MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo wrote that the New York Yankees are optimistic with regards to their farm system entering 2014. The Yankees farm system has long been ridiculed by people familiar with the minor league teams. And for good reason.
Besides Derek Jeter, who will be retiring at season’s end, Brett Gardner is the only offensive starter to come through the farm. Similarly, Ivan Nova is the only pitcher in the starting rotation that the Yankees developed. We have heard the hype for years about future stars coming through the minors. Guys like Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy. Then there were the Killer B’s. Offensively, Jesus Montero was supposed to be an All-Star catcher for years to come as Jorge Posada left the fold. Needless to say, none of those players really panned out so far. I say so far because the jury is still out on Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances. It’s not a stretch to say the farm system has been atrocious for years.
But according to Yankees’ senior vice president of baseball operations, Mark Newman, that is all going to change-soon.
Through just a few weeks of spring training, the Yankees are encouraged by what they have seen from one of their top prospects, Mason Williams. Williams has always been an excellent defender, but his offensive numbers have never gotten him past Double-A. Couple that with what some viewed as a lack of effort, the speedy outfielder has been discouraging thus far. Williams had a good showing in the Arizona Fall league, and is showing more consistency in spring training. If he can continue this level of improvement, Mason Williams will move himself up the ranks of not only Yankees prospects, but the top outfield prospects in baseball.
Newman also mentioned two other outfield prospects, Slade Heathcott and Tyler Austin as guys that should bounce back. Both are highly regarded (No. 3 and 6 Yankees’ prospects, respectively) and both have disappointed thus far. The two out fielders have both been dealing with injuries and need to get healthy. “We still think they’re talented,” Newman said about the pair, and others. “Those performances can turn around easily. We had an unhappy convergence of some of that stuff. We’ll see how it goes. We’re all working hard, the players are working hard, to improve their performances.” said Newman.
There is no question that Gary Sanchez is still the Yankees top prospect. Despite the fact that he is blocked at catcher for the forseeable future, the Yankees need Sanchez to continue to develop as a hitter, as he is the gem of the system and may be needed as trade bait down the road.
One prospect that Mayo looks at as a “Breakout Candidate” is Bryan Mitchell. Mitchell was drafted in 2009 and has not shown much since then despite having an upper 90′s fastball and -at times- a nasty curve. Towards the end of last year, Mitchell began tinkering with a cutter, and that seemed to really help the Yanks number 14 prospect. He earned a call up to Double-A last year and pitched to a 1.93 ERA in three starts. Mitchell has not given up a run in 2.0 innings this spring.
If these guys, along with others, can continue to produce and improve, people besides Mark Newman may be singing the praise of the Yankees’ farm system for the first time in a while.