Yesterday, we took a look at the Yankees’ complete list of first round selections. Aside from the significant number of players who never even made the majors, what jumps out most is that from 1979 to 1989, the Yankees only had two first round selections in the June draft.
Listed below is a chart that displays the player drafted in the Yankees’ forfeited slot along with the corresponding free agent that necessitated the transfer. As you can see, the Yankees actually made out much better in the swap as the teams selecting in their spot made some awful choices. Of course, the Yankees still could have selected an alternative (the best of which are also displayed in the chart), but judging by their track record, not to mention the chaotic front office structure of the 1980s, that’s probably wishful thinking.
|Year||PK||Lost to:||Player Selected||WAR||Comp For:||WAR1||Could Have Had:2|
|1979||25||Dodgers||Steve Perry||N/A||Tommy John||15.1||Chris Brown|
|1980||22||Expos||T. Francona||-3.7||Rudy May||6.6||Dan Pleasac|
|1981||26||Padres||Frank Castro||NA||Dave Winfield||25.6||Mark Langston|
|1982||22||Reds||Scott Jones||NA||Dave Collins||-0.6||David Wells|
|1983||13||White Sox||Joel Davis||0.5||Steve Kemp||1.2||Roger Clemens|
|1985*||23||Padres||Joey Cora||4.5||Ed Whitson||-2.5||Randy Johnson|
|1986||25||Angels||Terry Carr||NA||Al Holland||-1.0||Kevin Tapani|
|1987||23||Rangers||Bill Hasselman||2.2||Gary Ward||-0.9||Travis Fryman|
|1988||22||Cardinals||John Ericks||0.4||Jack Clark||3.1||Alex Fernandez|
|1989||15||Dodgers||Kiki Jones||NA||Steve Sax||7.5||Mo Vaughn|
1 WAR calculated only for consecutive tenure following related free agent signing.
2 Based on notable players selected shortly after the indicated draft slot.
*Until 1986, baseball also held an amateur draft in January for those college and high school players graduating over the winter. Although the available players were not nearly as talented, an occasional diamond in the rough was found every now and then. One example was Tim Belcher, whom the Yankees uncovered with the first overall selection in secondary phase of the 1984 January draft. Unfortunately for the Yankees, 1984 was also a year in which baseball had a free agent compensation system that allowed teams losing a Type-A player to select an unprotected member of any major league roster. Adding to the team’s misfortune was that the fact that protection lists were due in on January 13, almost a month before the Yankees even signed Belcher. Still, due to a loophole in the system, the Oakland Athletics were able to snatch Belcher from the Yankees when they lost free agent Tom Underwood to the Orioles.
The Yankees eventually filed a protest on the sound logic that they had no means to protect Belcher, a scenario that could not have been the intended by the governing collective bargaining agreement. The Yankees’ argument was clearly valid, but as often was the case at the time, George Steinbrenner was embroiled in a running feud with American League president Lee MacPhail, this time stemming from the events of the previous season’s Pine Tar Game. So, MacPhail gladly seized upon the opportunity to stick it to Steinbrenner by denying the protest and giving the Yankees a supplemental pick in the 1985 June draft instead. The Yankees wound up selecting Anthony Balabon, a pitcher who never made it the majors. Meanwhile, Tim Belcher went on to have a very solid 14 year career.