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New York Yankees Top 10 Prospects 2011

With many franchises, the success of the Yankees farm system in 2010 would have been the story of the organization's year.

New York had breakthrough after breakthrough in the minors, with power-armed righthanders Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman having their best seasons and second-tier prospects such as third baseman Brandon Laird, righty Ivan Nova and infielder Eduardo Nunez turning in strong performances at upper levels. The top three affiliates reached the playoffs, with high Class A Tampa winning the Florida State League title.

But that's not what grabs headlines in New York. The Yankees won 95 games, led the planet in runs scored and once again dominated the Twins in the American League Division Series, but the season was viewed as a disappointment because they fell short of repeating as World Series champions. Not only did they lose to the Rangers in the AL Championships Series, but they were clearly the inferior team, getting outscored 31-6 in their four losses.

Counting the playoffs, New York split its last 68 games after July 31. For glass-half-empty Yankee fans, there were plenty of negatives, from the death of owner George Steinbrenner and former public-address announcer Bob Sheppard to empty seats at ALCS games to the impending free agency of franchise icon Derek Jeter.

Jeter is expected back for 2011, as is closer Mariano Rivera, also a free agent. New York has done a nice job of mixing in productive homegrown youngsters to go with the veterans—Robinson Cano had an MVP-caliber season, Phil Hughes won 18 games in his first full season as a starter and Brett Gardner ranked in the AL top 10 in on-base percentages, stolen bases and assists—yet the club still needs changes.

A.J. Burnett and Javier Vazquez flopped badly and Andy Pettitte is contemplating retirement, making starting pitching an offseason priority. The Yankees' modest defense and lack of athleticism was exposed during the regular season by the Rays, who beat them out for the AL East division title, and in the playoffs by the Rangers.

The Yankees, who have had MLB's highest payroll in each of the last 12 seasons, have the resources to buy the solutions to their problems. They could pursue free agents Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth, and no club can outspend New York for a player it truly wants.

In addition to using their wallet, the Yankees also could use their farm system to improve their big league club. They have the talent and depth to put together attractive trade packages, with three attractive catchers (Jesus Montero, Gary Sanchez, Austin Romine), plenty of up-the-middle talent (Nunez, outfielder Slade Heathcott and 2010 draftees Cito Culver and Mason Williams) and a bevy of righthanded pitchers (Betances, Brackman, Hector Noesi, Nova). The system's only significant shortages appear to be corner bats, where Laird stands out significantly, and lefthanded pitching, where Manny Banuelos is the lone legitimate prospect.

New York also appears inclined to try to build its bench from within, rather than with veteran washouts such as Austin Kearns and Randy Winn. Laird and Nunez could be multipositional reserves in 2011, which would let the Yankees stretch their $200 million budget, if such a thing can be said.

TOP TEN PROSPECTS
1. Jesus Montero, c
2. Gary Sanchez, c
3. Dellin Betances, rhp
4. Manny Banuelos, lhp
5. Andrew Brackman, rhp
6. Austin Romine, c
7. Hector Noesi, rhp
8. Eduardo Nunez, ss/3b
9. Slade Heathcott, of
10. Brandon Laird, 3b

BEST TOOLS
Best Hitter for Average Jesus Montero
Best Power Hitter Jesus Montero
Best Strike-Zone Discipline David Adams
Fastest Baserunner Mason Williams
Best Athlete Melky Mesa
Best Fastball Dellin Betances
Best Curveball Andrew Brackman
Best Slider David Phelps
Best Changeup Jose Ramirez
Best Control Hector Noesi
Best Defensive Catcher Austin Romine
Best Defensive Infielder Eduardo Nunez
Best Infield Arm Eduardo Nunez
Best Defensive Outfielder Slade Heathcott
Best Outfield Arm Melky Mesa

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PROJECTED 2014 LINEUP
Catcher Gary Sanchez
First Base Mark Teixeira
Second Base Robinson Cano
Third Base Alex Rodriguez
Shortstop Eduardo Nunez
Left Field Brett Gardner
Center Field Slade Heathcott
Right Field Curtis Granderson
Designated Hitter Jesus Montero
No. 1 Starter C.C. Sabathia
No. 2 Starter Phil Hughes
No. 3 Starter Dellin Betances
No. 4 Starter Manny Banuelos
No. 5 Starter Hector Noesi
Closer Andrew Brackman

TOP PROSPECTS OF THE DECAD
2001 Nick Johnson, 1b Yankees
2002 Drew Henson, 3b Out of baseball
2003 Jose Contreras, rhp Phillies
2004 Dioner Navarro, c Rays
2005 Eric Duncan, 1b Braves
2006 Phil Hughes, rhp Yankees
2007 Phil Hughes, rhp Yankees
2008 Joba Chamberlain, rhp Yankees
2009 Austin Jackson, of Yankees
2010 Jesus Montero, c Yankees

TOP DRAFT PICKS OF THE DECADE
2001 John-Ford Griffin, of Newark (Atlantic)
2002 Brandon Weeden, rhp (2nd) Out of baseball
2003 Eric Duncan, 3b Braves
2004 Phil Hughes, rhp Yankees
2005 C.J. Henry, ss Out of baseball
2006 Ian Kennedy, rhp Diamondbacks
2007 Andrew Brackman, rhp Yankees
2008 *Gerrit Cole, rhp UCLA 2009 Slade Heathcott, of Yankees
2010 Cito Culver, ss Yankees
*Did not sign

LARGEST BONUSES IN CLUB HISTORY
Hideki Irabu, 1997 $8,500,000
Jose Contreras, 2002 $6,000,000
Andrew Brackman, 2007 $3,350,000
Gary Sanchez, 2009 $3,000,000
Wily Mo Pena, 1999 $2,440,000

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