utter incompetence of the Yankees’ drafting process prior Oppenheimer’s elevation in 2005 (which I have already acknowledged) to buttress your argument. In effect, what you are doing is to lower the bar in order to make Oppenheimer’s drafts appear better than they are.

    Are you really happy with the drafting of Kennedy over Bard? I’m not and I said so at the time. I would never burn a first round draft choice on a pitcher whose FB was topping out in the 80s in college.

    Joba and Melancon were only available to be drafted where they were as a result of signability issues. Everyone knew they were good, but most teams couldn’t afford them. How does that make Oppenheimer a good judge of talent? (As an aside, I hate that Melancon isn’t on the 25 man roster.)

    Phil Coke was drafted in 2002. Oppenheimer wasn’t heading up the draft then.

    Robertson was a good pick. McAllister may have been one as well; same with Romine. Austin Jackson seems like he was a good pick, but again he was available because of signability issues. So as I said, he has improved the system. I didn’t say he stinks. But where are the true finds besides Robertson?

    That’s why I would give Oppenheimer a B/B-. That’s not good enough when the franchise’s goal is to win the WS every year. They aren’t maximizing their huge revenue advantage, and their pedestrian drafts (apart from the signability pickups) are a large reason why.

    Oppenheimer has nothing to do with the international signings, so I’m not sure how that is relevant to his job performance.

    Finally, he gambled and lost with Coles. Brackman better turn out to be worthy of a first round pick and the contract he received.

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