The New York Yankees have already said they will look into their player development after their farm system failed to produce any capable replacements for their multitude of injured players this season. GM Brian Cashman has publicly stated that he will look into the farm system and the lack of talent coming through. This could mean that scouting director Damon Oppenheimer or VP of Baseball Operations Mark Newman could be on the way out.
This season the age of the Yankees and fragile health of the roster finally caught up to them. However, there were no viable replacements in the minors ready to fill-in or even take over. This resulted in a revolving door, especially at third base and shortstop, where players like Luis Cruz, Chris Nelson, Brent Lillibridge, Alberto Gonzalez, Reid Brignac, Brendan Ryan and Mark Reynolds to name a few had to be acquired through trades and waiver wire pick-ups to fill holes.
The Yankees tried home grown talent like Corban Joseph and David Adams but they failed to produce consistently and Joseph got hurt himself.
The Yankees’ farm system has not produced an impact bat since Robinson Cano. Sure, you can say Austin Jackson was an impact bat but he was traded before he made his debut with the team. Austin Romine and J.R. Murphy might be in line to battle for the starting catcher position next year if a free agent isn’t bought in but it is unknown what kind of production they will give the Yankees at the catcher position.
All of the Yankees’ talent resides in the lower levels of the farm system. Their top prospect, catcher Gary Sanchez, made his AA debut this season, a level he will start at next season. The same goes for Tyler Austin and Slade Heathcott, talented players who need more seasoning. These players are all at least a year away from contributing at the Major League level.
The Yankees have done this to themselves. In 2005, they used their first round draft pick, the 17th overall pick, on a high school shortstop named C.J. Henry. Henry never made the Majors and was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for Bobby Abreu so the Yankees at least got something in return for that pick. However, the Yankees could have picked Jacoby Ellsbury (23rd overall), Matt Garza (25th), Colby Rasmus (28th), Clay Buchholz (42nd), Jed Lowrie (45th) or Chase Headley (66th). You get the picture. The Yankees redeemed themselves by selecting Brett Gardner and Austin Jackson in later rounds but they missed out on impact talent.
That was just one draft but it is indicative of the Yankees, their drafting strategy and their development of those players. The Yankees certainly have drafted talented and useful players like Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy but they either never developed into what they had been projected to be or did it on other teams.
Then there is the mystery drafting of shortstop Cito Culver in the first round of the 2010 Draft and Dante Bichette, Jr. in the first round of the 2011 Draft. Culver is a good glove, no-hit prospect, hardly what you want out of a first rounder. Bichette has not hit much since being drafted. Both moves were widely questioned at the time and both represent the reason why the Yankees don’t have impact talent ready to jump into the Majors.
Instead of Culver, who was drafted 32nd overall, the Yankees could have had Noah Syndergaard (38th), Taijuan Walker (43rd), Nick Castellanos (44th), or Mike Olt (49th) to name a few.
Granted, any team can play this game. There is always a player who is passed over, a Mike Piazza who falls to rounds where players are picked by dart throwing. However, you also figure that a team like the Yankees, with all of their resources, would eventually pick correctly. Maybe that came in 2008 when the Yankees selected Gerrit Cole only to watch him not sign before being drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates first overall in 2011.
Obviously, the jury is still out on recent first round picks Ty Hensley, Eric Jagielo, Aaron Judge and Ian Clarkin but their development will be extremely important moving forward. There is no doubt the Yankees need to address their farm system, the handling of prospects, and the scouting of amateur talent to keep the Yankees at the top in the Majors.