Isiah Gilliam Checks A Lot Of Boxes
Considering the number of trades the Yankees have made in recent years in which they surrendered high draft picks to land big league talent, looking for a draft success story isn’t as easy as perusing the list of recent first-round picks.
"We have dealt a lot of guys,’’ scouting director Damon Oppenheimer said.
The list of those dealt in recent years includes righthander James Kaprielian and outfielder Blake Rutherford, first-rounders in 2015 and 2016, and second baseman Nick Solak, a second-round pick in 2016. Outfielders Ben Gamel (10th round in 2010) and Jake Cave (sixth in 2011) are in the big leagues with the Brewers and Twins, respectively.
Yet high Class A Tampa corner outfielder Isiah Gilliam is one draft success story mentioned by Oppenheimer.
"He is a switch-hitting outfielder with big power, which you like because it is a commodity,’’ Oppenheimer said of the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Gilliam, who was drafted in the 20th round in 2015 out of Chipola (Fla.) JC.
"He needs to cut down on his strikeouts and is a good defender who could grow into an above-average outfielder.’’
The 22-year-old Gilliam played in 125 games for Tampa last year, when he hit .259/.313/.397 with 13 home runs. He is repeating the Florida State League and has progressed slowly overall in five pro seasons.
Gilliam hails from the Atlanta suburb of Lilburn, where he played for national power Parkview High and was drafted by the Cubs in 2014. He is the grandson of former Brooklyn Dodgers second baseman Jim Gilliam.
"He checks a lot of analytical boxes, (in terms of) exit velocity and launch angle,’’ vice president of baseball operations Tim Naehring said.
Gilliam started hot in 2019. Through 17 games he went 21-for-61 (.344) with three homers and seven walks.
Just as important to his development, Gilliam had reduced his strikeout rate by several percentage points after fanning 29 percent of the time last year.
— Another Yankees draft success story is righthanded reliever Joe Harvey, who was taken in the 19th round in 2014 out of Pittsburgh and reached the big leagues this April.
— After being signed as a nondrafted free agent in 2013 following a sensational college career at Princeton, lefthanded-hitting first baseman Mike Ford reached the big leagues in mid-April when Greg Bird went on the injured list. Ford, who was the Ivy League player and pitcher of the year as a two-way player, hit .410 with five homers through his first 10 games with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to earn his callup.