Most articles describing the Yankees first round draft pick, James Kapreielian, compare him to Ian Kennedy. It is meant to explain that while he has talent, his ceiling is not huge, perhaps that of a #3 starter in a good rotation. The thing is, that is a great return for the #16 pick in the draft.
The problem with the draft is that for all the scouting money poured into it, it is still a crapshoot. First round picks should be sure things, but going back in draft history shows you how uncertain they really are. Let’s look at the 2006 draft, Ian Kennedy’s, for an example.
Including supplementary picks, there were 44 selections made that June. Of those 44, 11 didn’t make the majors. Of the remaining 33, ten have appeared in only a handful of games.
Ian Kennedy was the 21st player taken, and the 13th pitcher. Let’s look at each one.
First, and number one overall, was Luke Hochevar. Hochevar has made 128 mostly terrible starts in the bigs and is currently a middle reliever.
Greg Reynolds was second overall and had three cups of coffee in the bigs.
Brad Lincoln was fourth overall and is currently in AAA with a 9-11 record in the bigs.
Brandon Morrow was fifth overall and is hurt again, but he has had a few decent moments in the bigs.
Andrew Miller, yes that Andrew Miller was sixth. Clearly, he is a dominant reliever, but he was a failed starter in the bigs.
You can’t argue with the 7th, 10th, and 11th overall picks except to say they should have been taken higher. Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum, and Max Scherzer are all brand names and two of them may reach the Hall of Fame.
And then there is the quartet of Kasey Kiker (12th), Jeremy Jefress (16th)Kyle Drabek (18th), and Brett Sinkbell (19th). None of them has done anything to write about in the bigs.
Then there is Kennedy at 21. And while some of the names taken after him in the first round (Daniel Bard, Joba Chamberlain, and David Huff) are familiar, you probably need to go to the seventh round and Doug Fister, to find a pitcher taken later who has clearly had a better career. (Chris Archer was taken in the fifth round and looks like he will far surpass him too, but he needs to put in a few more years.)
So, I am perfectly ok with the Yankees taking an Ian Kennedy type of player. If you look at the way the system works today, it is the smarter play. There are basically four ways to acquire talent.
1- MLB draft
2- Free agency
4- International signings
International signings are going to be huge risks because you sign the players when they are 16. Free agency is going to be risky and expensive. Trades are probably where you can get the most value, but they are also the hardest to execute. That leaves the draft and teams can certainly swing for the fences, but the smarter approach is to aim for base hits. If you create a draft pipeline of major-league caliber players, not necessarily stars, just players who belong on big league rosters, your team will have more assets than other teams. That gives you leverage in trades and less holes to fill with free agency.
That seems to be what the Yankees have done more of in recent years. They are drafting college players (lower ceilings but easier to project) and seeing good results. Their top pick last year is already in the majors and two of the three before that- Judge and Jagielo- are getting close. Nothing is guaranteed with draft picks, but the Yankees will happily take another Ian Kennedy.