Yanks secure plethora of talent in Draft
First two picks signal club's willingness to select best players
NEW YORK -- It seems the biggest risk that the Yankees have taken when drafting is that they might pass on a highly talented player. With that in mind, New York didn't take many of those chances during the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.
With their top two selections, the Yankees nabbed players who probably fell to them because of different concerns.
First-round pick Gerrit Cole, a right-handed pitcher from Orange Lutheran High School in Orange, Calif., said that he will discuss with his family and advisers, which includes agent Scott Boras, about whether to sign a contract with the Yankees or fulfill his letter of intent with UCLA.
But Cole, taken No. 28 overall, has a "talent level just too good to pass on," Yankees director of scouting Damon Oppenheimer said.
"Signability is something we try to evaluate last," Oppenheimer said. "We're the Yankees. We have to get talent."
New York used its No. 44 compensation selection on pitcher Jeremy Bleich, a Stanford University lefty who played just five games for the Cardinal this season while battling an elbow injury from March to mid-May.
Oppenheimer said Bleich should be fine.
"We had the medicals done," Oppenheimer said. "There was a strained ligament in the elbow in the middle of the season. They rehabilitated it. He was back. The last two times we saw him pitch, he was throwing 92-93 mph. There was never any detachment in the ligament.
"His rehab and what we saw coming back on the velocity allowed us to think we were safe doing this."
Ultimately, the Yankees, whose 51 picks favored college players -- 35-16 over high school players -- and pitchers -- 26-25 over hitters -- had a simple strategy:
"Just try to line them up and take the best available guy that gets to us," Oppenheimer said. "Talent is the thing that overrides everything for us. When a guy like Cole got down to where we were, and with the power arm he has and the progress that he continues to make, this guy does have a chance to be a high-end starter.
"We just went along with the board and took what we thought was the best kid available."
Yankees' top five selections
|28.||RHP||Gerrit Cole||Orange Lutheran HS (Calif.)|
|44.||LHP||Jeremy Bleich||Stanford U|
|75.||RHP||Joseph Bittle||U of Mississippi|
|106.||2B||David Adams||U of Virginia|
|140.||SS||Corban Joseph||Franklin HS (Tenn.)|
|Complete Yankees Draft results >|
Oppenheimer, who said he was surprised that New York's first two picks fell to them, sees the team's six first-day selections as eventual impact players.
Of second-round pick (No. 75 overall), Joseph Bittle, a right-handed pitcher from the University of Mississippi who had a 1.78 ERA and 130 strikeouts this season, Oppenheimer said: "His stats are absolutely silly. He's got two really quality offspeed pitches: a slider and a changeup. He throws a 90-93-mph fastball, and he should move through the system at an accelerated pace. His strikeout numbers are pretty incredible."
On David Adams, a third-round selection (No. 106 overall) and a second baseman from the University of Virginia who batted .286 with six home runs and 51 RBIs in 2008, Oppenheimer said: "He's had a down year. We saw some things in his stroke that they had made changes to at the college level that we run into quite a bit. That didn't work for him. We looked at a lot of film of him at high school and the [Cape Cod League]. We're hoping to get this guy back, and if we can get him back to what we saw, we feel we got a guy that at one time was ranked very high."
Of fourth-rounder (No. 140 overall) Corban Joseph, a shortstop from Franklin High School (Tenn.) who hit 15 home runs and had 58 RBIs this season, Oppenheimer said: "This kid's a really advanced high school hitter. We really like his bat. We're not sure if he stays at shortstop, but he can hit, he has power and he's an average runner."
Of fifth-rounder (No. 170 overall) Christopher Smith, a shortstop from Centennial High School in California who hit .708 this season, Oppenheimer said: "He's another guy who can really hit and has power potential."
Brothers: Twelfth-rounder Luke Greinke, a right-handed pitcher who had 26 career victories for Auburn University, is the brother of Kansas City pitcher Zack Greinke.
Oppenheimer said Luke has also been a position player, but "we think once we make him to a full-time pitcher, you're going to get a guy who's pretty good."
Final breakdown: The Yankees nabbed three first basemen, two second basemen, one third baseman, six shortstops, one left fielder, three center fielders, four right fielders and one player who can play any outfield position.
Willie Bans is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.