• Calling Out Yankees Scouting Director Damon Oppenheimer (& His Bosses)

    Posted by on June 7th, 2010 · Comments (16)

    In the current print edition of Baseball America, John Manuel looked at their the grades for every major league team’s draft over the last ten years. And, along with that, Jim Callis went back and graded each draft for the last decade and ranked teams by their overall grade-point averages.

    In this analysis, the Red Sox (3.40 GPA), Diamondbacks (3.20), A’s (3.10), Phillies (3.05), Rays (2.90) and Twins (2.90) were the top five teams in baseball in terms of drafting well over the last ten years. (Rays and Twins were tied for fifth.) And, the Yankees ranked 26th overall – with a GPA of 1.95 – only bettering the Mets (1.90), White Sox (1.75), Astros (1.55) and Mariners (1.45).  Clearly, this is not pretty news for the Yankees front office in terms of grading out well in the draft.

    In the same edition of Baseball America, Jim Callis had a feature on the best scouting directors (current and former) in the last few years. Among those listed were David Chadd, Mike Rizzo, Logan White, R.J. Harrison, and Jason McLeod. Note there’s no mention of Damon Oppenheimer, the man in charge of the Yankees amateur scouting and draft, or anyone else within the Yankees front office here.

    And, today, with their first pick in the 2010 draft, the 32nd overall pick, the Yankees selected Cito Culver - probably two or three (or maybe four?) rounds earlier than he should have been selected – passing on talent like Anthony Ranaudo, Bryce Brentz, Ryan LaMarre and Seth Blair (just to name a few).

    Considering all this, and then factoring in that the Yankees had screwed up their first three picks in the draft just about every year from 1998 through 2008, I have to wonder about what’s going on in the Yankees front office with respect to handling the draft?   (“What about 2009?” some may say?  Well, the jury is still out on that one.)

    At some point, Damon Oppenheimer – and his bosses, Mark Newman and Brian Cashman – have to be held accountable for the way they’ve been wasting the Yankees “prime” picks, draft after draft, no?

    Comments on Calling Out Yankees Scouting Director Damon Oppenheimer (& His Bosses)

    1. Garcia
      June 8th, 2010 | 12:05 am

      I don’t know if I necessarily agree, but you raise a valid point and a legitimate gripe.

      I don’t agree 100% with you because the Yanks farm has produced some very good to slightly above average players since 2005. Some (on this list) who even helped them win a championship: Melky, Gardner, Joba, Hughes, Robertson, Phil Coke, Wang, Cano, Cervelli.

      I think things are getting better than pre-2005, but I believe you have a legitimate gripe because you want to see much better improvement. I can see that point.

      Just glad you decided to write-up your own post and not hijack another person’s post on your website.

    2. Raf
      June 8th, 2010 | 12:32 am

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      At some point, Damon Oppenheimer – and his bosses, Mark Newman and Brian Cashman – have to be held accountable for the way they’ve been wasting the Yankees “prime” picks, draft after draft, no?

      Given the rate of attrition of draft picks in general, probably not… Check out the drafting record of other teams, or better yet, other Yankees GM’s.

      The affect the poor drafts have had @ the ML level is negligible.

    3. Evan3457
      June 8th, 2010 | 1:14 am

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      At some point, Damon Oppenheimer – and his bosses, Mark Newman and Brian Cashman – have to be held accountable for the way they’ve been wasting the Yankees “prime” picks, draft after draft, no?

      Well, no, not if they keep winning.
      This pick does baffle me completely, though.

    4. Evan3457
      June 8th, 2010 | 2:19 am

      Read in a comment on a draft thread on another Yankee website that supposedly 12 teams were interested in Culver, including, allegedly, the Twins.

      What round they were interested in selecting Culver in, I have no idea.

      But if it is true that the Twins were waiting to pounce, and that’s a huge if, then I feel a little better about this pick.

    5. Evan3457
      June 8th, 2010 | 2:25 am

      Frank Piliere (worked for the Rangers as a scout in 2009) wrote this about Culver late last night:
      The New York Yankees had a player they really wanted, regardless of where he was in the draft, and that was Cito Culver, who they picked 32nd overall. It’s easy to bash, but teams have a solid feel for signability players who will be available further down the line. Culver was evaluated high on their board and got stellar grades from the MLB Scouting Bureau this spring, grades that could have pushed him into the top 25. This is an example of a club not worrying about public perception and taking the guy scouts evaluated as being best for the organization.

    6. MJ Recanati
      June 8th, 2010 | 6:40 am

      Evan3457 wrote:

      Frank Piliere (worked for the Rangers as a scout in 2009) wrote this about Culver late last night:
      “The New York Yankees had a player they really wanted, regardless of where he was in the draft, and that was Cito Culver, who they picked 32nd overall. It’s easy to bash, but teams have a solid feel for signability players who will be available further down the line. Culver was evaluated high on their board and got stellar grades from the MLB Scouting Bureau this spring, grades that could have pushed him into the top 25. This is an example of a club not worrying about public perception and taking the guy scouts evaluated as being best for the organization.

      It is at least a bit reassuring to read this although I don’t buy the bit about Culver grading out as a top-25 prospect simply based on the fact that no one that scouted him — including Piliere — had him in the top-25 or even in the top-125.

    7. Scout
      June 8th, 2010 | 6:56 am

      I’ll repeat the point I made immediately after the pick. I will freely concede that Culver has talent, that the Yankees scouted him closely, that they even had a hidden camera in his jockstrap. (OK, maybe not that last one.) But part of the art of drafting is knowing WHEN to take someone off the board. If Culver was going to still be there in Round 2 (and I have yet to see any evidence to suggest otherwise), then the shrewd organization waits. Other, very talented prospects who were there at the time of the Yankees’ first pick are now gone. Here is a case where, if you play your cards right, you can have your cake and eat it, too.

