The Yankees General Manager, Brian Cashman, has spent the past few years trying to build a stronger minor league system.
Fast-forward to the present, and now were starting to see some of these young prospects make an impact at the major league level. Out of the 2005 draft class, both Austin Jackson and Brett Gardner are becoming two of the top defensive outfielders in baseball, and weapons out of the leadoff spot in their team’s lineup.
The following year, the Yankees drafted Ian Kennedy, Joba Chamberlain, Mark Melancon, David Robertson and Dellin Betances. Kennedy went 21-4 with a sub-3.00 ERA in Arizona, while Mark Melancon won eight games and recorded 20 saves for Houston. Chamberlain and Robertson have helped build the bridge to the greatest closer of all time.
The Yankees have also brought in talent through international signings as well. Ivan Nova was signed out of the Dominican Republic and now he’s proving to be a talented front-end starter. That same year, and out of the same country, the Yankees inked Hector Noesi who looks to be fighting for a starting spot next season in New York.
After losing two starting pitchers and most of their bench players, the Yankees could look internally to fill most of those spots. A lot of their top prospect spent time in the upper half of the minors and, referring to Baseball America’s Yankees 2011 Top 10 prospect list, seven of those 10 guys played for the major league team this season.
Here’s a look at some prospects on the verge of making the majors, and could get a call up at some point this season…
With Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon now officially free agents, the Yankees will probably be looking to fill one of those two roster spots by bringing in a free agent or via trade.
The market doesn’t have much to offer outside of C.J. Wilson. If the Yankees aren’t willing to spend the money on Wilson, there are options inside the organization as well. Hector Noesi is a guy we saw pitch this season out of the bullpen, as well as out of the rotation, as he made two starts at the end of the year. Even if he does start next season in the bullpen, he could play the role of the 2011 Bartolo Colon, and move into the starting rotation if needed.
Another option is Adam Warren. He was drafted out of UNC in 2009 and has moved through the system very quickly, spending all of the 2011 season in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He may not have the potential of the bigger named prospects in the system, but he projects to be a middle of the rotation innings eater once he reaches the majors, which could be as soon next season.
Two other names are David Phelps and D.J. Mitchell. Both pitchers were drafted in 2008 and will be added to the 40-man roster to avoid being drafted away in this winters Rule V Draft. Mitchell is a sinkerball pitcher that has had success at all levels of the minors, however, his numbers will not blow you away. He led the Yankees Triple-A affiliate in wins, strikeouts and innings pitch this season.
Although the Yankees may look to Warren before Mitchell, the former Clemson starter could get his chance in the bullpen once he earns the promotion. Phelps, on the other hand, has now been in Triple-A for a year and a half and is on the verge of making the majors as well.
In the field, it looks like top prospect Jesus Montero will start the 2012 season in New York as the starting designated hitter and backup catcher. He has been on a lot of teams radar the past few season, as the Mariners wanted Montero to be the centerpiece of a deal which would have brought Cliff Lee to New York.
A converted middle infielder, Austin Romine is another catching prospect knocking on the door at the major league level. He may not have much power, but he is a plus defensively and has great speed for a catcher.
Some youngsters should get a chance in the infielders as well. Both Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter are on the wrong side of 35, and the Yankees should be happy to get 100 games out of them in the field.
That leaves 124 games for someone to fill in for the aging veterans. Eduardo Nunez did a great job doing that job last year, but he’ll probably need some help in 2012, as he really hasn’t proven himself at third base.
One guy the Yankees could look to is Brandon Laird. Defense isn’t Laird’s strong suit, but he can get away with playing third as he hits for average and has plus power.
Continuing into the outfield, the Yankees lost Andruw Jones and have three prospects they could turn too. First, Greg Golson is now out of options, meaning if he doesn’t make the major league roster out of spring training, he could elect for free agency. He has excellent speed, is a great fielder with a plus arm, but doesn’t offer much power at the plate.
That is something the Yankee's will most likely look for in their fourth outfielder. Colin Curtis, who missed all of the 2011 season with a shoulder problem, will make his case during spring training.With only 59 at bats at the major league level, Curtis could get overlooked as well.
Finally, the Yankees brought in Justin Maxwell in 2010. He has hit the ball, but he too is yet to hit home runs are the rate many thought he could.