New York Yankees: A Decade Of Hits And Misses In The 1st Round

by Marc Keller | Posted on Tuesday, August 27th, 2013
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Phil Hughes

The New York Yankees aren’t quite known for being the best at drafting and developing home-grown players. Yes you can look back at those mid 90’s and early 2000’s teams and point to certain players who were home-grown, but recent history will show you that there is a reason why the Yankees have relied mostly on high-priced free agent pick ups to win them games.

Here is a rundown on the last decade of Yankees first round picks:

2013 – Eric Jagielo, 3B Notre Dame (26th Overall)

2013- Aaron Judge, CF Fresno State (32nd Overall)

2013- Ian Clarkin, SP Madison HS (33rd Overall)

This draft class could be the start of a new era for the Yankees.  Most industry people think that the Yankees did well for themselves in drafting Jagielo, Judge, and Clarkin.

Jagielo is a talented third baseman who should stick at that position.  He is currently in low single-A, Staten Island, batting .279/.389/.463 with 13 R’s, 13 2B’s, 4 HR’s, 21 RBI’s, and an .851 OPS.

Judge is a very tall (6’7″) center fielder with lots of talent.  Some wonder if his height will prevent him from playing center in the bigs, but he played it well thus far, so why move him now.  Shortly after signing his rookie contract, he was placed on the disabled list with an unknown injury.

Clarkin is a starting pitcher who has also been dealing with some nagging injuries.  He made 2 starts with the Gulf Coast rookie league, pitching only 2.1 IP, allowing 2 H’s, 2 R’s, 2 ER’s, 1 HR, 2 BB’s, 1 K’s, and finishing with a 7.71 ERA and 1.71 WHIP.  Obviously this shouldn’t be a sign of what’s to come.

2012 – Ty Hensley, SP Edmond Santa Fe HS (30th Overall)

Hensley started 4 games in 2012 for the Yankees Gulf Coast rookie team, where he had a 1-2 W-L record, 3.00 ERA, 8 H’s, 8 R’s, 4 ER’s, 1 HR’s, 7 BB’s, 14 K’s, 10.5 K/9, and a 1.25 WHIP.  Unfortunately however, Hensley sustained a hip injury which needed surgery to repair and it has cost him the 2013 season to develop.  He is still only 20 years old and has lots of time to recover and develop as a prospect.

2011 – Dante Bichette, Jr., SS Orangewood Christian HS (51th Overall)

Bichette is the son of former big leaguer Dante Bichette.  His dad was a huge power hitter during his time in the majors, but unfortunately his son doesn’t have that same reputation.  Bichette, Jr. has been struggling in two full seasons of single-A ball, batting .230/.308/.325 with only 12 HR’s, 86 BB’s, 204 K’s, and a .633 OPS.  Bichette must start to improve on his hitting if he is ever going to figure into the Yankees long term plans.

2010 – Cito Culver, SS Irondequoit HS (32th Overall)

The Yankees sent shock waves through the MLB Draft world when they selected Culver in the 2010 draft.  Many saw Culver as a 3rd or 4th round pick, so this was a major reach.  And as of now, Culver is playing like the 3rd or 4th round pick he was supposed to be, and maybe even worse.  He’s spent 4 seasons in the Yankees farm system, with this season being the year he finally reach high single-A Tampa.  In those 4 seasons, he has a career .234/.319/.321 line with not much else.  He is still only 20 years old, so it’s not quite time yet to write him off as a non-prospect, but it sure is time to start worrying if he’ll ever justify the Yanks reaching for him in the 1st round.

2009 – Slade Heathcott, CF Texas HS (29th Overall)

Heathcott is the one Yankee first round pick who is actually living up to the justification of being a first rounder.  According to all reports, he is showing a fairly decent bat and playing good defense in center field.  Currently playing in double-A Trenton, Heathcott is batting .261/.327/.411 with 59 R’s, 22 2B’s, 8 HR’s, 49 RBI’s, 15 SB, and an .738 OPS.  He is still striking out a lot and not walking much, 36 BB’s to 107 K’s.  But I think the fact that Heathcott is not failing at these lower levels like some of the prospects have before and after him busts up his status as a prospect a tad bit more.

