Down on the Farm: New York Yankees

For years, the New York Yankees have played with one mindset: winning the World Series. This was mostly fantastic for fans; the team tried its hardest every season to put its premium lineup out on the field season after season. However, that type of playing style takes its toll in other areas.

Throughout New York’s extended run of excellence, the minor-league systems were light on talent mostly out of happenstance. Anytime a prospect became something notable, the Yankees dealt him away for a piece that would immediately improve the major-league roster.

This plan worked fine when the MLB team was winning. Once the playoff berths dried up and the American League competition caught up, suddenly a sputtering farm system didn’t mesh well with an aging club.

In the years since, New York management has shown more of an inclination towards hanging onto promising youngsters and building teams to more resemble the championship clubs of the late 1990s. It has been a slow process as there remains an awful lot of mostly dead money at the top on players well past their prime. But the farm system looks healthier than it’s been in years.

On top of that farm system sits one man: outfield prospect Aaron Judge. Judge is a behemoth of a man, measuring in at six feet, seven inches. The former first-round pick from 2013 is currently spending his time in Triple-A as fans eagerly await his first call-up to the majors. In well over 200 games between A-Ball, Double-A and Triple-A, Judge has a career .878 OPS and .297 batting average. He hits for power, draws walks, has a strong arm from the outfield and is currently thought of as one of the 15 best prospects in all of baseball.

Judge isn’t alone though in the Yankees system. There are a few more names that should make an impact at the next level, not the least of which is small-framed, big-armed Luis Severino.

Some scouts consider Severino’s upside to be that of a relief pitcher, a near death sentence for a pitching prospect. But thus far in his minor-league career, Severino has proven all doubters wrong. Spanning parts of four years and over 300 innings across five levels, he has 63 starts in 65 appearances with a 2.29 career ERA and a .213 batting average against. In Triple-A in 2015, Severino is 5-0 with a 1.79 ERA. It seems like only a matter of time before he gets a chance in the majors, even if it starts as a relief role.

The same goes for Triple-A teammate Jacob Lindgren. Lindgren was just drafted in 2014 and has actually had a cup of coffee in the bigs already, but his permanent call up is still pending. The experienced college pitcher is a full reliever but a good one, evidenced by his 77 strikeouts in 47 minor-league innings.

The Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders are actually teeming with talent. Outside of Judge, Severino and Lindgren, there are a slew of other names waiting for a chance: catcher Gary Sanchez, first baseman Greg Bird, outfielder Tyler Austin, as well as a number of recently demoted arms and middle infielders who just couldn’t stick.

This fluid nature of the Yankees bullpen and infield rotation is a good thing. The fact that no one has stuck on the roster isn’t the end of the world. It also implies that everyone else continues to be in the running for future MLB at-bats and innings. Second baseman Rob Refsynder, a fan-favorite, was just demoted back down to the minors but continues to have promise at the plate if he can iron out his defensive inefficiencies. A similar case can be made for the likes of Sanchez behind the plate even if he’s at a different stage of his development.

New York’s system isn’t near the top of the league in terms of future All-Star talent, but it’s in a good place right now. It is actually a bit surprising how highly regarded many of these players are considering a number of well-touted Yankees farm hands have fallen by the wayside in recent years. Usually zeroes like that leave a system in shambles, but the Yankees have filled the holes near the top.

And the lower levels have some intriguing pieces as well. Eric Jagielo, Miguel Andujar, Dante Bichette, Ian Clarkin and Domingo German, among others, may all be heard from in the coming years.

New York’s stereotype may still exist at the highest level, where the roster is in dire need of youth and excitement from players in pre-arbitration years, but reinforcements are coming down the pike.

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