The New York Yankees do not have much minor league talent immediately ready for the majors in 2014, but that is likely to change by 2017. On one hand, the Yankees have drafted well in recent years, but some of the team’s top prospects experienced setbacks in 2013.
For the likes of Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott and other high-level prospects, 2014 will be an opportunity to prove their worth to the organization. Then there are low-level prospects like Ian Clarkin, Aaron Judge and Eric Jagielo who have shown promise at a young age and could be primed to rise through the ranks.
Then there’s Gary Sanchez, a 21-year-old catching prospect with huge offensive upside.
In 2017, Brian McCann will be in the third year of his five-year contract and in his 12th year as a full-time catcher. A seven-time All-Star and a good defensive presence behind the plate, McCann may still be able to catch, but not as often as he is now. I can see Sanchez being a 2016 Sept. call-up followed by a full season splitting time behind the plate with McCann. The area Sanchez needs the most help with is blocking, framing and other defensive nuances, so who better than McCann to mentor the young backstop?
In 2017, the contracts of C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran will expire and the Yankees would do themselves a favor in cutting ties with all three. The Yankees also figure to see Alfonso Soriano and Hiroki Kuroda retire before then. The Yankees love Judge’s raw power and fair speed for a hulking six-foot-seven outfielder who has drawn comparisons to Giancarlo Stanton.
McCann could theoretically move over to first base to accommodate Sanchez, but the Yankees could also try out Peter O’Brien there too. Since they like to keep the DH spot open, the Yankees could work O’Brien’s lethal bat into the lineup as a first baseman, outfielder or DH.
I’d expect the Yankees to keep Dellin Betances around as well as David Robertson for a dangerous one-two punch at the back end of the bullpen. Like Betances, a former starter, I could see Manny Banuelos simplifying his pitching repertoire and pitching out of the pen. With a plus curve, change and fastball, Clarkin is a starter I can see making an impact as a 2016 Sept. call-up and earning a rotation spot in 2017.
It’s also not unlikely for the Yankees to stick with Michael Pineda, who when healthy this year has shown a lot of promise. With a healthy return from Tommy John surgery, Ivan Nova can continue rising in the Yankees’ rotation and let’s be real, Masahiro Tanaka will probably be the team’s ace before 2017.
As for upcoming free agents, I think the Yankees are going to go lighter than in past years, which only makes sense if the farm system produces major-league-ready talent. First off, it makes a ton of sense for the Yankees to go for J.J. Hardy, who will become a free agent after this season.
If Ben Zobrist picks up his option for the 2015 season, he’ll become a free agent afterward. Barring an extension with the Tampa Bay Rays, he’d likely be an attractive second baseman/utility player for the Yankees as a veteran switch hitter with some power.
In 2016 Mat Latos, David Price and Jeff Samardzija all figure to be free agents, but the latter two are more likely to get extended before then. At 26, Latos is the youngest of these hurlers and the Cincinnati Reds may want to cut ties due to his history with injuries. The same could also lower his asking price, but Latos has major upside as a dominant power pitcher. Lastly, the Yankees could bolster their bullpen with Greg Holland, current closer of the Kansas City Royals, after the 2016 season the way they did with Rafael Soriano.
David Robertson (Closer)
C: Gary Sanchez, Austin Romine
1B: Brian McCann (C/DH)
2B: Ben Zobrist, Jose Pirela (SS)
3B: Eric Jagielo, Yangervis Solarte (utility infielder)
SS: J.J. Hardy
LF: Brett Gardner, Peter O’Brien (OF/1B/C)
CF: Jacoby Ellsbury
RF: Aaron Judge, Slade Heathcott