Long time readers know that I regularly spend my summers deep in the woods. I won’t be near a computer, and won’t be able to blog. I love blogging about as much as anything I do, but I definitely enjoy being unwired for a few months every year. I will rejoin you all on August 17th. But first, I’d like to offer some big picture parting thoughts on the Yankee farm system.
I haven’t written a ton about the minors this season for a lot of reasons, but the biggest reason has been that there hasn’t been a lot to write about. The 2007-2008 drafts just weren’t particularly exciting, and it took a few months for J.R. Murphy and Slade Heathcott to work their way into a position to make the 2009 draft class worth talking about. That’s about to change.
The Gulf Coast League Yankees played their first game of the season yesterday afternoon. It brought about as much excitement as a minor league season opener can bring. All the organization’s chips are now in play: the GCL Yankees sport a stacked lineup of long-awaited, and newly added, prospects.
17 year-old catcher Gary Sanchez, recipient of a 3 million dollar signing bonus, hit a grand slam in his second at bat. He batted 3rd, and went 2 for 4 with the home run and a walk. His official weight is a very healthy 6’2″ and 195 lbs. It was his professional debut.
Cito Culver will start some time in the next few days. He graduated high school, and is probably on his way down to Florida right now. No one really knows what to expect from Culver yet, but its refreshing to see a player start his career so soon after the draft. Culver will get his first taste of professional baseball in the easiest American league, instead of following Carmen Angelini’s path to the much tougher full-season leagues. I’m not sure if this really matters all that much for a player’s development, but it can’t be a bad thing.
The loaded team will demonstrate the financial advantage leveraged by the Yankees in their $6 million dollar 2009 draft haul. Look out for the performances of Bryan Mitchell, who earned a late-round $800,000 bonus from the Yankees, and throws in the low 90s, Matt Richardson, who was considered high-round talent likely to head to college, and Brett Gerritse, another late-round steal with a strong sinker and well-developed breaking pitches. I don’t know much about Evan DeLuca, but he’s a $500,000 lefty who can throw in the low to mid 90s. I’m probably most excited for Nik Turley, whom the Yankees drafted in the 50th round last year ($125,000 bonus), is a lefty, and is listed at 6’7″.
And the Yankees didn’t stop with the 2009 draft. The team sports a wide array of young, and expensive, international free agents. Sanchez tops the list, but a number of names stand out. Anderson Felix and Kelvin Duran are both up-the-middle athletes from the 2008 IFA class. “Big Thunder” Reymond Nunez is supposed to be an 80 power first baseman. Fu-Lin Kim is a toolsy infielder signed out of Taiwan. Ramon Flores was good enough to get some at bats with Tampa this year, and just turned 18.
Its worth noting that 2008′s biggest bonus baby – $850,000 shortstop Gian Carlos Arias – was not carried over from the Dominican Republic along with some of his DSL teammates.
What you’ll watch (and I’ll catch up on in August) is the yearly sharp sorting of the future prospects from the pretty faces. The Yankees also spent a lot of money on Garrison Lassiter, Carmen Angelini, Kelvin De Leon, and Kyle Higashioka without much (yet) to show for it. The biggest difference this year is shear volume. All of the drafted players I mentioned are at least equal in value to Lassiter, Higashioka, and Angelini, and the IFA’s are pretty impressive too. Several will probably flame out here in the GCL, and a few more soon after in A ball, but this GCL team will almost surely produce the next set of exciting Yankee prospects to follow over the next half-decade.
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