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SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

In MLB Draft, only sure thing is that there are no sure things

UCLA pitcher James Kaprielian throws during the eighth

UCLA pitcher James Kaprielian throws during the eighth inning of an NCAA college baseball tournament super regional game against UCLA , Friday, June 7, 2013, in Fullerton, Calif. Photo Credit: AP / Jason Redmond

The importance, and sometimes lack thereof, of the ongoing Major League Baseball Draft was on full display Tuesday night as the Yankees hosted the Washington Nationals.

Masahiro Tanaka (not drafted) was on the mound for the Yankees. Max Scherzer (11th overall pick by Arizona in 2006) was on the mound for the Nationals.

Tanaka, who might be the most important Yankee, was brilliant for the second straight start off the disabled list in a 6-1 victory. He allowed one run in seven innings.

On a night when the Yankees introduced their No. 1 pick, righthander James Kaprielian of UCLA, Tanaka reminded us why they are not an organization that is going to wait three or four years for its draft choices to pan out.

In baseball, you don't build through the draft. It's just one part of the puzzle.

The Yankees spent $175 million total on Tanaka, and when healthy the returns have been excellent. On Tuesday night, he needed only 87 pitches to outduel Scherzer as the Yankees won their seventh in a row.

Earlier, the draft slogged through its second of three days. Despite baseball's attempts to glitz it up, it's still a snoozefest. The big excitement was the Nationals' drafting of Mariano Rivera Jr., son of the Yankees legend, in the fourth round.

There were a trio of first overall picks at Yankee Stadium: Bryce Harper (2010), Stephen Strasburg (2009) and Alex Rodriguez (1993 with Seattle).

Harper was the center of attention in his first visit to the Stadium since taking in a game as a 12-year-old. The now 22-year-old paid a pregame visit to Mickey Mantle's monument and then hit a home run off Tanaka to the left of that spot in the fourth inning.

Harper also struck out in the seventh when fouling off an unfathomable two-strike bunt attempt.

Five years ago, Harper appeared to be a sure thing. But baseball's draft is still the biggest crapshoot of them all. There's no way of knowing if Kaprielian will even make the majors.

Kaprielian -- who if he gets the call will undoubtedly be dubbed "Kappy" by Joe Girardi -- is said to have an advanced curveball and a decent, but not overpowering, fastball.

You'd think you'd get a guy who throws 98 with the 16th pick. But not even No. 1 overall picks always pan out. Remember Brien Taylor? The Yankees do, and not fondly.

Harper and A-Rod have worked out. Strasburg, who is on the DL with a 6.55 ERA, has not lived up to the hype.

Kaprielian and A-Rod actually crossed paths but did not meet last summer, when Rodriguez was working out at UCLA during his year-long suspension.

"I shook hands with a lot of guys when I worked out there during my suspension," Rodriguez said Tuesday night. "I don't remember him. What position is he?"

Said Kaprielian: "It was definitely fun to watch him go about his work. Every time he was out there, I kind of had eyes out there. I would make a stop at the batting cages just to watch his work and how diligent he was. Definitely, to be able to watch somebody at that level who has had so much success was very cool to see. I didn't get a chance to meet him, obviously respecting that he was working and doing his thing, so I didn't want to really interrupt."

If all goes really well, Rodriguez could meet Kaprielian during the final years of A-Rod's contract in 2016 or '17. More likely, A-Rod will be gone before Kaprielian gets his first chance to be as good as the undrafted Tanaka is right now.


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