Every year Baseball America releases its Top 100 Prospects. You can check out this year’s list here. They’ve done this for years and years, dating all the way back to 1990. It’s a reality of baseball that some top prospects will bust, while other players will become stars while barely grazing a prospect list. It made me wonder where the current Yankees ranked on BA’s prospect list. Thankfully, Baseball Reference now lists a player’s peak rankings on its minor league player pages, so we can see how highly the BA crew thought of the team as they grew up.
Alex Rodriguez: No. 1 in 1995
Before he took his first professional swing, BA rated A-Rod the No. 6 prospect in baseball. A year later, after he dominated three minor league levels, they moved him to No. 1. He actually made his debut in 1994, again during his first professional season. No Yankee has more Major League service time than A-Rod.
Mark Teixeira: No. 1 in 2003
After checking in as the No. 10 prospect before the 2002 season, Teixeira climbed all the way to No. 1 in 2003. He broke camp with the Rangers that year and began his journey to stardom.
Joba Chamberlain: No. 3 in 2008
Behind just Jay Bruce and Evan Longoria, Joba was the top pitching prospect a year after he convinced everyone he was a natural born reliever. I think that if Baseball America had ranked him as a reliever Clay Buchholz would have been No. 3 that year.
Derek Jeter: No 4 in 1995
After drafting him with the sixth overall pick in 1992, the Yankees signed Jeter in time for him to accumulate 237 PA that year. He debuted on BA’s Top 100 as the No. 46 prospect, and then climbed to No. 16 the following year. He peaked in 1995 at No. 4, dropping to No. 6 before his breakout 1996 season.
Phil Hughes: No. 4 in 2007
Just before the birth of RAB, Baseball America named Phil Hughes the No. 1 pitching prospect in baseball. The 2007 Yankees had plenty of pitching problems, including a hamstring injury that kept Chien-Ming Wang on the DL all of April. Chase Wright got smacked around, so when the Yankees needed a starter in late April they called on Hughes. That is still his best season as a starter.
Nick Johnson: No. 5 in 2000
After two years of absolutely mashing the ball in the minors, Johnson climbed all the way to the No. 5 overall prospect in 2000. He missed that entire season, though, which dropped him to No. 10 in 2001. He fell another three spots in 2002, to No. 13. He was the Yankees’ No. 1 prospect from 1999 through 2001, dropping to No. 2 in 2002, behind Drew Henson.
CC Sabathia: No. 7 in 2001
The 20th pick in the 1998 draft, Sabathia pitched well enough in 1999 to make BA’s Top 100, debuting at No. 57. After again pitching well in 2000 he jumped to No. 7 — and to the majors. He pitched 180.1 innings that year, taking away his rookie status. He was Cleveland’s No. 1 prospect in 2000 and 2001.
Chan Ho Park: No. 14 in 1994
A year after the Dodgers signed him as an amateur free agent in 1994 Baseball America rated him the No. 14 overall prospect. He walked a few too many hitters at AA, but produced results. Still, that moved him to the No. 41 prospect overall in 1995. After a season in which he posted a 4.91 ERA at AAA Baseball America ranked him the No. 18 prospect in 1996. Strangely, he didn’t make the Dodgers’ 1994 Top 10 list. That honor belonged to Darren Dreifort.
A.J. Burnett: No. 20 in 2000
An eighth round pick by the Mets in 1995, Burnett never cracked even the team Top 10. Before he could break out the Mets traded him to Florida in the Al Leiter deal. That very season he killed A ball for the Marlins, striking out 14.1 batters per nine innings. That earned him the No. 21 spot on BA’s Top 100 in 1999. He moved up one spot after a rough 1999 season in AA, but then went up to the Marlins and exhausted his rookie status that season. He was Florida’s No. 1 prospect in 1999 and 2000.
Nick Swisher: No. 24 in 2005
Swisher was, now famously, picked in the first round of the 2002 draft by an overly excited Billy Beane. He didn’t make the Top 100 heading into the 2003 season, and didn’t even make a list before the 2004 season despite working his way up to AA in 2003. He was Oakland’s No. 6 prospect that year, and he was No. 1 in 2005.
