Joel Sherman makes an important point about the Yankees and their minor league depth:
It is not just players with star possibility coming from the farm such as Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes.
The Yanks have found useful roles for a bunch of secondary players. Phil Coke, for example, is evolving into one of the better lefty set-up men in the league. Working mainly in non-pressure situations, David Robertson is averaging 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings. Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera have pushed each other to provide legitimate production from center field and outfield depth in general; and Gardner’s speed is a significant weapon. Francisco Cervelli and Ramiro Pena are Grade-A defenders who have brought that component when they have played while not being completely overwhelmed on offense.
For years, the Yankees have been filling in the smaller holes on their roster with free agent gambles, aging former stars, and retreads coming off a solid year. Building a bench and bullpen in that fashion has produced middling results, and the Yankees have spent the last few seasons attempting to create enough depth in the minors to eschew that strategy. It seems like that plan has come to fruition in 2009. The bullpen and bench are built primarily from pieces that have spent at least some time developing in the Yankee minor league system. Those acquired from outside the organization (ie Bruney, Aceves) were obtained at a young age, so that the Yankees essentially treated them like prospects and developed them accordingly.
Because the Yankees have found the necessary pieces in the minors, it may be unnecessary for them to give up assets to obtain someone like Ivan Rodriguez or Damaso Marte, as they have in the past. This is an exciting development, and one that is often glossed over when people look at the minor leagues. Typically, fans want to know about the big names and high ceiling prospects, while largely ignoring guys who are destined to become bench players. I think 2009 has gone a long way towards correcting that tightly focused view. The Yankees are building depth from within, a development that bodes well for the future.
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