Yankees' top pitching prospects vindicating Brian Cashman's 2022 trade deadline calls

Houston Astros v Oakland Athletics
Houston Astros v Oakland Athletics / Kavin Mistry/GettyImages

There's no metric by which Yankees GM Brian Cashman can be retroactively judged to have "won" the 2022 MLB Trade Deadline. His acquisition of Frankie Montas has proven disastrous. His Andrew Benintendi move quickly unhooked itself from the Yankees' fate like Benny's wrist bone. His Jordan Montgomery-Harrison Bader swap is a trade for the ages. Montgomery looks mostly good in St. Louis? Would he have looked good here? Probably not? Bader looks great! But where is he? The conversation can go on and on.

The only thing Cashman can hang his hat on as we approach the one-year anniversary of that ineffective shakeup is that the fears of the Yankees "gutting their farm system" of top-tier pitching talent were wildly overblown.

This is not to doom the long-term prospects of Ken Waldichuk, JP Sears, Beck Way and Hayden Wesneski. All of them have been plenty doomed in the short-term, though, and it's safe to say not a one of them would be comfortably holding down a rotation spot, even while things fell apart in the Bronx this spring. Jhony Brito wasn't great. He was also better than everyone but Sears, who's only recently shown Clarke Schmidt-like improvement. Randy Vásquez, through two starts, did more than equal Wesneski's peak (he now has an ERA in the mid-5.00s).

Cashman's returns? Those can all be called into question. Cashman's sacrifices? They all seem prudent for a win-now team, especially as the next generation of pitching prospects his team bet on continue to emerge. The lower-down names in the Yankees' prospect pool who were expected to absorb a bigger burden -- Drew Thorpe, Richard Fitts, Clayton Beeter -- have delivered. A few unexpected names -- Chase Hampton, Juan Carela -- have also emerged.

Not all pitching prospects make it to the finish line, but it seems the "gutted" version of the Yankees' pitching farm is just as healthy, if not healthier, than last year's deadline edition. That reload certainly counts as a development win.

Yankees top pitching prospects Richard Fitts, Drew Thorpe, Chase Hampton as advertised

After a stinker in early May against the James Wood-led Nationals' High-A affiliate (a game I attended, which should probably get me banned from future Drew Thorpe starts), the right-hander has allowed six earned runs in his next five outings, lowering his season ERA to 2.91 with 71 whiffs in 58.2 innings. Four of those earned runs came against Wilmington again. If the Yankees can keep Thorpe away from the Blue Rocks, they might just have something here.

Up one level with the Somerset Patriots, former Auburn product Richard Fitts has shaken off an early-season adjustment period to post equally dominant work of late. His ERA peaked at an unsightly 6.21 on May 18. Since then?

*6 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K
*6 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 8 K (vs Red Sox affiliate)
*6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K (also vs Red Sox affiliate)

... all leading to the eight-inning gem he polished off this past weekend:

Beeter, his rotation mate, swiped Eastern League Pitcher of the Week honors from him from June 5-11. Fitts, a late entrant, can't be too upset; Beeter continued showing that he'll either be a solid starter or Michael King-type two-inning relief ace, in all likelihood.

And those are just the names the team was publicly counting on to match and exceed the departed pitchers' production. Maybe they knew about sixth-rounder Chase Hampton internally, but we kind of didn't.

With 77 Ks through 47 innings, he might be the best of the bunch -- and among the best in the entire minor leagues.

No defined left field plan? Anthony Volpe/Oswald Peraza too big a risk at short? Josh Donaldson a flop? There was plenty of fair criticism levied at the Yankees this offseason.

But leaving their minor-league pitching depth dried out and dissolved? That was an unfair criticism. Turns out, at least one department knows what they're doing.