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champsOver the years I’ve gone through phases when it comes to these lists. A few years ago I was all about upside; if you had a significant ceiling you were making my list, regardless if you struck out 195 times in 134 games (coughTimBattlecough). These days I find myself favoring probability and closeness to the majors. Don’t get me wrong, upside is still a huge part of prospect rankings, but I’m definitely starting to weigh readiness more in my rankings. It just makes sense considering the shift towards younger players in today’s game.

The Yankees’ system was definitely in the red this year. The losses sustained due to graduation, trades, injuries and ineffectiveness outweigh the gains brought on by breakouts and player acquisitions. Three players from last year’s top ten are no longer with the organization, and just one player from the top five makes a repeat showing there this year. On top of that the Yanks failed to sign their first and second round draft picks. While they’ll reap the benefits of the compensation picks this year, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to match the potential of Gerrit Cole, nevermind Scott Bittle. Forfeiting their first, second and third round picks in next year’s draft for signing free agents means they’ll be working at a disadvantage as they try to rebuild the system.

Despite all that, the Yanks’ affiliates did a whole lotta winning this year. Triple-A Scranton and Double-A Trenton (pictured) each won their league titles this year, and it was Trenton’s second consecutive championship. All told the minor league affiliates combined for a 406-287  record (.586 winning percentage), far and away the best in baseball. They were the only club to eclipsed the 400 win mark, and the next best organization (Rangers) had a .556 winning percentage. Winning obviously takes a back seat to development in the minor leagues, but it’s always nice to give your young players a taste of success.

As I was putting this list together, I didn’t have to put too much thought into figuring out who the organization’s top three prospects were. Barring a trade I knew exactly who numbers one, two and three were going to be basically since September. Numbers four through seven are pretty interchangeable in my eyes, eight through nineteen even more so. Don’t get too worked up if I ranked your favorite prospect lower than you would have liked, quite often the difference between a set of two, three or ten prospects is smaller than you may think.

It’s always fun to go back in time and see how things worked out, so here’s my 2007 and 2008 lists. Otherwise, the fun starts after the jump. Ages are as of Opening Day.

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Categories : Minors
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  • From the last row, a pole

    Yesterday morning, Ross from New Stadium Insider sent me a link to this post, and it’s creating quite the Internet stir. It seems that some of the seats down the left field line on the main level have obstructed views, and the fans are going nuts. In my opinion, this is much less of a story than most people are making it out to be.

    Stadiums have obstructed views; that’s just a crappy fact of engineering life. Sometimes you can’t see the outfield; sometimes you can’t see some foul territory; sometimes you have to lean just right to get the view you want. Support poles are pretty bad, and as one NYYFans.com poster noted, this row looks like a late addition to the Main Level. But what are you going to do? The Yanks will get bad press over this, but my solution is easy: Avoid the last row down the third base line on the Main Level. Problem solved.
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Joe Girardi hasn’t really had an easy job since taking over the managerial reins in Oct. of 2007. He had to face Joe Torre’s legacy, a raft full of injuries, the first non-Yankee October since 1994 and now the Alex Rodriguez mess.

On the flip side, though, 2009 is a manager’s dream. The Yanks landed three of the top four free agents this winter and head into the season with their best rotation since 2003 and one of the game’s best lineups as well. If all goes according to plan, Girardi’s toughest decisions this year will focus around the nine hole in the lineup and the center field spot. He may also have to determine who pitches the eighth.

At the same time, Girardi acutely feels the weight of expectations. Somehow, he has to right this PED-tainted ship his third baseman is on, and he has to manage against the on-field expectations his bosses, his fans and the media have. To that end, he knows that his job could be on the line if the Yanks head home after their Oct. 4 game in Tampa. Reports Ken Davidoff:

What interested me most was when Girardi agreed with a reporter’s question/assertion that he probably wouldn’t be invited back for 2010 if the Yankees failed to qualify for the postseason. That’s probably right, unless there’s a complete slew of injuries

“I don’t necessarily think about those things,” Girardi told the reporter who asked the question. “But as you stated the question, you’re probably right.” Then he laughed.

He can laugh at it, and he can joke about on Feb. 12. But Girardi is right. He was supposed to be the Next Great Yankee Manager, and while he did an admirable enough job last year, he has to do better this year. Better, of course, means a playoff berth.

It’s tough to manage in New York. With so much money spent on the on-field product, it’s not unreasonable for the those signing the paycheck to demand excellence every year. But when the fans hop on that bandwagon and the media follows suit, the pressure can be overwhelming. Girardi isn’t a rookie anymore. Now we get to see what he’s made of, and no one knows the pressure and potential success that awaits him more than Joe.

