New York Yankees: Top 10 Prospects

New York Yankees

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, 2007.

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 AverageJose Tabata
Best Power HitterShelly Duncan
Best Strike-Zone DisciplineBrett Gardner
Fastest BaserunnerBrett Gardner
Best AthleteTim Battle
Best FastballJoba Chamberlain
Best CurveballPhilip Hughes
Best SliderJ. Brent Cox
Best ChangeupTyler Clippard
Best ControlPhilip Hughes
Best Defensive CatcherFrancisco Cervelli
Best Defensive InfielderRamiro Pena
Best Infield ArmMarcos Vechionacci
Best Defensive OutfielderTim Battle
Best Outfield ArmSeth Fortenberry
CatcherFrancisco Cervelli
First BaseEric Duncan
Second BaseRobinson Cano
Third BaseAlex Rodriguez
ShortstopDerek Jeter
Left FieldMelky Cabrera
Center FieldJohnny Damon
Right FieldJose Tabata
Designated HitterBob Abreu
No. 1 StarterPhilip Hughes
No. 2 StarterChien-Ming Wang
No. 3 StarterDellin Betances
No. 4 StarterJoba Chamberlain
No. 5 StarterIan Kennedy
CloserMark Melancon
YearPlayer, Position2006
1997Ruben Rivera, ofWhite Sox
1998Eric Milton, lhpReds
1999Nick Johnson, 1bNationals
2000Nick Johnson, 1bNationals
2001Nick Johnson, 1bNationals
2002Drew Henson, 3bOut of baseball
2003Jose Contreras, rhpWhite Sox
2004Dioner Navarro, cDevil Rays
2005Eric Duncan, 3bYankees
2006Philip Hughes, rhpYankees
YearPlayer, Position2006
1997*Tyrell Godwin, ofNationals
1998Andy Brown, ofOut of baseball
1999David Walling, rhpOut of baseball
2000David Parrish, cPirates
2001John-Ford Griffin, ofBlue Jays
2002Brandon Weeden, rhpRoyals
2003Eric Duncan, 3bYankees
2004Philip Hughes, rhpYankees
2005C.J. Henry, ssPhillies
2006Ian Kennedy, rhpYankees
* 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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New York Yankees

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.