The Yankees drafted eight college and prep players in the first ten rounds of the 2023 MLB Draft and early impressions are that haven’t do well this year in those ten rounds. We’ll look at the ins and outs of the first five draftees the Yankees selected; we don’t know if they’ve yet agreed to deals and what they may have signed for.
First Round – George Lombard Jr., SS/3B, Gulliver Prep HS (FL)
Lombard Jr., the son of the former Major Leaguer and current Tigers bench coach was the Yankees’ first round pick. The Yankees haven’t drafted a prep kid in the first round since 2019 when they drafted Anthony Volpe from Delbarton School.
He has a six-foot-3, 190 lb. frame and stands out for his above average power and arm. That above average arm will likely encourage a move to third base, but the versatility to play 2B/SS/3B is exciting. Other reports say that his arm “leaves a bit to be desired”, so I’ll reserve judgment until I see him in person. Volpe was scouted in high school as having a strong arm, but once he went pro was said to have a fringy arm.
Lombard Jr. doesn’t show quick agility with his feet like what we’ve seen with Volpe and Peraza at SS, so it’s very possible he ends elsewhere on the infield.
Lombard Jr. has a tall and skinny, high-waisted build that could take on a significant more muscle in both his upper and lower halves.
— Tyler Kotila (@tyler_kotila) May 21, 2023
That said, his mechanics are sound at the plate despite not having a lot of muscle with a minimal leg kick.
He can drive the ball to all fields and had a slash of .478/.583/.856/1.438 this past season with Gulliver Prep in the Miami, FL area. Lombard Jr. also had a BABIP of .514 and ISO of .378. He also had very good strikeout rates and walk rates this past season; his K rate was 14.4% and BB rate was 21.1%. Average for each are 20% and 8%, respectively.
On the bases, he was successful 84% of the time with 11 stolen bases and was caught twice. This is despite reportedly having average speed (I could not find video where I could time him properly).
From Damon Oppenheimer, Yankees Vice President of Domestic Amateur Scouting: “George has a number of physical attributes and is an elite athlete with all five tools and skills to play shortstop. He has ability to impact the ball and use the whole field for power, alongside good contact skills. The makeup is a separator. He is focused on every pitch with an unquestioned work ethic. All of that from a young man with Major League bloodlines and a mom that was also a high-end collegiate athlete. We really see potential for a high-ceiling middle of the field player.”
Third Round – Kyle Carr, LHP, Palomar JC (CA)
The Yankees took the first junior college player in the 2023 MLB Draft in lefty Kyle Carr as their 3rd round selection.
Carr is a six-foot-one, 175 lb. pitcher that was a two-way player at JuCo Palomar College in California.
From his MLB.com scouting report: “Questions about durability. He has a Tommy John surgery on his resume already, and a lack of a third pitch have some thinking he’s best suited for the bullpen at the next level, though his left-handedness and arm strength will likely give him every chance to start out of the gate.” In addition to elbow reconstruction surgery in 2020, he broke his hand in 2022 and tore his right labrum (cartilage in your shoulder) going into the 2023 season.
They also say his above average fastball, which sits 90-93 T94, is his best pitch. He also has a sweepy slider that sits 80-84 and a changeup used infrequently that sits 87-88. Carr threw a 2.31 ERA, a WHIP of 0.92 and an opposing batting average of .187. Carr also had a K/9 of 12.81 and a BB/9 of 2.19. He started 14 of 15 games, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees use him as a reliever.
In one game versus Southwestern CC on April 28, the team just behind Palomar in the standings, Carr threw 6 scoreless innings, allowing only 1 hit and 2 walks while striking out 13 batters. The following day versus the same team, Carr batted as DH and went 3-for-5 with 2 doubles and 2 RBI.
As noted earlier, Carr was a two-way player at Palomar College, batting .500/585/976/1.561 in 42 at-bats, with 10 doubles, 2 triples, 2 homers and driving in 17 RBI. It remains to be seen if the Yankees use Carr for his bat given two-way players aren’t prolific in pro baseball, and especially not with the Yankees.
