Yankees struggling farm system will hurt them in 2014

tyler-austinIt’s no secret that the Yankees are looking to cut payroll down to $189 million next season. All along the way they have insisted that they would continue to field a “championship caliber” team though and they would need a lot of young players to step up to achieve that goal.

Well let me tell you, unless the Yankees are willing to abandon their $189 million goal, the farm system doesn’t look ready to produce any impact players.

On Monday, Baseball America listed the Yankees among the five minor league systems around baseball that are having a year to forget. That was on the same day that ESPN’s Keith Law observed top hitting prospects Tyler Austin and Slade Heathcott and called one awful and pointed out major flaws in the other’s swing.

The disappointment doesn’t end with Austin and Heathcott though. Mason Williams, Ramon Flores, and Brett Marshall have all been disappointing. Former first round picks Ty Hensley (out all year so far with a hip injury), Dante Bichette Jr., and Cito Culver are also aggravating. I can’t leave out former top pitching prospect Manny Banuelos, who will miss two full seasons with injuries, among the disappointing.

While there certainly have been bright spots, J.R. Murphy, Jose Ramirez, Rafael De Paula, and Gary Sanchez are all still strong prospects and Dellin Betances might have saved his career in the bullpen, it feels like nearly every prospect the Yankees were counting on has let them down.

Just look at these numbers:

Heathcott is hitting .253/.322/.372, Austin .257/.349/.373, Williams .256/.334/.355, Flores .241/.337/.331, Bichette .197/.275/.283, and Marshall has a 7.94 ERA. You don’t even want to see Culver’s numbers and there is nothing to show for Hensley or Banuelos.

These are precisely the prospects that the Yankees were counting on to help them lower payroll and stay competitive. It has left them in a tough position too because not only can they not plan on plugging any of these guys into the roster next year, but they can’t even trade and get decent value in return.

Heck, this even makes it hard to trade the minor leaguers that are doing well. If Heathcott, Austin, and Williams can’t be counted on, how could they possibly consider trading Sanchez or even Murphy?

Of course none of this is to say that they are all done. There is still enough time in the season for these guys to turn it around (and some, like Heathcott, are on brief hot streaks right now). Even if they all continue to have bad seasons, most are still young enough that I wouldn’t count them out completely. It is certainly premature to count on any of them for 2014 though. And that’s where the struggles of this year’s farm system could really come back and bite the Yankees.

NEWS AND NOTES

• As bad as the Yankees farm system has been, two players cracked BA’s midseason Top 50: Gary Sanchez (34) and Rafael De Paula (45). Neither player is likely to impact the 2014 Yankees though.

• By the way, David Adams was sent down to make room for Travis Ishikawa on Monday.

• Switch pitcher Pat Venditte, who was out with a right shoulder injury, is back. He tossed an inning of relief for one of the Yankees GCL teams on Monday.

Brett Gardner set a Yankees record by striking out in 16 consecutive games. He has been struggling lately, but it’s best not to overreact to that record. He was hitting quite well throughout most of that span.

• Derek Jeter desperately wants the Yankees to activate him, but they are taking it slow. Minor league beat writer Donnie Collins said that he expects Jeet will stay with Triple-A Scranton Wednesday and Thursday and will likely be reevaluated after.

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17 Responses to Yankees struggling farm system will hurt them in 2014

  1. wally says:

    It certainly has been a disappointing year on the farm. But in terms of the dread 189, the farm should be able to do its part. I have been saying for more than a year that getting to 189 will require six or seven under-control homegrowns. Despite all the documented disappointments Yanks are now in excellent position to do just that. Phelps, Warren and Claiborne have all been major contributors. So that's three. Nuno shined in short service, so I will count him as a fourth– LOOGY or spot starter. Murphy has emerged as an option and I believe he should be brought up right now. That's five. And then there are a number of bullpen options, including Betances, Cabral, Rondon, Montgomery. Just need one to make six. I still believe Kelly and/or Musty could help too. You also have "cheap" players in Nunez, Cervelli, Kelly, etc. It won't be pretty but Yanks can make 189. And farm will help. Don't really need Austin, Sanchez, etc til 2015. That's the way I see it.

    • gene in FL says:

      Phelps has a 5+ ERA! If this is what you see, you need contacts or have your glasses cleaned! Crashman's minors are barren!

      • wally says:

        He has a high ERA because of basically one bad start, where Girardi left him in too long — nobody leaves a starter in for nine runs. Other than that one lapse, Phelps has been quite good– actually a very good #4 starter. Try to find a guy like that as a free agent and it'll cost you more than $10 mill per year.

