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Phil Diehl (Robert M. Pimpsner)

2020 MLB Draft

2020 MLB Draft: Getting advice from former late-round picks

As we all know, the 2020 MLB First-Year Player Draft is going to look a lot different this year as there will be 5 rounds instead of the typical 40 rounds we have seen in recent years due to the CoronaVirus pandemic. There will be many changes as noted here by Jeff Passan and Kiley McDaniel of ESPN.

A lot of players are going to have to make a tough decision if they are not drafted as to whether to sign with a team for $20,000 and begin their professional journey or do they go back to or go to college in some cases? For the Yankees, having only 3 picks in this year’s draft means they could bring in a lot of players for $20,000.

When it was first known the MLB Draft would be different this year and have an impact on many amateur players, I wanted to start on a project involving Yankees draft picks of the past to ask them these 3 questions:

  1. What was your draft story?
  2. What advice would you give to draftees this year with the MLB Draft going to fewer rounds?
  3. If you were a draftee this year and went undrafted, what do you think you would have done?

This project is designed to not only be informative to our readers but to encourage the draftees of this year that there can be a career in baseball even if their name isn’t called. Maybe they read something in this article that helps keep their motivation going.

Below you will read my Q+A with these players and a little bit about their careers as Yankees either in the major and minor leagues.

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Nick Goody (Martin Griff)

Nick Goody

The right-handed pitcher was drafted twice by the New York Yankees. New York selected him in the 22ndRound back in 2011 out of State College of Florida before Goody went to LSU. One year later, the Yankees picked Goody again in the 6th Round.

Goody made his Major League debut with the Yankees on July 30, 2015. In 34 career appearances with the Yankees, he had a 4.67 ERA and struck out 37 batters while walking 15 in 34.2 innings of work. Goody was traded to the Cleveland Indians in December 2016 and is now with the Texas Rangers organization.

Ricky: What was your draft experience like?

Nick: Both times I was fortunate enough to get drafted it is a file like none other. All the hard work finally pays off when you hear your name. In reality that’s when the real work starts. The first time I was drafted I was in summer ball in the Northwoods league playing for the Mankato Moondogs. Obviously it was super exciting I had a choice to go to LSU or sign with the Yankees. It was a win-win situation for me. One of the hardest things I had to do was turn down a professional contract and continue my schooling. Obviously in the grand scheme of things it was probably one of the better decisions I’ve made in my career. The second time I was drafted I knew I was ready to go. The same jitters the same feeling as the first time but I felt prepared LSU/SCF prepared me.

R: What advice would you give to this year’s draftees?

N: The advice I Would give to the guys coming through being that we don’t know and so much uncertainty would be to enjoy every moment. This is hopefully a once-in-a-lifetime virus and just because you go undrafted doesn’t mean that you can’t make it to the big leagues. Plenty of guys have come through that we’re not drafted or were free agency and have made it to the big leagues. Stay committed and stay focused. All you need is a chance.

R: As a former 22nd and 6th Round pick, what do you think you would have done if you went undrafted?

N: If I would’ve gone undrafted, I would have figured out a way to get into pro baseball whether that meant independent ball or whatever. I would have continued my education at LSU. I would have gotten my degree and came out of school knowing I have a degree to fall back on. I wouldn’t have stopped pursuing my dream.

Phil Diehl (Robert M. Pimpsner)

Phillip Diehl

Diehl was selected by the New York Yankees in the 27th Round of the 2016 MLB Draft out of Louisiana Tech University. He was in the Yankees’ organization for 3 seasons, reaching as high as Double-A Trenton.

Before the 2019 season began, the left-hander was traded to the Colorado Rockies for outfielder Mike Tauchman. While Tauchman was a key part of the Yankees, Diehl ended up making the majors himself. On June 11, 2019, he made his big league debut for Colorado and had a 7.36 ERA in 10 games last season.

Ricky: What was your draft day experience like?

Phillip: My draft day experience has lots of emotions. I had been told by numerous scouts that I would go on day 2 and when that didn’t happen I became upset and confused not knowing if I was going to get the opportunity to play professional baseball that summer. Did I say the wrong thing? Did I overprice myself? Day 3 we were just following along getting calls but for next to nothing money so I shifted my focus that I was going back to school and we went to the Cincinnati aquarium and as I’m walking down, I get a phone call from the Yankees telling me that they had just drafted me!

R: What advice would you give to this year’s draftees?

P: My advice for someone going through this process is to stay true to yourself and believe in yourself that you can play at the next level. Try not to take the highs too high and the lows too low.