Fourth Round – Roc Riggio, 2B/OF, Oklahoma State
The Yankees went with Roc Riggio as their 129th overall pick in the 4th round from Oklahoma State, a middle infielder that primarily played second base but has some experience playing outfield while in high school.
The 5-foot-9, 180 lb. lefty bat, righty throw prospect from Simi Valley, CA has drawn a lot of comparisons to infielder Dustin Pedroia for his size, aggressiveness in play and his swing. A few outlets have mentioned that he “plays like his hairs on fire”. He shows quicker hands and feet than first rounder George Lombard Jr. and has a good feel for the ball at 2B. It seems likely that given these properties that Riggio will stick at 2B.
Riggio has a loud bat and batted a slash line of .335/.461/.679/1.139 in 224 at-bats with OSU in 2023, with 17 doubles, 3 triples, 18 homers and 61 RBI. He had a somewhat high 21.4% strikeout rate (48 K) but worked a good number of walks at 16.5% (46 BB).
Riggio played some outfield while at Thousand Oaks High School in California but was converted to a 2B while there. He played 2B throughout his time at OSU.
I don’t think Riggio is quick enough to play in the outfield, as he has just about average run speed. He’s quick out of the box, but it takes a while to get into second gear.
Riggio played with the USA Baseball team since he was 14, and played under FCL Yankees manager James Cooper’s tutelage during some of that time.
— James Cooper (@CoachCoop9) July 10, 2023
Sixth Round – Cade Smith, RHP, Mississippi State
The New York Yankees took Cade Smith out of Mississippi State in the 6th round of the MLB Draft on Tuesday.
Smith is a 6-foot-1, 190 lb. pitcher that has a fastball as his best pitch, clocking in at 92-95 but reaches 97 MPH. He also has a slider that shows late break but has tons of movement is a deceptive pitch when he controls it well, a curveball that shows late horizontal break and a changeup.
This past season, he had an ERA of 5.23, with a WHIP of 1.51, a K/9 of 9.63 (good) and a BB/9 of 5.86 (poor). He had a decent opposing batting average of .235 despite the mediocre ERA. The projected reliever is expected to have a high ceiling but has some command concerns so the Yankees will have some work to do.
Another big K for Cade Smith
— Mississippi State Baseball (@HailStateBB) May 6, 2023
Seventh Round – Kiko Romero, 1B, Arizona
The Yankees went with Kiko Romero, a first baseman from Arizona for their 7th round pick. Romero earned numerous aways at his short time at Arizona: ABCA First Team All-West Region, ABCA Second Team All-American, Collegiate Baseball Second Team All-American, PAC-12 All-Conference, Dick Howser Trophy Semifinalist, PAC-12 Player of the Week for March 13.
Romero also played JuCo ball with Central Arizona College from 2019 to 2022 where he batted .346/.674/.473/1.147 with 41 doubles, 15 triples, 36 homers and 167 RBI. He was named the NCJAA World Series MVP and Outstanding Hitter as a result of tying the tournament record with six homers.
From Baseball America: “Romero hits the ball hard with a 90th percentile exit velocity of 108-109 mph and shows his power in-game to all fields. That power does come with swing-and-miss tendencies, and he had an overall miss rate at around 29 percent.”
“Despite a 12.6 percent walk rate, Romero also showed a tendency to expand and chase out of the zone at times. A shortstop and catcher in high school, Romero has primarily played first base with Arizona, but also has experience in both corner outfield spots. He’s slow out of the box and is a 30-grade runner.”
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) May 24, 2023
I think Romero is setting up to be the sleeper pick of the 10 rounds so far, especially since he has a lefty bat with pop. How could you not be excited for this kind of power on a lefty bat at Yankee Stadium?!
An interesting tie with Romero to last year’s draft is that Romero was teammates with Single-A Tampa pitcher Alex Bustamante (signed as UDFA) at Canyon Del Oro High School.
The Yankees don’t have much depth at 1st currently in the system and haven’t drafted a 1B since Tyler Hardman in 2021.