The New York Yankees made some key moves in order to bolster their minor league system in 2016 through deals made at the trade deadline. With that infusion of talent, the players who the Yankees selected in the draft have almost been overlooked.
Here’s a look at the Top Ten picks the Yankees made in the 2016 Amateur Baseball Draft and how they fared in their first season of professional baseball.
The Yankees started off the draft dipping into the high school ranks with the 18th pick of the first round and chose center fielder Blake Rutherford out of Chaminade College Preparatory School. Rutherford is a tall, athletic type with lots of power, speed and possesses a good throwing arm. He was assigned to the Gulf Coast League but moved up to the Pulaski Yankees (Rookie) where he played in 25 games. He batted .382 in his time with Pulaski with a stunning on-base percentage of .440. He hit two home runs with seven doubles and four triples resulting in a .618 slugging percentage. He did suffer a minor hamstring pull which resulted in limited playing time in 2016. The Yankees have no plans to rush him, so it’s a good bet is that he starts off at low-A full season Charleston next year.
For their next pick in the second round, the Yankees selected second baseman Nick Solak out of the University of Louisville with the 62nd overall pick of the draft. Solak has a reputation for being a solid line-drive hitter with work to do defensively. The Yankees assigned him to Staten Island (Short-season A) where he hit .321 for the Baby Bombers with 13 doubles and eight stolen bases in 64 games. Although defense may be a work in progress, he did post a solid .975 fielding percentage in his first professional season. As with Rutherford, he looks ready to make the step up to Charleston.
In round three, the Yankees decided to dip into the pitching market by drafting right-hander Culver City High School prospect Nolan Martinez in the 98th overall slot. Martinez features a fastball that’s clocked as high as 93 MPH, curveball, and changeup. Martinez is a lanky 6’2” with a smooth delivery that had committed to play college ball at San Diego State. The Yankees sent him to the Gulf Coast League where he started three games in August pitching in seven innings, going 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA. With such a young arm, it’s a good bet the Yankees will not rush Martinez through the minors.
The Yankees went again with pitching in the fourth round when they selected right-hander Nick Nelson. Nelson was selected by the San Francisco Giants in the 2014 draft out of high school but opted to pitch for Gulf Coast Community College. He was going to head to Florida before the Yankees drafted him. Nelson features a plus curveball and a fastball that clocks in the low 90s. He was assigned to the Pulaski Yankees where he started 10 games. He ended up posting a 0-3 record with a 3.38 ERA. He struggled with his control as he walked 22 batters in 21 and one-third innings.
For their fifth round selection, the Yankees selected University of South Carolina standout outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams. He was originally selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 19th round of the 2014 draft but opted to go to college instead. Thompson-Williams bats and throws left and speed is a key feature of his game. He was sent to Staten Island where he played mostly center field. He batted .246, drew 28 walks and stole 15 bases in 20 attempts. He’s known to use his speed in the outfield to track down balls but needs work on tracking the baseball. He’s another player that could start out at Charleston but may need more time in extended spring training and Staten Island.
When the sixth round came around, the Yankees went back to pitching where they selected right-handed reliever Brooks Kriske out of the University of Southern California. Kriske is 6’3” tall, throws in the mid-90s and is working on his slider. Kriske headed to Staten Island where he pitched exclusively out of the bullpen. In 13 games, he pitched 16 innings, striking out 16 while notching four saves. Kriske could start off the 2017 season in Charleston.
In round seven, the Yankees called North Florida University catcher Keith Skinner‘s name. Skinner had a reputation for being a good left-handed bat with average catching skills. Skinner is originally from Berkeley Heights, NJ and was assigned close to his hometown at Staten Island. Skinner did not last long though as he only played eight games before leaving the team of his own volition and was placed on the Restricted List. No reason has been disclosed as to why he left, or if he plans to come back for 2017.
First Baseman Dalton Blaser was the next player selected by the Yankees in the eighth round. The Cal State Fullerton product isn’t your prototypical big first baseman (6’1”, 200 lb.) who hits for power. He’s more of a bat-for-average type player with good plate discipline. Like many of the Yankee draft picks, he was assigned to Staten Island where he played in 55 games. He batted .223, but did draw 23 walks. As advertised, he only knocked two home runs and collected seven doubles. A good bet may be extended spring training and a return trip to Staten Island to start 2017.
The Yankees selected another first baseman with their ninth round selection. Tim Lynch was picked out of the University of Southern Mississippi. Unlike Blaser, Lynch has the reputation of being a big power hitting first baseman. He’s 6’2, 220 lbs and started off the year with Pulaski, where he struggled out of the gate with a .229 average in 29 games. He was sent down to the Gulf Coast Yankees East on August 4 to finish off the season and get back on track. There he played 18 games and posted a solid .286 average. He hit his first professional home run while picking up seven doubles. He’ll probably end up in extended spring training and end up at either Pulaski or Staten Island.
In the 10th round, the Yankees picked up left-handed bullpen pitching prospect Trevor Lane from the University of Illinois-Chicago. Lane isn’t tall in stature but is said to be solid mechanically and has great arm speed. Lane put up good numbers in his first year of professional ball. Between the Gulf Coast Yankees East and Staten Island, he pitched in 13 games, posting a 0.59 ERA while striking out 13 batters in 15 and one-third innings. He ended up posting a 0.91 WHIP and opposing batters only hit .189 against him. He could start out 2017 in the Charleston bullpen.
With the draft, the Yankees looked to build depth in the lower levels of the system by drafting a lot of more mature players out of college. The big prize of the draft class looks to be Rutherford. With that said, the Yankees also picked athletic players, all with the raw ability that can be molded into becoming solid players. It’ll be interesting to see who breaks out from this class to make their name in the major leagues one day.