Organizational Rankings: Future Talent – Yankees

The New York Yankees club is clearly the No. 1 organization in baseball and it has remained a powerhouse for as long as it has because of its ability to sustain itself through in-house player development. The club has done this both by slotting home-grown talent into key roles and by trading prospects for proven veterans.

General manager Brian Cashman does not get the credit that he deserves, partially because he has been overshadowed by the Steinbrenners, and in part due to the fact that he has a large budget to work with. Make no mistake about it, though, he rarely makes a bad move.

Damon Oppenheimer enters his sixth season overseeing the amateur draft. The club has done a respectable job in recent years despite having one of the last selections in the first round. The club picked up some interesting talent in ’09, including outfielder Slade Heathcott, catcher J.R. Murphy, and pitcher Bryan Mitchell. The club’s ’08 effort was a little ugly when the club failed to sign top pick Gerrit Cole and second rounder Scott Bittle. It found some later-round diamonds-in-the-rough to help compensate (Brett Marshall, D.J. Mitchell).

The team also spends a lot of money on the international market. Recent signings include Gary Sanchez, Gian Carlos Arias, Ramon Flores, Jackson Valera, Yeicok Calderon, and Anderson Felix.

The organizaiton has perhaps the best catching depth in baseball, with the likes of Jesus Montero, Austin Romine, Gary Sanchez, and J.R. Murphy. A lot has been made about a possible move from behind the plate for Montero, but he has the bat (and massive power) to play anywhere, while Romine could develop into a Grade-A catching prospect to help fill the gap left behind.

The starting pitching depth in the system is down a bit but the club has spent a lot of money in the free agent market so that’s not a great concern, either. The club does have some talented arms that can help out in the bullpen, including David Robertson, Mark Melancon, and good ol’ Joba Chamberlain. Phil Hughes is a rare youngster that has been able to crack the veteran-laden starting rotation after cutting his teeth in the bullpen in ’09. And don’t forget that he’s still just 23 years old.

The starting lineup does not feature many young players, but left-fielder Brett Gardner is expected to play regularly for the club. He should much-needed speed on the base paths. New center-fielder Curtis Granderson was acquired this past off-season for young players Austin Jackson, Phil Coke, and Ian Kennedy. All three players have potential but they had greater value to the organization as trading chips. And Granderson could absolutely explode playing in Yankee stadium and with the lineup protection around him.

The main core of the Yankees big league club is getting older, but the team’s ability to compete is not going to disappear any time soon. It has the resources and know-how to ensure that the organization remains a powerhouse for years to come.




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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.


20 Responses to “Organizational Rankings: Future Talent – Yankees”

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  1. Yo Izzle says:

    I’m a Yankee fan. I think Cashman is one of the best GM’s in baseball right now. But to say he has “rarely” made a mistake is inaccurate:

    Kei Igawa, Carl Pavano, Randy Johnson trade, Jaret Wright, Kevin Brown, Sidney Ponson (twice), Irabu, Tony Womack

    And more recently you have Marte’s 3-year contract, losing Bruney and Gaudin and Edwar while getting essentially nothing in return, Gerrit Cole fiasco, and giving ARod a 10-year contract into his early 40′s.

    So yeah he’s awesome and all, and perhaps some of these listed mistakes are nitpicking (like Ponson who was inexpensive) but there are enough bad ones in there to render it inaccurate to say that he “rarely” makes a bad move.

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    • Kevin S. says:

      Um, Bruney and Gaudin didn’t exactly have much value for the salaries they were making – what did you expect the Yankees to get for them? Irabu pre-dated Cashman, and Randy Johnson wasn’t necessarily a mistake.

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      • Jeremy says:

        Irabu wasn’t even a mistake, necessarily. He was a quality pitcher in 1998, and the Yankees were able to flip him to the Expos for Lilly and Westbrook (in turn traded for Justice).

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      • Zack says:

        What? You mean we couldn’t trade Bruney and Gaudin for Pujols?! Cashman is the worst GM!
        :)

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    • descender says:

      Carl Pavano was not Cashman’s fault. Let’s not forget that we outbid about 5 other teams for his services. Ditto for Brown. Ponson was never brought in to be more than a 5th starter.

      Glaring mistakes are more like Toronto’s contract with Vernon Wells.

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    • Jairus says:

      Cashman didn’t have full control until after the 2005 season.

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    • Tom Zig says:

      Kei Igawa- Cashman’s mistake

      Carl Pavano – Turned out to be a mistake, but not a mistake at the time. Several other teams wanted him, and in fact the Red Sox offered more money than the Yankees. (Not confirmed if Cashman had full authority at the time)

      Randy Johnson – Edict from King George. Not necessarily a mistake at the time either.