R: If you were undrafted this year, what do you think you would have done?

P: If I hadn’t been drafted, I would have gone back for my senior year and then hopefully be given an opportunity. I knew I could play in the Majors so I wasn’t going to let not getting drafted my junior year stop that.

Kyle MacDonald (Tom Hagerty.)

Kyle MacDonald

MacDonald was selected by the Yankees in the 27th Round of the 2019 MLB Draft out of Arkansas State University. The left-handed-hitting first baseman played in 15 games for the Gulf Coast Yankees West squad last year in Rookie ball. He had a slash line of .354/.448/.604 with a pair of home runs and 11 RBIs.

Ricky: What was your draft day experience like?

Kyle: My draft day was long, I had talked to teams and thought there was a chance I was going to go on day 2 (I got hurt and missed most of the year/played injured) so I wasn’t sure where I was going to fall. When it came to day 3, I spent the majority of the day staring at my phone/computer watching picks fly off the board and not seeing my name. I was definitely very anxious and once it got into the 20’s I was just hoping I would get a chance. Once I was drafted it was an unbelievable feeling, one that words can’t describe and then I got 1000 phone calls and texts from friends and family congratulating me.

R: What advice would you have for this year’s draftees?

K: The best advice I can give is to just trust the process… it’s not easy to do especially with a shortened draft, this year will definitely mix things up. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more UDFA signings than usual so just because you don’t get taken in the draft this year, doesn’t mean you’re not going to get a chance. Just enjoy the process and appreciate the opportunity not many people get.

R: What do you think you would have done in this situation if you went undrafted?

K: This is a very difficult time. If I’m in this situation and I have the ability to go back to school, then don’t stress. Know that if you don’t get drafted, you’ll get another chance next year. If going back to school isn’t in the question, then keep in contact with all scouts and once the draft is complete. If you have fallen through and didn’t get taken, then call or text every scout you have and see if they are looking to sign free agents at your position, if not look towards Indy ball or going overseas. Just because you didn’t get drafted doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty of opportunities to play high-level ball and still have the opportunity to get into affiliated ball at a later date. The draft doesn’t make or break your career, remember that.

Preston Claiborne (Robert M. Pimpsner)

Preston Claiborne

The interview we did on the Pinstriped Prospects Podcast with Claiborne was an inspiration to begin this project. The right-hander was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 23rd Round of the 2006 MLB Draft out of Newman Smith High School in Texas. 4 years later, after playing his college ball at Tulane, the Yankees selected Claiborne in the 17th Round back in 2010.

After spending the first 3 seasons of his career in the minor leagues, Claiborne made his Major League debut with the Yankees on May 5, 2013 when he relieved Andy Pettitte. In 62 career games with the Yankees, Claiborne had a 3.79 ERA and struck out 58 batters while walking 24 in 71.1 innings of work.

During his professional career, Claiborne pitched professionally for the Miami Marlins, San Francisco Giants, Texas Rangers (1 MLB game in 2017), and the Cleveland Indians. Now, he is a pitching coach for the Yankees’ Gulf Coast League West squad.

This is what Claiborne had to say when I asked about the advice he had for the draftees:

“The Yankees did take a chance on me and I want to thank Damon Oppenheimer and Andy Cannizaro, the scout who convinced Damon to draft me. Everyone has a chance. ½ of the NFL is undrafted free agents. MLB has about 2,500 players getting drafted, but that’s the important thing.”

“With the NCAA, I think they are allowing seniors to get another year of eligibility, but that’s the important part of this preparation. It is going to be strange for the high school guys that were supposed to go to college and the JUCO players, what are they going to do? Luckily, we have such good social media presence and kids have savvy to put their content out and the access to data and Rhapsodo, they can put it online so scouts can see them.”

“In Texas, we signed a kid that was putting his bullpen sessions up and was throwing 97-99 mph. If you want to accomplish something and you have a goal, the easiest thing I can say is don’t let anyone or anything steal your dreams, my dad used to say to me. This Coronavirus pandemic is a thing, but it shouldn’t stop you from following your dream as long as you are putting in the work.”

“My dad was in the Army and I have a huge affinity for our Armed Forces and Military, so that’s where I drew a lot of my motivation to keep going. I remember in the minor leagues, in 2011, I had the most consecutive outings giving up a home run. With the pandemic, we are all going to fail, have setbacks, have injuries. Don’t let anyone take away your dream.”

