The 2021 MLB First-Year Player Draft is now in the books. On Wednesday afternoon, the New York Yankees Vice President and Director of Amateur Scouting, Damon Oppenheimer, met with the media to take questions on the overall class itself.
Even though the Yankees have a good amount of middle infield depth in the minor leagues, that did not stop them from taking Eastern Illinois shortstop Trey Sweeney with the 20th pick in the 1st Round:
“Early in the draft, it is completely about taking the best available player,” said Oppenheimer. “We’re going to have logjams. Anthony Volpe is going to be a logjam at shortstop for a lot of people. That’s the situation you just can’t stop in the amateur world. You are not trying to take somebody because you are short on a position or you have too many, you don’t want to take a guy, you are going to get yourself in trouble. Sweeney was the best guy we thought at the time. Even though you have a Volpe coming, you still make that pick.”
Oppenheimer is very convinced that Sweeney is going to stick at shortstop in the long-term:
“We really see him [Sweeney] as being able to play shortstop. I am not sure why that would be written about him. He’s smooth, he’s got good hands, he runs well enough, his range is good, and he has a plus arm. Realistically, he has all the tools and intangibles to be a shortstop. We don’t see any issues why he wouldn’t stay there.”
As for the Yankees’ 2nd Round pick, they selected right-handed pitcher Brendan Beck out of Stanford and the organization believes that Beck is not far away from making it to the Bronx:
“We think he could be really close. There’s not a lot that has to happen with him. There’s not a lot of development that has to go in. He just probably needs to build up innings. He’s really athletic, he throws strikes, he has four pitches…He can pitch to a scouting report. We think we have a guy that has four pitches, has command, and is athletic. We think we are getting a high-end starter.”
There were many different data points the Yankees got to use in this draft process, whether it was the inaugural MLB Scouting Combine, the MLB Draft League, or the draft being in July this year instead of June.
“I think the extra time, it was unique to us. It did help us. We did get more data, more looks. We were able to spend more time with players. We got some guys that went up to the Cape Cod League too that we were able to get some last minute looks on that we normally wouldn’t have,” said Oppenheimer.
In Round 16, the Yankees selected a pitcher in RHP Cole Ayers out of State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota. Ayers stood out in the MLB Draft League with his curveball:
“We had seen him in junior college. Then, the extra reports we were able to generate did help us quite a bit.”
On Day 2, the Yankees went with three Pac-12 pitchers in Beck, Oregon LHP Robert Wahlstrom, and USC RHP Chandler Champlain. Dating back to 2020, the Yankees used 5 of those combined 13 picks before Tuesday on Pac-12 players. It was not a plan, according for Oppenheimer, to draft that many from one conference, but it is a part of the country they are comfortable scouting:
“We are able to scout those guys quite a bit because of where our scouts are located, the amount of times that you are able to see guys with crossover into different scouts territories. It wasn’t something we were trying to aim for. We feel we get good information out of there. It’s a good pond to fish out of that players come out of there. It just works out nicely.”