In discussions about the Yankees farm system this year and last, there seems to be an emphasis on two things; injuries and busts. It is understandable too. Following prospects can be an extremely frustrating endeavor when expectations are placed too high.
Part of the problem is the contents of scouting reports. When you start thinking about what a player could become you often begin unconsciously salivating and dreaming on a player’s talent. Then, when a player doesn’t live up to that, your hopes and dreams are dashed. People don’t like to have their hopes and dreams dashed. Thus, following prospects is not for everyone, and even harder for Yankees fans who expect victory and success every season, as they should.
I’ve said this many times before, but the percentage chance of success for any prospect is exceedingly low. The odds are against these kids, even if they’re top 100 material. Given that fact, however, look at how well the Yankees have done at getting prospects who can contribute in recent times. Preston Claiborne, David Phelps, Adam Warren, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner, and David Adams. When it comes down to it, the Yankees MLB team is more than one-half homegrown. To me, that’s impressive and shows that they are doing something right.
Many look at the fact that the Yankees haven’t been able to develop an ace as a huge failure. I have looked at this in the past and proven just how rare and lucky it is to develop an ace, even if you have top picks in the draft. As much as people would love to blame the injuries that have occurred in the Yankees organization on management, there are two problems with that assessment. Firstly, injuries are mostly luck of the draw. More importantly, every organization has injuries to their prospects every year. It’s a fact of life. The Yankees have had some bad ones recently, but it happens and it is not the travesty to the farm that people make it out to be.
Anyway, there have certainly been some positives and negatives so far this season, and I will delve into both. Let’s start with the positive.
1. Rafael De Paula: He has been exactly as advertised, and will most certainly be a top 100 player by season’s end. His 83 K in 54.1 IP is nothing short of spectacular.
2. Jose Ramirez: Another guy with the stuff to be a frontline starter, he has not disappointed this season, with 45 K in 37.1 IP and a 2.65 ERA. I’d be surprised if he wasn’t on some top 100 lists by season’s end as well.
3. Gary Sanchez: Nine home runs already, he’s proving he can do it now in High-A. His defense has taken a huge step forward as well, he will no doubt continue to be a top player in the organization and his future is incredibly bright.
4. Shane Greene: Something has finally clicked this season. He is striking out about 9/9IP and he has just nine walks in 65.2 innings. His ERA is coincidentally 3.29. He is enjoying what appears to be his breakout season.
5. Preston Claiborne, David Adams, David Phelps, Adam Warren, and Austin Romine are all contributing to the major league team right now.
6. Vidal Nuno: Looked great in the majors in his brief cameo.
7. Rob Refsnyder: He’s playing a better second base, is 15/15 in stolen bases, and is OPSing .853 on the season.
8. J.R. Murphy: Establishing himself as a definite future major league catcher.
9. Peter O’Brien: Mashing in Charleston, another power hitting catcher to add to the list in this organization.
10. Cesar Vargas: Another exciting young arm from the DSL, he has been rock solid in Charleston.
11. Jose Campos: Is healthy. Enough said.
13. Dellin Betances looks much improved in the bullpen.
You can’t talk about the positives without talking about the negatives. I will caution though, I will not write any of these players off any time soon.
1. Slade Heathcott: Batting a disappointing .246 so far. He got off to an extremely slow start and has really picked it up lately. It’s possible by season’s end we will have all forgot about his slow start.
2. Tyler Austin: Also off to a slow start. Batting .258 and just five homeruns and we’re midway through the season. He too was picking it up and just as he caught fire had flu-like illness which has kept him out of the lineup for a few days. Hopefully he picks up where he left off when he gets back.
3. Mason Williams: He has been disappointing on and off the field. Batting .231 with absent power and not much in the way of stolen bases (8/12). His (possible) DUI off the field was also disappointing for many fans. Personally, I’ll give him a free pass because it was 2:00 a.m. and he blew less than a 0.08. He obviously limited himself that night. Either way, he’s gonna have to pick it up soon to salvage this season.
4. More injuries: Ty Hensley with his season ending surgery, Gabriel Encinas, after exploding onto the season, ends up needing elbow surgery. Manny Banuelos is out for the season with elbow surgery. Banuelos, however, will be back early next season and he is still so young that I can’t call this a major negative. If he’s back to his old self on return he is right back to a top prospect.
5. Brett Marshall: You don’t need stats to see he has been awful this season.
7. Ramon Flores: Has not lived up to his billing in Double-A. Still young though and has plenty of time.
8. Bryan Mitchell has been sub par with his 4.5 ERA. and 4.5 BB/9. There was a lot of hope he would break out this year, but it’s not looking like that’s gonna happen.
Overall I would say the positives outweight the negatives. By season’s end, I would be willing to bet that two of the big four outfielders (Austin, Slade, Williams, and Flores) will be back to their old selves. Inevitably, some of the positives above will turn to negatives and vice versa. As negative as many feel this season has been on the farm, there is actually a lot of good coming from this season.
The other good news is that the GCL and Staten Island start up in about 10 days. The Yankees have 15 pitchers who all have potential as future starters to fill the 15 rotation spots in those leagues. They also have numerous impressive prospects coming over from the DSL this season, as I highlighted in my top 10 DSL players who could come stateside article.
With three first round picks this season, there’s reason for optimism that even more talent is on the way.
There are always going to be successes and failures in the minor leagues. So far this year the positives seem to outweigh the negatives, and people may be surprised where the Yankees farm system ranks by the end of the season.