2008 – Gerrit Cole, SP Orange Lutheran HS (28th Overall)

2008 – Jeremy Bleich, SP Stanford University (44th Overall)

Oh what could have been for the Yankees?  The Yankees didn’t sign their top draft picks in 2008.  Cole would go on to college at UCLA and three years later get drafted, in the first round again, by the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Cole is now one of the top young arms in all of baseball and is helping guide the Pirates into the playoffs for the first time in 27 years.  Imagine if the Yankees had signed Cole out of high school where they would be today.

Bleich did sign with the Yankees and has been in their farm system for the past 5 seasons now.  Currently pitching for their double-A affiliate, Trenton Thunder, Bleich has a 2-1 W-L record as a reliever, with a 2.76 ERA, 2 SV’s, 27 R’s, 20 ER’s, 39 BB’s, 57 K’s, and a 1.47 WHIP.  At age 26 however, time is ticking for Bleich.  He’ll most likely start next season in triple-A and if he pitches well enough there, he’ll hopefully get a mid-season call-up to the majors.

2007 – Andrew Brackman, SP North Carolina State University (30th Overall)

Brackman was seen as a highly talented pitching prospect coming out of NC State, but there was major flags surrounding him due to his past with injuries.  The Yankees took Brackman anyways and after battling injuries, he would finally make his debut in their farm system in 2009.  Despite his injuries, he made Baseball America’s top 100 prospect list twice, once in 2009 (#92) and the other in 2011 (#78).  His time in the minor however, was lackluster at best, spending 2 seasons between single-A and triple-A, not amounting much statistical excitement.  In 2011, Brackman would finally get a call-up to the big club, pitching in 3 games for the Yankees, not really doing much for them.  At the end of the 2011 season, he would be granted free agency and sign a contract with the Cincinnati Reds.  After spending the 2012 season in the Reds minor league system, he would again be released and Brackman would sign with the Chicago White Sox.  He is currently playing for their high class-A team.

2006 – Ian Kennedy, SP USC (21st Overall)

2006 – Joba Chamberlain, SP University of Nebraska (41st Overall)

There was much hype surrounding Kennedy and Chamberlain, with their call-ups highly anticipated.  Kennedy breezed through the Yankees farm system with ease and would make his major league debut in 2008, pitching in 10 games for them and starting 9 of them.  After showing much promise, he would lose the 2009 season to injury.  Kennedy was then the major center piece coming from the Yankees in a three-team, blockbuster deal involving the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Detroit Tigers that would land them center fielder Curtis Granderson.  Kennedy’s time in Arizona started off well, with his best season coming in 2011 when he won 21 games for them and finished 4th in the CY Young voting.  But things went downhill quickly and at this season’s trade deadline, Kennedy would be dealt again, this time to the San Diego Padres for a couple of relievers.

Chamberlain also took New York by storm.  He would only spend 1 season in their farm system before getting a late September call-up in the 2007 season.  But in those 19 games he pitched for the Yankees, Chamberlain was lights out.  He provided them with a much needed boost at the backend of their bullpen, having a 0.38 ERA in those 19 games, allowing only 2 R’s, 1 ER’s, 6 BB’s, 34 K’s, and a 0.75 WHIP.  The buzz was earth shattering and with Mariano Rivera as a tutor, there was even more excitement about the prospect of Chamberlain being the next great closer for the Yankees.  However, ego would get in the way of Chamberlain and the recognition and glory of being a starter would cloud his judgment.  He lobbied hard to be a starter and the Yankees conceded to his request despite his success as a dominate reliever.  Chamberlain would start for two seasons (2008-2009), without finding the same success he had as a reliever.  In 2010, the Yankees put him back in the bullpen, where he has out of ever since.  Since then, it’s been an up-and-down road for him, battling nagging injuries, and still trying to find that same lighting stuff he showed when he was first called up.

2005 – C.J. Henry, SS Putnam City HS (17th Overall)

Henry played in the minors from 2005 to 2008 before calling it quits to pursue basketball. He made his return this season after a 4-year hiatus from baseball latching on with the Evansville Otters of the Independent League. Henry’s claim to fame is that he was part of a 4-player package sent to Philadelphia in the Bobby Abreu trade in 2006.

