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|TOP 10 PROSPECTS|
|1. Luis Severino, rhp|
|2. Aaron Judge, of|
|3. Jorge Mateo, ss|
|4. Greg Bird, 1b|
|5. Gary Sanchez, c|
|6. Ian Clarkin, lhp|
|7. Rob Refsnyder, 2b/of|
|8. Jacob Lindgren, lhp|
|9. Luis Torrens, c|
|10. Miguel Andujar, 3b|
The 2014 season represented the closing of two eras in Yankees history, one far more publicized than the other.
The first was the close of shortstop Derek Jeter's career, which featured a season-long retirement tour, a walk-off single in his final game and mountains of praise along the way. The second was the retirement of farm director Mark Newman, who had served the team for 26 seasons and had headed up minor league operations for the last 15 years.
And while Jeter's successor will have a more immediate impact, the man chosen to replace Newman likely will have more significant long-term ramifications. The team's system had failed to produce capable replacements for its cavalcade of injured stars, a problem that will continue so long as aging veterans like Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and, yes, Alex Rodriguez remain on the roster.
The farm system did tick up this year and got good production at the major league level from righthander Shane Greene (5-4, 3.78) and Dellin Betances, who set the Yankees' record for strikeouts by a reliever with 135 in 90 innings. But there was little homegrown help for an anemic offense that ranked 20th in the majors in runs.
General manager Brian Cashman, signed to a new three-year contract in early October, tried to use the farm system to reinforce the roster via trades, acquiring third baseman Chase Headley, versatile bat Martin Prado and righthander Brandon McCarthy, yielding mostly fringe prospects led by power-hitting catcher Peter O'Brien. McCarthy re-introduced his cutter and found new life in the Bronx, going 7-5, 2.89, and all three could factor into New York's hopes for 2015, if McCarthy and Headley are re-signed.
Avoiding a third straight year without a playoff spot will require better luck on the injury front, especially from Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka, who pitched like an ace in his rookie season when healthy but who is dealing with a partial ligament tear in his elbow that could require surgery. Ivan Nova will be coming back from Tommy John surgery that sidelined him after four starts, and CC Sabathia will be coming off knee surgery at age 34, two years removed from his last productive season. And with no regular in the lineup under the age of 30, good luck on the injury front seems unlikely.
The Yankees did see progress in the minors, led by righthander Luis Severino, who used a powerful fastball and a well-above-average changeup to burn through both Class A levels with ease before ending the season at Double-A. The organization's trio of first-round picks from 2013—third baseman Eric Jagielo, lefty Ian Clarkin and outfielder Aaron Judge—each had positive seasons. Teenaged Dominican shortstop Jorge Mateo, the owner of the arguably best tool set in the system, dazzled in a short look before a broken left wrist ended his domestic debut season.
Mateo isn't close to being able to replace Jeter, so New York likely will have to go outside the organization for a replacement, as it had to when Robinson Cano left for Seattle last offseason. Gary Denbo, who's spent years in the Yankees' system under a variety of roles, was appointed to replace Newman. He'll be charged with replacing the slew of other personnel—Gordon Blakeley, Pat Roessler, Trey Hillman, Butch Wynegar, Kevin Long and Mick Kelleher among them—who departed early in the offseason. More importantly, Denbo will be asked to continue the turnaround of a farm system that hasn't produced impact players capable of aiding the big league club in recent years.