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, 2006.
Robinson Cano proved it can be done. So did Chien-Ming Wang. The Dominican second baseman and Taiwanese righthander showed that the Yankees can develop homegrown talent and give those players a chance to earn roles in the major leagues. That’s still true with a payroll that has soared past $200 million, and with a farm system that hasn’t produced in recent years as it once did.
The homegrown core of the club that has won eight consecutive American League East titles and made nine straight playoff appearances (including four World Series titles) is still effective but aging. Bernie Williams, 37, has declined significantly and will have to make room for Johnny Damon if he wants to stay in New York. Jorge Posada, 34, has shown signs of slipping. While Derek Jeter, 31, and Mariano Rivera, 36, remain star players of the first order, they need more homegrown help, or else the payroll will continue to soar.
The Yankees continue to have the game’s highest revenues—around $335 million in 2005—but their unquenchable thirst to spend appears to have abated. The New York Daily News reported the club lost between $50 million and $85 million, in part due to revenue-sharing and luxury-tax payments. Responding to reality and fan demand (New York drew an AL-record 4.09 million fans in 2005), the Yankees have raised ticket prices, with top seats fetching $110 a game.
General manager Brian Cashman was expected to leave New York when his contract ended after the 2005 season, but he and manager Joe Torre returned, extending a run of stability dating to 1997. Only Atlanta (John Schuerholz, Bobby Cox) and St. Louis (Walt Jocketty, Tony La Russa) have had greater continuity in the GM and manager roles.
Cashman and Torre will try to claim the Yankees’ 27th World Series crown while holding the line on payroll, relatively speaking of course. However, the graduation of Cano and Wang to New York left the system painfully thin at the upper levels, particularly in Triple-A. Eric Duncan, No. 1 on this list a year ago, was rushed to Double-A and struggled, hitting just .235, but he rebounded with a strong effort in the Arizona Fall League while moving from third base to first. Duncan may be a big leaguer soon, and third base, thanks to AL MVP Alex Rodriguez, is taken.
While Duncan remains a good prospect, he was passed by 2004 first-round
pick Philip Hughes, who symbolizes the state of the system. In the last
two years, New York has added high-end prospects at the lower levels
with international signings and a more aggressive approach in the draft.
The organization has potential impact bats such as outfielders Jose
Tabata and Austin Jackson and infielders C.J. Henry and Eduardo Nunez,
as well as intriging arms in Hughes, Christian Garcia and Jeff Marquez.
Loaded Yankees affiliates won championships in the short-season New
York-Penn and Rookie-level Gulf Coast leagues, but most of their best
talent has yet to play above the Class A level.
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