Back in 1992, the Yankees were a fourth-place team with a losing record. They had Andy Stankiewicz at shortstop, Steve Farr in the ninth inning and Mel Hall getting regular starts in the cleanup spot.
Of course, 1992 is also the year of the Jeter draft. Changes the way you look at the year, doesn’t? Any coincidence that the Yankees haven’t had a losing record since?
Derek Jeter is an extreme example of the way a draft pick can change everything for a team. The amateur draft is wildly unpredictable. Scouts have to watch a teenager on a raw high school field and envision a 25-year-old playing under big league lights. It’s a tricky thing to do.
Back in 1992, the five players picked ahead of Jeter were Phil Nevin, Paul Shuey, B.J. Wallace, Jeffrey Hammonds and Chad Mottola. As Jesse wrote so well in this morning’s Pinch Hitter post, selecting Jeter instead might have significantly changed the future of five different organizations. The right draft pick could have changed everything.
In the years since Jeter, these draft picks have also changed things for the Yankees.
1996: Eric Milton, first round
Why did Milton change things? For one thing, he was a compensation pick for Randy Velarde signing with the Angels. For another, it was the Yankees first quality selection since the Jeter pick. And selecting Milton kicked off a strong Yankees draft class that included Nick Johnson and Marcus Thames.
2001: John-Ford Griffin, first round
Not all changes are for the better. Back in 2001, the Yankees had five of the first 63 picks. It was a chance to refuel the farm system coming off three straight World Series titles. This could have been a franchise-building draft, but the Yankees used their first five picks on Griffin, Bronson Sardinha, Jon Skaggs, Jason Arnold and Shelley Duncan. Of the five, only Duncan ever played any sort of sustained role in the big leagues. The Yankees passed on David Wright twice in that draft. They passed on J.J. Hardy and Brandon League three times. Any one of those top five picks could have been Dan Haren.
2004: Phil Hughes, first round
Of all the players the Yankees actually signed from the 2004 draft, three have actually made it to the big leagues. Jeff Marquez has a few innings of big league time, and Mike Dunn moved from the outfield to the mound to become a lefty specialist. Even so, it’s hard to consider this draft a bust because Hughes is still in the picture. His impact, for better or worse, will determine everything about the success of the 2004 class.
2005: C.J. Henry, first round
Truth is, the 2005 draft was pretty good for the Yankees. Brett Gardner and Austin Jackson came out of that draft. So did bit players Zach Kroenke and Lance Pendleton. Alan Horne and J.B. Cox looked like good picks until injuries knocked them off track. The Yankees ’05 draft, though, will always be looked at as a disappointment because it’s widely considered one of the best draft classes in recent memory, and the Yankees used their first-round pick on a guy who never came close to getting out of the minors. Some first rounders taken after Henry: Colby Rasmus, Matt Garza, Jacoby Ellsbury and supplement-rounder Clay Buchholz. The bright side: Henry helped the Yankees trade for Bobby Abreu.
2006: Dellin Betances, eighth round
One year after disappointment, the Yankees scored a terrific draft class in 2006. Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain were the top choices, but getting Betances in the eighth round says a lot about the depth of that year’s class. Zach McAllister, Colin Curtis, George Kontos, Mark Melancon, Dan McCutchen, Dave Robertson and Kevin Russo also came from the 2006 draft.
2011: Dante Bichette Jr., supplemental first round
After an impressive debut, Bichette has a chance to change the way the Yankees feel about their 2009 trade for Javier Vazquez. Obviously Vazquez was a massive disappointment in 2010, but when he left the following winter, he was a Type B free agent, and the Yankees used that selection on Bichette, who quickly emerged as one of the best young hitters in the system. Whether the Vazquez trade goes down as a complete loss depends largely on the selection and development of Bichette.
Associated Press photo