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Pitching rules as Yanks finish draft
06/08/2004  8:16 PM ET
NEW YORK -- The Yankees selected a total of 52 players in this year's First-Year Player Draft, taking the first step toward rebuilding a minor league system that has been devoid of big-time prospects for a couple of years.

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New York closed out the draft on Tuesday, taking 32 players, selecting both high school and college players.

The one thing that clearly dominated the Yankees' draft was pitching, as the club took 30 hurlers and 22 position players.

"The draft dictated pitching," said Gordon Blakeley, the team's senior vice president of player personnel. "There were very few position players available, and there were only a handful of guys we really liked at the top. We knew there was a chance we'd take a lot of pitchers early."

It all started on Monday, when the Yankees got things going by taking right-hander Philip Hughes, a fireballer from Foothill High School in Santa Ana, Calif.

"We felt that he was as close to a college pitcher as we've seen in high school," Blakeley said. "There weren't any college guys with a power arm like his available when we picked."

New York proceeded to take six pitchers with its first seven picks, the lone position player coming at No. 37, when they selected Jon Poterson, a catcher from Chandler (Ariz.) High School.

"We got some arm strength into our system and a couple of quality bats," said Mark Newman, the Yankees' senior vice president of baseball operations. "Pitching was the strength of the draft overall, and it was the strength of our draft as well."

"We wanted to get one position player who we thought could be an impact player, and we got that in Poterson," Blakeley said. "Then, after Hughes, we wanted to get three more pitchers with power arms that throw the ball from 91-95 mph. Those are the types of guys we wanted, and we got them. Now, we have to develop them."

Newman said that the second day produced a lot of draft-and-follow types, as the Yankees added 32 more selections to their 2004 draft roster.

One player Newman noted from Tuesday's picks was Ryan Rote, a right-handed pitcher from Vanderbilt University.

"He's got a good arm," Newman said. "We like him a lot."

The Yankees took 22 right-handed pitchers and eight lefties. The 22 position players taken included eight outfielders, four catchers, four shortstops, three first basemen, two third basemen and one second baseman.

"There will be some players in [Tuesday's] draft who will be prospects and play in the Majors Leagues for us down the road," Newman said. "It's just hard to say who they are right now."

Of New York's 52 picks, 14 came out of high school, while 37 were college players. One player didn't fit into either category, as the Yankees took right-hander Matt Harrington in the 36th round.

Harrington, who has been drafted four times, has been playing in the independent Central League for the Fort Worth Cats. He was originally drafted by the Colorado Rockies in 2000, but the then-high schooler wasn't satisfied with the team's offer, choosing to re-enter the draft instead of signing.

The Yankees will now try to sign as many of their draft picks as possible, assigning them to the lower-level minor league clubs. Both Newman and Blakeley seemed satisfied with the group of players they drafted, though both admitted that it will take a few years to truly see how the Class of 2004 shapes up.

"We thought we got some kids who we liked," Blakeley said. "Everyone is always excited about the draft, but we won't really know the quality of it for five years."

"At this point, the evaluation of a draft is one of delayed feedback," Newman said. "It's a first step, but there are several other things that we still have to do. We'll know in some time whether we've done that, and there are things we have to do, developmentally, like have another good draft next year. If we do that, we'll be where we need to be."

How does the club rank its final product? On a scale of 1-10, Newman gave the Yankees' draft a 9.

"But most of the people you talk to would say the same thing today," Newman said. "We really won't know until we're down the road, but for now, we feel good."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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