Leading up to the MLB Draft this past week, the biggest strength of the Yankees' farm system was easy to distinguish. Now, factoring in the club's three-man draft class and growing group of undrafted free agent signees, it's crystal clear.
New York boasts some of the best right-handed pitching prospects in all of baseball. Among the Bombers' top 30 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline, 13 are righties. Better yet, out of New York's top ten prospects, six are right-handed hurlers.
That said, it made sense to assume the Yankees would address other positions this week. In fact, targeting left-handed pitchers is justifiable considering New York has just one southpaw represented in its top 30 list.
Through the Bombers' first few selections of the MLB Draft, it seemed as though the organization was rather focusing on position players. Catcher Austin Wells and second baseman Trevor Hauver were taken off the board by New York in the first and third rounds respectively.
From then on, however, it's been practically nothing but right-handed pitching for those in pinstripes. With the Yankees' third and final selection of its 2020 draft class, the club added Beck Way of Northwest Florida State. Then since Sunday, when the window for signing undrafted free agents officially opened, New York has added six more hurlers.
Kentucky's Carson Coleman, UCF's Trevor Holloway, BYU's Jarod Lessar, Ocean Gabonia of Everett Community College, Tulane's Connor Pellerin and Nevada's Blane Abeyta each agreed to deals with the Yankees.
When asked if the transition from position players to pitchers was part of the plan, Yankees' Vice President of Domestic Amateur Scouting Damon Oppenheimer explained this year's pool of eligible players was simply deep at the pitcher position.
So much so that New York could've potentially picked hurlers with its first two selections as well.
"We had some pitching right there that could have fallen to us that we could have possibly taken also," Oppenheimer disclosed on a conference call with reporters on Friday. "The idea is, in general, position players get gobbled up in the past and go off the board pretty quick. The impactful ones a lot of times are the guys that, you know, you're able to take up high."
Oppenheimer walked through the process of taking Way in the fourth round. After two valuable position players, he and his staff were hopeful to "get some of the pitching to fall down to [them]." That's exactly what happened.
"We were fortunate with Beck Way getting down there," Oppenheimer recalled. "He's got good command of [his fastball] to both sides of the plate, he's loose, easy, simple delivery to repeat. There's more in the tank with this guy when we get him in our strength and conditioning program."
Way was a force to be reckoned with at Northwest Florida State this spring. Before the novel coronavirus shut down his sophomore season, the right-hander was 5-0 with a spectacular 0.67 ERA. He had struck out 58 batters across 40 frames, holding opponents to a .126 batting average.
Closing out the club's draft class with Way was evidently a success for New York's draft-day team. Just a few days later, five more dynamic arms were added to the fold.
Carson Coleman, a redshirt junior from Kentucky, made six relief appearances this spring. Across 5 2/3 frames, he posted a 3.18 ERA with 13 strikeouts (good for an absurd 20.6 strikeout-per-nine rate.
If you think Coleman's strikeout numbers were potent, check this out. In a larger sample size this spring, Trevor Holloway had 37 punch outs over 22 2/3 innings at UCF. That's 14.69 strikeouts per nine, ranked 27th in the nation before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the sport.
BYU's Jarod Lessar made five appearances to start out his senior season. Through 16 1/3 innings pitched, the right-hander had posted a 4.41 ERA.
Ocean Gabonia was strong as a freshman starter at Everett Community College this spring. He posted a 2.40 ERA across three starts and 15 frames with 23 punch outs.
New York also reeled in another bullpen arm in Connor Pellerin from Tulane. The junior made six relief appearances this spring for the Green Wave, striking out 10 and allowed just one earned run across four sparkling frames.
Finally, Nevada's closer Blane Abeyta agreed to terms with the Bombers. In eight frames this spring, the right-hander posted a 3.38 ERA with 12 punch outs while converting two saves.
Now, to go along with the likes of Clarke Schmidt and Deivi Garcia atop New York's list of elite prospects, the Yankees' biggest strength is even stronger. How'd it happen? Oppenheimer has one group of people to thank.
"We wouldn't even be close to being able to recruit these guys or, you know, try to show them what it's like to be a Yankee without the boots on the ground from the, from the area scouts and the cross checkers. What they've done and the relationships they've built have Been have been unbelievable."
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