Top Ten Prospects: New York Yankees
Complete Index of Top 10s
By John Manuel
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2005.
The challenge for the Yankees every year is to add World Series championship No. 27. Losing to their most bitter rival, the Red Sox, in history-making fashion doesn’t add to the pressure to win. The Yankees already put enough of that on themselves.
However, blowing a 3-0 lead to Boston in the American League Championship Series did highlight New York's shortcomings. The big league team lacked pitching depth both in its aging rotation and particularly in its bullpen. With a payroll of $190 million, that’s an indictment of both the Yankees' choices of how to spend that money and the farm system's inability to develop low-cost players to fill holes.
Changes were forthcoming whether the Yankees had held onto their lead or not. Albatross contracts such as Jason Giambi's (owed $82 million over the next four seasons) and Kevin Brown's ($15 million in 2005) will be next to impossible to move. That leaves New York with little flexibility, and the only way to improve the club may be to take the payroll well past $200 million.
The Yankees will have to get help from outside the organization because their farm system has little to offer in the upper levels. Second baseman Robinson Cano, catcher Dioner Navarro and righthander Chien-Ming Wang could contribute in New York in 2005, though none is a lock to receive much playing time.
A series of conservative and essentially fruitless drafts from 1998-2002 are the root cause for the upper-level talent gap. That cost scouting director Lin Garrett his job, as he was reassigned and put in charge of international scouting after the 2004 draft.
His last effort might have been Garrett's best, as the organization is excited about a flotilla of righthanders, led by high schoolers Philip Hughes (first round) and Christian Garcia (third) and also featuring collegians Jeff Marquez (supplemental first), Brett Smith (second) and Jesse Hoover (fifth). Add in the development of 2003 draftees Steven White (fourth) and Tyler Clippard (ninth), and the Yankees have started to build up their minor league mound corps.
“There’s no question we’re in better shape in terms of depth,” said Mark Newman, Yankees senior vice president of baseball operations and longtime head of the farm department. “It will take a couple of years, but we’re going to get things turned around. We’ll do it.”
To do so, the Yankees have reshuffled their minor league operation. Vice president Damon Oppenheimer, who had overseen player development, now will focus on scouting. The new farm director and field coordinator is former Astros minor league hitting coordinator Pat Roessler, a former assistant coach under Newman at Old Dominion.
Stump Merrill, who has won 1,460 games in the minors and another 120 in New York, won't manage in 2005. The Yankees also upgraded their low Class A affiliate, trading Battle Creek in the cold Midwest League for fair-weather Charleston, S.C., one of the gems of the South Atlantic League.
New York continues to rely heavily on its Latin American department. In addition to Cano and Navarro, infielder Marcos Vechionacci and outfielders Melky Cabrera and Rudy Guillen also intrigue the Yankees. They've become a major player in Venezuela and have the resources to be a factor in the pursuit of every major international (and, of course, domestic) free agent.
Just being a player, though, isn’t enough for Steinbrenner and the Yankees. It’s not good enough when their payroll dwarfs that of every other team. And it hasn't been good enough to win a World Series in the 21st century.
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