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06/04/07 10:00 AM ET

Yanks after players of tomorrow

Club not neglecting farm system, renews focus on Draft

There was a time, general manager Brian Cashman recalls, when the Yankees didn't regard the First-Year Player Draft with quite the respect that it demanded.

Sure, it was there year after year, but by firing money at the hottest free agents, the Yankees neglected their farm system. The results showed, as the club was left without top prospects to promote to the club.

"There's no doubt, there was a period of time when we disregarded how important the Draft really is," Cashman said. "That's changed. There are players I passed on last year as free agents that had No. 1 picks attached to them. I wasn't giving up our No. 1 pick. We need that for our future.

"[The Draft] is huge. It's vital. One of the reasons we're struggling now is that we're paying for sins of the past."

The 2007 First-Year Player Draft takes place on June 7-8 at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Fla. The first round will air on ESPN2 beginning at 2 p.m. ET, and MLB.com will have every pick of the 50-round Draft, start to finish.

Even though the Yankees hold the final pick of the first round at No. 30 and will not select again until the 94th selection in the Draft, Cashman said that the organization's eyes are intently focused on coming away from Florida with names of tomorrow on its draft chart.

"You strive to make sure you pick 30th every year, because that means you have the best record in baseball," Cashman said. "We're not going to have access to the talent that's in the first 10 picks, like Detroit took Andrew Miller last year and Justin Verlander.

"The way to access those types of players is that you have to bomb out and that you rebuild, and that speeds up the process. We're going to get a good player at 30, and we believe we'll get a good player at 94. There's enough talent in the Draft, but there's some significant talent in the front end."

In describing changing philosophies, Cashman points out that the Yankees waited until Andy Pettitte was not offered arbitration by the Houston Astros to snap him up, thus saving a draft pick as compensation. The same went for reliever Mike Myers the year before.

"The last two years have been a concerted effort to protect our Draft choices," Cashman said. "It has to [continue]. It's the only way to speed up the rebuilding process is to get great players, and the only way to get great players is to make sure you're picking up in the Draft. We've been deficient in that in the past, but at least that year and last year, that's the case."

Now, with their farm system burgeoning with select pitching prospects, the clear-cut course of action could be to pursue position-player talent. Cashman said the Yankees certainly wouldn't shy away from going after a promising bat or glove, but they likewise aren't afraid to continue to add to their growing stockpile of innings-eaters.

"The strategy is just to get the best player available at that moment, period," Cashman said. "We want the best baseball player possible, regardless of position. We don't draft by projected needs in five years. We've got a lot of pitching prospects, more than position player prospects, and that doesn't bother me. If the best player is a pitcher, we're taking a pitcher. If the best player is a position player, we're taking a position player."

Draft 2007 | Complete Coverage
Top MLB Draft Picks
Pick POS Name School
1. TB LHP David Price Vanderbilt U
2. KC SS Michael Moustakas Chatsworth HS (Calif.)
3. CHC 3B Josh Vitters Cypress HS (Calif.)
4. PIT LHP Daniel Moskos Clemson U
5. BAL C Matthew Wieters Georgia Tech
6. WSH LHP Ross Detwiler Missouri St U
7. MIL LF Matthew LaPorta U Florida
8. COL RHP Casey Weathers Vanderbilt U
9. ARI RHP Jarrod Parker Norwell HS
10. SF LHP Madison Bumgarner South Caldwell HS
Complete Draft list >

2006: Ian Kennedy, RHP, University of Southern California (21st overall): Kennedy is off to a rolling start for Class A Tampa in the Florida State League, reeling off a 6-1 record and a 1.29 ERA through his first 11 appearances (10 starts), including a complete game. Though he's not a flamethrower, Kennedy has showed an art for finesse and racking up strikeouts, whiffing 72 and walking 22 in 63 innings.

2006: Joba Chamberlain, RHP, University of Nebraska-Lincoln (1st round supplemental pick, 41st overall): The former Cornhusker completed his first month of Florida State League action in May by going 2-0 with a 1.61 ERA in five starts. In 28 innings, Chamberlain walked nine and struck out 32, limiting opponents to a .149 average.

2005: Carl (C.J.) Henry, SS, Putnam City High School, Oklahoma (17th overall): Henry became one of the chips used in last July's six-player trade with the Phillies in which the Yankees picked up outfielder Bobby Abreu and pitcher Cory Lidle. Henry is struggling this year at Class A Lakewood in the South Atlantic League, batting .188 with seven home runs and 28 RBIs through his first 43 games for the BlueClaws.

2004: Phil Hughes, RHP, Foothill High School, California (23rd overall): Sidelined this season with a strained left hamstring and a sprained right ankle, Hughes is widely considered one of the top pitching prospects in the game. Hughes made two Major League starts this season at age 20 and was working on a no-hitter on May 1 at Texas before leaving the game with a hamstring injury.

Rising fast: There's a lot to like out of 22-year-old Tyler Clippard, a ninth-round selection in the 2003 Draft. Showcasing dominance in his Major League debut against the Mets, Clippard has been tagged as the owner of the best changeup in the Yankees' system and displays a certain poise on the mound that the team likes. Asked to remain in the Yankees' rotation for now with a dearth of starters, Clippard may not have seen the last of the Minor Leagues, but the organization certainly sees a permanent spot for him in the big leagues sometime down the road.

Cinderella story: Who can shut down Mitch Hilligoss? For a 38-game span in 2007, nobody in the South Atlantic League could figure out the answer to that question. A 22-year-old infielder selected in the sixth round in '06 from Purdue University, Hilligoss established a new Sally League record for consecutive games with a hit and shot to the top of the organization's list for Minor League batting averages.

In the Show: Clippard (2003) is currently in the Yankees starting rotation, and Jeff Karstens ('03) made two starts for New York in April before suffering a broken right leg in the first inning of a game against Boston. Hughes (2004) made two starts for the Yankees this season before going on the disabled list with a left hamstring strain.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.