        • What about the 4 ER, 0.1 IP performance against the Mets a little more than a month ago. I like Phelps, but it's not just one start. He's had a few stinkers lately. Not a ton, but I feel like you're being a bit on the rosy side.

          • wnadler says:

            Phelps has pitched good everyone is going to have a bad day you just hope your fielding can limit it. CC was a chump in Cleveland his 1st 5 years. I am a Cleveland fan and I wanted him off the team at times he was that bad. The Yankees actually have a lot of good young pitching prospects they just need to call them up and give them time to advance. You can only go so far in AAA. You dont need Nolan Ryan in the 4-5 spots.

  2. Joey says:

    You continue to tout the so called 'prospects', there is alot of talent that is going unnoticed. The Grise kid who has played at all 3 levels and produced is one hell of an athlete. Throw out the names of the kids that did well in highschool and look at your true talent. Dont be afraid to look at the players that didnt get the huge signing bonus.
    Do you want to win or just try and get a return on your investments.

    • gcorcoran says:

      Hey Joey, I see you're point that Grice has performed well this season, however he is more of an organizational filler type player. He doesn't have any one tool that would make him a useful player in the majors. (No speed or power to speak of). It seems that he can hit well for contact but it's an extremely small sample size and he hasn't stayed in any one level this season long enough for pitchers to adjust to him. I'm not saying he's a bad player at all, I just don't think he fits in with the Yankees' plans.

  3. gcorcoran says:

    I can understand being frustrated with the farm system but when it comes down to it the Yankees really only have three disappointing players this year, one of whom came off of major surgery, and two of whom are playing in a league they are quite young for. There were a lot of people out there thinking Heathcott or Austin would be ready to contribute next season, but I think that was an unrealistic expectation to put on two guys who really haven't played all that many games in the minors. They need time. They may still fail, as there is a high rate of failure amongst all prospects, even the best in the world, but there is time (as you did mention in the article).

    Your main gripe in the article seems to be not necessarily that we have a bad farm system but that it won't be ready to get us to 189 next year. I have to agree with you there, but on the other hand there are more than you think who can contribute cheaply next season, as tanned tom pointed out. I'm the first one to agree with you, however, that this 189 plan is a bad idea and that they should probably focus on 2015 as the year to get under the cap if they truly are trying to make the playoffs next year.

    Here are some players, including the ones that Tanned Tom mentioned, who are likely to be ready to help next year (I wouldn't put Murphy in that category just yet. Let him get some AAA at bats before we rush him like they did with Romine.

    1. Jose Ramirez – he is better than people give him credit for. He K's more than 9/9 as a starter, and his change and slider are major league plus pitches now. Don't sleep on him.

    2. Preston Claiborne – we have seen he can be successful.

    3. Warren – very successful as a reliever, we'll see what he can do as a starter.

    4. Phelps – at the very least he can be a successful reliever.

    5. Betances – I think the relief success is real. He likes the fact that he pitches more frequently and it allows him to be better at repeating his mechanics. He has been absolutely dominant in AAA.

    6. Michael Pineda – He will be with the team next year for sure. He's going to be good IMO, and has looked pretty solid in his rehab.

    7. Mark Montgomery – I think he comes ready to go next year. He's definitely a question mark though.

    8. Nunez -solid backup

    9. Zoilo Almonte – at least solid backup

    10. Nuno – LOOGY vs spot starter vs long reliever, still useful no matter what.

    11. Manny Banuelos – Many will be skeptical, but I think he'll be ready to contribute next year when he comes back. He has been throwing bullpens lately so he should be 100% by the start of next season. Yes there will be innings limits but he's already in AAA.

    12. Not a Yankees prospect but Shawn Kelley isn't going anywhere and will be as cheap as a prospect.

    13. Francisco Cervelli – will at least be a valuable backup, and will be cheap.

    14. Ivan Nova

    So not all of these guys will make it to the 25 man roster (of course), but if 10 of them do then the Yankees are left to fill 15 positions. A-rod, Jeter, Tex, Chris Stewart, CC, David Robertson (I would not longer consider him cheap), Brett Garder (relatively cheap but not prospect cheap), Vernon Wells, and Ichiro will cover 9 of the remaining 15 spots. That leaves 6 positions to fill. At least 2 SP, 1 2B, 1 3B/DH, and relievers and backups. They'll have about somewhere in the neighborhood of 65-70 million dollars to make those signings, or roughly 10.8-11.7 million per player.

    That's pretty doable IMO, but that's also provided that Jeter, Tex, and A-Rod are healthy, NO GUARANTEE!

    • I would just like to point out that I'm not predicting doom here. I'm just saying that they probably miss the playoffs if they are unwilling to go over $189 million next year. And, like you said, I'm not saying the farm system is bad, but that it's complicated 2014 quite a lot. You make some good points, but I think, and I'm usually guilty of this too, that you are being a little on the optimistic side.

