Yankees' Top Picks From 2009 Draft Start Strong

NEW YORK—If the early successes of the top picks from the Yankees' 2009 draft are any indication, then that class may turn out to be the best by the club in recent years.

Taken 29th overall from the high school ranks, center fielder Slade Heathcott batted .351/.436/.574 through his first 94 at-bats for low Class A Charleston. He had connected for two home runs, two triples and 11 doubles—the final tally tying for the South Atlantic League lead.

Drafted in the second round with the 76th overall pick, also from the prep ranks, catcher J.R. Murphy began the year on a .316/.340/.490 tear through 98 at-bats, also for Charleston.

After watching the RiverDogs play a series against Lakewood, general manager Brian Cashman gushed about Heathcott and Murphy, twin terrors who both will play the season at age 20.

"Slade has all the tools," Cashman said of the 6-foot, 197-pound native of Texarkana, Texas, who bats lefthanded. "He is a plus outfielder. He can hit and run, and he will develop power over time. He has a lot of ability—(he's) a five-tool guy."

Heathcott's plate patience improved as he gained experience. After not drawing a walk in his first eight games of the season, the leadoff batter drew 13 free passes (against 12 strikeouts) in his next 15 games, and his 26 runs scored ranked second in the SAL.

Many viewed Murphy as an outfielder-in-training when he left high school in Bradenton, Fla., and entered pro ball. However, Cashman isn't buying that, even if catcher happens to be the Yankees' best-stocked position on the farm.

"He can catch. I think he has a chance of sticking behind the plate," Cashman said of the 5-foot-11, 195-pound switch-hitter. "He is going to hit for average with average power."

Murphy had gunned down seven of 24 (29 percent) basestealers, committing three passed balls in 12 games.


• Spurred by a May 1 opt-out date, the Yankees released veteran Kevin Millwood from his minor league contract after he showed diminished velocity and poor results (8.00 ERA, 14 hits, three homers in nine innings) at Triple-A. New York hit with other veterans signed to minor league deals—Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia worked in the rotation while Luis Ayala and Buddy Carlyle had worked in relief.

• The Yankees released lefthander Jose Ortegano to clear roster space for Carlyle but then re-signed him to a minor league deal five days later. Claimed on waivers in March, Ortegano had not yet pitched in 2011.