The home grown Yankees, or Why the Yankee culture has to changeBy
Imagen Yankez have all hom grown pleyerz.* Seriously, it’s a neat little exercise to go back and see what current major league players went through the Yankees system. Thankfully, Scranton RailRiders beat writer Donnie Collins has saved us some time and put together such a list himself. If nothing else, it’s a nice little thought experiment.
*You’ll have to follow @Seinfeld2000 to get the joke.
Without further pontification, here’s Collins’s list, complete with commentary and other goodies.
The best (current) pitcher on this list might not even technically qualify, depending on how you define homegrown talent. Quintana originally signed with the Mets as an international free agent in 2006, but they released him while he served a drug suspension in 2007. The Yankees signed him before the 2008 season, but then let him walk after the 2011 season. He was pitching successfully in the majors the next year.
Even if you count Quintana as a homegrown talent, it’s not as though it’s some developmental win. He’s arguably the best (current) pitcher on this list — certainly is in terms of results for the last two years — and the Yankees got nothing from or for him.
None of these pitchers rates in the top 30 in ERA among qualified starters for the last three years. The highest is Ian Kennedy at No. 46. On the flip side, Phil Hughes ranks No. 103, out of 112, in ERA during the last three years.
The disabled list doesn’t really mitigate this situation at all. Karstens is a fringy guy, obviously better off in the NL than in the AL. Phelps has been useful, but more on the level of Nova than above the level of Quintana. We still await the arrival of Banuelos; it seems the guys is constantly facing setbacks in his development.
You could probably go a few different ways with this list, since the Yankees have developed a goodly number of relievers. If you count Quintana, you could also count Jose Veras, who is having a fine season. There’s also Joba Chamberlain — whomighthaveremainedastarterunderdifferentcircumstancesbutthat’sbeyondthepoint — who has been good in the past but is having a really poor season that makes his overall numbers look that much worse.
Here the Yankees do have some clout. Rivera, Robertson, and Clippard all rank in the top 30 among relievers in ERA for the last three seasons. Melancon ranks in the top half and is on the rise. Dunn, Coke, and Choate form a decent cadre of lefties. Warren has shown that he’s a pretty good long man, at the least.
Yet again we find a blunder, though. While Coke and Dunn were both traded in large-scale transactions, Clippard got shipped out of town for Jonathan Albaladejo, which I’m sure Brian Cashman ranks as one of his worst trades. That’s not to mention how much Ramon Ramirez could have helped in the past.
Is there need for much commentary on the infield? Robinson Cano has been a phenomenal developmental success, especially at the major league level. He went from a guy whom the Rangers and Diamondbacks snubbed as a trade chip in 2004 to a veritable star by 2010.
And then we have the rest of the list.
After a hot 180 PA to start his career, Paredes has predictably stunk. Nunez has potential, and you can see it in nearly every swing he takes. It’s pretty, and it produces some of the hardest hit frozen ropes you’ll see. To date, it has failed to produce results worthy of an MLB starter. Adams still has potential, but he hasn’t done himself any favors in the bigs. I will refrain from commenting on Duncan.
Jeter obviously represents a developmental success, though that development occurred two decades ago, while Cashman was a mere peon in the organization and his staff wasn’t even with the team. Joseph could be decent, but lacks an arm to play 3B and so probably has no future with the organization. Pena was having a good year in part-time duty before getting hurt, but it’s not as though he’s going to be some surprise star.
This isn’t the worst group in the world, though there isn’t much power to speak of. Jackson is no superstar, but he did produce a solid rookie year and a standout season in 2012. Outside of that he’s been a little below average, which is fine for a center fielder with his kind of range. He and Gardner would prevent plenty of fly balls from dropping in.
The curious case here is Tabata, who earned Manny Ramirez comps while in the minors — and that’s a direct lesson to not comp minor leaguers to superstars. He’s been adequately above average for the Pirates in three of his four seasons to date, but like his Yankee-developed brethren he doesn’t hit for any power. Soriano is the only source of power here, and once again he’s not a true developmental success, since the Yankees signed him as a free agent after he played in Japan for a bit.
Again, a section that defies comment. The Yankees have had a pipeline of catchers, and none has really worked out. It does make me wonder what might have become, had Cervelli put his damn hand behind his back instead of leaving it prone and having a foul ball break it.
The roster above does not provide much inspiration. Collins wondered how it compared to the product actually on the field, and I think it’s pretty clear that the 2013 Yankees are a bit better than this crew.
Teams are built in many different ways, though, and an all-homegrown team ignores the Yankees greatest competitive advantage: money. So it makes sense, in a way, that they haven’t developed an elite corps of big league players. With money to burn on high-tier players, it’s not necessary.
Then again, a necessary cousin to spending on high-tier players is trading prospects for established talent. The Yankees have done this, and really haven’t surrendered all that much in the way of helpful big leaguers. But their track record suggests that teams aren’t getting a whole lot in return. I’m not sure if this turns teams away from dealing with the Yankees, but it certainly can’t help.
The landscape is changing as well. Players are opting for security over top dollar, signing extensions with their current teams that leave them off free agency lists at ages when it might make sense to sign them to long-term contracts. When they do hit free agency it could be in their early- to mid-30s, a time when long-term contracts become far, far riskier.
In the past, this kind of development had worked. In the future, it will not. Therefore, people railing against Cashman and the front office in the comments — an inevitability in nearly any post but a 100 percent certainty on this one — miss the point. How the Yankees have performed in the past in terms of player development does not necessarily reflect how they will perform in the future. In the past they didn’t need to emphasize development because of their other advantages. Now that players and teams have changed their behaviors, the Yankees will have to adapt in kind.
Which is to say that they have to do better if they want to avoid a long period of losing teams. The old methods just don’t work as well.