Thanks to the constraints of a new austerity plan, the Yankees have not had a very inspiring off season. And, if the team continues to chart the same financial course, the next several winters could be just as barren. Without free agent signings and blockbuster trades to supply the team’s deficiencies, the Bronx Bombers could become increasingly dependent on their own minor league system for sustenance. Are the Yankees prepared to become subsistence farmers? At least according to ESPN’s Keith Law, there may be reason to think a bumper crop is on its way to the Bronx.
For the second consecutive season, Law rated the Yankees’ farm system 10th overall, but the team’s stable position in the rankings suggests a more robust prospect pipeline when you consider the injuries to Jose Campos and Manny Banuelos as well as the severe regression of Dellin Betances. Even without those three pitching prospects figuring as prominently in 2013, the Yankees maintained their ranking on the strength of a developing core of position players, a group from which Law suggests “three above-average or better regulars” could emerge.
Keith Laws’ Yearly Organizational Rankings for AL East, 2009-2013
Judging prospects is an inexact science to put it mildly. After all, according to many observers, the aforementioned Banuelos and Betances were supposed to be knocking on the door this season. Nonetheless, in addition to Law, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo, John Sickels, and Baseball America are all very high on the likes of Mason Williams, Tyler Austin and Gary Sanchez, with Slade Heathcott also turning heads. If the Yankees have better luck with their position player blue chips, they could wind up with a new core to replace the one that is slowly burning out.
If the Yankees’ current crop of prospects wasn’t enough cause for optimism, the farm system should get another boost this June, when the team makes three selections in the first and compensatory rounds of the amateur draft. On only three other occasions have the Yankees had as many picks before the second round, so the team should have a unique opportunity to bolster its organizational depth, provided, of course, they draft wisely. Although the current draft rules, which include slotting, are much different from the past, it’s worth noting that the team has not drafted well when it has had several early picks, so nothing is a given.
Years in Which Yankees Drafted Three Times Before 2nd Round
Are Damon Oppenheimer and the franchise’s scouting department equal to the task? Yankee fans had better hope so. If the team intends to sustain perennial success without spending at accustomed levels, a deep and strong farm system is no longer a luxury, but an absolute necessity. In other words, those who follow the Bronx Bombers would be wise to pay even more attention to the minor leagues because where the Yankees rate in prospect rankings today could say a lot about where they end up in tomorrow’s standings.