Our analysis of the New York Yankees farm system rolls on this week, as we find ourselves nearing the fringes of the first workouts of 2014 spring training. We've thus far projected Major League Baseball arrival dates for the top 10 prospects, charted the best young talent at each position and, just last week, ranked the most underrated minor leaguers heading into the upcoming season.
We'll now continue the theme of plucking diamonds from the rough: This piece profiles five "dark-horse" prospects who are candidates to sneak onto the Opening Day 25-man roster, and it unravels some of the competition storylines heading into the spring.
As we head into February, it's no secret that the Yankees' offseason spending sprees have become a broken record in the Bronx. Having missed the postseason in 2013, the current winter is unavoidably reminiscent of the 2008 offseason, when big-name free-agents became the principal building blocks for the following season's culmination in a 27th championship.
And it's hardly imprudent to laud or applaud Yanks brass for the on-field product we will likely see in 2014. But how these spending streaks tie into clogging the progress of the Yankees' farm system is another story.The Yankees have done a terrific job piecing together a starting lineup that invariably, and immediately, gives themselves a more plausible opportunity to compete for the division crown. But, in turn, they have prolonged the arrivals of several prospects, widening the gap between those vying for a major league dental plan and the surefire favorites to win one of 25 jobs.
If you're in the short-term mentality, of course, it's all good and well—the best prospects are largely below the Triple-A level of the organization, anyway; and the most exciting young players need more experience and therefore aren't realistically projected to start 2014 in the Bronx.
Thus, save for the wide-open bullpen competition, it'll be extremely difficult for any prospects—even the well-known ones—to crack the 25-man out of camp in 2014.
So where does that leave those other prospects heading to Tampa, Fla. shortly? You could certainly say down; but they aren't necessarily out, and it'd be unwise to automatically dismiss them.
The following are five of the dark-horse contenders who could sneak onto the Opening Day roster for April. These are the players, somewhat in the shadows at the start of 2014, who not only must compete in spring training just to attain bench spots, but who also must beat out at least one favorite in the process.
They are the candidates whom, at this very moment in the throes of the New York winter, you just don't expect to make the cut by the end of the spring. But never fully count out a dark horse.
Want to make a case for a prospect left off this list? Feel free to leave me a comment below.