This was a rough year for the Yankees farm system. Overall the system took a step back. Expectations for 2013 were high. That said, even after a season of dashed hopes, injuries, and ineffectiveness, there is a lot to look forward to in 2014. Despite such a poor season, the Yankees still have a middle of the pack farm system. While this is disappointing considering most felt by the end of 2013 the Yankees would be a top 10 system, it also bodes well for 2014 considering the talent in the system.
The Yankees still have all of the same talent fans were dreaming upon last season. While there were few successful seasons that put players on the map, not a single top prospect in the organization played so poorly that they are off the prospect map. In addition, the system has nowhere to go but up from here, and that likely means that 2014 will be a rebound year, and likely a year that will result in the system being again better than middle of the pack.
The system will be automatically upgraded at the start of 2014 due to players returning from injury. The most significant player returning from injury is Manny Banuelos. He is apparently back to 100% now and will be good to go to start 2013. He’s coming back from Tommy John surgery, which is NBD in this day and age. Word is that he is already back to his old tricks. If that truly is the case, Banuelos alone immediately takes this farm system to new heights.
The other big name pitcher coming back from injury is Ty Hensely. He will finally be healthy to start 2014 and can move past all of the injuries that have effected his career. Before the injury he was unable to fully use his legs to bolster his delivery. His new and improved hips will allow him to finally be able to do that, which could actually result in a bump in his velocity long term. It also makes him a completely different pitcher than the guy the Yankees drafted, so there are definitely question marks for this ballplayer in his return. That said, all he has to do is return to his presurgery self and he is immediately a top prospect in this organization and will bolster the system in a major way.
Gabe Encinas exploded onto the scene in 2013 with his new stuff before suffering an elbow injury which led to Tommy John surgery. He will be back at some point in 2014 and the same applies to him as Manny Banuelos. If he returns to form he is undoubtedly a top prospect.
There are also some less heralded players returning from injury who could improve the margins of the system, making it better overall. Of this group, Corban Joseph is the closest to contributing. He had shoulder surgery last year and would be both a decent trade chip and a major improvement in the second base depth behind (hopefully) Cano in this organization.
In addition to Joseph, Matt Tracy will be a full go in 2014. He had a rough season even while healthy in Double-A in 2013, but it was also a statistically uncharacteristic season as he struggled with control. If he can just get back to his old self, he is another potential starting lefty in the organization who could really help the team and would be another solid trade chip. Aaron Judge will also presumably be healthy and we will finally see what he can do.
Mark Montgomery was mostly healthy in 2013, but he was suffering from minor injuries and poor conditioning that really derailed his season. He still had a decent showing, but this offseason he is on a new conditioning program and will show up ready to go in 2014. His stock really suffered last year but he still has one of the nastiest sliders in all of the minors, so his health would be huge for this farm.
Yet another injured player is Matt Snyder. His twin brother batted .280 with 25 homeruns in High-A in 2013. Obviously twins are different people, but suffice it to say he has the physical talent to do the same. If he does, the Yankees will have a solid 1B prospect on their hands. Caleb Frare will also be 100% healthy to start the season, as will the latest incarnation of top Yankee reliever prospects Nick Goody.
Finally Ravel Santana will be fully healthy. At this point in his career he is a sad story of freak injuries between his ankle and his broken arm in 2013. When healthy he is a physical specimin with the best tools in the system. It’s unlikely he’ll ever reach his potential at this point but on the off chance he does the Yankees will have a super athlete on their hands who could be a beast.
Aside from injuries, there are several players poised to become impact players or at least return to form next year. Tyler Austin is much better than he played in 2013. He was banged up for a good part of the season and will be ready to get back to his mashing ways next year. Slade Heathcott made significant strides throughout the season in 2013. Mason Williams is in the AFL fine tuning his game. Rafael DePaula finally has a full season under his belt and will look to build on that. Luis Severino will be in full season ball and I predict he will explode onto the scene. Jagielo and Clarkin will be primed and ready to go as well. Abiatal Avelino and Gosuke Katoh will be ready for their coming out parties.
Daniel Camarena had a difficult start to his career, but about seven games in something clicked and he has been stellar since then. Bryan Mitchell struggled all year in High-A Tampa, but his control improved in a major way this year and he was dominant in a late season promotion to Double-A. If he carries that momentum into 2014 he has top 100 prospect written all over him. Jake Cave finally had a healthy full season campaign and will look to expand on that in 2014. Ramon Flores also really clicked late season and is the consummate professional and patient hitter. Cito Culver abandoned switch hitting last season, and by midseason he learned to hit righty. He broke out late season and was promoted to High-A where he tore pitchers apart. If he can hit like that in 2014 with his defensive ability, he is finally back to being a top prospect.
Rookie Davis had an uptick in stuff in 2013 and managed to control his new stuff. Next year he is likely to be another Encinas, hopefully minus the injury. When I say his stuff is fantastic that is not an underestimation.
Guys like Greg Bird and JR Murphy had big seasons and will look to expand on that and continue to improve. For some reason neither has garnered a ton of attention but both are some of the best in the minors at their respective positions. If either has another season like 2013, they should garner further attention.
Jose Ramirez is a guy who just needs to put together a full season and will be considered a top guy. He just has to stay healthy in 2014. The other Jose, Jose Campos had a successful, healthy 2013 and will be ready to log some serious innings next year. If and when that happens, he could go back to top prospect status.
The last person I would like to mention is Gil Patterson. In 2013 he was getting the lay of the land and implementing some of his policies for the Yankees’ system. Now in his second year, we should start to see some of the effects of his development program and we should see some improvement in the pitching output.
The key to any farm system is health. The Yankees had statistically ridiculous bad luck with injuries in 2013. A relatively healthy season in 2014 from Yankees prospects will result in a major improvement in the perception of their system in 2014. There’s no such thing as a crystal ball and no one can predict the future, but by the law of averages the Yankees are due for a relatively healthy season. If this happens, don’t be surprised if this time next year everyone is talking about the Yankees farm and how good it is.