Wednesday, April 23, 2014


(In Photo: Aaron Judge, Michael O'Neill) (Courtesy: Charleston River Dogs)
Over the past few seasons we’ve listened as experts have told us how the Yankees’ farm system is slowly digressing.  The philosophy of using the minor league talent to land other teams’ established veterans had depleted our future and left the organization nothing more than a top-heavy behemoth vulnerable to the slightest of setbacks.

Last year seemed to bear that out as we had no real answers when Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter, and their replacements, fell to injury.

I’ve had the opportunity over the years (thanks to a minor league club – the Syracuse Chiefs – being nearby) to watch some of the Triple A Scranton/Wilkes Barre RailRiders’ games, and what I’ve witnessed hasn’t exactly validated the experts’ assessments.

I’ve seen players with genuine talent and passion for the game make solid cases (in my mind) for the stability of our favorite team’s future.

To that end, I decided to take a look at how many of our “Baby Bombers” are currently doing at their various levels of baseball.  I discovered that the Yankees have a number of players distinguishing themselves in their quest to reach “The Show”.

(Courtesy: Charleston River Dogs)
At Single A level Charleston (RiverDogs), we have first baseman Mike Ford hitting .333 with a .464 slugging percentage through 15 games.

In the outfield for the RiverDogs is Aaron Judge.  The 22-year-old was drafted in the first round (32nd pick overall) last year, and like Ford, is hitting .321 through 16 games.

(Courtesy: Charleston River Dogs) 
Starting pitcher Caleb Smith carries a 1.26 ERA and 1.12 WHIP (walks + hits per inning pitched) with 13 strikeouts in 14.1 innings pitched.

Out of the bullpen, Charleston brings 23-year-old Nick Rumbelow who has three saves, a 0.00 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, and nine strikeouts in 5.2 innings.

Moving up to A (Advanced) level Tampa, there’s Dante Bichette Jr., a third baseman, who is hitting .358 with a 1.028 OPS (stat that represents a combination of slugging and on-base percentages) with 16 walks in 17 games.

Teammate Peter O’Brien, also a third baseman, is batting .333 and has a 1.086 OPS.  He leads Tampa with six home runs and has 12 RBI in 16 games.

On the mound in Florida, we have Eric Wooten, a starter that currently carries a 2.11 ERA with a 1.17 WHIP.  Wooten has struck out 16 and walked just 4 in 21.1 innings.

Fellow starter Rafael DePaula has a 2.51 ERA and 1.05 WHIP with 19 strikeouts and six walks in 14.1 innings.

So, what about the guys within reach of a call-up?

Well, at Trenton (Double A) the Thunder have top prospect Gary Sanchez.  The catcher isn’t disappointing by hitting .302 with a .453 slugging percentage and .846 OPS with 13 RBI in 14 games.  If he continues at this rate, chances are you’ll see him at Scranton for the second half of the season. Teammate Kyle Roller, a first baseman, is batting .308 with three home runs and a 1.110 OPS.

24-year-old starter Zach Nuding touts a 2.89 ERA and 0.91 WHIP while striking out 18 in 18.2 innings.

Closing out games for the Thunder is 26-year-old Diego Moreno.  He is among the league leaders with four saves and holds a 1.29 ERA with a microscopic 0.43 WHIP. 

The Yankees have some guys at Triple A Scranton/Wilkes Barre (the RailRiders) who are making strong cases for themselves as well.

We’ve all become familiar with Scott Sizemore whose demotion back to Scranton was nothing more than a result of the roster shell game that teams have to play.  He’s batting .344 with a .936 on-base percentage.  I really would be surprised if we didn’t seem him return sometime soon.

Our Triple A club has a strong bullpen and most representative of that are relievers Mark Montgomery and Danny Burawa.

The 23-year-old Montgomery seems to be on the fast track to the majors.  He has been promoted every year and with a 0.00 ERA, 0.75 WHIP and nine strikeouts in eight innings, his meteoric rise through the organization doesn’t appear to be slowing.

Burawa is the 25-year-old complement to Montgomery and his statistics are just as impressive.  Like his teammate, Burawa has a 0.00 ERA.  His WHIP is slightly higher at 1.05, but he has struck out 12 in a little over six innings.

After reviewing how our minor leaguers have begun 2014, I can’t help but think that the Yankees’ future is in good hands.  It is clear that on the horizon there are stars just waiting to explode onto the scene in New York. 

I’ve only mentioned a few here to make the point that while there are prognosticators who will be critical of the organization that has won more championships than any other, only time will be the true evaluation of our scouts’ hard work.

Will any of these guys be the next Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera

Probably not, but none of them can be discounted just yet.

Talent like that comes around once in a generation if you’re lucky, and God knows we’ve been pretty damn lucky over the years.

Nonetheless, what these ballplayers (and others) represent is depth in a system that many like to call barren.  They give us a glimpse into what the future holds for the Yankees.

I like what I see.


--Steve Skinner, BYB Writer
Twitter: @oswegos1

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