Yankees go hurler-heavy on Day 1
Pitchers selected in 14 of 18 rounds in First-Year Player Draft
NEW YORK -- As is the case every June, it's hard to tell how well the Yankees did during the 2006 First-Year Player Draft.
It may take five years to figure out whether the event was a successful one, but New York seems happy with the way the first day panned out.
If there was a theme for the Yankees on the first day of the draft, it was pitching, pitching and more pitching.
Of the 18 players selected by the Yankees, 14 were pitchers, including Ian Kennedy of USC, who was New York's first-round pick, 21st overall.
"I think it was a pitching-heavy draft," said Damon Oppenheimer, the Yankees' senior vice president & director of scouting. "Our draft board reflected that."
The Yankees also took three outfielders and a shortstop. Of the 18 players taken, 15 were college players, while just three were drafted out of high school.
"If we can sign all of the guys we took, we'll have had a heck of a draft," Oppenheimer said. "We'll put some pretty good inventory into the Yankees' system."
Kennedy was the Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year in 2005, though his numbers dipped a bit as a junior in 2006. He went 24-12 in three seasons with USC and also pitched for Team USA in 2004-05.
"He's a quality college pitcher, he's had a lot of success in college and for Team USA," Oppenheimer said. "We scouted every game this guy pitched this year. In terms of his stuff, we're very happy with it."
The Yankees' second pick came in the sandwich round, as they selected Joba Chamberlain, a right-handed pitcher out of the University of Nebraska, with the 41st overall pick. New York had received the pick as compensation for losing Tom Gordon to the Phillies.
Chamberlain possessed a fastball in the low 90s, combined with a changeup and a slider, all of which he throws for strikes. Although he struggled with his command during his junior season, it was a minor triceps injury that may have caused him to fall out of the first round.
Chamberlain went 6-5 with a 3.93 ERA in 2006 with 102 strikeouts in 89 1/3 innings for Nebraska. Chamberlain finished third in the Big 12 with 102 strikeouts and averaged 10.28 strikeouts per nine innings.
In his two-year career at Nebraska, he went 16-7 with a 3.29 ERA in 32 starts. He struck out 10 or more hitters eight times in those outings.
"He's got a big arm," Oppenheimer said.
The Yankees did not have a second-round pick, as they forfeited it to the Braves after signing Kyle Farnsworth as a free agent.
In the third round, the Yankees took right-hander Zachary McAllister from Illinois Valley Central High School in Chillicothe, Ill. McAllister's father is a scout for the Diamondbacks, and he is considered to be a polished pitcher for a high schooler.
"That's a real quality high school pitcher," Oppenheimer said. "He's got a good arm, can pitch and throw strikes. He's a big kid."
Colin Curtis was the first position player taken by the Yankees, who selected the Arizona State University outfielder in the fourth round (134th overall).
Curtis has little power, but hits for a good average, can work walks and is a threat on the basepaths. Curtis hit .335 with six home runs and 54 RBIs in 58 games this year for the Sun Devils, stealing 21 bases in 24 opportunities to lead the Pac-10.
"He's a good-looking hitter who comes from a good program," Oppenheimer said.
Curtis' 60 runs scored ranked fourth in the Pac-10, his four triples were tied for fourth in the conference and his RBI total placed him fifth.
Northwestern's George Kontos was the Yankees' fifth-round pick, making it four right-handers taken in the first five selections. Kontos started 16 games for the Wildcats, going 3-10 with a 5.29 ERA. His 16 starts were the most in the Big Ten, as were his 10 losses.
Purdue shortstop Mitchell Hilligoss was the Yankees' sixth-round pick, having hit .386 last season, second in the Big Ten. Hilligoss had six homers and 41 RBIs in 58 games, stealing 18 bases while posting a .453 on-base percentage, third in the conference. His 88 hits and 62 runs scored also ranked second in the conference.
UConn right-hander Timothy Norton went in the seventh round, having emerged as a prospect in the Cape Cod League last summer. Norton, who throws in the low 90s with a nasty splitter, led the Huskies with a 2.04 ERA in 92 2/3 innings last season, striking out 96. His 226 strikeouts rank second in school history.
"I'm happy for Tim and his family," said UConn head coach Jim Penders on the school's web site. "He has worked incredibly hard for this chance to play pro ball with the Yankees. He's the hardest worker I've ever coached and he definitely earned this opportunity."
The Yankees took high school right-hander Dellin Betances in the eighth round, adding a local product to the organization. Betances, who measures in at 6'8", played at Grand Street Campus in Brooklyn.
"He's pretty lean," Oppenheimer said, "but he has a big arm and a high ceiling."
The Yankees returned to the college campus in the ninth, selecting right-hander Mark Melancon from the University of Arizona. They followed that pick by taking Casey Erickson, a right-hander from Springfield College whose uncle, Roger, pitched in the Majors from 1978-83, playing part of the final two years with the Yankees.
Baylor left fielder Jeffrey Fortenberry was taken in the 11th round, followed by Nicholas Peterson, a right-hander from the University of Tampa in the 12th. Oklahoma righty Daniel McCutchen, who leads the Big 12 with 138 strikeouts in 2006, was selected in the 13th round.
Donald Hollingsworth, a left fielder from the University of California Riverside, went in the 14th, then the Yanks took Gabriel Medina, a right-hander from Emporia State University. Paul Patterson, a right-hander from Northern Kentucky, went 16th, while Alabama-Tuscaloosa righty David Robertson was taken in the 17th round.
The Yankees closed out the first day of the draft by selecting Paul Howell, a high school left-hander from American Christian Academy in Alabama.
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.