By Chad Jennings
The Yankees have the 16th pick in tonight’s first round of the amateur draft. It’s their highest selection since taking right-handed pitcher Matt Drews with the 13th overall pick in 1993. Here are the Yankees’ top picks in the 21 years since they had a draft slot this high. These are not all of their first-round picks, just the highest selection they’ve made each year since having an opportunity like this.
1994 — OF Brian Buchanan
Played 13 seasons in the minor leagues without a single at-bat in the majors. He hit .279/.341/.472 in Triple-A, mostly with the Twins.
1995 – OF Shea Morenz
Out of pro ball after five seasons. Barely even tasted Triple-A.
1996 – LHP Eric Milton
Compensation for free agent Randy Velarde, Milton was trade bait for the Yankees — he and 1994 pick Buchanan were traded for Chuck Knoblauch — and he went on to pitch 11 years in the big leagues with one all-star appearance. For a long time, this was the Yankees’ most successful first-round pick since Derek Jeter.
1997 – OF Tyrell Godwin
Compensation for free agent John Wetteland, Godwin didn’t sign and was drafted again by the Blue Jays in 2001. He played three games in the big leagues in 2005.
1998 – OF Andrew Brown
Nineteen picks later the Yankees drafted but couldn’t sign Mark Prior. Brown played just 19 games above A-ball.
1999 – RHP Dave Walling
Walling had bee a later-round pick twice before. He finally signed with the Yankees out of the University of Arkansas but never played pro ball past the age of 23. The Yankees’ most productive pick in 1999 was little used infielder Andy Phillips.
2000 – C Dave Parrish
Having tried to get Parrish as a 10th-rounder out of high school, the Yankees drafted him against out of the University of Michigan. Got to Triple-A Columbus but never hit much.
2001 – OF John-Ford Griffin
Eleven picks before Bronson Sardinha, and one round before Shelley Duncan, the Yankees took Florida State slugger Griffin who wound up getting some big league time with the Blue Jays.
2002 – RHP Brandon Weeden
With no first-round pick because of the Jason Giambi signing, the Yankees got Weeden as compensation for losing free agent Tino Martinez. He never played pro ball beyond A-ball or past 22 years old.
2003 – 3B Eric Duncan
In the low minors, Duncan seemed to be emerging as one of the game’s standout prospects and a future corner infielder in New York. He simply stopped hitting when he reached Triple-A, never reached the majors, and will coach in the Yankees’ farm system this year.
2004 – RHP Phil Hughes
So far, this is the Yankees’ best top draft pick of the past 21 years. Compensation for the loss of free agent Andy Pettitte, Hughes made one all-star team with the Yankees and won 16 games last year with the Twins. His career has been erratic, but far better than most on this list.
2005 – SS C.J. Henry
A golden opportunity in a loaded draft, the Yankees took a high-end athlete who wasn’t a high-end baseball player. He wound up leaving the game to play college basketball. The good news for the Yankees: they flipped Henry in a good trade for Bobby Abreu. The bad news: they could have drafted Jacoby Ellsbury.
2006 – RHP Ian Kennedy
Strong draft class for the Yankees started with college pitchers Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain (41st overall). Ranked by WAR, Kennedy’s been the second-best top pick on this list. Pretty erratic career, but a 4.04 ERA so far in New York, Arizona and San Diego.
2007 – RHP Andrew Brackman
The Yankees took a giant gamble on a big guy with a big arm and big questions. Brackman had been a college basketball and baseball player, and he was drafted with the Yankees knowing he likely needed Tommy John surgery. He was twice ranked as a Top 100 prospect by Baseball America, so the Yankees weren’t the only team that liked his talent, but they were the only team that took such a chance on him. Got into three big league games mostly because he happened to be on the 40-man.
2008 – RHP Gerrit Cole
Second year in a row that the Yankees took an obvious gamble. With Cole, the talent was obvious, but so was the signability risk. Cole refused to sign — refused to even negotiate, really — and became the top overall pick three years later.
2009 – CF Slade Heathcott
Because the Yankees couldn’t sign Cole, they were given an extra pick in 2009 and used it on Texas high schooler Heathcott. He came into the system with makeup concerns, but his biggest problems became health and durability. Hit his way to the big leagues this year only to get hurt again.
2010 – SS Cito Culver
The Yankees saw Culver as the kind of guy who might become a top five pick if he went to college and developed as hoped. The Yankees tried to get him when they could, even though it was seen by many as an over-draft. Culver’s glove has been as good as expected, but his bat has not come along nearly enough.
2011 – 3B Dante Bichette Jr.
With no true first round pick, the Yankees top choice was a supplemental first-rounder, and the Yankees took a shot on another fairly high-risk high schooler, this one with a big league father. Bichette raked upon arrival, but he’s mostly struggled — with an exception early last year — ever since.
2012 – RHP Ty Hensley
Fifth year in a row the Yankees took a high schooler with their top pick. Hensley’s pitched pretty well, but he’s pitched only 42.1 innings because of injuries.
2013 – 3B Eric Jagielo
First of three first-round picks in 2013, the Yankees took a relatively safe pick with Notre Dame third baseman Jagielo, who was already a fairly advanced hitter. He’s been good so far, and he’s currently raking with fellow 2013 draftee Aaron Judge in Double-A Trenton.
2014 – LHP Jacob Lindgren
The Yankees didn’t have a first-rounder last year, but they found a fast-track reliever in Lindgren, who was drafted out of Mississippi State and got to the big leagues less than a year later. Fourteen of their top 15 picks last year were college players.