That’s Bryce Harper in the picture on the right. He is one of the most hyped amateur baseball players of the past decade, which easily makes him one of the most hyped amateur baseball players of all time.
Barring a significant surprise, his name will be the first one called when Major League Baseball’s first-year player draft begins tonight at 7.
I’m a big fan of minor league baseball, and player development is one of my favorite things about following the game, but I’ve never been a huge draft guy. It’s just not my cup of tea. The list of available players is overwhelming, and most of them are a long, long way from being big league ready. It’s not a total crap shoot, but it’s close, and I prefer to let guys play a few years of pro ball before I start following too closely. That’s just me.
That said, I’ve had enough draft conversations to understand the Yankees general approach. They’re about high-end talent, not sure-thing players. That’s why they took a shot on Andrew Brackman a few years ago, knowing he would require surgery and a ton of money. It was the best way to get Top 5 talent out of a No. 30 pick.
The Yankees aren’t afraid to draft big, which means big risk, big reward and big bonuses. It’s a philosophy that extends beyond the first round. I’ve heard Dave Robertson cited as one of those mid-round, risk-reward picks. He wasn’t especially big or overpowering out of Alabama, but the Yankees thought Robertson’s stuff might play up. They took a shot, taught him a curveball and he’s become a valuable reliever.
The opposite has been true of shortstop Carmen Angelini. The Yankees took him in the 10th round in 2007 and gave him a huge bonus to lure him away from a commitment to Rice. The Yankees knew he was raw, but they also thought he had the potential to develop into a Top 15 pick by the time he was a college junior. The Yankees would have no chance of drafting him then, so they took a shot out of high school and he’s been a .218 hitter in the lowest levels of the minor leagues.
Only the first round of the draft takes place tonight. Rounds 2-30 are on Tuesday, 31-50 on Wednesday. The Yankees have the last pick of the first round.
Just a few days ago, most mock drafts I read suggested the Yankees might draft a college hitter. Both Keith Law and Kevin Goldstein predicted Cal State Fullerton outfielder Gary Brown as the Yankees top choice. Frankie Piliere mentioned West Virginia shortstop Jedd Gyorko, Jonathan Mayo suggested Virginia Tech outfielder Austin Wates, and Jim Callis guessed Michigan outfielder Ryan LaMarre among several candidates.
Then, in another update Piliere mentioned high school pitcher Robby Rowland, and late last night he wrote that, “Late word from industry sources on Sunday night was that New York was leaning toward taking a high school bat with the 32nd overall pick.”
Or, as Law wrote: “Also hearing them on (Drew) Vettleson, Mike Lorenzen, Todd Cunningham, Jesse Biddle, Tyrell Jenkins, A.J. Cole and about a trillion other players.”
The lesson learned is simple: Predicting the 32nd pick is pretty much impossible.
That’s an Associated Press shot of Harper.