John Manuel

NoMaas’ Sensei John Kreese sits down with Baseball America’s Co-Editor-in-Chief…

SJK: How would you summarize the Yankees draft?

JM: The Yankees’ draft success depends greatly on who signs and who doesn’t. Certainly Culver wasn’t a consensus pick in the first round, but they were convicted about him, just like the Twins were convicted about Ben Revere, who similarly wasn’t a first-round consensus guy three years ago but has provided value to the organization as a good prospect. If Culver can stay in the middle infield, and if by signing at his price he allows the Yankees to spread their draft budget out and sign other players later, then this draft class could be a good haul.

SJK: In talking to the Yankees higher-ups and asking them what they think about this year’s draft, the most common answer we get is a shrugging of the shoulders and a “we’ll see” response. As a company that covers amateur and minor league baseball, what is your reaction to this indifference?

JM: I wouldn’t characterize the club’s attitude as indifference; I think they were characterizing this year’s draft class as very flat in terms of talent. The 30 clubs usually have some consensus about the talent available, at least more of a consensus than there was this year about the players. It was just not an easy year to line players up, so the Yankees lined the players up the way they liked them and didn’t really care what anybody else thought.

SJK: The Yankees spent a lot of early round picks on players fresh out of high school. In general, was this draft more talent rich in high school or college prospects?

JM: The college talent was considered quite thin in this draft, especially among hitters, so the Yankees’ taking a lot of HS position players is probably a smart move. I especially like Gumbs and Williams, in addition to Culver.

SJK: The Cito Culver pick certainly was a surprise to draft pundits everywhere. In fact, you referred to it as a “stunner.” Why was Culver such a shock pick? Were the Yankees wrong to pick him, or is this a case of the Yankees knowing more about an amateur player than any other organization or scouting service?

JM: We were stunned because the “consensus,” such as it was in New England, had Culver as a 3rd-round talent. Same was true of Ben Revere, which is why I used that comparison earlier. The Yankees people I have spoken with liked him better than that previously (as early as last summer), and the organization remained high on him. This wasn’t one guy or two guys in the org who liked him, it was a lot of guys in the scouting department and front office who like him, like his tools and his energy.

So when the pick came and their board was the way it was, Culver was their guy. That said, I don’t think he would have been the 32nd player on the majority of clubs’ draft boards. We were, though, getting pretty high on Culver on May 19:
http://www.baseballamerica.com/online/draft/draft-tracker/2010/2610014.html

SJK: Based on what was available at the time, who would you have picked at #32?

JM: I like a lot of the prep pitchers that went in the supplemental first round, such as Peter Tago, Taijuan Walker and Tyrell Jenkins. If I thought Anthony Ranaudo was healthy, I also could see rolling the dice with him there, but I also think Ranaudo will be paid more than he should be paid. He’s had one good year out of three in college, and his secondary stuff is iffy. That said, he has a front-line starter’s body and arm and fastball velocity, and when he’s downhill he’s exciting and at times dominant. I thought Ranaudo and the Yankees were a good match.

SJK: The Yankees’ draft board was absolutely littered with shortstops, center fielders, and catchers. How does this compare to what other organizations did and is this a common draft approach?

JM: It is common, and it makes sense, teams never can have enough depth up the middle. Also that means the Yankees wanted athletes, and put a priority on athletes, which supposedly is common, but I think is hard to execute.

SJK: One of the very few non-up-the-middle position players drafted was 2009 Cape Cod League MVP Kyle Roller from East Carolina University. What can you tell us about him? And what’s his future with an organization that will need that DH spot to accommodate the likes of someone like Alex Rodriguez?

JM: I’m not a big fan, should be an organizational player. He has a polished approach in that he takes a lot of walks, but if he gets to the big leagues and makes an impact, many, many area scouts in N.C. will be surprised. He did hit in the Cape, but there’s more to life than hitting in the Cape.

SJK: Where do you think is the biggest weakness of the Yankees’ farm system and was that weakness addressed by this draft?

JM: The Yankees don’t have a lot of power bats right now, and the system overall has a stunning lack of LHPs, considering they’re the Yankees. It was not a good draft for LHPs, though, and Evan Rutckyj is the best LHP they drafted. Not sure why he fell so low, but he’ll probably command an above-slot bonus and he’s one of the more important picks on this list for me because he’s a southpaw and the Yanks could use some lefties.

SJK: Despite having a catching-rich system, the Yankees drafted 4 more backstops. Any of these picks have a chance to stick?

JM: They didn’t pick any catchers with high picks or guys who will be more than org players, other than Tyler Austin. He probably isn’t a catcher as a pro, but he does have a polished bat for a prep guy. I liked that pick at 13 if he’s signable for fourth-round type of money. He’d be a value at that price and could be a LF or 3B.

SJK: Who would you rate as the Yankees’ best value pick, taking into account ability and draft round?

JM: Austin or Rutckyj

SJK: When we talked to Mark Newman, he was really high on Mason Williams calling him a “plus-plus runner.” Another Yankee exec told us he reminded him of Brett Gardner. What is BA’s take on Williams?

JM: We like Williams. Our take of Williams was available for subscribers a week before the Yankees drafted him, and we had a pretty extensive scouting report for free in a draft tracker here:
http://www.baseballamerica.com/online/draft/draft-tracker/2010/269954.html

SJK: What are some of the picks that really stand out in your mind?

JM: Kevin Jacob, Kevin Jordan, Even Rutckyj and Tyler Austin, as 10-plus-round guys who could make or break the class, either giving it depth or leaving it thin. That’s the hardest thrower the Yankees picked (Jacob), one of the best athletes (Jordan), the best LHP and perhaps the most polished bat they drafted in that quartet.

SJK: Looking at the draft as a whole, do you see the Yankees’ positioning themselves to flex their financial muscle?

JM: Yes, by signing the above four players in addition to their top picks.

SJK: Who is going to be a tough sign, but would be in the Yankees’ best interest to lock up?

JM: Jacob may be the toughest of that group because he was hurt, he’s unconventional with an at-times painful-to-watch delivery, and he’s a Boras client. Definite summer follow, we’ll see how he throws.

SJK: What do you think of the Karate Kid remake?

JM: I did not see, nor will I see, the Karate Kid remake until it comes to HBO or maybe DVD. I am not a fan of the fact that it’s in China though and is really using Kung Fu, not Karate. Sounds pretty bogus to me, Daniel-san.

Many thanks to John for providing his expert analysis to NoMaas. Make sure you follow him on Twitter at @johnmanuelba.