Andy Pettitte: No. 49 in 1995
A No. 49 overall ranking isn’t bad for a 22nd-round draft pick. He certainly earned the distinction, though. Over 608 minor league innings Pettitte posted a 2.46 ERA and earned a call-up in late April 1995. He was the Yankees’ No. 3 prospect that year after ranking No. 7 in 1994.
Curtis Granderson: No. 57 in 2005
The Tigers grabbed Granderson in the third round in 2002 and signed him pretty quickly. He dominated in his 240 PA, posting a .344/.417/.495 line at low-A ball. He took the system a level a year after that, posting good numbers at A+ before destroying AA in 2004. That earned him the No. 57 spot on BA’s list before the 2005 season, when he was also the Tigers’ No. 1 prospect.
Javy Vazquez: No. 83 in 1998
He had to repeat the Sally league in 1996 after posting a 5.08 ERA in 1995, but Vazquez cruised through the minors from there. He broke camp with the Expos in 1998, the year he was named the No. 83 overall prospect in baseball. The only place I can find the team rankings is at The Baseball Cube, but they do not have the 1998 prospect list for the Expos/Nationals.
Robinson Cano: N/A
Cano was considered one of the Yankees’ top prospects by 2004, though it wasn’t enough to earn him a spot on the Top 100, even after a relatively impressive 2004 season. BA rated him the Yankees’ No. 2 prospect headed into 2005, behind Eric Duncan.
Jorge Posada: N/A
No, Jorge Posada never made a BA Top 100 list. He peaked in 1995 as the No. 7 prospect in the Yankees’ system. That’s not uncommon for a 24th-round pick who OBP’d just above .300 in his third professional season.
Marcus Thames: N/A
Again, it’s unsurprising that Thames missed the BA Top 100 list. He was a 30th round pick who came out of nowhere to post a .321/.410/.598 line in 2001. That earned him the No. 7 spot on the Yankees’ 2002 prospect list, but not Top 100.
Al Aceves: N/A
But he was the Yankees’ No. 7 prospect in 2009 after impressing in 2008.
Brett Gardner: N/A
Gardner, a 2005 third round pick, never made a Top 100. His speed tantalized scouts, but his bat did not. He diligently worked his way through the Yankees’ system, though, reaching AAA by 2007. He was ranked the Yankees’ No. 8 prospect heading into the 2008 season, when he exhausted his rookie eligibility.
Randy Winn: N/A
Winn was never a top prospect, and his minor league numbers make it clear why that’s the case. A third round pick in 1995 by the Marlins, he was the team’s No. 8 prospect the following season, but after a disappointing 1996 season he fell off. By the time he started to hit in the minors he had already exhausted his rookie eligibility.
Mariano Rivera: N/A
He had a 2.35 ERA in his minor league career, but this 1990 amateur signee never made a Top 100. He was No. 9 on the Yankees’ prospect list in 1993 and then again in 1995. He was a starter throughout the minors, making 14 relief appearances in 1991 and then never again. Not even in a 2002 rehab appearance. He pitched two innings to start a game in rookie ball an that was it.
Damaso Marte: N/A
Nor did he ever make a team Top 10, as far as I can tell.
David Robertson: N/A
The 2006 17th-round pick made his pro debut in 2007, stifling the competition in the Sally and Florida State leagues. After tackling AA and AAA in 2008 he made his major league debut, but he really made strides in 2009. He could play a prominent role in the bullpen in 2010.
Ramiro Pena: N/A
Not only that, but he also never appeared in a Yankees’ Top 10. Hell, he didn’t even make John Sickels’s Top 21 in 2009.
Francisco Cervelli: N/A
Same deal as Pena. No Top 10 Yanks, not even Sickels’s Top 21 in 2009.
Sergio Mitre: N/A
The Cubs drafted Mitre in the seventh round of the 2001 draft and watched him pitch pretty well through the minors. Not well enough to ever make the Cubs’ Top 10 prospects, but well.