In cased you missed it (since it was far from the biggest news of the week), the Yankees now have two rookie league GCL teams. The move has been a long time coming and will provide young Yankees pitchers a better chance to prove themselves against their peers at a young age.
In this case, the Yankees in particular have a slew of pitchers coming over from the DSL as well as from the draft that could profile as starters each year. This has been true in particular recently, as they have moved towards drafting more high school aged talent. In addition to pitchers, there are many position players signed in the draft or who come over from the DSL and haven’t been able to find at bats in the GCL.
On the surface, it looks as though these players will benefit immensely from increased reps, and some guys who otherwise may have never gotten the reps they need might end up developing into special players as a result. This will be true to a certain extent, but if we’re being realistic it’s not going to change things all that much.
Unless you have two teams all the way to High-A, these guys are eventually going to have to lose/share reps with someone. It’s essentially going to be an extended try out to see who is going to start at the next level. That’s certainly not a bad thing, but it’s also not as much of a benefit as people might think.
It will be good to have the extra game time action, but it’s not going to change much in evaluating who plays at the higher levels unless there is some sort of a revelation and a player storms the league who was not expected to. Those battles are mostly won and lost at extended Spring Training and the time spent between the start of the full season leagues and the start of the short season leagues in Florida at the Yankees training site.
Finally, it’s been said over and over that GCL stats mean squat, and that’s because it’s a small sample size. An extra 25-30 innings pitched isn’t going to change a pitcher’s career course. An extra 100-120 at bats won’t affect a position players standing in an organization, just ask Miguel Andujar who the Yankees are still extremely high on despite a poor statistical season in the GCL.
Let’s also make one thing clear. This is not about innings limitations. Most of last year’s rookie only threw 25 or so innings in the GCL in 2012, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t eligible for much more than that in 2013. They had been pitching in scrimmages and simulated games all season before the GCL started. Arm strength is built up before the season even starts in short season league pitchers.
All of the above being said, having the extra GCL team is obviously a positive step, not a negative one. Having more game action and more live game innings is never a bad thing. Facing new competition of your peers that has an end goal of playoffs and a championship is meaningful and is definitely an aspect of development that should not be poo pooed.
Sometimes all you need to give a kid is a chance and he goes wild with it. The new GCL team will provide Yankees prospects with that chance. Some players may surprise everyone and increase their stock.
There is no substitute for in game experience. The spirit of competition and playing the game is a huge aspect of becoming a good ball player. Just think of how boring practice would be if there were no games to look forward to. For many of these kids, the new GCL team will provide them with that opportunity.
In addition to that, players like Giovanny Gallegos and others will no longer be forced to pitch in one inning increments so everyone can get their innings. Guys like Eduardo de Oleo won’t be robbed of at bats because of Chris Breen and Peter O’Brien.
These are all good things for the Yankees, and the new GCL team makes it even more fun to follow the farm system. Don’t, however, fool yourself into thinking that this team is going to turn the farm around. It is a small step in the right direction that will help slightly with development. What will help more is the addition of a new minor league pitching coordinator, Gil Patterson. What the Yankees minor leagues really needs is a magic pill to keep pitchers healthy all season, but that pill isn’t coming out any time soon.