4 years ago, the Yankee farm system was enjoying its first revival in half a decade. After years of terrible drafts and an overall barren system, the Yankees managed to very quickly add to the top of their farm system and become one of the best organizations in baseball, at least temporarily. I decided to go back and look at my January 2007 top prospect list and compare what we saw then to what we saw today.
The 2007 system was built upon a very strong top tier. Phil Hughes was the top pitching prospect in the game, and Joba was throwing 100 mph fastballs, while Ian Kennedy was actually pitching better than both of them. Jose Tabata was garnering (ill-conceived, as I pointed out at the time) Manny Ramirez comparisons, and Montero and Betances represented exciting young high-ceiling prospects. Today’s top tier of the Killer B’s, Sanchez and Montero are a stronger group than that top tier, although the Killer B’s do not measure up to the Big Three in terms of pitching ability. But overall, it was a pretty comparable group of prospects.
Here’s where we start to see the difference. Three useful MLB players developed out of that group, which has to be considered a resounding success for the New York Yankee organization. That said, they were solid prospects, but the group of Hector Noesi, Adam Warren, Ivan Nova, Slade Heathcott, Austin Romine, Mason Williams, Graham Stoneburner, Brett Marshall, Brandon Laird and David Adams are absolutely better prospects than the 2007 middle tier. If history is any guide, we can expect 3-4 legitimate MLB ball players out of this group, if not more.
This is where there 2007 system gets really weak in comparison. David Robertson at the time was recently drafted, and I placed on him on list on a bit of a hunch. Colin Curtis looks like an MLB replacement player. But besides a few MLB appearances out of Beam and Sardinha, this list is a whole lot of bust. Every prospect was either dramatically flawed or had a very low ceiling. Compare it to the Yankee bottom tier of guys like Jose Ramirez, Cito Culver, David Phelps, Melky Mesa, J.R. Murphy, Eduardo Nunez, and Bryan Mitchell, etc and you see a big difference. The Yankees carry significant upside in 2011 even in the bottom tier. Many of the new players do have their flaws, but as a whole the group is much, much better than 2007, which still managed to produce a MLB player. I don’t think its outrageous to project 2 or so MLB players to come out of the tier.
The point of this exercise is that the Yankee farm system is incredibly deep right now. The top prospects are more advanced, and the lower prospects are more promising. Yet, the 2007 system produced MLB players in Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, Tyler Clippard, Austin Jackson, Brett Gardner, and David Robertson, plus Montero and Betances waiting in the wings. Some of that success may have been luck, but I really believe that the Yankees have a very strong set of players about to become MLB ballplayers; more players than people expect. Imagine a team with, say, Montero, Banuelos, Brackman, Nova, Warren, Noesi, Mesa, and Romine all promoted to the majors and playing well? Given the 2007 system’s record, I don’t think that is all that unlikely.
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