      I see the rotation this way: CC, Kuroda, Pineda, and Nova with Phelps, Warren, Nuno fighting for the 5th spot.
      The bullpen is probably D-Rob, Kelley, Betances, Claiborne, Monty, with Nuno, Warren, random cheap reliever signing probably here too (Ramirez will be in the pen or AAA and I expect Banuelos to pitch at AAA all year).

      That's a decent pitching staff, but not great and not one that can carry a team like this year's staff was expected to.

      The offense: Gardner, Cano, Jeter/Nunez, Ichiro/Wells/Almonte, Teixeira, A-Rod (at DH if healthy), Stewart/Cervelli. They would still need a 3B, C, corner OF.

      That's not a lineup much better than the one they have now unless they find a very good C, 3B, OF. But not only can they not plug a lot of their struggling, but once highly thought of prospects, into that lineup, they can't even get a lot for them in trades after the seasons they've had.

      It is all technically doable, but it's going to be very hard. It would also involve getting strong production from guys like Nova, Pineda, and Phelps. Have strong rookie seasons from guys like Monty and Betances. It also requires full healthy seasons from Jeter, Teixeira, and A-Rod. To me that's a lot to expect.

      • wally says:

        Despite my earlier comments outlining how the farm will contribute to getting to 189, I do agree with Rob that it will be tight and make for a sub-par Yankee team.

      • gcorcoran says:

        I think it depends on a lot of things. It really won't take much for them to be better than this year's team, which despite all of the injuries is right there in the playoff hunt with reinforcements on the way.

        Some things have to go right for sure. Jeter and Tex have to stay healthy. They have to sign at least 2 more big bats to fill C, 3B, and DH (I'm of the opinion that their outfield is just fine the way it is, maybe sign a guy who can hit lefties well).

        Other than that I think their pitching staff will be just fine, again no worse than this year with CC struggling in the first half and Andy Pettitte starting to look like his age is catching up to him. Phil Hughes and David Phelps have started a significant number of games and both have a 5.0 + ERA. I don't think it will be hard to top this year's rotation to be honest.

        I'll agree with both of you on one thing. A lot needs to happen between now and next season for the Yankees to be good on paper, but I think a couple of savvy moves will do the trick. For the record I still think Heathcott, Williams, and Austin have decent trade value. In addition, I know that Gary Sanchez, DePaula, and Jose Ramirez have excellent trade value. They can get what they need if they intend to trade prospects, although I don't believe that's the route they should go.

        I am definitely guilty of being optimistic when it comes to the Yankees, however in my lifetime of analyzing the Yankees that optimism has still yet to fail me or be proven wrong. People have been saying the Yankees are too old for 10 years now, and yet they've only missed the playoffs once.

  4. tom says:

    I doubt Yankees will do that way but for fun I organized 25 active roster for 2014. The total is 172+m so that means 10 percentage of this total for expenses and the rest of 40 man rosters will put us a slightly over 189m at the end of 2014 cycle. I don't know if 17m is enough to cover hidden expenses but let me play that way. lol.

    New contracts are up in the air, obviously, so I estimated as best as I could to make the roster sound logical.

    1BMark Teixeria 22.5
    2BRobinson Cano22
    3B/DHAlex Rodriguez27.5
    SS/DHDerek Jeter13
    CJarrod Saltalamacchia 8
    DH/3B/SSJhonny Peralta7
    LFIchiro Suzuki6.5
    CFBrett Gardner5.2
    RFCorey Hart8

    —- Peralta starts SS at away and 3B at home as well as Jeter plays DH at away and Arod at home so that way Jeter and Arod keep fresher for a majority of the season, barring injury.

    —- Hart blew both knees now so the long term contract mightn't happen so Yanks gives him a rich one year trail.

    —- Salty has to be signed by Yanks. I want a good offensive catcher in the line up.

    Starters
    Top 1C.C. Sabathia24.5
    Top 2Ricky Nolasco12
    Top 3Michael Pineda1.1
    4thIvan Nova0.9
    5thAdam Warren0.512

    Relievers
    CloserTom Kahnle0.49
    SetDavid Robertson4.5
    7thShawn Kelley1.4
    RightyDellin Betances0.51
    LeftyVidal Nuno0.49
    LongDavid Phelps0.54

    —- 4th, 5th and Long spots may be interchange depending on hot streak.
    —- I hope Pineda stays in AAA to bulk up innings so he can be ready for 180 ip of work next year.
    —- Nolasco will eat up a lot of innings to keep pitching staffs in good balance.