      Some people credit Oppenheimer with being a draft genius. Although the jury remains out on 2009, his reputation seems to rest entirely on one exceptional year, 2006. At that point, the Yankees were out in front with the strategy of drafting signability guys because they were prepared to spend heavily. Teams learn from the success of other teams, however, and this strategy has been copied widely. Since that time, the Yankees’ drafts have been nothing to write home about. The evidence for my claims lies in the mediocre talent at the lower levels of the orgganization — the ranks filled with the last several draft classes. Apart from catcher and second base, position talent is very thin. And there is not one starting pitcher about whom you could say with confidence, “This guy will be a #1 or #2 starter in the majors some day.” (And, no, the Pittsburgh Pirates don’t count.)

    8. June 8th, 2010 | 7:51 am

      This morning, the more I think about it, this pick smells like Matt Bush (in 2004 with the Padres). Perhaps, after the mess of 2008, and given the fact that the Yankees have so few picks in the first 100 selections, the Yankees were worried about signability, and not having egg on their face again (like in 2008) and went for Culver?

      That makes just about as much sense as them “not worrying about public perception and taking the guy scouts evaluated as being best for the organization.”

      Both of these positions are a matter of opinion, and nothing more, and therefore it’s possible that they’re both wrong or one of them is correct.

    9. Raf
      June 8th, 2010 | 8:05 am

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      Perhaps, after the mess of 2008, and given the fact that the Yankees have so few picks in the first 100 selections, the Yankees were worried about signability, and not having egg on their face again (like in 2008) and went for Culver?

      Given the Yanks’ strategy of throwing money @ players to get them to sign, I don’t think signability has been a problem. And given some of the picks they’ve made in the past, I don’t think that “having egg on their face” is an issue either.

      Seems that they had a player that they really wanted available, and they picked him.

      And I still don’t understand their draft strategy…

    10. Raf
      June 8th, 2010 | 8:06 am

      Scout wrote:

      And there is not one starting pitcher about whom you could say with confidence, “This guy will be a #1 or #2 starter in the majors some day.”

      Haven’t seen that since Phil Hughes, and before that, when Brien Taylor was signed…

    11. MJ Recanati
      June 8th, 2010 | 8:13 am

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      Perhaps, after the mess of 2008…the Yankees were worried about signability, and not having egg on their face again (like in 2008) and went for Culver?

      Both of these positions are a matter of opinion, and nothing more, and therefore it’s possible that they’re both wrong or one of them is correct.

      I agree with the spirit of your comment but don’t agree with the specific case you cite. Gerrit Cole wasn’t a signability issue in the traditional sense. He was drafted because everyone thought he was signable and it took a lack of communication on the part of Cole and his father at the last minute to torpedo what was otherwise a good draft pick. Even Scott Boras was surprised to lose his client. The Yanks were more than willing and able to meet Cole’s price, he simply misled MLB scouts and GM’s into thinking that he could be bought out of his UCLA commitment.

    12. June 8th, 2010 | 8:37 am

      @ MJ Recanati: In 2008, the Yankees didn’t sign two of their first three picks. It wasn’t just about Cole.

    13. Scout
      June 8th, 2010 | 8:53 am

      @ Steve Lombardi:
      Correct, but it turned out their third pick, a relief pitcher, had an arm injury, and it was the Yankees who backed off signing him. Whether they should have known about the injury before the draft is a hard question to answer.

    14. MJ Recanati
      June 8th, 2010 | 8:54 am

      @ Scout:
      Took the words right out of my mouth.

    15. June 8th, 2010 | 8:59 am

      @ Scout:
      @ MJ Recanati:

      The Yankees still could have tried to sign Bittle. The Cardinals got him for a song a year later:

      Pitching prospect Scott Bittle will not need surgery to correct what’s become a chronic problem in his right shoulder, a team official confirmed Friday afternoon. Bittle, a 2009 draft pick out of Ole Miss, met with Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., and after an extensive exam it was determined that the righthander did not need surgical repair to alleviate the pain and stiffness in his shoulder.

      GM John Mozeliak said Bittle did receive a shot to tame the inflammation in the shoulder. He’ll continue treatment at the team’s facility in Jupiter, though it’s not certain when he’ll begin a throwing program.

      The Cardinals drafted Bittle in the fourth round of last summer’s draft even though his shoulder problems in college sent up a “red flag”, according to one team official. Bittle signed for a significantly reduced signing bonus — $75,000 — and the Cardinals spent the fall strengthening his shoulder rather than throwing him out into games with the questionable joint. Bittle had a few years in college, including the 2009 season, abbreviated by injury. When he was healthy, Bittle strafed the Southeastern Conference with a power cut fastball that some scouts believe could catapult him through the minors. The catch, obviously, is the cutter is only a plus pitch when he’s actually on the mound to throw it.

      source: http://tinyurl.com/2ad8jnp

      And, FWIW, Bittle was another case of the Yankees overdrafting – as I said at that time:

      http://waswatching.com/2008/06/05/joseph-scott-bittle/

    16. Scout
      June 8th, 2010 | 10:26 am

      @ Steve Lombardi:

      No argument that Biddle was a bit of a reach when the Yankees took him so high, but if the Cards picked him in Round 4, knowing he had shoulder issues, then they also believed he had significant talent. That he is still dealing with the shoulder suggests to me the Yankees were right to pass on him.

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