06/04/2002 6:07 pm ET
RHP Weeden is Yanks' first pick
Hard-throwing high-schooler is 'exceptional athlete'
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
Yankees' round-by-round picks
NEW YORK -- The Yankees didn't have a pick in the first round of the amateur draft on Tuesday, but landed themselves a hard-throwing reliever with the last pick in the second round, selecting right-hander Brandon Weeden out of Edmond Santa Fe High School in Edmond, Okla.
Weeden, who was 5-1 with nine saves and a 1.39 ERA this season, throws his fastball in the 88-93 mph range, and also played shortstop for his school.
"It's unbelievable. They're one of the best teams in baseball," Weeden said. "I was kind of shocked that it was the Yankees because they didn't come to my house, and I only heard a little from them. Once I got that phone call, I've never felt better."
"Brandon Weeden has an athletic, live body, and a lightning quick arm," said Tim Kelly, the Yankees' Midwest Regional Cross-Checker. "He has taken to pitching after converting from shortstop last summer. Brandon has a great feel for the game, and we are excited to have him."
The 18-year-old, currently in Mexico on his senior class trip, heard the news when he called his mother on Tuesday afternoon, not long after the Yankees had selected him. His high school coach, Lonny Cobble, said that the Yankees drafted an exceptional athlete.
"There's no telling how good he can be," said Cobble. "He's a super kid."
He's also a tall one. After measuring in at just 5-foot-10 as a freshman, Weeden has sprouted seven inches in the last three years, and now stands at an imposing 6-5, weighing in at 200 pounds.
"He's so tall and skinny, and there aren't too many tall, skinny closers in the Majors," Cobble said. "They can put some weight on him. He's got great upside. He's a phenomenal athlete."
Weeden was a three-sport athlete at Edmond Santa Fe, starring on the school's baseball, football and basketball teams. He became the first player to win the county's player of the year honors in both baseball and football (he played quarterback) in the same season.
Last season, Weeden threw 40 1/3 innings in 21 games, allowing 26 hits and nine walks, striking out an impressive 68 batters. He throws a fastball and curveball, though Cobble said his changeup may be his best pitch.
In a state semifinal game, Weeden struck out the last batter of the contest with pitches that were clocked at 94, 94 and 96. Weeden said that he started pitching when he realized that his height could work to his advantage.
"I knew that's where I could be most successful," Weeden said. "I have a good arm, and there are some good middle infielders out there. It's tough. I have the height and body for it."
Weeden had a .373 average with five home runs and 32 RBIs in 49 games, with an on-base percentage of .470 and a .579 slugging percentage. But Cobble thinks that his star player -- the first ever drafted out of the school -- will make his mark in the Majors as a relief pitcher.
"In the last two years, he had 16 save opportunities and saved all 16," Cobble said. "He could start, but he hasn't. He's been a closer here, and he'd have to work into it to start."
"I'll do whatever they need me to do," Weeden said. "At some point, I'd like to become a starter, build up the arm strength to do that. But I'll do whatever it takes for us to win."
Weeden has committed to Oklahoma State University, though he said that he would bypass college and sign with New York. He has signed with agent Matt Sosnick, who works out of San Francisco.
"I'm signing, there's no doubt. When you're picked by one of the best teams in baseball, it's pretty hard to turn that down," Weeden said. "I sat down with my family, and we asked what was best for me and what would it take for me to not go to school. I was thinking that if I went in the first five rounds, I was going to sign without any question. To be taken in the second round, it's way too good of an opportunity to turn down and go to school."
Mark Feinsand covers the Yankees for MLB.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.