Plenty to be excited about in Yankees' system
Organization stockpiled with hurlers, catching prospects
After the Yankees did not acquire No. 1 target Cliff Lee, general manager Brian Cashman repeatedly said that Plan B is patience.
While he may have been referring more to finding other free-agent possibilities or, more likely, suitable trade partners, he also could have been talking about the organization's farm system. Especially after getting several players back at full strength from injuries and illness, the Yankees should have some help coming in the future.
For a team like the Yankees, that help can come in the form of players contributing in New York and/or being used in the aforementioned trade negotiations.
"I haven't experienced a year like that," Yankees senior vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman said. "We had very few key guys get injured. We had a number of key guys come back from injury or illness and play very well. We had several players make substantial improvements."
Combine that with some exciting players behind the plate -- Jesus Montero, Austin Romine, Gary Sanchez -- and there's plenty to be excited about down on the farm.
"We don't sit around patting ourselves on the back," Newman said. "We had good fortune this year. We had a bunch of guys come back from injury and a bunch of guys have good years."
The Yankees had another successful season in the win-loss department, finishing with a combined .532 winning percentage, good for sixth among all 30 teams. The top three teams all finished well above .500, with Triple-A Scranton leading the way with a .608 mark. Scranton lost in the first round of the International League playoffs to Columbus, which went on to win the Triple-A championship. Trenton made it a round further in the Eastern League, losing in four games to the Altoona Curve in the championship series. But there's a mini-dynasty building in Tampa. The Tampa Yankees won their second straight Florida State League title.
"We typically win a lot of games and get in playoffs every year, but that isn't the be-all, end-all, and it isn't our major objective," Newman said. "It's tradition around here. People expect to do well. Developmentally, we have to make sure our players are playing in the right spot, they're getting at-bats and innings pitched at the level at which they're going to be challenged. When they show a significant amount of mastery, they move along."
MLB.com's Preseason Picks
Jesus Montero, C: It seemed that a third consecutive go-round as the system's top hitter was a no-brainer, but it didn't quite work out that way. A sub-par first half -- .252/.328/.415 -- in his first taste of Triple-A keeps him from getting a three-peat. His second half, however (.351/.396/.684), more than salvaged his season. He finished second in the system in batting average (.289), second in home runs (21) and fourth in RBIs (75) to put him firmly knocking on the big league door, at least offensively.
Manny Banuelos, LHP: The prediction was that at age 19, the lefty would top the organization in ERA and strikeouts while reaching Double-A. If it weren't for an appendectomy at the start of the season, it might have been right on the money. Banuelos did come back to throw 64 2/3 combined innings and he did finish the season in Double-A Trenton. His 2.51 ERA would have been good for third in the system had he thrown enough innings.
MLB.com's Postseason Selections
Brandon Laird, OF: Laird began the year in Double-A Trenton and finished in Triple-A Scranton. Along the way, he led the organization in home runs (25) and RBIs (102) while finishing with a .281 average, good for ninth in the system. He began making the transition to the outfield during the Arizona Fall League, where perhaps his bat will get to the big leagues faster than at third base.
David Phelps, RHP: Phelps is making a habit of hitting two levels in a season. In 2009, his first full year, he pitched in the South Atlantic and Florida State Leagues. This past year, he moved up to Double-A and finished in Triple-A. Combined, he was second in the organization with his 2.50 ERA, went 10-2 and was second in the system with 141 strikeouts. He amassed that total while not hurting himself with walks, yielding just 36 in 158 2/3 total innings while keeping hitters to a .234 batting average.