When you are consistently picking at the end of the amateur draft, you must become skilled in finding talent that others might have overlooked. After all the chances of a real stud prospect dropping down that far are slim, though it has been known to happen from time-to-time. With that said the New York Yankees have become quite skilled in finding quality talent that seems to fall out of the First-Year-Player Draft.
The last time the New York Yankees had a Top 10 draft pick since 1992 when they selected Derek Jeter with the sixth overall draft pick that year. Since then the Yankee had a top 20 draft pick only five times with two of those times being 2015 and 2016. Consistently drafting later in the order means that the talent is not as deep as for those in the front of the line, so the Yankees had to become good at finding talent in places other have overlooked.
The biggest example of a non-drafted free agent signee that has been a success is 24-year old Billy Fleming. The Churchville, PA native went to school at West Virginia but did not get drafted in the 2014 draft. The Yankees took advantage of that and signed him to a minor-league contract on July 23, 2014, after he .357 in 31 games in the Cape Cod League that season. He made his professional debut with the Gulf Coast League that season, hitting .375 in 22 games but his breakout season came the next year when he hit .338/.403/.446 across four different levels, including 14 games in Double-A. He followed it up by hitting .291/.363/.408 in 82 games in 2016.
Many non-draft finds the Yankees have signed have been on the mound. They include such prospects like Eric Ruth, Travis Hissong, and Matt Marsh. All of whom spent time in Double-A in 2016. Ruth, 26, signed as a non-drafted free agent on June 14, 2013, after playing at Winthrop University. He played four years at Winthrop and had a 4.00 ERA in 94 games with the majority of them coming out of the bullpen. So it was easy to see how he was overlooked. He is a light-throwing right-hander that just seems to get people out. After all this past season, he had a 2.97 ERA in 13 games, five starts, for the Trenton Thunder. He later pitched two games in Triple-A where he was 2-0 with a 1.98 ERA. Overall Ruth owns a 3.18 ERA and a 20-10 record in 104 minor league games, throwing 334 1/3 innings in four seasons, striking out 299 and walking 100 batters. Ruth has become a reliable starter for the Yankees in the minors and one who could find himself contributing in the majors as soon as 2017.
Travis Hissong, 25, signed on June 12 after playing four years at Wright State. He owned a 8-6 record and 4.50 ERA in 48 games for the Raiders and made his professional debut in 2014. That season he played for three teams in the system, going 1-1 with a 2.53 ERA in 14 games. He struck out 24 batters, walked four, in 21 1/3 innings. In 2015 he appeared in 14 games for the Staten Island Yankees, striking out 29 batters in 23 1/3 innings. This past season he reached as high as Double-A and owned a combined 6-1 record with a 1.88 ERA across three different levels. He throws in the low-90s and is a solid relief prospect.
Matt Marsh, 25, signed on June 10, 2014, out of Liberty University. He also played at Austin Peay University and Chipola College. Overall he played five years in college and owned an 8-5 record with a 3.99 ERA in 72 games, four starts, striking out 138 in 133 innings. After making his minor-league debut in 2014, he went on to own a 10-7 record and 2.41 ERA in 69 professional games across three seasons. He has struck out 158 batters in 153 innings with the Yankees organization and reached as high as Double-A this year. He doesn’t throw particularly hard, topping out at 92 mph on the radar gun, but has shown he knows how to get batters out.
Right-handed pitcher Chad Taylor signed as a non-drafted free agent on January 24, 2013, but back in the 2009 draft, he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs. He has appeared in 67 minor league games, striking out 101 batters in 113 1/3 innings. In 2015 the Yankees signed Andrew Schwaab to a minor-league deal and had been solid as a reliever striking out 93 in 77 innings in 60 games in the system.
This past season the Yankees signed right-handed pitcher Chase Hodson who appeared in1 six games across three levels, allowing just two earned runs and striking out 37 in 27 innings.
Those are just a few of the non-drafted free agents that the Yankees have signed and all of who are contributing in a positive fashion to the teams they play. Who would be the next non-drafted star in the system? Who knows, but let us know your predictions in the comments below.