Via Ken Davidoff:
The Mets may be more likely to make the playoffs this year, thanks to their strong starting rotation and weak competition – and the Yankees’ weak starting rotation and strong competition. But over the next five seasons and beyond, the Yankees are much better positioned than their Flushing counterparts because of their considerably deeper farm system.
“We’ve been very aggressive in the amateur market, as we said we would be,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said yesterday. “We’ve been more aggressive on the amateur side and less aggressive on the free-agent side. It’s common sense.”
When Cashman was set to bolt the Yankees after the 2005 season, he put forth, in writing, his recommendations for the organization. Part of that recommended business model was to ignore Selig’s mandate and go after the best amateur talent available.
George Steinbrenner asked Cashman to come back and promised to allow those recommendations to become reality. Now, when you combine the Yankees’ 2006-08 drafts (assuming everyone signs) with the trades of Gary Sheffield and Johnson in the 2006-07 offseason and the acumen of amateur scouting vice president Damon Oppenheimer, the Yankees’ inventory ranks among the elite in baseball.
This is always nice to hear. But, you also have to take it for what it’s worth. Reading this, I decided to go back to Baseball America’s 2002 Prospect Handbook, to see which teams were ranked as having the best prospect “blend” (in terms of quality and quality) in their farm system. Here’s how Baseball America ranked the top five minor league systems in 2002:
1. Chicago Cubs
2. Seattle Mariners
3. Houston Astros
4. San Diego Padres
5. New York Yankees
The Cubs, at that time, had Mark Prior, Juan Cruz, Hee Seop Choi, David Kelton, Bobby Hill, Carlos Zambrano, Nic Jackson, Ben Christensen, Scott Chiasson and Luis Montanez as their top ten prospects – according to Baseball America. How many of those are doing well for the Cubs, six years later?
The Mariners, at that time, had Ryan Anderson, Rafael Soriano, Antonio Perez, Chris Snelling, Clint Nageotte, Jeff Heaverlo, Shin-Soo Choo, Ryan Christianson, Jamal Strong and Matt Thornton as their top ten prospects – according to Baseball America. How many of those are doing well for the M’s, six years later?
The Astros, at that time, had Carlos Hernandez, John Buck, Chris Burke, Jason Lane, Brad Lidge, Anthony Pluta, Morgan Ensberg, Rodrigo Rosario, Chad Qualls, and Tommy Whiteman as their top ten prospects – according to Baseball America. How many of those are doing well for the Astros, six years later?
The Padres, at that time, had Sean Burroughs, Dennis Tankersley, Jake Peavy, Xavier Nady, Mark Phillips, Ben Howard, Eric Cyr, Jake Gautreau, Ramon Vazquez, and Oliver Perez as their top ten prospects – according to Baseball America. How many of those are doing well for the Padres, six years later?
When you look at these “Top Ten” lists six years later…it’s not a reach to say that, maybe, one of the top ten paid off – in terms of being a big leaguer of sustained worth…on average.
Oh, and, how about the Yankees farm system in 2002? The one ranked as the 5th best in baseball?
The Yankees, at that time, had Drew Henson, Nick Johnson, Brandon Claussen, John-Ford Griffin, Juan Rivera, Sean Henn, Marcus Thames, Erick Almonte, Jason Arnold and Bronson Sardinha as their top ten prospects – according to Baseball America. How many of those are doing well for the Yanks, six years later? Zip.
Coming into this season, Baseball America ranked the current Yankees top ten prospects as follows:
1. Joba Chamberlain
2. Austin Jackson
3. Jose Tabata
4. Ian Kennedy
5. Alan Horne
6. Jesus Montero
7. Jeffrey Marquez
8. Brett Gardner
9. Ross Ohlendorf
10. Andrew Brackman
Now, Joba Chamberlain looks like the real deal. But, the others? If this little study tells us anything, well, you just don’t know, for sure. What looks wonderful, in terms of “prospect status,” at one moment can look totally different six years later.
There’s a pretty good chance, come 2013, we could be looking back and saying “Wow, remember all those ‘prospects’ that Cashman collected in 2006, 2007, and 2008? Outside of Joba, what every happened to those guys?”