2004 – Phil Hughes, SP Foothill HS (23rd Overall)

2004 – Jon Poterson, C Chandler HS (37th Overall)

2004 – Jeff Marquez, SP Sacramento City College (41st Overall)

Hughes tore up the Yankees minor league system, and he would not disappoint when he finally got the big leagues.  Making his major league debut at age 21 in 2007, Hughes would make 13 starts for the Yankees, finishing that year with a 5-3 W-L record with a 4.46 ERA, 39 R’s, 36 ER’s, 29 BB’s, 58 K’s, and a  1.28 WHIP.  Hughes has gone on to have a good career with the Yankees, but may be not the great year that everyone thought he would have.  In 7 years with the Yankees at the big league level, Hughes has a 56-48 W-L record and a 4.48 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP.  Like I said, good but not great; maybe a decent 4th or 5th starter instead of the ace or #2 starter everyone hope he be would.  This season in particular has been especially rough on Hughes, as he has a 4-12 W-L record with a 4.88 ERA.  It’s been so bad for Hughes that were talks of the Yankees desperately trying to trade Hughes at the trading deadline.  He’ll be a free agent after this season and it remains to be seen if the Yankees will resign him.

Marquez didn’t find the same success with the Yankees like Hughes somewhat has.  Marquez had his struggles in the farm system but continued to progress along the normal timeline.  But before he could make an appearance for the Yankees, he was dealt by the Yankees along with Wilson Betemit and Jhonny Nunez to the Chicago White Sox for Nick Swisher and Kanekoa Texeira.   He would spend 2 more seasons in the White Sox system before making his major league debut in 2010.  However, it was a debut to forget, as he would pitch 1 IP and allow 2 H’s, 2 R’s, 2 ER’s, 1 HR, and a 18.00 ERA.  It would turn out to be his only appearance of the year.  Coincidentally in 2011, the Yankees would claim Marquez off-waivers from the White Sox.  He would pitch in 3 games for them that season but would leave as a free agent and sign with the Seattle Mariners.  He hasn’t made another major league appearance and is currently in the Cincinnati Reds system.

Poterson retired after 6 seasons of professional baseball with a career minor league batting average of .215 in 362 games. He spent the last three seasons playing Indy ball before hanging up the spikes in 2009. The 39th overall pick never made it past single A as a member of the Yankees.

2003 – Eric Duncan, 3B Seton Hall Prep HS (27th Overall)

Dubbed the next great prospect of the Yankees, Duncan was drafted during the tail end of the Yankee dynasty and was thought to be a cornerstone at third base.  Duncan came into the Yankees system swinging a hot bat, but that would quickly taper off as he started to move higher up in the system.  It got so bad that Duncan would spend 3 and 1/2 seasons in the Yankees triple-A system, trying desperately to improve his game.  Finally, the Yankees had enough, as he was release and picked up by the Atlanta Braves.  He never took a major league at-bat for the Yankees and is still trying to find his way into the majors in the Kansas City Royals minor league system.

BHC Pick of the Litter: Phil Hughes

BHC Franchise Flop: Where do I begin?


There is a reason why the Yankees every year have to go out and pay the price for high priced free agents.  It’s because they can’t seem to develop home grown players.  Yes, Brian Cashman can hang his hat on being a part of an era that developed such players like Andy Pettitte, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Mo Rivera, and of course Mr. Yankee himself, Derek Jeter.  It was these five home grown players that started the Yankees dynasty.  But since then, the cupboard has been bare.  Hopefully, as the Yankees get older and with the new ownership committed to keeping the payroll at a relatively responsible price, the Yankees will have to reply more and more on home-grown players like they did in the past to get back into playoff and World Series conte

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Marc Keller
About the Author

Marc Keller is a Senior Writer for Baseball Hot Corner. His three greatest loves in life are his wife, son, and the San Francisco Giants. You can follow and banter with him on Twitter @mrarmchair.

  • Mike

    You might have mentioned Robinson Cano and the best setup man in baseball and heir apparent to Mo David Robertson as players developed.

  • Steve

    “Chad” henry is C.J. Henry and he played in minors for 4 or 5 seasons…although he was awful, the Yankees included him in the Bobby Abreu trade so they got something out of him. C.J. Went back to basketball (college) at some point, but again played minor league baseball tis year (independent).

    There is also minor league stats for Poterson on baseball-reference…not sure why you don’t see them.

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