John Sickels posted a fantastic interview with Yankee Vice President of Baseball Operations Mark Newman today. My favorite part comes right at the beginning:
SICKELS: Most experts see the Yankees farm system as above-average right now, not as robust as Kansas City or Tampa Bay, but in good shape with talent on the way up. You have a lot of strength in pitching and at least a couple of impact bats. What do you see as the strengths of the system. And what are your weaknesses, areas you want to improve?
NEWMAN: Our strength is clearly in upper-level pitching. We have several high-ceiling arms who will be at the Double-A and Triple-A levels this year and will be in the majors within a year or two. We have pitchers who can be high-end rotation members, it is our obvious strength. Our second strength is behind the plate. We like the catching, we have depth there as well as high-ceiling options, great depth at a premium position. I also like our group of center fielders. Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, and Melky Mesa all have the tools to play center and we think they all have a good chance to hit. Angelo Gums may end up there too. So, I would say pitching, catching, and center field are our strengths.
SICKELS: What about your weaknesses?
NEWMAN: Corner players with power. We have (Brandon) Laird who is a solid prospect, but we are thin for corner bats otherwise in the system. We always try to take the best players available in the draft and on the international market, and doing that can result in positional imbalance. We’re aware of it, but we would rather get as many high-end athletes as we can and worry about the rest of it later. In a perfect world you get both, of course, high-end guys who fill up the slots you need to fill.
I’m glad that Newman acknowledges the team’s difficulty in developing, particularly at the draft, corner players with real power. Jesus Montero is absolutely a power hitter, and Gary Sanchez profiles that way too, but for the most part the Yankees have struggled to find any real power hitters in their system. Kelvin De Leon is probably a bust by this point, but he represented another attempt at a 30+ home run hitter. Its no coincidence that all three are big-money international free agents. The Yankees have mostly stuck with fast, middle of the field types at the draft rather than going for less athletic middle of the order position players. That’s something they need to improve on.
Thinking about it, the Yankees haven’t developed a power prospect at the draft in a very long time. Robinson Cano and Alfonso Soriano were both international free agents. You need to go back to Mike Lowell to find a drafted Yankee hitter with power.
I recommend reading the whole thing. Sickels asks the right questions about the right players, and I’ve always regarded Newman as very frank when he is talking about players in the organization.
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