The Yankees are considered by many to be 2-3 years away from potentially contending for a World Series title, hence many people are afraid to even mutter a farmhands name in a hypothetical trade for fear of being blacklisted by a new-age Yankees fan.
Look, I’m just as jazzed about future iterations of the Yankees as the next guy or gal, but how many top notch prospects do you honestly think become contributors at the Major League level, let alone make All-Star teams and win MVP awards?
According to a fascinating report compiled by Scott McKinney back in 2011 — of Baseball America’s top 100 prospects, 70% fail — 40% of the top 20 pitching prospects succeed at the next level, while only 20% of the pitching prospects ranked 21-100 ever gain traction in the majors.
McKinney goes into even further detail on a number of factors including positional outlook probabilities, organizational bust vs. success rates and the ever-growing debate on how WAR influences career outlook.
The point that I’m trying to make — one that the article, although five years old still backs up, is that the majority of Minor League prospects, even one’s that are ranked within an organizations illustrious top 20 are more apt to never see the light of day when it comes to suiting up for a big league contest than to pan out the way we hope and pray for.
Having a Minor League system brimming with talent is necessary for two reasons. On the one hand, every so often it produces a Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and now Gary Sanchez. But keep in mind, for every Bernie Williams, there is a Brien Taylor, Kevin Maas, and Phil Hughes.
Secondly, only so many prospects who play the same position can take the field at once. So barring a disastrous string of injuries or teaching these kids to man a new position (Gleyber Torres, Jorge Mateo, and Tyler Wade to name a few shortstops), you stockpile talent to eventually trade for pieces of the puzzle your organization is missing.
And where is it that the Yankees lack big time? In the starting pitching category, why of course. You know the one part of the team you truly need to win ball games.
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Let’s take a quick look at a for instance, shall we. Say both Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro (each of whom are only 26-years-old) build off their stellar 2016. They incrementally continue to get better over the next 12-15 months, which is give or take around the time Torres, Mateo and Miguel Andujar figure to potentially reach the majors. Now, what?
Even if you move Castro from second base (breaking up the only Yankees double play combination ever to see both men hit 20+ home runs in a season) and move him to third base as rumored, what happens to Andujar?
The Yankees wouldn’t have given up Aroldis Chapman so quickly had they not received a blue chip prospect like Torres in return. But he’s a natural shortstop in the vein of Carlos Correa. So what does that mean for Didi, who has yet to enter his professional prime?
Even Wade has already seen time in center field down in the minors, because of all the aforementioned talent, he’s probably the least well known — although he might have the most complete all-around defensive game of the bunch.
Though moving Wade anywhere north of the infield may soon become counter productive with the likes of Clint Frazier, Blake Rutherford and Dustin Fowler all potentially joining Aaron Judge at Yankee Stadium one day soon.
You simply can’t keep all the guys discussed here, plus the ones that’ll develop over the next few years. Surely the Yankees’ Minor League system will continue to groom each and every player for maximum value but at the end of the day, you shouldn’t get too attached to the potential label — because that’s all it really is.
The Yankees have begun to set themselves up for a long run of success, but they can’t be afraid to pull the trigger on a blockbuster deal when the time is right. A wise man once told me the key to life is timing — you never know the exact moment a grand opportunity will present itself — you just need to be prepared for when it does. That my friends is what the Yankees are doing.