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Draft: Yankees Could Target These Local Prospects

Historically, the New York City area has produced some elite baseball players. Included in this list, are some all-time great New York Yankees, such as Lou Gehrig (Columbia University), Whitey Ford (Aviation Tech High School), and Phil Rizzuto (Richmond Hill High School). On the current Yankee roster, there are two relief pitchers that were born in New York State; Dellin Betances and Tommy Kahnle. Now that the MLB Draft is less than a week away, let’s take a look at how the draft shapes up for the geographical region closest to the Bronx.

Using the Baseball America Rankings for the Top Players in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, some trends can be seen. Pitching will certainly be in demand from this region:

Tim Cate – This college prospect was never previously drafted. Cate is a junior Left-Handed Starting Pitcher for UCONN, and is currently listed by Baseball America as the #54 prospect in the MLB Draft. This pitcher is on the smaller side, at six-feet tall. He has a three-pitch arsenal, with a low 90s fastball, plus curveball, and a changeup. Cate missed some time due to an elbow injury, and had Tommy John surgery while in high school.

Lineras Torres Jr. – This high school prospect is currently committed to St. Johns University (NY). Torres pitches for Beacon High School in Upstate NY, and is ranked the #55 prospect by Baseball America. This Right-Handed Pitcher can touch the upper 90s with his fastball, and also has a slider and changeup. Some scouts question his ability to remain as a starter as a pro. Baseball America (Subscription Required) did a lengthy feature on this prospect, showing how invested his family is in Torres’ future.

Josiah Gray – This college prospect was never previously drafted. Gray is a junior Right-Handed Starting Pitcher for Le Moyne College (Division II), and is currently listed by Baseball America as the #101 prospect in the MLB Draft. Originally a Shortstop his freshman year of college, Gray became the Closer for his college team his sophomore year. This year as a Starter, he has thrown his fastball in the mid-90s, and is currently 10-0, with a 1.28 ERA.

John Rooney – This college prospect was never previously drafted. Rooney is a junior Left-Handed Starting Pitcher for Hofstra University, and is currently listed by Baseball America as the #144 prospect in the MLB Draft. Rooney is an imposing figure on the mound, standing 6’5”. Showcasing mostly a two-pitch repertoire, Rooney has pitched with a low-90s fastball, and a quality slider. Rooney will likely be a reliever as a pro, but as a starter this season, he is 8-1, with a 1.01 ERA.

Brandon Neeck – This high school prospect is currently committed to the University of Virginia. Neeck pitches for Horace Greeley High School in New York, and is ranked the #157 prospect by Baseball America. This Left-Handed Pitcher has a fastball that sits around 90 mph, with a low 80s slider. This prospect might be a Day two draft pick, or could join fellow UVA commit Mike Vasil, to make a dynamic college rotation.

Tyler Ras – This high school prospect is currently committed to the University of Alabama. Ras pitches for Middlestown High School in New Jersey, and is ranked the #188 prospect by Baseball America. This Right-Handed Pitcher has a fastball that can touch the mid-90s. In order to be a Starter long-term, scouts say Ras will need to work on his breaking pitches.

Ryan Cusick – This high school prospect is currently committed to Wake Forest University. Cusick pitches for Avon Old Farms High School in Connecticut, and is ranked the #235 prospect by Baseball America. This Right-Handed Pitcher stands at 6’6”, and will reach the upper 90s on the radar gun, but struggles with command. Wake Forest is one of the colleges that has started to use sports analytics. If Cusick fulfills his college commitment, these resources could alter this prospect’s draft stock, the next time he is draft eligible.

Another trend that is noticeable is that there is plenty of Catching depth in this region. These players could be taken some time in Day Two, or early Day Three of the MLB Draft:

Fabian Pena – This college prospect was never previously drafted. Pena is in his junior season, and is a Defensive-oriented Catcher, playing for Manhattan College. This prospect is currently listed by Baseball America as the #269 prospect in the MLB Draft. Scouts see Pena as a possible MLB Back-up Catcher, with plus raw power potential.

Henry Davis – This high school prospect is currently committed to the University of Louisville. Davis plays for Fox Lane High School in New York, and is ranked the #306 prospect by Baseball America. Scouts show Davis’ best tool as his throwing arm, and is at least a 70-grade. This prospect is deficient on the offensive side of the ball, and will likely fulfill his college commitment.

Zac Susi – This college prospect was never previously drafted. Susi is a Catcher in his junior season at UCONN. Having his best college offensive season, this prospect is currently listed by Baseball America as the #326 prospect in the MLB Draft. Still trying to find an identity on the field, Susi’s defensive abilities will keep him behind the plate as a professional.

Patrick Winkel – This high school prospect is currently committed to UCONN. Winkel is a defense-first Catcher, with a severe upper-cut swing. Winkel plays for Amity Regional Senior High School in Connecticut, and is ranked the #331 prospect by Baseball America. It appears that this prospect will likely fulfill his college commitment. Depending on how the draft process proceeds, Winkel could either be backing up fellow prospect Zac Susi next year, or possibly serve as his replacement at UCONN.

The talent for other field players is a bit thin in this region. New Jersey has become the state for Outfielders, and New York does have a well-regarded prep Infield prospect:

Nick Decker – This high school prospect is currently committed to the University of Maryland. Decker is the top draft prospect in the state of New Jersey, and is a bat-first Corner Outfielder. This prospect plays for Seneca High School in New Jersey, and is ranked the #110 prospect by Baseball America.

Charles Mack – This high school prospect is currently committed to Clemson University. Mack plays for Williamsville East High School in New York, and is ranked the #118 prospect by Baseball America. Positional versatility could be an important part of this prospect’s development. Playing mostly in the infield as a prep player, he also has experience behind the plate. Some scouts say this will be his position as a professional. Mack could be a Day Two pick in this year’s draft.

Jawuan Harris – This college prospect was never previously drafted. Harris is a true Center Fielder, completing his junior season at Rutgers. This prospect is currently listed by Baseball America as the #176 prospect in the MLB Draft. Speed and athleticism are Harris’ best tools, as he was able to demonstrate on the football field during the fall. Harris could drop in the draft due to some undisclosed off-the-field issues.

There are also some very talented regional players ranked outside of the Baseball America Top 500 Players. Jack Herman is an Outfielder at Easter Regional High School, in New Jersey, and is a Maryland Commit. Peter Serruto is a Catcher at Millburn High School in New Jersey, adding to the Regional Catching depth. He is a Rutgers Commit. There are also two Vanderbilt Commits in Matt Hogan (Outfielder – Hollows Hills East High School in New York) and Justyn-Henry Malloy (Third Baseman – St. Joseph’s Montvale High School in New Jersey).

As MLB teams have offices at their big league stadium, a team will typically have a scouting advantage when evaluating local players. In the 2017 MLB Draft, the New York Yankees did not take a player with New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut pedigree. However, in the 2016 draft, the Yankees took five local players, including Ben Ruta, from Wagner College. Given this pool of local talent, especially from the college level, it would not be a shock to see at least one of these players taken by the New York Yankees.