    —- I am not a fan of Robertson for closing job so Montgomery is passed on. I believe Kahnle is a perfect closer for Yankees but if he suffers a rookie struggle then Betances can take over.

    Bench
    CAustin Romine0.49
    IFEduardo Nunez0.56
    OFVernon Wells2.4
    CornerBrennan Boesch1.7
    OFZolio Almonte0.51

    —- I am sure many people don't like Almonte in bench but power comes first and Ichiro is a veteran. Almonte will mix in starting job because Ichiro is aging and Hart is recovering from 2 surgical knees.

    Problems —

    No guarantee to land Salty, Hart and Peralta in the same off season. All of them may like to stay with their previous teams.

    Arod's 6m for 660 hr milestone may be done next year instead of this year due to potential 100 game suspension this summer. ugh!

    Closer and end of the rotation will be a major issue throughout the season due to a lack of creative or depth.

    • tom says:

      damn it. I forget to separate numbers and names after copy and paste from excel. apologies.

      • tom says:

        Redo here……

        I doubt Yankees will do that way but for fun, I organized 25 active roster for 2014. The total is 172+m so that means 10 percentage of this total for expenses and the rest of 40 man rosters will put us a slightly over 189m at the end of 2014 cycle. I don't know if 17m is enough to cover hidden expenses but let me play that way. lol.

        New contracts are up in the air, obviously, so I estimated as best as I could to make the roster sound logical.

        25 man Roster:

        Lineup:
        1B: Mark Teixeria —22.5
        2B: Robinson Cano —22
        3B/DH: Alex Rodriguez —27.5
        SS/DH: Derek Jeter —13
        C: Jarrod Saltalamacchia —8
        3B/SS: Jhonny Peralta —7
        LF: Ichiro Suzuki —6.5
        CF: Brett Gardner —5.2
        RF: Corey Hart —8

        —- Peralta starts SS at away and 3B at home as well as Jeter plays DH at away and Arod at home so that way Yankees can keep Jeter and Arod fresher for a majority of the season, barring injury.

        —- Hart blew both knees now so the long term contract mightn't happen so Yanks gives him a rich one year trail.

        —- Salty has to be signed by Yanks. I want a good offensive catcher in the line up.

        Starters:
        Top 1: C.C. Sabathia —24.5
        Top 2: Ricky Nolasco —12
        Top 3: Michael Pineda —1.1
        4th: Ivan Nova —0.9
        5th: Adam Warren —0.512

        Relievers:
        Closer: Tom Kahnle —0.49
        Set: David Robertson —4.5
        7th: Shawn Kelley —1.4
        Righty: Dellin Betances —0.51
        Lefty: Vidal Nuno —0.49
        Long: David Phelps —0.54

        —- 4th, 5th,Long and maybe Lefty spots may be interchangeable depending on hot streak.

        —- I hope Pineda stays in AAA to bulk up innings so he can be ready for 180 ip of work next year.

        —- Nolasco will eat up a lot of innings to keep pitching staffs in good balance.

        —- I am not a fan of Robertson for closing job so Montgomery is passed on. I believe Kahnle is a perfect closer for Yankees but if he suffers a rookie struggle then Betances can take over.

        Bench:
        C: Austin Romine —0.49
        IF Eduardo Nunez —0.56
        OF: Vernon Wells —2.4
        Corner: Brennan Boesch —1.7
        OF: Zolio Almonte —0.51

        —- I am sure many people don't like Almonte in bench but power comes first and Ichiro is a veteran. Almonte will mix in starting job because Ichiro is aging and Hart is recovering from 2 surgical knees.

        Problems

        — No guarantee to land Salty, Hart and Peralta in the same off season. All of them may like to stay with their previous teams.

        — Arod's 6m bonus for 660 hr milestone may be paid next year instead of this year due to potential 100 game suspension this summer. ugh!

        — Closer and end of the rotation will be a major issue throughout the season due to a lack of creative or depth.

        — Off bench power is lame.

        • Robertson isn't capable of closing but 1 pitcher who has struggled in the majors and another who has never pitched in the majors can? I don't understand why some people are so afraid of D-Rob, he's one of the best relievers in baseball.

          • tom says:

            I am in mood for 97mph. Girardi would go with Robertson for sure. That is why I said Yankees won't go my way.

            Kahnle and Betances have powerful stuffs to dominate the closing duty.

            by the way, Betances only pitched 2 innings in MLB and it was 2011 so it is kind of silly to call him a struggling pitcher. Late bloomer exists in MLB.

          • I can see you in 1997, 'Wetteland left and Mariano Rivera is good, but he doesn't throw 97 mph. The Yankees should get Armando Benitez to close.' Good thing Girardi and the Yankees won't go your way.