What Are the Yankees Doing Wrong in Developing Pitching Prospects?
After publishing an article last week about the New York Yankees’ lack of an impact prospect to call up in September, it got me thinking about the organization’s struggles in developing prospects—especially pitching prospects.
Heading into the 2012 season, the team’s top pitching prospects were left-hander Manny Banuelos and right-hander Dellin Betances. Had both players excelled in the minor leagues and ultimately reached the majors, it would have been a step in the right direction for the system as a whole.
Unfortunately, both of their 2012 campaigns didn’t unfold as hoped—to say the least.
Banuelos, 21, logged only 24 innings at Triple-A before a bone bruise on his left elbow prematurely ended his season in mid-May, all of this after nearly reaching the major leagues as a 20-year-old last season.
A 6’8”, 260-pound right-hander, Betances was expected to contribute this season after making his debut in late 2011. However, the control issues that have plagued him at times throughout his career resurfaced and ultimately prevented a return to the majors.
Like Banuelos, Betances began the season at Triple-A, where he posted a 6.39 ERA and 1.88 WHIP while issuing 69 walks in 74.2 innings. His struggles prompted a midseason demotion to Double-A, where it was only more of the same: 6.51 ERA, 1.82 WHIP with 30 walks in 56.2 innings.
Now, I admit that I’m more adept to scouting and analyzing position prospects given my background as both a player and coach. So I’m not going to break down a pitcher’s mechanics and, in turn, speculate about the philosophies employed and taught within the Yankees system.
Honestly, I don’t even need to.
Since 2000, the Yankees have selected and signed 67 total pitchers within the first 10 rounds of the MLB first-year player draft: 52 from college and 15 from high school.
Traditionally, the team has targeted low-risk, moderate-upside collegiate pitchers who seem like safe bets to ultimately reach the major leagues. Every now and then, the Yankees gamble on a high-risk prep arm; however, these instances are few and far between.
The only notable Yankees pitching prospects to come up through their system—at least in my opinion—and reach the major leagues since the 2000 season are RHP Tyler Clippard (2003, ninth round), RHP Phil Hughes (2004, first round), RHP Lance Pendleton (2005, fourth round), RHP Ian Kennedy (2006, first round), RHP Joba Chamberlain (2006, first-round supplemental), RHP Dellin Betances (2006, eighth round), RHP Mark Melancon (2006, ninth round), RHP Andrew Brackman (2007, first round), RHP D.J. Mitchell (2008, 10th round) and RHP Adam Warren (2009, fourth round).
Of those players, only Hughes, Chamberlain and Warren are still with the organization. It’s worth noting that David Phelps would be on this list if he weren't a 14th-round selection 2008.
The Yankees have also been successful in signing young, international pitching prospects, as they did with Ivan Nova in 2004 and Banuelos in 2008.
With a payroll of nearly $196 million, the organization seldom relies on its pitching prospects, as it instead buys or trades for the superstars of its liking. And with that thick of a wallet, you can’t blame the Yanks.
Although their propensity to both attract and sign elite, major league talent has made them a perennial contender, it all but masks the ongoing problems with their pitching prospects.
At some point, the Yankees will be forced to prioritize their development of prospects over acquisitions and long-term contracts. But as long as they continue to win and reach the postseason year after year, it won't be anytime soon.
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