Aaron Judge, Left Oblique Injury 4/20.2019 (Photo: Chat Sports)

Yankees Farm System: There’s Still Silver In Them Thar Hills – It’s Just That…

The Yankees farm system is all but depleted, right? Maybe, but there is still any number of players who can help right now. It’s just that…

The Yankees farm system, once the envy of baseball, has been depleted by trades Brian Cashman has made to improve the team’s 25-man roster, and now by the need to find replacement players for the fourteen Yankees who have made their way to the Injured List this season.

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Clint Frazier, Mike Ford, Tyler Wade, Mike Tauchman, Gio Urshela, and now, Thairo Estrada, were not included on the Yankees active roster when the team went North to begin the season. Frazier is thriving in his opportunity and is among the AL Leaders in batting average. Tauchman has four home runs, and Tyler Wade sparked a Yankees win with a perfect squeeze bunt.

But for all practical purposes, this is the end of the line when it comes to the Yankees farm system providing position players as replacements for any more injuries. The team is okay with pitching replacements, having their choice among Albert Abreu, Jonathan Loaisiga, Chance Adams, and Domingo Acevedo if a need arises.

The idea, though, that describing the Yankees farm system as barren is just not true. What is a fact, however, is that Brian Cashman can only protect the players on his 40-man roster, and finding room there is usually a non-starter. Plus, there’s something else…

The immediate need for the Yankees stems from their entire outfield presence on the Injured List, and with Aaron Judge incurring an oblique strain during yesterday’s win against Kansas City, he joins Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks, neither of whom has any predictable timetable for their return to the lineup.

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Of the remaining players in the Yankees farm system who could help the team, none are household names. But if you take a peek at the individual stats for the Yankees Double-A farm team in Trenton New Jersey, you’ll find the name Ben Ruta, the lone position player capable of making the leap to the majors.

Ruta was a 30th Round pick by the Yankees in the 2016 June  Draft. He reminds of Brett Gardner as a speedy outfielder, leading the Thunder in stolen bases with five this season, and 37 last season with two minor league teams. A switch-hitter, Ruta is batting .420 and leads his team in hits, doubles, and total bases. Worth a try, wouldn’t you say? Except – he can’t be brought up until he’s added to the 40-man roster.

So, the problem the Yankees face is the unbalanced mix of talent we see, for example, when we look at their Top 30 Prospects as rated by MLB. Pitchers dominate the list (21) and not position players (9) where the Yankees have the most need. That’s a 70/30 ratio.

Which means that unless Brian Cashman is willing to deal (pitching) prospects for (position player) prospects with teams like the Yankees who have major league ready talent in their farm system, there is little hope of help coming to the Yankees in the near future.

Brett Gardner, at this stage of his career, cannot play every day as he’s been doing. Neither can Frazier, who is still gearing up to the drudgeries of regular play after missing nearly all of last season. One option available to Cashman is to sign Denard Span, who is still a free agent looking for a job. But while a good fit for the team, it’s unlikely Span could pick up a bat and begin to produce – just like that! Ditto Logan Morrison, who the Yankees just picked up as a free agent.

We keep coming back to this one overriding detail, don’t we? Which is the Yankees are what they are, and no matter what lineup Aaron Boone puts out there on any given day, that team is expected to win. A 10-10 record going into today’s play at the Stadium is good enough for second place in the weakened American League East (thank you Boston).

The Tampa Bay team is good, but can they score enough runs to keep up with the rest of the league over a full season with what they have? Plus, the Yankees will have nineteen opportunities to overtake the Rays over the next five months, when presumably, the Bombers will be at or near full-strength.

And in the meantime, Cashman and his team are hopefully scouring high school and college campuses, prepping for the Amateur Draft in June, primarily looking for talented position players so this abyss is never reached again.

If it was easy, then it wouldn’t be much fun – would it?

Footnote:  “The Replacements” came through again today as Clint Frazier blasted a three-run home run and back-up catcher, Austin Romine singled in the winning run in the 10th inning to bring the Yankees to 11-10 on the season.

Written by Steve Contursi, Editor, Reflections On Baseball
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