I get that most people are not into minor league baseball. Let’s face it, the level of competition is not the same as the majors and 90% of players in the minors will never sniff the majors. Some of the best and most dedicated Yankees fans out there know nothing about their farm system and it doesn’t make them any less of a fan.
While all of that may be true, it’s also a fact that almost every player in the majors has spent time in the minors, or at least some form of baseball where the talent cannot match up to the majors. The stars that we all love to watch in the majors had to come from somewhere. Following the minors allows you to have a keen eye for who may be the next big thing in the majors.
Listed below are five reasons I believe the Yankees farm system is worth following in 2014.
1. A year in players returning from injury. Since I began following the Yankees farm system, I cannot think of a year where there were more prominent players returning from injuries. This includes some former highly ranked prospects who dropped in the rankings almost solely because of their injuries.
Here’s a list of guys who will be looking to stay healthy in 2014. I can guarantee that at least a couple of these guys are going to make a big splash this year. Manny Banuelos returns from his seemingly inevitable Tommy John Surgery. He is a former #1 prospect in the Yankees system and only fell out of that position because of his injury. He’ll start in Triple-A.
Other names to look out for are Michael Pineda, Nick Goody, Gabe Encinas, Tyler Austin (finally fully healthy), Ty Hensley, Matt Tracy, Caleb Frare, Ronnier Mustelier, Rob Segedin, Matt Snyder, Vidal Nuno and Jairo Heredia. There are some serious breakout candidates on that list (I’m looking at you Nick Goody, Gabe Encinas, Ty Hensley, and Matt Snyder).
2. 2014 has the potential to be a year of redemption. There are several prospects who faltered a bit when they moved to Double-A. This is a common occurrence amongst minor leaguers, even those who eventually become effective major leaguers. Still others had rough first halves only to begin to pick it up during the second half, putting them in line for a season of redemption also.
Adonis Garcia and Ronnier Mustelier will look to rebound from their lackluster performances last season, and will look to stay healthy as well. A big year from them will mean they are ready to help the major league team now.
Mark Montgomery didn’t even perform badly in 2013, but he will look to get back to his old self this year and get back to the complete and utter domination that got him where he is today.
Jose Ramirez is another guy whose performance could have been better in 2013 but will look to make a name for himself this year. Last year he really made a splash in Spring Training.
Perhaps no one has more to prove and rebound from than the group in Double-A Trenton. Tyler Austin, Slade Heathcott, Ramon Flores, and Gary Sanchez will all be looking to have rebound seasons. You can add Mason Williams to that list too. Less than a year ago Branden Pinder was a top relief prospect. All he needs to do is find the zone again and he’ll be right back in that discussion.
One of the biggest redemption candidates is Cito Culver. We all know the depths he had to overcome to reach High-A and crush the ball at that level late last season. Rafael DePaula and Dietrich Enns have redemption on their minds for the struggles they both had in the second half.
Dante Bichette and Angelo Gumbs will look to redeem themselves from the past two seasons. Dan Camarena and Evan Rutckyj will look to take their stuff to the next level and redeem their poor statistics from 2013.
Some of these guys are bound to find redemption in 2014, and there are very few things that are more exciting to watch than a player who rebounds after a poor season. I know comeback player of the year is one of my favorite awards in the majors.
3. There are several players poised for breakout seasons in 2014. Just going by my picks, there are many candidates; Miguel Andujar, Caleb Smith, Cito Culver, Rookie Davis, Brady Lail, Abiatal Avelino, and Brandon Thomas. All look like they are poised for a breakout season in 2014. The prospect profiles are all linked.
4. The new draftees. Aaron Judge, Ian Clarkin, and Eric Jagielo will all play full time in 2014. Judge’s massive frame and power, Jagielo’s all around talent, and Clarkin’s raw talent will all be on full display in 2014. It will be fun to watch.
5. Last year’s breakout players are looking for a repeat performance. Greg Bird, JR Murphy, Luis Severino, Dellin Betances, Vidal Nuno, Shane Greene, Dan Burawa, Chase Whitley, Robert Refsnyder, Peter O’Brien, Jake Cave, Ben Gamel, Jose Campos, and others will look to build upon their breakout seasons last year.
This doesn’t even include the guys like Phelps, Warren, and Claiborne who will be doing the same at the major league level. Off the top of my head I am most excited to see what Betances, Bird, and Murphy can do.
It’s going to be an eventful year on the farm one way or the other for the Yankees. If you are a fan of the Yankees who has always been curious about the farm but wanted to find the right time to dive in, this could be it. There’s a lot of excitement at the lower levels and there’s a fair amount of talent knocking at the door of the major leagues. While the system got poor reviews from prospect pundits in 2013, people may be surprised at the output in 2014.