“I know our scouting department is working tirelessly on getting players and doing it in the most efficient way possible. The Yankees are going to have the play the hand they are dealt once MLB comes up with a gameplan. It is all-hands-on-deck with their communication.”

Matt Wotherspoon (Martin Griff)

Matt Wotherspoon

Wotherspoon was a 20th round pick of the Detroit Tigers in 2013 and a 34th round pick of the New York Yankees in 2014 out of Pittsburgh University. Wotherspoon was with the Yankees from 2014-2017 before being traded to the Baltimore Orioles in July 2017.

Last season, the right-hander made his Major League debut on April 3 with the Orioles as he appeared in 2 games (15.43 ERA). He ended up finishing the season at Triple-A Toledo in the Tigers organization. Despite only having 2 games of Major League experience, Wotherspoon’s unique draft story is what stands out.

Ricky: What were your draft stories?

Matt: My junior year, I was drafted in the 20th round by Detroit. I had some teams calling earlier in the 11th,12th Round. But, I told all the teams I would definitely sign if I was picked in the top 10 rounds. All the money was slotted. I did the math and I wanted to end up after taxes, the money presented to me within the top 10 rounds. I had to tell teams, I couldn’t tell them for sure I was going to sign. I don’t want to lie or mislead you, but I am not positive.

I had 5-6 calls from the 11th-15th Round. Then, Detroit drafted me in the 20th Round without calling. So, I ended up going back to Pittsburgh for my senior year. I didn’t have a phenomenal year as we transitioned into the ACC. Different brands of baseball and to this day, I am thankful I went back to school to face that competition.

I wasn’t getting calls early or middle rounds and then Stuart Smothers, the area scout of the Yankees at the time, called and they took me in the 34th Round. That was an awesome experience.

R: What advice would you have for this year’s draftees?

M: It’s tough. We are living in unprecedented times. I feel bad for those kids. There are seniors out there that were in my situation that will never get the opportunity I got and that is sad to me. When I look back, I was a 34th Round pick and all I needed was the opportunity and I like to think I made the most of it.

R: If you were in this situation, what do you think you would have done?

M: That’s so hard to say. If you are a junior, you are just hoping you get selected. You are laying back, thinking, if I don’t get drafted, I still have my full senior year. If I’m a senior, I’m reaching out to any contacts I have made and just get a feel of what’s going on. Maybe I would look at an independent ball for a year or two to possibly get signed. It’s tough to say. For any kid going through it, just have fun with it. It shouldn’t be a stressful time, as far as the draft goes. I know a lot of people are stressed about the current situation.

As far as the draft goes, it should be a fun and happy time. Just because you didn’t get drafted where you thought you would go, at the end of the day, it does not matter. If there’s a jersey on your back, you have a chance to make it to the big leagues.

Embed from Getty Images

Mike DeJean

DeJean was the Yankees’ 24th Round pick in the 1992 MLB Draft out of the University of West Alabama. According to Baseball-Reference, he had the second-highest WAR of any player in the Yankees’ draft class at 6.6 (only Derek Jeter was higher).

After 3 professional seasons with the Yankees, New York dealt the right-hander to the Colorado Rockies in November 1995 for a catcher you will all be familiar with, Joe Girardi. DeJean would make his MLB debut with the Rockies on May 2, 1997.

Over the course of 10 Major League seasons with 5 different teams, DeJean went 30-33 with a 4.30 ERA and had 446 strikeouts to 292 walks over 623.1 innings of work in his career.

Ricky: What is your draft day story?

Mike: I was a senior shortstop at Livingston University in Livingston, Alabama now known as the University of West Alabama. I got into an argument with my coach about a freshman pitcher who was getting roughed up in the first inning of a game. I told him to let me pitch, don’t let the freshman get killed out there. He told me to shut up and sit down. We got into a heated argument and he sat me for a few games. We ran out of pitching in a mid-week game so I got my shot. Pitched great and I was throwing really hard. I pitched about 6 innings and the Yankees got wind of me and sent a scout to see me pitch. I got drafted in the 24th round in 1992 for $1,000.

R: What advice would you have for the draftees this year?

M: Draftees this year need to be patient. There probably will only be 5 rounds, so this year will be fast and crazy. Don’t get down. You’ll probably get picked up next year. If you get drafted, go. Don’t wait and try to get more money next draft.  Don’t play for the draft money, make your money in the big leagues.

Thank you to all of the players who participated in this project.

Written By

I am an alum of St. John's University, where I majored in sports management.

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