How Bad Is It?

Tonight marks the start of the MLB Draft and a look back at the Yankees performance in the first round is not a very encouraging experience. For the purposes of this exercise, I started in 2000 and ended in 2009 as I think it is too early to judge the 2010-present drafts. Plus, that gives us a ten-year period to examine. Let’s take a look at the picks with their major league totals. (Not necessarily with the Yankees)

2000- Dave Parrish- never made the majors

2001- John Ford Griffin, Bronson Sardhina, Jon Skags (2 supplemental picks and a 1st rounder) 32 MLB AB’s and 2 HR’s between them.

2002- no pick

2003- Eric Duncan- never made the majors

2004- Phil Hughes, Jon Poterson and Jeff Marquez Hughes is 54-40 with a 4.48 ERA in his career. Marquez pitched in 4 ML games

2005- CJ Henry- never made the majors

2006- Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy That’s 70 wins in the majors with a sub-4 ERA between the two of them.

2007- Andrew Brackman 3 games in the majors

2008- Jeremy Bleich and Gerrit Cole Bleich is in AA after blowing out his arm. Cole didn’t sign, went to college and was the #1 pick of the 2012 draft.

2009- Slade Heathcott Finally had a good year last year in A-ball, struggling in AA, still only 22.

Let’s use WAR (Wins Above Replacement) as a way to quantify it and adding it all up the Yankees have produced a WAR of 24.6 from all of those draft picks. That’s a tiny bit less than Jason Giambi produced in his entire Yankees’ career.

Now the problem with comparing drafts is that the Yankees pick towards the back of the pack every year. They simply don’t have a shot at guys like Harper or Trout or Strasburg. So let’s compare them to some teams that also picked towards the back.

The Red Sox certainly did for the second-half of this study. From 2003-2007 their picks produced a WAR of 56.1. Now granted, slightly more than half of that is from Buchholz and Ellsbury, but both of those guys were picked in 2005 AFTER the Yankees selected CJ Henry.

The Braves also did for a lot of the time period and they produce a WAR of 57.2. Unfortunately for them, almost half of that figure comes from Adam Wainwright, whom they traded in 2003.

Now WAR isn’t a perfect stat, but I think you get the idea. The Yankees are at a disadvantage with their draft spot, but they haven’t helped themselves with their picks. The Red Sox and Braves have certainly had their misses, but in the 10 years from 2000-2009 the Yankees had 15 picks and only 4 of them can be considered even serviceable players or better (I am including Cole in that figure because he looks like a good one.) That’s not a good figure and something the Yankees have to improve on if they are going to compete in a more fiscally-prudent manner.

Evaluating The Offseason

With pitchers and catchers reporting , we can look back and evaluate the moves the Yankees have made to prepare for the 2013 season. For me, the frustration of this offseason is that the Yankees seemed to try and thread the needle between two different goals. The first goal is the desire to get to a payroll of $189 million in 2014. The second goal is to win the World Series. Now, I don’t believe those two goals are mutually exclusive, but there is not a lot of overlap between the two of them because of the way the Yankees are currently constructed.

The Yankees made some curious choices in their approach to achieving both goals. They let Russell Martin leave for Pittsburgh because they didn’t want to give him a two-year deal and then turned around and gave a two-year deal to a 39-year old outfielder. They let Eric Chavez sign with Arizona for a paltry $3 million and then gave Kevin Youkilis $12 million to play third. Without breaking down each deal, I think it is fair to say the Yankees aren’t better than they were at the end of 2012, but I am not sure that they are as bad as a lot of people think. (A healthy Brett Gardner is a very under-appreciated asset.)

The problem is, they will be very hard to project. If they stay healthy (a big if) and find reasonable solutions to their catching and right-handed outfield needs, I could see them winning 90 games. But, if the older guys show their age and they don’t figure out how to plug those holes, I could see things going the other way and a sub.500 finish being the result.

So what are the big questions heading into camp? Here are my top-3.

1- Who is the starting catcher? From everything I read, Yankee decision makers think Romine is ready for the bigs from a glove standpoint. If that is true, I would make him the starter because the other options have very little upside offensively and Romine just might hit. One thing to keep in mind, Francisco Cervelli still has an option, so he can be sent to the minors.

2- Who is the 5th starter? Barring injury, we know that the Yankees’ rotation will be Sabathia, Kuroda, Pettitte and Hughes, but the fifth starter is probably a two-man race between Nova and Phelps. Based on 2012, Phelps should win this in a laugher, but I think the Yankees will give Nova every chance to win the job.

3- What is the bench? This is a really easy one to predict by role, but very hard to predict by name. We know there will be a backup catcher, right-handed outfielder, backup infielder and one other player on the bench. My early guesses would be Stewart, Diaz, Nix and Nunez, but I think this is a wide-open competition. Stewart makes sense, assuming he is not the starting catcher, as he did it in 2012. Diaz is my early pick over Juan Rivera, but I am hoping the Yankees find some other players for this competition. I think Nix’s versatility earns him a role as the Yankees will need someone who can fill multiple positions. Nunez is an utter guess because I just don’t understand what the Yankees are doing with him. Is he really only a shortstop? Even if he is, there would be value is carrying him on the roster as a SS/DH/PH. He could play a fair amount of short against LHP, moving Jeter to DH. He could also provide a runner off the bench.

These next seven weeks will answer a lot of questions.