Yankees Need Reinforcements from the Farm in Second Half


If the Yankees have any hope of making a postseason run in the second half of 2016, they will have to gamble on some of their top prospects in the upper-minors.

The New York Yankees have used 11 rookies in the 2016 season, which may sound like a lot, but they have only had one of those players contribute more than replacement level value according to Baseball-Reference’s metric. Rob Refsnyder has been worth 0.5 bWAR, and that represents the only substantial contribution the Yankees have received from a rookie this year.

The majority of the rookies the Yankees have played in 2016 are the result of the “Scranton Shuttle” relievers. Nick Goody (4.91 ERA in 22 IP), Luis Cessa (3.95 ERA in 13.2 IP), Johnny Barbato (5.54 ERA in 13 IP), Richard Bleier (4.22 ERA in 10.2 IP), Conor Mullee (3.00 ERA in 3 IP), and Tyler Olson (6.75 ERA in 2.2 IP) have been serviceable but unimpressive in sporadic appearances. None have managed to establish themselves as a reliable option in a pen desperate for middle relief help.

Generic backup infielder Ronald Torreyes is the only other rookie to make regular appearances for the Yankees in the first half of 2016. He’s hit a miserable .219/.286/.297 (55 wRC+) in 71 PA, and has only clung to his roster spot because the team has no better in-house options to backup shortstop Didi Gregorius

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Two top prospects did receive brief call-ups this season, but were never given extended looks. Ben Gamel saw action in five games as an injury replacement and Gary Sanchez was called up to DH for exactly one game (against Chris Sale no less). Both are having excellent seasons for Triple-A Scranton and look ready to contribute at the big league level when their shot comes.

When many veterans on the 2015 squad were mired in second half slumps, the promotions of first baseman Greg Bird and starting pitcher Luis Severino provided the spark the Yankees needed to push into the postseason.

Bird was arguably the Yankees’ best hitter down the stretch, batting .261/.343/.529 (137 wRC+) in 178 PA, while Severino put up a 2.89 ERA in 11 starts, stabilizing the club’s shaky rotation. With Bird out for the year following shoulder surgery and Severino demoted to work out some mechanical issues, the Yankees will have to look elsewhere for a boost this season.

One of the obvious areas they can upgrade is the outfield. The Yankees can take their pick from a stable of talented young outfielders having nice seasons with Triple-A Scranton. The team’s number two prospect Aaron Judge is out for the next month with a knee injury, but could have the most impact when he finally gets the call. He’s hitting .261/.357/.469 (139 wRC+) with 16 home runs in 361 PA.

Other outfield options include Gamel (128 wRC+ in 357 PA), Jake Cave (132 wRC+ in 197 PA), and Tyler Austin (192 wRC+ in 140 PA). They could replace the struggling Aaron Hicks on the Yankees bench or even take over Carlos Beltran’s starting role if the team decides to deal the 39-year-old upcoming free agent at the trade deadline.

Another potential are the Yankees could upgrade is behind the plate. While Brian McCann is having a nice season, he is 32 and has a history of wearing down in the second half of the season. Promoting Gary Sanchez to take some of the burden off of McCann’s knees could help with that.

Current backup Austin Romine has been fine as a reserve, but doesn’t offer Sanchez’s offensive upside. The Yankees could even rotate Sanchez and McCann between catcher and DH, taking even more plate appearances away from the shell of Alex Rodriguez.

Finally, the Yankees should use the second half to assess some of their young starting pitchers. Chad Green and Luis Cessa have had some success in limited MLB action this season, and it would be nice to see New York give one of them regular reps in the rotation.

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Alternatively, Vicente Campos is mowing down hitters with Double-A Trenton (2.35 FIP in 45 IP). The former top prospect is already on the 40-man roster and could be a nice dark-horse rotation option down the stretch. He was once thought to possess front of the rotation upside, and his stuff is reportedly beginning to return to its pre-shoulder surgery form.