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|TOP 10 PROSPECTS|
|1. Jorge Mateo, ss|
|2. Gary Sanchez, c|
|3. Aaron Judge, of|
|4. James Kaprielian, rhp|
|5. Domingo Acevedo, rhp|
|6. Rookie Davis, rhp|
|7. Tyler Wade, ss|
|8. Rob Refsnyder, 2b|
|9. Wilkerman Garcia, ss|
|10. Dustin Fowler, of|
With only one World Series championship since 2000, the Yankees can’t look down on any playoff appearance anymore. So 87 wins and a wild-card game at Yankee Stadium were positive steps forward for a franchise that had not reached the postseason since 2012.
With a team burdened by the high-dollar, high-age players whose productivity had begun to dip, that looks like an accomplishment. First baseman Mark Teixeira, DH Alex Rodriguez and lefthander C.C. Sabathia combined for $70.5 million of salary, more than 32 percent of the team’s total expenditure. And while they certainly didn’t live up to their contracts, the trio, Teixeira and Rodriguez especially, produced far more than even the most pinstriped of prognosticators could have predicted.
Teixeira swatted 31 homers in 111 games before a broken leg ended his season. Rodriguez, perhaps the biggest wild card in the sport after missing more than a year due to his part in the Biogenisis PED scandal, played 151 games and hit 33 longballs to go with an .842 OPS.
Led by that duo, the Yankees ranked second in the American League in runs, and when Teixeira went down, New York had a homegrown answer. Greg Bird, a 2010 fifth-round pick, subbed in at first base and hit 11 home runs.
And while Sabathia stumbled to 6-10, 4.73, the rest of the team’s rotation showed positive signs, thanks in part to another rookie. Righthander Luis Severino emerged from No. 1 prospect to phenom, going 5-3, 2.89. The rotation wasn’t a strength, but it did enough to set up one of baseball’s best bullpens, led by free-agent closer Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances.
Now the bad news. New York led the AL East by six games in late July before the Blue Jays remade their roster and blew the Yankees away in early August. Dallas Keuchel three-hit them in a wild-card loss to Houston on a day that started with Sabathia turning himself in for alcohol rehab.
To avoid another ugly ending, the Yankees will have to keep changing and evolving. Two of the biggest changes came in the front office. First, Gary Denbo took over as the team’s farm director after Mark Newman, who held the position for 18 years and was part of the organization for 26 years overall, retired at the end of the 2014 season. Denbo’s changes to the organization were subtle, the most notable of which was the use of veteran minor league managers, such as Tony Franklin, at the lowest levels, putting more experienced staff with the least experienced players.
After the season, Billy Eppler, the team’s assistant general manager, took the Angels’ GM position. When he departed, Eppler took Steve Martone, the team’s pro scouting manager, and Eric Chavez, a special assistant, with him to Los Angeles. Pro scout Tim Naehring was named as Eppler’s replacement.
Now GM Brian Cashman hopes the new blood on the roster and in the front office produces old-time results in the Bronx.