Just for fun, I am going to play out a fantastical scenario on paper since I am a confessed prospect hugger. As of right now, in 2016 there will only be three players left on the roster that are not former Yankees farm hands. Those three are Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and CC Sabathia. If Hal Steinbrenner were to throw his hands in the air and say “No more free agent signings!” (like that would ever happen), and then go crazy and void A-Rod’s contract, trade Mark Teixeira for prospects, and make CC throw 300 innings in 2014 and 2015 so that his arm falls off, then what would happen? They don’t re-sign any of their pitchers, and Michael Pineda is DFA’d.
Here’s the team I envision if only homegrown players are used.
In 2016 Gary Sanchez earns the starting job at catcher. He has proven to be the better hitter than J.R. Murphy and is not far behind in the catching department. The maturity issues are still a concern, but apparently he has grown over the past two seasons into a fine young man. Murphy brings a lot to the table though. He is a great defender, he’s got excellent leadership skills, a great work ethic, and he has hit like a top notch catcher. If he wasn’t behind Sanchez, he’d be a starter somewhere. Sanchez hits .285 in 2016 with 27 home runs. He makes the all-star team.
By the time 2016 rolls around Gregory Bird is ready to be the first baseman of the future. He’s a beanstalk with leverage in his bat and has a projectable frame with already potent power. Aside from all of that, he can barrell the baseball and makes consistent hard contact. The only player standing in his way of a starting roll is Matt Snyder, who started in 2015. Snyder is a solid first baseman but Bird has the looks of a star. Bird hits about 22 home runs in his rookie campaign in 2016 with a .260/.330 stat line. If not, Snyder will be the first baseman and will provide a solid 20-25 home run season with a .275/.350 average.
Steinbrenner just couldn’t give Robbie Cano the money, not with a farm system filled with solid second base prospects. Angelo Gumbs earns this spot after crushing minor league pitching. In fact, he has been the starter since the middle of 2015 when he took over for the Corban Joseph and David Adams platoon. Adams has hung around as the backup third baseman and second baseman, while Joseph was traded for prospects. Gumbs’ speed and quick bat earned him third place in the rookie of the year voting in 2015. In 2016, he hits .270/.328 with 15 home runs and 35 stolen bases.
Dante Bichette Jr. really surprised people in the 2013-2015 seasons and exploded. He hit .325/.400 in the minors over those three seasons and averaged 15 home runs per season. Cashman thinks he’s ready and trots him out at third base every day. His first season, however, does not go as well as hoped. He hits .251/.313 with 10 homeruns. He plays an excellent third base, however, and the Yankees brass gives him the benefit of the doubt because of his youth and strong work ethic. David Adams plays in 80 games between second, third, and DH and amasses 315 at bats. He hits .305/.360 in those at bats with 5 home runs.
With Jeter gone, the Yankees have no choice but to go with Eduardo Nunez. Cito Culver has improved each year with the bat since converting to right handed only, but he is moving one level at a time. He hits .280/.360 in Triple-A and steals 30 bases in 2016. Eduardo Nunez holds his own at short as he has since Jeter’s retirement. He hits .269/.333 with 11 HR and 32 SB and most are happy with his performance. People are wondering how long he will hold off Culver though who has surpassed him defensively and is only getting better.
Slade Heathcott is the starting left fielder. His defense is great but his health is still always a question. He hasn’t yet learned to tone it down and is always crashing into walls and making reckless diving plays. The fans love him for it and he is becoming known as a big game player since the start of his career in 2014, but the main knock on him is he hasn’t played more than 130 games in a season yet in his career. Ramon Flores plays when Heathcott is not healthy, and he fills in as an above average major league hitter with surprising power. Heathcott is a .320/.380 hitter with 18 HR and 40 SB projected over a full season, but can he stay healthy?
Mason Williams serves as the everyday center fielder. He is quickly becoming the left handed version of Austin Jackson. He plays phenomenal defense and is a true 5-tool player in the major leagues. He steals 25 bases per season and hits 17 home runs, while batting .283/.345 on the season. Zoilo Almonte is the fifth outfielder, and will often play left in games when Mason Williams sits out and Heathcott is moved to center.
Tyler Austin is a fan favorite and with good reason. The man has been a beast ever since making the team in 2014. He made the all-star team in 2015 and hit 32 home runs with a .325/.410 stat line. He is considered the team’s best player, bats fourth, and is the captain of the team. He has the respect of both the coaches and the other players.
