With the MLB draft just around the corner, the New York Yankees can’t afford to miss with their first selection.
While the regular season hasn’t even begun, the work stoppage won’t prevent Major League Baseball from conducting its first-year player draft this summer.
With that said, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced MLB to dramatically shorten the length of this year’s draft. As a result of financial concerns across the league, there’ll be just five rounds next month instead of 40.
For the New York Yankees, this means they’ll have just three selections (rounds one, three, and four) in 2020. Since the Astros attached a qualifying offer to Gerrit Cole this past offseason and the Yankees exceeded the luxury tax in 2019, the team was forced to surrender their second- and fifth-round picks along with $1 million in international signing money.
Without a second-round pick this year, it’ll be crucial for the Yankees to select the right player during the opening round of the draft. Despite holding the No. 28 overall pick, there’ll likely be a ton of talented players still available at that spot.
Here are three prospects the Yankees could select in the first round:
Since 2012, the Yankees have drafted a pitcher in the first round four different times. This year, there’s a very good chance we could see New York extend that number to five if they select Chris McMahon on June 10.
After being selected by the Braves in the 33rd-round of the 2017 draft, the 6-foot-2 hurler opted to take the college route in hopes of raising his stock over the next few seasons. Luckily, his plan will likely come full circle this summer as he’s expected to be drafted in the early rounds of this year’s draft.
Despite enduring inconsistent performances through his first two seasons at Miami, McMahon was on the verge of breaking out during the 2020 campaign. Unfortunately, the right-hander’s junior season was cut short due to the coronavirus.
Before the remainder of the season was canceled, the 21-year-old won three of his four starts and generated a 1.05 ERA, 1.03 FIP, 0.94 WHIP, 0.0 HR/9, 38% strikeout rate and a 5% walk rate over his 25.2 innings pitched.
Over McMahon’s three seasons at Miami, he utilized his late moving mid-90s fastball, which topped out at 98 mph, as his primary pitch. In addition, the hard-throwing righty has also been very successful at creating ground balls with his mid-80s curveball and changeup.
While McMahon has struggled with his command at times, he was able to correct those issues during his limited playing time this season. If the young hurler is able to control his pitches with consistency at the next level, then he could develop into a complete pitcher in the major leagues.
Here’s McMahon’s 12-strikeout performance from Feb. 12, 2020:
Despite his commitment to Duke, one of the best baseball programs in the nation, there’s a very good chance Jordan Walker will forgo college and enter professional baseball in 2020.
For the Yankees, Walker’s 6-foot-5, 220-pound frame could be too hard to pass on during the first round of next month’s draft. While most teams would probably wait to draft him until the second round, New York doesn’t have that luxury and he likely won’t be available during their spot in the third round.
While there are some concerns about Walker’s ability to hit for contact at the next level, no one has any doubts about his strength and power transferring over to the major leagues. In fact, his size profiles him as one of the best sluggers in this year’s class of prospects.
During his shortened 2020 campaign, the 17-year-old received 30 plate appearances and produced three doubles, four home runs, 13 RBIs, 20% walk rate, 16.7% strikeout rate, and a slashing line of .458/.567/1.083/1.650.
As for his fielding, experts are skeptical about Walker’s ability to stay at third base as he continues adding more muscle to his frame. Despite ultimately moving away from the hot corner, the right-hander could still provide some upside with his glove.
While attending Decatur High School, Walker was also utilized on the mound and he featured a low-90s fastball. If the Georgia native was moved to the outfield, he’d still be able to utilize his impressive arm strength rather than if he were moved over to first base.
Here are some of Walker’s highlights from his high school playing career:
The Yankees haven’t selected a first baseman in the first round since they drafted Brian Buchanan No. 24 overall during the 1994 draft. Nonetheless, the team could end that drought by selecting Blaze Jordan in 2020.
Similar to Walker, Jordan is also one of the best sluggers available in this year’s draft and his raw power has allowed him to hit towering home runs throughout his tenure at DeSoto Central High School.
In 2019, the 6-foot-2 first baseman received 144 plate appearances and recorded 11 doubles, 10 home runs, 46 RBIs, 16.7% walk rate, 15.3% strikeout rate along with a slashing line of .440/.528/.810/1.338.
Despite becoming more susceptible to strikeouts, Jordan was still able to carry his stellar results at the plate into this season. Over his 53 plate appearances, the right-handed batter hit six doubles, five triples while driving in four RBIs with a 13.2% walk rate, 13.2% strikeout rate, and a slashing line of .422/.509/.777/1.287.
While Jordan dreams of playing at third base in the major leagues, he lacks the range to stay at the hot corner and scouts agree that he’d be better suited over at first base instead. Once he crosses the age-30 threshold, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him primarily occupy the designated hitter spot as well.
Regardless of his position on the field, the power-hitting righty is seemingly poised to become of the game’s next great hitters in the near future. If selected by the Yankees, then his chances of hitting a ton of home runs during his career would undoubtedly increase and he could potentially become one of the key players within their lineup.
Here’s Jordan’s winning performance during the 2019 High School Home Run Derby: