Q&A with Damon Oppenheimer
Yanks' VP of amateur scouting answers fans' questions
Damon Oppenheimer, the Yankees' vice president of amateur scouting, participated in a live Web chat on Tuesday, and answered questions from fans about the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.
Damon Oppenheimer: Hello to all the Yankees fans out there. I've been looking forward to doing this chat. Let's get started.
jackreed: Could you comment on where you saw the strengths and weaknesses in this year's talent pool, and the N.Y. strategy to get the most from the Draft, aside from "best athlete" at each selection?
Oppenheimer: The strengths and weaknesses of this year's drafts -- there were some power arms at the top, one that we were able to acquire, and then there were some quality bats.
We also were able to acquire some of the quality bats.
camello68: My question is about Alfredo Aceves, a pitcher in the Yankees' farm system. Is there any possibility that he will be called up to the Yankees this year?
Oppenheimer: Player-movement decisions are made by Brian Cashman at the Major League level, but with the help of our Minor League people, including Mark Newman and Pat Roessler.
abc5: Was Gerrit Cole the best pitcher during your selection, or the best player?
Oppenheimer: He was both. He was the best available talent on the board when we made our selection.
kennyh123: Looks like a very solid Draft for the Yankees. My question concerns Chris Smith. Why was he rated as only the 105th best prospect in the state of California? He seems to have huge upside. And how would you grade his power on a 20-80 scale?
Oppenheimer: I'm not sure whose rankings you are using. Obviously, he wasn't ranked that low on our scale. We see him having future 60 power.
abc5: Was this year's Draft more fruitful than last years Draft, disregarding how last year's picks have progressed in the farm system?
Oppenheimer: The 2007 Draft looks like it is turning out to be a good Draft. We always hope to improve every year when we draft, but it is too soon to tell at this point.
abc5: The Yankees have amassed a lot of young pitchers in their farm system the past three years. Have there been problems getting everyone enough playing time on rotations?
Oppenheimer: I don't think so. It seems the right pitchers are getting the right amount of innings.
mike: So when do you get to work on the '09 Draft class?
Oppenheimer: We have been working on it the last two years, but we will really start this Thursday, with the High School Showcase in Minnesota.
nyy4life23: Why do you think Gerrit dropped so far in the Draft after being ranked the No. 17 prospect?
Oppenheimer: Once again, I'm not sure what rankings you are using, but I think it begins with people's differences of opinion, as well as the strong possibility that he is going to UCLA.
tef86: How is Andrew Brackman progressing from his surgery?
Oppenheimer: He is progressing at a better rate than we had expected. He is really coming along quickly. I do not have an ETA for him to start pitching in games.
nyy4life23: How has your role changed in recent years since A, AA and AAA players are being more quickly developed and brought to the Major Leagues?
Oppenheimer: I think it has become a little more important to identify players who could possibly move to the big leagues quicker.
cavs90: Why do the Yankees draft so many pitchers?
Oppenheimer: Pitching is the most important part of the game. To be a championship team, you have to have quality pitching from top to bottom.
uy56: What do you see in Kyle Higashioka that will benefit the Yankee organization?
Oppenheimer: We drafted Kyle with the intention of trying to sign him. We see potential that he will have a very good bat.
pianoman69: Mr. Oppenheimer, how does one get into the field of scouting or baseball operations with the Yankees?
Oppenheimer: Getting into baseball operations is not easy. It helps to have played the game, so you have a knowledge of what it takes to play this game, either at the Minor League or Major League level.
It takes a lot of work to learn how to analyze statistics and data that will benefit a Major League team or the Minor League system.
nyy4life23: Why did you chose to pick a high school player rather then a college player? It seems a lot of other teams are picking more and more college players because they are more "league ready."
Oppenheimer: We chose Gerrit because we thought he was the best available player, high school or college. If you don't take the risk of selecting high school players, you don't get Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Jake Peavy, Josh Beckett, etc.
jamalg: Do you have any information on Michael Inoa, the 16-year-old Dominican pitching prospect, or do you just focus on amateurs in the U.S.?
Oppenheimer: No, our international department handles those matters.
ak10: Did the Yankees shy away from Tanner Scheppers because of his medicals?
Oppenheimer: He was drafted by another organization. If I comment on him or any player drafted by another team, that constitutes tampering.
abc5: Does Gerrit Cole project higher, lower or the same as Phil Hughes when Phil was selected? Which one is more polished at the same stage?
Oppenheimer: Gerrit has a very high ceiling as a Major League starter. I try not to compare other players, but at this stage, his stuff is further ahead than Phil at the same age.
tonyf629: Hi, I just wanted to say that I think you guys did a really great job this year. What hitter drafted has the best power potential?
Oppenheimer: Two guys we drafted have above-average power potential -- Corban Joseph and Luke Anders.
Thanks for the compliment on the Draft.
26wsringz: What do you look for in a prospect pitcher?
Oppenheimer: There are multiple things we look for in a pitching prospect. For us, we look at size, fastball velocity. We look at command of fastball, and we look for the ability to throw a breaking ball.
We like to see a guy have pitchability ... i.e., the ability to use all your pitches, throw your stuff for strikes.
Something that is important for the Yankees is for pitchers to have good arm action and delivery.
closingin: What are the most important changes in mechanics that Gerrit Cole needs to make?
Oppenheimer: For us, the mechanical changes that he needs to make are very minor. That is something our pitching coaches will work on with him. We just need to keep him to stay on line toward home plate. If he does that, he'll be fine.
arodmvp07: Any reports on Dwyer? He seems like a very solid lefty but with signability issues. Heard he has a "tremendous" curve.
Oppenheimer: Our plan with Chris is to scout him this summer and continue to formulate an opinion on his ability. Then we will decide whether to move forward with trying to sign him.
We are excited about his potential, and would just like more looks at him.
number62: People have been buzzing about Gardner. How do you feel about him, and do you think he will be in the bigs this year?
Oppenheimer: Once again, that decision will be made by others. Hopefully, Brett will earn the opportunity. ... He plays hard and has tremendous speed.
We have time for a couple more questions, then I have to run.
Buzah: Of the Day 2 picks, which are you most excited about? It looks like you really cleaned up.
Oppenheimer: Thanks for the compliments on Day 2. It's hard to say. I don't want to leave anyone out, but there are numerous guys that we selected that we're excited about.
Hopefully, we'll be able to get those players signed, then I can give a better answer.
dewallace: What are your thoughts on the upside of Robertson, Melancon and Cox? Can they close or pitch the eighth in the Majors?
Oppenheimer: Those three guys all have the chance to pitch at the Major League level. They have a tough makeup to possibly do that. Hopefully, they can earn those spots and prove me right.
Well, that is all the time we have. Thanks for your interest. I'm on my way to watch the new Draft picks take BP.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.