Kyle Roller surprises everyone and hits 30 home runs in Double-A in 2013. He also bats .290/.360 and his career has launched into orbit ever since then. His defense is suspect though, so the Yankees bring him along as a DH. In 2016 he hits 28 home runs and bats .270/.343 in the majors. He has o be careful though, because none other than Ben Gamel has been sneaking up the ranks and is considered the back up DH. He hits .343/.420 in Triple-A in 2016 with 20 home runs.
Without ace CC, the city of New York goes into a panic, but it’s okay because a new ace has emerged, and his name is… Manny Banuelos. Turns out he comes back after the elbow surgery as strong as ever. In fact, his control and change up improved. He threw 100 all purpose innings in 2014, then 150 in 2015, and is scheduled for a full workload in 2016. His career major league ERA is 3.42, but last year he managed a 3.2 ERA. He strikes out 9.5/9 innings and has a 4.2:1 K/BB ratio.
The number two starter is right hander Rafael DePaula. He is an innings eating machine who controls the strike zone with a powerful arsenal. His secondary stuff in 2016 is still a work in progress but grades out as above average with excellent control. He translates this into solid major league success so far in his career. In 2016 his ERA ends up at 3.5, but he pitches 220 innings and qualifies as the rotational workhorse. He strikes out about a batter per inning.
Jose Ramirez has had his ups and downs by 2016, but for better or for worse he’s our third starter. He is a wildcard type who plays in streaks. He is capable of winning five games in a row but also capable of putting up some serious duds. Regardless, Yankees fans love him because he is homegrown and he has phenomenal stuff that lasts deep into games. His slider has developed into a serious strikeout weapon by 2016. He ends the season with a 3.76 ERA and a 7 K/9 with a 2:1 K/BB ratio.
The final two starters have really become old reliable for the Yankees. David Phelps is now in his fifth season with the Yankees and has continually produced above average seasons. He hovers around the 4.0 ERA threshold and goes out there and throws 6.0 innings every time out. He has won several playoff games for the Yankees and is also a fan favorite.
Nik Turley is the big lefty who just kept on getting guys out and forced himself into the rotation. He just keeps getting better every season, and has gotten his velocity up to the mid 90′s consistently by 2016. He throws strikes and keeps the Yankees in games, much like a young Andy Pettitte. He eats innings and has a 4.23 ERA season in and season out. The Yankees have tried to replace him but he keeps fighting to get that fifth rotation slot back. In 2016 Turley has a breakout season and posts a 3.68 ERA with a 7.5 K/9 and a 3:1 K/BB ratio.
All that’s left of Mariano Rivera is a distant memory. In fact, David Robertson replaced him in 2014-2015 and did a solid job. All of that’s over in 2016 and Dellin Betances is set to step in as the new closer. Betances has really become unhittable in relief. He still walks about 4.0/9 innings, but his batting average against is just .192. His ERA is an impressive 2.1 so far, and he strikes out 12/9 innings.
Mark Montgomery has the 8th innings on lockdown. Major league hitters still haven’t figured out how to hit his slider, although the fastball has looked hittable at times in his career. No one wants to face this guy because he makes players look silly. His 1.86 ERA in 2015 has some people saying he should be the full time closer. If Betances breaks down, he’s first in line in 2016.
The 7th innings belongs to Tom Kahnle and Francisco Rondon. Both guys have been impressive. Kahnle routinely lights up the radar gun with 100 mph pitches, and Rondon hasn’t met a lefty he can’t strike out. Both have identical ERA’s at 2.75, and both strike out an average of 9/9 innings.
The LOOGY is Vidal Nuno. Ever since he was called up in 2013 he hasn’t been back down. Lefties can’t seem to figure him out, and he’s actually quite effective vs righties too. His 3.2 ERA is exactly what the Yankees love to see in the middle innings when behind in a relatively close game.
Overall this team does not look bad. Admittedly many of these projections are overly generous, however prospect hugging is a difficult feeling to overcome. Some of these guys will inevitably do what prospects do, which is flame out and bust. Hopefully a couple of them make a splash with the big league team and we’ll all have something to look forward to. Any time you can fill out an entire major league roster with players from your system and the team actually doesn’t look bad, that’s a really good sign about a healthy farm system.