      Jaret Wright – Risky move, but he was the 2nd best pitcher on the FA market at the time. Turned out to be a mistake, but not a crippling one. (Not confirmed if Cashman had full authority at the time)

      Kevin Brown – Not a Cashman move

      Sidney Ponson – Mistake. But in 2008 the Yanks were desperate for pitching, and he cost nothing.

      Irabu – Not a cashman move.

      Womack- Yeah so he sucked. (Not confirmed if Cashman had full authority at the time).

      Marte – Awesome lefty reliever when healthy. Why not lock him up?

      Bruney/Gaudin/Edwar – Nitpicking. None of the three are valuable pieces. zOMG HE LET GO OF EDWAR CASH IS TEH SUX0R

      Gerrit Cole – Not Cashman’s fault. The Yanks offered him a considerable amount of money, he just wanted to go to college.

      A-Rod – Hank Steinbrenner’s last move. Not Cashman’s doing.

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  2. Tom Wilson says:

    Rather with his margin of error his bad moves never cripple the club. He does deserve credit for doing a fine job at the top of the heap, never forget that a single Giambi/Pavano signing would cripple a mid market team. The Ramon Ramirez/Shawn Chacon was hardly a winner but it is probably nit-picking to bring it up.

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    • Rick in Boston says:

      It’s not like the Giambi contract was bad, though. The Yankees got very good value with the exception of two of the seven years.

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  3. Seels says:

    I really disagree with the assessment of future talent.

    Beyond Montero, their farm system isn’t anything special. Maybe that changes, but even with Montero, they’re still not in the top half of farms.

    Their have several old core players at key positions(Posada, Jeter, Mariano, Arod , Pettitte). Even the free agents they acquired recently aren’t really young ones, Teixeira is 30, AJ is 33, and CC turns 30 this year.

    On top of that, they have some iffy contract situations. CC can opt out at the end of 11, Arod is on the hook for another 8 years (and as a Red Sox fan, I’m looking forward to what they expect out of a 40+ Arod), and Jeter will likely resign to some deal making him play til he’s around 40.

    You can assume the payroll will get future talent to some extent, but with the ages of their players and the current state of their minor league system, I don’t know how you can justify a #1 ranking if this is based off a future setting. They’ll always be the Yankees, but even the Yankees age. The Phillies, in an extremely similar situation, were quite a few places further down.

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    • Standard_Deviance says:

      I’m a Yankees fan and I agree with most of this… there are a few worst case scenarios in the 2-5 year time horizon in which the team is saddled with a number of awful contracts that would cripple even their ability to make personnel decisions.

      That said, they look very strong in the near-to-medium term, their FO decision-making generally seems to be sound, and they have truckloads of cash. So you can’t ding them too much for the possibility of a doomsday scenario. If they’re not #1, they’re in the top 3 for sure.

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  4. dan l says:

    Cashman’s biggest mistake was resigning O’neill for his last year. He should have signed both Mussina and Manny. He learned from that when the same opportunity presented itself again. This time he signed the best pitcher and hitter.

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  5. CBB says:

    Not signing Bittle ended up being pretty smart. His arm is about as likely to hold up as Jeff Francoeur is to lead the league in BB%. Has he even pitched in the minors?

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  6. nick says:

    This writeup is an April fools joke, right? Horrible job.

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  7. seeknayog says:

    Gerrit Cole is Cashman’s fault.
    It is the general draft philosophy that the Yankees take.
    They are willing to go after huge potential/huge risk players.
    These are the players that are upper talent that teams pass on because they likely will not sign.
    Everyone knew Cole would be a hard sign. So if you draft him and he doesnt sign, it is your fault.
    Another high risk high reward player is Brackman. They knew he needed Tommy John surgery but if he had been healthy he would have been a top 10 pick.

    With all of that being said, I am not saying its a bad philosophy for a few reasons.
    1) MLB now gives an extra pick the following year for high picks not signed.
    2) Would you rather have a 4 tool ceiling steady guy or take a real shot at a 5 tool super star? This is in line with the whole Yankee philosophy. They want all stars at every position. With the Yankees resources, they can make up the gaps not filled through their system. The higher upside guys are also more trade able..

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    • Davor says:

      Yankees had several discussions with Cole and/or his representatives and were convinced that he was willing to go pro for a right offer. He changed his mind and decided that he wanted to go to college.
      Was there anyone drafted between Cole and Bittle who was much better prospect than Heathcott is now? If not, Yankees lost very little.

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  8. Davor says:

    You can’t say Brown was a mistake. He was their ace before whatever bug or something he got in Japan finally sapped his strength. If Yankee medical service was better at preventing, or at least diagnosing what Brown and Giambi had, Yankees would have had comfortable division victory and their ace and best power threat in form for playoffs.

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  9. Mike R. says:

    The Chacon for Ramirez wasn’t that bad of a trade either, at least when you look at the results. He pitched effectively for the rest of the season and filled a large gap. Aaron Small was a nice find for that one year as was El Duque.

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