Categories : Front Office
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  • Oliver wins case against NCAA

    Andy Oliver, a LHP at Oklahoma State, won his lawsuit against the NCAA today, and he has been deemed eligible for the upcoming baseball season. There’s a chance you remember hearing me speak about Oliver the end of an early January edition of the RAB Radio Show, but if not, let me review succinctly: Oliver sued the NCAA because he was ruled ineligible after it was discovered that he had used an agent to negotiate on his behalf back when the Twin’s drafted him in the 17th round of the 2006 draft. Today’s ruling abolished the “no agent” rule, so amateur players can now hire representation without consequences.

    Players hired agents anyway, so why is this such a big deal? Because now Scott Boras can hold a press conference and officially say “Stephen Strasburg will not sign for anything less than $12M.” That’s an extreme example, but it gives you can idea how this can affect the already broken draft system.
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The gang over at Vegas Watch posted their over/unders for each team’s win total this year, and have the Yanks set at 96. Here’s the full list:

I’m going to say under on the Yanks, just because I don’t think you can predict any team to win 95 or more games these days. As for the rest of the AL East, I’ll say under, over, under, over, just going down the line. I’ll also take the over on the Phils, Marlins, Giants and Twins, and the under on the Brewers, Cards, Dodgers, Tigers and Angels. For everyone else … all bets are off. So what do you guys think?

Elsewhere in interwebiverse, Buster Olney’s Battle of the Budget team beat the Yanks 4-1 in a simulated seven game series. Here’s the box scores. It just a simulation of a short series, so don’t get worked up over it. Notice how Buster’s team used Joba out of the rotation (7.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 11 K in Game 4) while the simulation had Joba working out of the bullpen for the Yanks (3 appearances, 4.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K). Good thing he impacted all those extra games, right?

Anywho, talk about the over/unders or ESPN’s simulation or whatever else you want here. There’s no local teams in action tonight, but the 40th Annual NAACP Image awards are on. I guess that’s something. Play nice.

Categories : Open Thread
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Back in our regular slot, Mike and I take a show full of questions from the readers. It’s tough to create an agenda for the show at this time of the year, so why not let the listeners dictate it? We talk a lot about the construction of the team — center field, the Nady/Swisher situation, the bullpen. There are questions about who will win the divisions across the league. The best part: We do not really talk about A-Rod, except for a quip here and there.

Onto the podcast. It is available in a number of formats. You can download it here by right clicking on that link and selecting Save As. If you want to play it in your browser, just left click the link. You can also subscribe to the podcast feed, which will send it to you every Thursday. You can also subscribe in iTunes. Finally, we have the embedded audio player below.

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Categories : Podcast
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karstens_melkyOne of the most difficult parts of putting together a prospect list of any size is sorting out the back end. There always seems to be about ten or twelve players worthy of those last three or four spots, and in the end it comes down to personal preference. Do you go with the high upside youngster with little to no professional experience, or the older and more polished player on the cusp of the big leagues despite a lower ceiling? No matter which way you go there will always be someone left on the outside looking in.

Last year I prefaced my Top 30 by profiling the five players who fell just short of making the list, but I wanted to change things up this year. Instead of posting a feature on prospects 31-35, I’m going to highlight some players that didn’t make the list this year, but could very well make it next year. One or two of these players were in that 31-35 range, but the rest are still too raw for me to seriously consider them for a Top 30 spot. If they develop and improve the weaker parts of their games in 2009, there’s a good chance all of them will make the big boy list next year.

The good stuff starts after the jump.

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Categories : Minors
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  • Selig talks suspension for A-Rod

    Bud Selig is one of the bigger problems with the steroid era. While he faced a combative players association, he rarely stepped up to speak out against drugs in the game until it became a national scandal. Since then, he has never punished a suspected — or known — PED user for failing a test prior to 2004 when mandatory punishments were enacted. Today, in an interview with USA Today, Selig says that he “would have to think about” suspending Alex Rodriguez.

    In a nutshell, that’s a complete and utter joke. The PA would throw a fit about it, and that Selig even mentions it is reason enough for me to say he should resign. This isn’t leadership; this is public grandstanding. Somehow, despite the fact that A-Rod took PEDs, lied about it on national television and chose softy Peter Gammons to interview him on Monday, the media reaction — between Roberts’ book and Selig’s interview — has nearly turned A-Rod into a sympathetic victim. That’s as bad a reflection on the state of baseball as A-Rod’s PED use six years ago is.
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