Mets play it safe in the draft, while the Yankees swing away
Major League Baseball's amateur draft began Monday night, and the Mets and Yankees took very different paths.
The Mets, drafting 12th and 35th, grabbed high school shortstop Gavin Cecchini and college catcher Kevin Plawecki. The Yankees, drafting 30th, selected high school pitcher Ty Hensley.
The Met picks were in some ways a departure from what director of player development Paul DePodesta has stressed in previous interviews on the subject of draft philosophy.
The Mets have described, as organizational philosophy, getting impact talent at the top of their draft classes. The selection of Brandon Nimmo last year in the first round had everything to do with upside, and little to do with positional need or the ability to project. Nimmo was a raw outfielder who had played little high school ball. But the chance to acquire a possibly star bat was too good for the Mets to pass up.
By contrast, scouting reports have Cecchini as a defense-first shortstop who doesn't possess exceptional speed, power, or the likelihood of growing into either. If it all goes well, Cecchini is probably a big-league starter, but not a building block.
Plawecki is a similar pick, possessing strong defensive skills behind the plate. That's probably enough to get him to the major leagues, but his offense doesn't project as above-average at the major league level. Again, with drafts, it is impossible to know how players will develop, but his best-case doesn't look like a building block, either.
DePodesta has described a desire to grab up-the-middle players in the draft before, which makes sense; if players ultimately need to be moved to less-challenging defensive positions, that allows for more flexibility along the development trail. But if their bats aren't going to play at lesser defensive positions, that flexibility is compromised just as surely as if the Mets grabbed a couple of plus bats that were probably destined for corner positions.
Meanwhile, to see the Mets pass up high-upside players like high school pitcher Lucas Giolito, who went 16th to Washington, and Lance McCullers, Jr., who went to the Astros at 41, was discouraging. The role money played in the selections, given that both Cecchini and Plawecki should sign for less that the recommended slot salary from M.L.B., is hard to pin down. But certainly, the Mets chose not to aim high early, which would have cost more.
That's exactly what the Yankees did at pick 30 with Hensley. The big, hard-throwing righty has the chance to be a top-of-the-rotation starter. He also has the overwhelmingly likelihood of washing out.
But that is true of all draft picks. There are no safe picks, something the Mets and Yankees both understand. Monday night, however, only the Yankees decided to throw caution to the wind.