Which is the best draft class for the Yankees?

The Yankees' 1990 draft class includes Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera

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The New York Yankees had their best-ever draft class in 1990. Helmed by Gene Michael’s scouting, they drafted three of the Yankees’ core four — Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera — who played a pivotal role in shaping the most famous dynasty that won five world series titles. Derek Jeter was drafted in 1992.

Brief facts about Yankees 1990 draft picks

Key players drafted:

  • Andy Pettitte, starting pitcher
  • Jorge Posada, catcher
  • Carl Everett, outfielder, DH
  • Shane Spencer, outfielder
  • Ricky Ledee, outfielder
  • Mariano Rivera, closer

Career WAR: 129.9

The shining rays amid the Yankees’ darkest hours

Early June of 1990 was an arduous period for the Yankees, plagued by dismal circumstances. They found themselves burdened with the worst record in the entire Major League Baseball, headed toward a lackluster 67-95 overall finish, which stands as the franchise’s poorest winning percentage since 1913. Furthermore, owner George Steinbrenner was under investigation by the commissioner’s office, while the team operated without an officially designated general manager until the appointment of Michael in August.

However, the tides began to shift, laying the foundation for an impressive resurgence that would result in four World Series championships within a span of five seasons from 1996 to 2000. This transformation can arguably be traced back to the pivotal selection of Pettitte and Posada, facilitated by the old draft-and-follow rule, and further solidified by the signing of Mariano Rivera in February by the Yankees.

A few years back, Brian Cashman, the current General Manager of the Yankees, acknowledged the often overlooked contributions of Bill Livesey and Brian Sabean, describing them as the unsung heroes behind the team’s dynasty. Sabean later gained recognition as the Giants’ GM during their successful World Series campaigns, but during the early 1990s, both Sabean and Livesey were responsible for running the Yankees’ scouting department.

Yankees drafted Andy Pettitte in 22nd round

In the 22nd round of the draft, the Yankees made a significant move by selecting Andy Pettitte, a talented left-handed pitcher who consistently threw in the 85-87 mph range, from Deer Park High School in Texas. If Pettitte had chosen to attend a four-year college, the Yankees would have forfeited their rights to him. However, he decided to attend San Jacinto Junior College, which allowed the Yankees to negotiate with him until a week before the following year’s draft. Local scout Joe Robison remained committed to Pettitte, who made significant progress in his conditioning and began throwing with increased velocity. Initially, the Yankees offered Pettitte a sum of $55,000, but Pettitte countered with a request for $80,000, and the Yankees agreed to his terms.

Andy-Pettitte-new-york-yankees

In a remarkable ascent, Andy Pettitte quickly emerged as one of the Yankees’ most promising prospects within a span of just four years, despite being selected in the 22nd round of the draft. By the end of the 1994 season, Baseball America ranked the talented left-handed pitcher as the team’s third-best prospect and 49th overall in baseball. With his arsenal of above-average left-handed pitches, exceptional pickoff move, and fearless approach in high-pressure situations (ring a bell?), Pettitte made his Major League debut in 1995, playing a pivotal role in the Yankees’ successful push to secure the first-ever Wild Card berth.

Of his remarkable 18-year career in the major leagues, Andy Pettitte dedicated an impressive 15 seasons to donning the iconic Yankees uniform. His contributions to the team’s success are evident in his notable rankings within the franchise’s history. Pettitte’s longevity and consistency allowed him to secure a top-three position in crucial categories such as games started, where he is tied for the first spot. He also sits in third place in both career wins and innings pitched, while his impressive strikeout record places him firmly at the top of the Yankees’ leaderboard.

Yankees drafted Jorge Posada in 24th round

Jorge-Posada-new-york-yankees

It may come as a surprise to many Yankees fans that Jorge Posada, in his early days, had some experience playing second base in the minor leagues before transitioning to the role of catcher. Interestingly, during the 1990 draft, he was officially listed as a shortstop. However, it is worth noting that Posada never played shortstop at any level after he embarked on his professional career. Such peculiar circumstances can sometimes occur in the world of baseball.

Posada’s trajectory in the major leagues is well-known to all of us. He blossomed into one of the most accomplished hitting catchers of his era, boasting an impressive slash line of .273/.374/.474 over his 17 seasons in the big leagues. As a switch-hitter, he showcased his power by belting 275 home runs and driving in over a thousand runs. Considering that he was selected with the 646th overall pick, it’s safe to say that acquiring a switch-hitting catcher of Posada’s caliber would be a dream come true for any team. His credentials even place him on the cusp of Hall of Fame consideration.

Interestingly, the Yankees initially selected Posada in the 43rd round straight out of high school in Puerto Rico in 1989. However, Jorge Posada Sr., who was a baseball scout himself, believed that his son needed more experience and education, so he encouraged him to attend school in the United States. Posada then enrolled at Calhoun Community College in Alabama, where he showcased his skills on the field. In the 1990 draft, the Yankees once again took a chance on Posada, this time in the 24th round. Initially, Posada played as a shortstop during his time in community college, but during a semi-pro game, he took on the role of catcher for a day. Scout Leon Wurth noticed his potential and, heeding Livesey’s advice to consider players for different positions, the Yankees signed Posada for $30,000, securing a versatile player with immense potential.

Mariano Rivera’s entry

Mariano Rivera

At a Yankees tryout camp organized by scout Chico Heron in Panama City, Mariano Rivera received an invitation to showcase his skills. Despite lacking formal pitching training, weighing a mere 155 pounds (70 kg), and throwing at a modest velocity of 85-87 miles per hour (137-140 kilometers per hour), Rivera’s natural athleticism and fluid pitching motion caught the attention of the Yankees. Recognizing his untapped potential, the team decided to sign him as an amateur free agent. Rivera’s contract included a signing bonus of $2,500, which translates to approximately $5,600 in today’s currency.

The Yankees got three of Core Four in 1990

When assessing the achievements of these three members of The Core Four, it becomes clear that their track record is exceptional. Collectively, they amassed a staggering 14 World Series championships. Additionally, two other players from the 1990 draft class, Ricky Ledee and Shane Spencer, contributed to the team’s success, securing an additional five championships. This means that a remarkable total of 19 championship rings can be attributed to the draft picks of that year. Furthermore, their individual accomplishments are equally noteworthy. Posada, for instance, earned five All-Star selections and clinched the Silver Slugger Award, recognizing him as the premier hitting catcher on five occasions. Notably, he became the first Yankee catcher since Yogi Berra to achieve the feat of hitting 30 home runs in a single season, accomplishing this milestone in 2003.

Pettitte holds the esteemed title of the Yankees’ all-time strikeout leader, having recorded an impressive total of 2,020 strikeouts. Additionally, he shares the record for the most career starts as a Yankee with legendary pitcher Whitey Ford, both having made 438 starts for the team. Pettitte’s contributions to the Yankees’ success are further highlighted by his noteworthy achievement in 2001, where he clinched the ALCS MVP award. This accolade was earned through his exceptional performance, securing two crucial victories, including the pivotal fifth game of the series.

Now, let’s delve into the remarkable career of Rivera. With an impressive 13 All-Star appearances, five Rolaids Relief Man awards, and an unmatched record of 652 saves, Rivera’s dominance as a closer is unparalleled. His exceptional contributions on the mound earned him recognition as the best reliever in the history of baseball, according to General Manager Brian Cashman. Rivera’s impact extended far beyond his on-field achievements, as he became synonymous with the Yankee legacy, leaving an indelible mark that will be remembered for generations to come. His legacy is forever intertwined with the iconic Yankee logo, solidifying his status as an unforgettable figure in the annals of baseball.

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