The Yankees will kick off Memorial Day by starting a three game interleague set with the Saint Louis Cardinals. While once up a time in the late 1990s, the Yankees were the model franchise in major league baseball, the Cardinals are the model franchise of the present. Over the last decade the Cardinals have made the playoffs seven times. They have won four National League Pennants and the World Series twice in that span. They let a future Hall of Famer in Albert Pujols leave via free agency after winning the World Series and were back in the Series two seasons later.
The Cardinals are stocked with homegrown young talent and rank middle of the pack in terms of payroll. They have developed several good young pitchers starting with Adam Wainwright and more recently Michael Wacha ad Shelby Miller. They have also brought up good young position players as well such as Yadier Molina, Matt Adams, Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig. The also have the best position prospect in the minors in Oscar Taveras. They are set up for success in the present and future and are succeeding on a budget.
If the Cardinals are model franchise in full bloom, the Yankees are small seedling. A seedling that is covered in fertilizer. A lot of fertilizer. The Yankees have some bloated and terrible contracts with Alex Rodriguez being the worst and either Mark Teixeira‘s or CC Sabathia‘s contract battling for second.
Sabathia has three years left on his contract after this season and judging by his performance last season and this season, he may rival ARod for the worst contract on the team shortly. Teixeira meanwhile is having a nice bounce back year from his injury plagued 2013 season. The Yankees also have multiyear deals for several players on the wrong side of thirty in Brian McCann, Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. These contracts are the fertilizer around the seedling.
The seedling itself is growing and maturing. Masahiro Tanaka is a legit ace and only 25 years old. Joining him in the rotation this season have been fellow 25 year old Michael Pineda, 24 year old Chase Whitley, 27 year old David Phelps, and 26 year old Vidal Nuno. Next year will see the return of 27 year old Ivan Nova.
In the minors, the Yankees have one time super prospect Manny Banuelos, who is still only 23. The Yankees have the making of a good young pitching staff for the future. In the bullpen, the Yankees have been riding the sails of a pair of 26 year olds in Dellin Betances and Adam Warren before handing the ball to their 29 year old closer David Robertson.
While the Yankees have had success in developing home grown pitchers, the Yankees have had less luck with position players. The only current starters who came up in the Yankee system are 39 year old Derek Jeter, 38 year old Alfonso Soriano, and 30 year old Gardner.
But the tide may be turning.
Rookie catcher John Ryan Murphy, who at 23 is the youngest catcher in the majors, has been a revelation. He is hitting .378 with a home run and six RBIs in limited duty. Zoilo Almonte, a switch hitting outfielder, has shown power this season with six home runs in the minors and another in the majors. The Yankees also have several top prospects in the lower minors in Gary Sanchez, Slade Heathcott and Pete O’Brien.
Homegrown talent is essential for sustained success in the majors. The Cardinals are the best in the majors are that at the moment, but the Yankees are putting the pieces together to make a run of their own. The last time the Yankees put together a core of good young homegrown talent, they were matching up players like Jeter, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, and Ramiro Mendoza together. It worked out pretty well.