Without a second or fifth-round pick, the New York Yankees can’t afford to miss on either of their middle-round selections.
While the New York Yankees own one of the most elite farm systems in the league, the team will only receive three chances to add to their pool of talented players during the 2020 first-year player draft.
After the first round, the Yankees won’t be allowed to select another player until the third. Furthermore, the team’s third and final pick of the draft will occur during the fourth round — the second-to-last round of the event.
With that in mind, New York’s knowledge of this year’s class of players will certainly be tested on day No. 2 later this month. Since there will likely be a ton of talented players still available after the first two rounds, the team should be able to select a pair of valuable prospects with their final two picks.
Here are three prospects the Yankees could target during the middle rounds of the 2020 MLB Draft:
3B Gage Workman
At the major-league level, the Yankees employ players like Gio Urshela and Miguel Andujar to control the hot corner. But past those two, the team doesn’t exactly have any high-ceiling prospects at the third base position.
While New York could add a top young third baseman during the opening round, the team may instead select a player like Gage Workman during the third. As a result, they would be drafting a player in the middle rounds who carries top-tier potential.
Son of former minor leaguer Widd Workman, the 20-year-old was originally selected out of high school by the Brewers during the 14th round of the 2017 draft. Nonetheless, the youngster opted to take the college route and headed to Arizona State.
After struggling to hit for power during his freshman season, the 6-foot-4 switch hitter broke out in a huge way last year, specifically from the left side of the plate. Following the former Sun Devil’s impressive performance, he earned Honorable Mention honors for the All-Pac-12 team in 2019.
In total, Workman earned 254 plate appearances and produced 11 doubles, four triples, eight home runs, 42 RBI’s, an 11.8% walk rate, 26.8% strikeout rate along with a stellar slashing line of .330/.413/.528/.941.
Even though he was on pace to replicate his slugging metrics before COVID-19 canceled the remainder of the 2020 campaign, his inability to stay disciplined at the plate was starting to affect his overall performance.
Through just 76 plate appearances, the Arizona native recorded a measly 6.6% walk rate as well as a 27.6% strikeout rate. Once he moves to the next level, it’ll be crucial for him to work into deeper counts to prevent these woes from continuing throughout his career.
As for his defense, Workman played at both shortstop and third base during his 2.5 seasons at Arizona State. Despite his outstanding arm strength and smooth hands, his towering frame likely profiles him at the hot corner moving forward.
Here’s a clip showcasing Workman’s ability both in the field and at the plate during the 2020 campaign:
LHP Jared Shuster
While the Yankees are fully stocked with young arms, their minor-league system doesn’t feature many talented left-handed pitchers. One way to correct this issue would be to select Jared Shuster — an extremely underrated hurler in this year’s class — with one of their two middle-round picks.
Unlike most of the arms available this month, Shuster struggled mightily through his first two collegiate seasons and didn’t really find his footing until last summer. As a result, there’s a very good chance he won’t be high on most team’s draft boards, allowing him to fall to the Yankees in the third or fourth round.
Despite the fact that he’s a late bloomer, the 21-year-old was one of the best arms in the Cape Cod Summer League in 2019. Following a few mechanical adjustments, the left-hander improved the command of his pitches and ultimately earned All-Star honors for his impressive performance.
Over Shuster’s seven starts last summer (32 full innings), he recorded a 1.41 ERA, 2.90 FIP, 0.78 WHIP, 5.6 H/9, 0.8 HR/9, 29.4% strikeout rate, and 4.2% walk rate.
For the former Demon Deacon, his stellar results from the 2019 summer league should be credited towards the changes he made to his fastball. During his first two seasons at Wake Forest, the Massachusetts native struggled to find success with his low-90s two-seamer.
After switching to a low-90s four-seamer last summer, Shuster has been able to generate a ton of swings and misses (43 strikeouts over his 26.1 innings in 2020). He was also capable of reaching 97 miles per hour on the radar gun with his heater this spring. In addition, the lefty features a dominant low-80s changeup and occasionally mixes in a low-80s slurve.
In order to remain in the rotation at the next level, Shuster will need to continue developing his breaking ball. Even if he’s forced to move to the bullpen, his three-pitch mix likely profiles him as a late-inning reliever.
Here are some of Shuster’s highlights from the shortened 2020 campaign:
1B/OF Alec Burleson
The Yankees have a handful of quality options to play first base in the major leagues. Nonetheless, the team’s farm system could definitely benefit from selecting one during this year’s draft.
Without the luxury of having 40 rounds in 2020, New York could be forced to target a cornerman earlier than they’d likely prefer. But if they were to select Alec Burleson this month, the organization would be acquiring much more than just a first baseman.
Over the last few seasons, Burleson has been considered one of the best two-way players in the college circuit. As the former East Carolina standout moves to the next level, he’ll likely forgo taking the mound every fifth day and become a full-time position player.
With that said, the left-hander’s impressive arm strength will allow him to play more than just in the infield. Because of his high-80s fastball, the 21-year-old could continue showcasing his powerful arm as a corner outfielder.
Along with his versatility in the field, Burleson features an explosive swing from the left side of the plate. While some scouts believe he profiles as a hit-over-power batter, there’s no question his bat would be effective in the small confines of Yankee Stadium.
During the 2019 campaign, the 6-foot-2 first baseman earned 276 plate appearances and created 23 doubles, nine home runs, 61 RBI’s, an 8.7% strikeout rate, a troubling 5.1% walk rate, and a slashing line of .370/.399/.573/.972.
Burleson was on pace for the best hitting performance of his collegiate career before the rest of this season was unfortunately canceled. Furthermore, he was also much more disciplined at the plate, leading to a significant number of walks.
Overall, Burleson generated two doubles, three home runs, 12 RBI’s, a 10.7% walk rate, 4% strikeout rate, and a slashing line of .375/.440/.547/.987 through just 75 plate appearances in 2020.
As the youngster advances through the minors, he’ll need to maintain his composure at the plate and continue increasing his walk totals. If successful, his versatility, slugging, and discipline attributes could help promote him to the major leagues very quickly.
Here’s a clip of Burleson taking batting practice during the 2019 campaign:
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