Where have all the outfielders gone?
WHERE HAVE ALL THE OUTFIELDERS GONE, LONG TIME PASSING (DRAFTING OUTFIELDERS, PART II)
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.
WHO THEY DID GET
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.
2005 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.
TO BE CONTINUED
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.