Thursday, May 23, 2013
The Good and Bad of Oppenheimer (Not the guy with the bombs)Since June 2006, Damon Oppenheimer has been in charge of the amateur draft for the Yankees. A lot of people aren't impressed with how he's done in that time. He certainly hasn't won on every bet, but he's also done some good things in that timeframe. Mike Axis at RAB has already done a review of the first round picks under Oppenheimer. So I decided instead to take a broader look, and try to identify some areas where Oppenheimer has done well, some areas where he's failed.
Of course, success or failure can still be subjective. We can all agree that David Robertson - a 17th round pick and the right hand of God - is a success. How about Mark Melancon? To me, a ninth round pick who has been in the big leagues for 5 years (and counting) is a definite success, while some may not be impressed with 1.5 WAR. And of course I'm the optimist; if you want a negative article write your own!
Originally I had planned on doing a series of things that Oppenheimer does well vs what he does poorly. However, when thinking about it, seems to me it can easily be summed up in the thing he has (so far) done well, and not well.
Originally this was going to be a section on college relief pitchers. But actually, so far it's been college players. The aforementioned Robertson, but also Ian Kennedy, Joba Chamberlain, David Phelps, and many others. Most of them of course are pitchers, but even most of his successes with position players have been college draftees, though they've been bit players who don't have much of a future (David Adams hopes to add some success there).
So in short, college players - in particular college relief pitchers - have been a position of great success. Oppenheimer has taken a lot of mid-to-late round picks, and turned them into useful college relievers, with one All Star and some potential shut-down players. He's also found some solid starters/swingmen, including Kennedy, Phelps, and looking like Adam Warren. Position players haven't been as good, but some of the few position players to make the big leagues have been of the college variety.
This one should be obvious. If college players have been good, prep players have been bad. Unless you count Drew Storen - drafted in the 34th round in 2007 but didn't sign - Zach McCallister is the current bWAR winner of HS draftees...at .1. Now it's not surprising the high school players have a lower success rate than college players. That's the nature of the game - high schoolers offer the upside, college players offer the certainty. However, you do need to have SOME success with high-schoolers. Because it's rare to get a cornerstone player out of college. Not impossible, but pretty close when you're drafting in the 20's or lower every year.
Now, the reasons for why are harder to fathom. Do the Yankees not deploy good scouts for high-schoolers? Is Openheimer not good at processing the information? Or could it even be what many suspect - that the Yankees aren't good at developing players, so the more-polished collegiates are the ones who are likely to succeed? Or...is it possible we're just impatient? 2007 the top high school pick was Austin Romine, who is just now starting to show dividends. 2008 has Corban Joseph - potentialy 4A, potential average starter - among others. 2009 and 2010, the prep picks are starting to get to AA, and put themselves in the picture for playing time in 2014.
Couldn't help it, so I added a third. The ugly has been first round picks, which of course is his most important job. Including supplemental picks, Oppenheimer has had nine first round picks. After his first two big successess - IPK and Joba combining for 17.5 bWAR, neither is yet 29 - it hasn't been very good. Brackman complete bust, Cole didn't sign, Bleich bust (so far), Culver nearing bust, Bichette right behind. After that first year, the "success" is Heathcott, the oft-injured alcoholic (and potentially Hensley, if they grow him a new hip). On the one hand, a 2/9 success rate - with none of the picks higher than 28 - could be seen as a success. On the other hand, having no success since 2006 is a failure. If Heathcott lives up to his talent, or any of Bichette, Culver, or Hensley break out, a 3/9 is actually quite good. I definitely don't think Oppenheimer should be judged entirely on his first round...but it is a big part of it.
So in conclusion...I think Oppenheimer has been good at drafting college players, in particular finding some gems with college relievers in later rounds. He hasn't yet shown to be good at drafting prep players, however, the jury is still out as some of the high schoolers have just started graduating to the majors, and three of the four highest rated prospects on the team are high-school draftees. Three first round picks this year...Damon needs to hit with at least one of them.
P.S. We will have 2 more draft posts in the next week or so before the draft, I'll be cleaning mine up over the next few days and Mike and I will be collaborating on a post after his wedding this weekend. -Snuggles
Edit: fixed! Mike needs to work on his HTML