One theme of Hal Steinbrenner’s afternoon radio blitz was his obvious disappointment in the Yankees minor league system.
“We finally got a chance to really try to bring a lot of these players up and see how they could contribute,” he told Mike Francesa, “and it was not as good as we had hoped.”
“Everybody knows it’s unacceptable,” Steinbrenner told Michael Kay.
Clearly the impact from within the system was minimal this season — that much is difficult to argue — but I’m not entirely sure what the Yankees front office was expecting. It seemed to be generally understood heading into this season that the bulk of the Yankees minor league talent was in the lower levels. That was obviously a bad thing — lower-level talent is far more risky and less valuable than upper-level talent — but it was a reality. Hard to base expectations on anything other than the reality of the situation.
And frankly, it’s not like the Yankees gave a ton of young players a ton of opportunities.
The position players who really got a chance were outfielder Zoilo Almonte, infielder David Adams and catcher Austin Romine. Those three got at least 106 but not more than 140 Major League at-bats apiece. No other organizational call-up got more than 26. Their overall numbers were remarkably similar (and similarly disappointing).
Thing is, none of those three was considered a can’t-miss prospect and it’s hard to imagine the Yankees were truly counting on those three being impact players in the short term. Hoping for it, sure — especially in the case of Romine — but I find it hard to believe the Yankees were basing their future plans on Almonte, Adams and Romine. If they were, there were certainly positive signs. Adams had a great first couple of weeks (and drove the ball again at the very end of the year), Almonte also got off to a strong start (and kept with his minor league tendency to hit righties better than lefties) and Romine was legitimately good in the weeks before his concussion. There’s something to like about all three players, but obvious reasons for concern as well.
That said, Romine was the only one of the three who had any Triple-A experience before this year, and even he had only played in 17 games at that level (and had missed most of last season with an injury). Those three, armed with mostly Double-A experience, were supposed to be immediately ready to replace Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez and Francisco Cervelli (or Russell Martin, depending on how you look at it)?
As for the pitchers who were given a chance, Adam Warren pitched well in his long relief role, and Ivan Nova returned from the minor leagues to deliver a terrific second half. Michael Pineda and Mark Montgomery didn’t get to the big leagues — which was surely a disappointment, as those seemed to be two of the team’s better, upper-level pitchers — but Vidal Nuno and Preston Claiborne (for a while, anyway) surely exceeded expectations and filled spot starter and bullpen roles pretty well. The only other organizational call-up who was given more than five innings was Brett Marshall, and most of his innings came at the very end of the season.
There’s no doubt that the Yankees farm system failed to give the team a real impact player this season. The system was no prepared to fill the gaps. But if the Yankees are going to lean on their farm system more heavily in the near future, there might have to be a shift of either short-term expectation or long-term patience.
Associated Press photos