New York Yankees Top 10 Prospects 2007

The Yankees farm system, which ranked among the worst in baseball in both 2004 and 2005, had reason to be proud during the 2006 stretch run.

In their first full seasons in New York, Chien-Ming Wang tied for the major league lead with 19 victories and Robinson Cano chased the American League batting crown with a .342 average. Melky Cabrera, who stumbled badly in a brief 2005 callup, came through with a solid contribution while filling in for the injured Hideki Matsui. The Yankees also had enough lower-level prospects that they didn’t have to part with any of their blue-chippers when they acquired outfielder Bob Abreu and righthander Cory Lidle from the Phillies in July. (New York’s ability and willingness to absorb $23 million in contract obligations also was a major factor.)

But none of that seemed to matter in October. Lidle’s death in an airplane crash was the worst thing that happened that month, coming on the heels of a first-round playoff loss to the Tigers in which the Yankees started Jaret Wright in an elimination game. Alex Rodriguez, the game’s highest-paid player, continued to run afoul of Yankees fans and capped an erratic season with a 1-for-14 postseason effort. Several media outlets called for the firing of Joe Torre, though owner George Steinbrenner chose to keep the manager after his 11th season.

General manager Brian Cashman clearly influenced that move and made most of the big decisions surrounding the Yankees this year as the 75-year-old Steinbrenner faded more into the background. Cashman, who has centralized many of the club’s operations in New York (rather than in Tampa, Steinbrenner’s home), has been GM during the club’s nine-year run atop the American League East. But New York hasn’t won a World Series championship since 2000 despite spending nearly $1 billion on major league salaries.

The reasons for that failure can be debated, but having to start Wright against the Tigers in Game Four of the Division Series highlighted the Yankees’ inability to develop pitching. The only postseason victory came from Wang—the lone starter they’ve developed and kept since Andy Pettitte. New York’s Plan B has been to use trades and free agency to build its staff.

In the near future, though, the Yankees should have plenty of homegrown options, both in the rotation and in the bullpen. Their last three drafts have brought in several significant arms, and Philip Hughes is arguably the best pitching prospect in the minors. He probably was ready to help New York in September, but the organization played it safe with its top prospect, who nearly doubled his career high for innings in a season. Hughes and fellow starters Tyler Clippard, Jeff Karstens and Steven White, plus relievers T.J. Beam and J. Brent Cox, should be able to contribute in 2007.

As some talent graduates to the top, the Yankees replenished the bottom of their farm system, bringing in as much talent as any organization in 2006. New York spent roughly $7 million on the draft, landing four pitchers (Dellin Betances, Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy and Mark Melancon) who jump into their top 10. The Yankees also spent heavily on a dozen international players, including $2 million for Venezuelan catcher Jesus Montero. While he had a poor minicamp in the fall, Montero was widely regarded as having the most power among 2006 international signees.

1. Philip Hughes, rhp
2. Jose Tabata, of
3. Dellin Betances, rhp
4. Joba Chamberlain, rhp
5. Ian Kennedy, rhp
6. Chris Garcia, rhp
7. Tyler Clippard, rhp
8. J. Brent Cox, rhp
9. Mark Melancon, rhp
10. Brett Gardner, of

Best Hitter for Average Jose Tabata
Best Power Hitter Shelly Duncan
Best Strike-Zone Discipline Brett Gardner
Fastest Baserunner Brett Gardner
Best Athlete Tim Battle
Best Fastball Joba Chamberlain
Best Curveball Philip Hughes
Best Slider J. Brent Cox
Best Changeup Tyler Clippard
Best Control Philip Hughes
Best Defensive Catcher Francisco Cervelli
Best Defensive Infielder Ramiro Pena
Best Infield Arm Marcos Vechionacci
Best Defensive Outfielder Tim Battle
Best Outfield Arm Seth Fortenberry

Catcher Francisco Cervelli
First Base Eric Duncan
Second Base Robinson Cano
Third Base Alex Rodriguez
Shortstop Derek Jeter
Left Field Melky Cabrera
Center Field Johnny Damon
Right Field Jose Tabata
Designated Hitter Bob Abreu
No. 1 Starter Philip Hughes
No. 2 Starter Chien-Ming Wang
No. 3 Starter Dellin Betances
No. 4 Starter Joba Chamberlain
No. 5 Starter Ian Kennedy
Closer Mark Melancon

1997 Ruben Rivera, of White Sox
1998 Eric Milton, lhp Reds
1999 Nick Johnson, 1b Nationals
2000 Nick Johnson, 1b Nationals
2001 Nick Johnson, 1b Nationals
2002 Drew Henson, 3b Out of baseball
2003 Jose Contreras, rhp White Sox
2004 Dioner Navarro, c Devil Rays
2005 Eric Duncan, 3b Yankees
2006 Philip Hughes, rhp Yankees

1997 *Tyrell Godwin, of Nationals
1998 Andy Brown, of Out of baseball
1999 David Walling, rhp Out of baseball
2000 David Parrish, c Pirates
2001 John-Ford Griffin, of Blue Jays
2002 Brandon Weeden, rhp Royals
2003 Eric Duncan, 3b Yankees
2004 Philip Hughes, rhp Yankees
2005 C.J. Henry, ss Phillies 2006 Ian Kennedy, rhp Yankees
* Did not sign

Hideki Irabu, 1997 $8,500,000
Jose Contreras, 2002 $6,000,000
Willy Mo Pena, 1999 $2,440,000
Ian Kennedy, 2006 $2,250,000
Drew Henson, 1998 $2,000,000
Jesus Montero, 2006 $2,000,000

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