Brian Cashman has improvements to make to the current team to help the Yankees prospects in the future.
By Mike Mazzeo
Last week, the Yankees introduced many of their top prospects to the Bronx.
Now, with spring training fast approaching, it’s back to baseball.
The Bombers currently have the second-best farm system in the game, according to Keith Law of ESPN.
They had been 13th in Law’s rankings in 2016, but ascended to the No. 2 spot, just behind Atlanta, when GM Brian Cashman moved Aroldis Chapman andAndrew Miller at the trade deadline in exchange for Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield.
Add 2016 first-rounder Blake Rutherford, 2015 first-rounder James Kaprielian, Jorge Mateo, Chance Adams and others to the mix, and the total talent inside New York’s minor-league prospect base is significant. And that’s not even counting potential diamonds in the rough. The Yankees will also have a mid-first in the 2017 MLB draft.
Writes Law: “There’s no weakness here. They will trot out teams full of prospects at every level, and several of them will show up in the Bronx this year. I don’t know if Gleyber Torres is the new (Derek) Jeter or James Kaprielian the new (Andy) Pettitte, but I’ll take that bet.”
From left, Yankees prospects James Kaprelian, Chance Adams, Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres.
The Bombers have been very open about wanting to get younger and create payroll flexibility — while still competing in the present — in order to potentially make a run at “big-game hunting” the likes of Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Matt Harvey come free agency 2018-19.
Until then, according to Cashman, “We’re going to be in position to do a number of things.”
In a retooling year, the Yankees hope to trot out young 20-somethings Greg Bird and Aaron Judge in everyday roles, joining Gary Sanchez, who took 2,441 at-bats in the minors before ascending to a top-5 hitter in all of baseball over the final third of last season.
The goal is that many of these players will be the foundation of the next homegrown core. But the reality is that some may get hurt or fail to live up to expectations.
Still, having all this young talent means the Yankees will be on the minds of every team looking to turn prospects into quality major-league pieces. Cashman certainly does his due diligence anyway, but who knows what types of trade offers he may be presented with moving forward.
Maybe consistent, cost-effective and controllable lefty Jose Quintana isn’t a fit now given the White Sox’s steep asking price, but maybe he will become a fit down the road. Daily News columnist John Harper has also mentioned Pirates ace Gerrit Cole, a former Yankees first-rounder in 2008 who stunningly didn’t sign with them, as someone who potentially fits the bill.
The starting rotation, after all, remains a question mark both now and in the future. Masahiro Tanaka can opt out at season’s end, while Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia are entering the final year of their deals. Luis Severino hopefully will be more flexible physically and more reliable as a result, but his spot isn’t a given, and the rest of the options for the back-end certainly don’t wow you, at least on paper anyway.
As such, it would be nice if Kaprielian does eventually become “the guy.” The Bombers haven’t had a consistent, homegrown top-of-the-rotation starter since Chien-Ming Wang a decade ago, so they could use another.
In the meantime, fans figure to be checking the box scores in Tampa, Trenton and Scranton just as frequently as they do in New York. There is intrigue and excitement. The possibility of late-season call-ups exists. Continued development of the kids will be paramount. As will knowing when to keep the Mariano Riveras and when to trade the Jesus Monteros.
Easier said than done, of course.