06/07/2004 7:22 PM ET
Yankees add arms on first day
New York takes eight pitchers among first 20 picks
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
|Philip Hughes of Foothill High went 9-1 with a 0.69 ERA this season. (Raymond Sikes/ISN Sports)
NEW YORK -- With a farm system lacking many significant prospects, the Yankees looked at Monday's First-Year Player Draft as a golden opportunity to stockpile arms to replenish the system.
So that's exactly what they did.
New York used six of its first seven picks on pitchers, taking high-schooler Philip Hughes with its first-round selection, 23rd overall.
Hughes, who will turn 18 on June 24, is an imposing figure at 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds. He features a good fastball, a big-league slider and a solid changeup.
"I'm just thrilled," Hughes said. "I want to thank everyone in the organization, because this is awesome. Everyone in the organization has treated me so well."
"We've got left-handers with average fastballs, pitchability guys like Alex Graman and Brad Halsey at Triple-A who are pitching well, but we felt we needed right-handed power," said Mark Newman, the Yankees' senior vice president of baseball operations. "He's a mature, polished high-school pitcher, and we think he's more like a college pitcher."
After taking catcher Jonathan Poterson of Chandler (Ariz.) High School with the first of two sandwich-round picks, the Yankees drafted a pair of college right-handers -- Jeff Marquez (Sacramento Community College) and Brett Smith (UC-Irvine) -- at Nos. 41 and 42, respectively.
"Three of the first four were pitchers, and we're quite sure that it's an area of our organization that needs strengthening," Newman said. "We certainly hope this does it."
Newman said that the draft played out perfectly for the Yankees, though the possibility of high-profile prospects Jered Weaver and Stephen Drew slipping to them at 23 crossed their minds.
"There were some players who started to fall -- we didn't know where Weaver or Drew would fall, so there was a lot of commotion leading up to the draft," Newman said. "We thought we'd get two of our three, but we got three of three. We feel good about that."
Weaver, the younger brother of former Yankees pitcher Jeff Weaver, was taken at No. 12 by the Anaheim Angels.
"Weaver, if he would have been there, he would have been a strong consideration," Newman said. "He was the top guy on our list, so it would have been hard not to take him."
Smith has a similar build to Hughes, as they both stand at 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, and Newman said that of the first three pitchers selected by New York, Smith is probably the closest to reaching the Majors.
"He pitched at UC-Irvine in a very competitive environment," Newman said. "If I had to put them in order, I'd say Smith, Marquez, then Hughes, but I don't think any of these three guys would be classified as crude or raw prospects."
Marquez, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 175 pounds, boasts a good curveball, average fastball and improving slider.
"He's not a real big, physical right-hander like Hughes or Smith, but he has a quick arm," Newman said. "He's built similar to Mariano Rivera."
Poterson, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound 18-year-old, has raw power at the plate. Newman said that Poterson had a great pre-draft workout for the team at Yankee Stadium, peaking the team's interest.
"He's a switch-hitter with power," Newman said. "He's a guy who we've been interested in for a long time."
The Yankees have already been in contact with the representatives for each of their first four picks, and Newman said that the club would try to work out contractual terms with them over the next day or two.
Hughes and Poterson are expected to play for the Class A Tampa Yankees of the Gulf Coast League, while Marquez and Smith would likely be assigned to Class A Staten Island of the New York-Penn League.
Of the Yankees' 20 selections on Monday, eight were pitchers.
"We have to replenish the system, especially from a pitching perspective," Newman said. "We had some guys elevate their performance this year, so our system is better off than it was 12 months ago. It will take a couple of other guys having good years this year, and adding the players from this draft, it will help us get back to where we want to be. We've still got work to do, we're not where we want to be yet."
Of the 12 other players taken, New York selected three catchers, three outfielders, two first basemen, two shortstops, a second baseman and a third baseman. Five of the 20 draftees were high school players, three of whom were pitchers.
"We went heavy on pitching early," Newman said. "We wanted to get some college position players after that."
Of the position players taken after the early pitching run, Newman touted sixth-rounder Nathan Phillips, a shortstop from Grace Prep Academy in the Dallas area.
Phillips, at 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, has an athletic build similar to Houston's Mike Lamb. Phillips has a strong, quick swing, and possesses power from both sides of the plate.
"I think the draft pretty much went according to design," said Newman. "It's a delayed feedback, so we'll find out in a couple of years how we did. We feel good about the quality of the arms we got."
Tuesday, the Yankees will have 32 more selections, as the First-Year Player Draft wraps up with rounds 19-50.
"We're going to get into filling some holes, look for some late bargains," Newman said. "That's when you look for guys with tools, maybe a power arm with a control problem. We'll try to identify some diamonds in the rough."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.