The loss of Robinson Cano and A-Rod for the upcoming 2014 season exposed the Yankee farm system as being one of the weakest in baseball. The Yanks had spent years trading away their best young talent and had no one in their system prepared to be their everyday second or third baseman. Unlike some other baseball teams, the Yankees have an ownership group that is not afraid to add salary in order to ensure that the Bronx Bombers remain perennial playoff contenders. This is good news for Yankee fans, but we all should remember that the current Yankee dynasty that dates back to the mid-1990s during which the Yankees have missed the playoffs just twice since strongly benefited from the contributions of at least some homegrown talent. Does the name Bernie Williams sound familiar? Can anyone remember the famed “Core Four”? Sure, Yankee GM Brian Cashman has a knack for landing that diamond in the rough and the Yanks have deep pockets and can afford to sign key free agents, but sooner or later the Yanks will need to roll up their sleeves and work at replenishing their depleted farm system. Admittedly. the news regarding Yankee farm hands isn’t all bad. The following six Yankee prospects just might be good enough to potentially be a part of a future Yankee major league roster, but based on how the Yanks operate, they also have the potential to be included in a trade that could help the Yankees upgrade their infield or bullpen.
Gary Sanchez, C
Born: December 2, 1992 in Santo Domingo, Distrito Nacional
Ht: 6-2 Wt.: 220 Bats: B Throws: R
Widely regarded as one of the crown jewels of the Yankee farm system, it was surprising to hear the press actually ask Gary Sanchez about the possibility of his being involved in a trade for a pitcher or infielder this season. If Sanchez remains a part of the Yankee organization, he will have plenty of time to develop his skills, since the Yanks signed Brian McCann to a five-year contract this offseason. Do the Yanks still consider Sanchez their catcher of the future?
Sanchez was ranked 47th overall and fourth-best among catchers on MLB.com’s top 100 prospects list. His stock seems to have taken somewhat of a tumble since he was ranked 27th overall on MLB.com’s list for 2013. Although he is widely regarded for his power potential and overall offensive prowess, the knock on Sanchez has always been his defense. He is blessed with a strong throwing arm, but he needs to develop his other defensive skills behind the plate.
He has compiled a lifetime .275 batting average across four minor league seasons, and he hit 15 home runs and drove in 71 runs in 117 minor league games last season. The competition for the opportunity to be McCann’s backup this season will be fierce and although he will get plenty of at bats this spring, Sanchez is not expected to see any significant amount of time in the major leagues this upcoming 2014 season.
Tyler Austin, OF
Born: September 6, 1991 in Conyers, GA
Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 200 Bats: R Throws: R
The Yankees expected big things from Tyler Austin in 2013, but a wrist injury limited his production and forced him to spend time on the Double-A Trenton disabled list. Austin had enjoyed a stellar 2012 campaign in which he climbed the ranks through four levels of the Yankee minor league system. Austin showed five tool potential as he batted .322, smacked 17 home runs, drove in 80 runs, scored 69 runs and stole 23 bases in 110 games in 2012.
Austin was drafted in the 13th round of the 2010 MLB Draft as a catcher, but was moved over to third base and is now considered a potential future outfielder for the Bronx Bombers. While defense is not considered his strong suit, he has a quick bat and the ability to hit the ball to all fields.
The Yanks had hoped that Austin could get some extra at bats in the Arizona Fall League this past season, but they decided that his wrist would benefit from additional rest and pulled him from the league after he had played just four games, all of them at first base. Austin was invited to the Yanks 2014 Spring Training camp, but has had to miss time with soreness to the same wrist that bothered him last season. The Yanks are hoping that the rest will help his injury and that he could regain the form that he showed in 2012. He is not expected to see much time with the big club this coming season.
J.R. Murphy, C
Born: May 13, 1991 in Bradenton, FL
Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 195 Bats: R Throws: R
J.R. Murphy will join the battle for the backup catcher spot this spring , but it is unlikely that he will get the job, since Francisco Cervelli and Austin Romine have more big league experience. Murphy has improved his defense behind the plate since the Yanks originally signed him in 2009. He threw out 37% of attempted base stealers last season, compared to the 23% of attempted base stealers that he nailed in 2010. His offensive numbers have been fairly pedestrian across his minor league career. Murphy has compiled a lifetime batting average of .266 across five minor league seasons. He has marginal power, having slugged 12 home runs and driven in 46 runs in 108 minor league games last season. He batted .154 in 27 plate appearances with the big club last September, and should spend most of his time in 2014 with the Yankee Triple-A team.
Zoilo Amonte, OF
Born: June 10, 1989 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 205 Bats: B Throws: R
Zoilo Amonte made his major league debut with the New York Yankees last season and got off to a hot start, batting .309 through his first 17 games. He was enjoying his time with the “Big Show” until an ankle sprain forced him to the DL in mid-July. He was able to return in September, but unfortunately was unable to find his hitting stroke, and he watched his batting average plummet to a disappointing .236. His time in the big leagues wasn’t a total loss, since he ended up his season with the most at bats ( 106 ) by a switch hitter for the Yanks in 2013.
Amonte is looked upon as a future major league corner outfielder who can hit for power and has the ability to steal bases. Scouts do not project him to be a high average hitter and feel that in order to be more effective at the plate he will need to draw more walks and cut down on his strike outs.
Amonte put up some fine numbers this past season in the Dominican Winter League. In 43 games he batted .316, belted 4 homeruns, drove in 20 runs and stole 6 bases. The Yankee outfield is a bit crowded but after playing 34 games in the major leagues in 2013, Amonte does have a legitimate shot at getting some additional big league at bats this upcoming season provided that he has a solid Spring Training.
Vidal Nuno , SP
Born: July 26, 1987 in National City, CA
Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 195 Bats: L Throws: L
Nuno appeared in five big league games in 2013, three of them as a starter, pitching to a 2.25 ERA. He had a 1.10 WHIP, and struck out nine while walking six in 20 innings. He pitched well, but a groin injury cut his season short in June.
His repertoire features a slider, curveball, change and a fastball that tops out at close to 90 MPH. He doesn’t have dominating stuff but scouts will tell you that he always finds a way to keep his team in the game. Known for his excellent control, Nuno has compiled a career 2.84 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 428 minor league innings.
Sent to the Arizona Fall League in order to make up for the lost innings due to his groin injury, Nuno pitched in 5 games, starting 4, and struck out 18 in 19.2 innings pitched. He had a 3.20 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. Nuno should be in the mix this spring as he battles David Phelps, Michael Pineda and Adam Warren for a backend spot in the Yankee rotation for the 2014 season.
Mark Montgomery, RP
Born: August 30, 1990 in Williamsburg, VA
Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 205 Bats: R Throws: R
The Yankees were hoping that Mark Montgomery would use the 2013 season to show them that he was ready to take the next step in his career and become the elite backend reliever that would allow David Robertson to slip into the closer role vacated by the legendary Mariano Rivera. Unfortunately, shoulder problems derailed much of Montgomery’s 2013 season, but he still managed to average 11 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.
Ask any scout and he'll tell you that Montgomery’s best pitch is a hard-breaking slider that could be as dominating as Rivera’s famed cutter. One rival scout called his slider "the best breaking ball I saw" in the Arizona Fall League. “Batters know its coming and still can’t hit it!” Montgomery combines impressive speed (his slider clocks in between 86 and 87 mph ) and nasty movement to throw opposing batters off.
Provided that Montgomery’s arm fatigue and injury woes from 2013 are behind him, he should have a good chance at making the club and being a big part of the Yankee bullpen in 2014.