The depth of the Yankees’ farm system has eroded over the last few years. Coming into the 2017 season, the Yankees ranked among the best systems in baseball. Since then, trades and players graduating to the big leagues have thinned out the organization’s stock of talent.
The general consensus is that the Yankees are currently developing a number of promising ballplayers, but that talent is distributed unevenly and concentrated at the lowest minor league levels. While there are talent gaps at High-A and Double-A, the organization does have some depth to speak of up the middle. In particular, infielders Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe have both entered Baseball America’s Top 100, they have a bevy of young outfielders led by teenage phenom Jasson Dominguez, and there is also a lot to like from their first-round pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, catcher Austin Wells.
However, the biggest issue with the Yankees’ farm system right now? The players who are nearly ready for The Show — the players who would buoy the Yankees’ sinking ship most right now — have either been absent, or have performed poorly so far this season.
Entering the 2021 season, the Yankees seemed to believe that the organization could rely on prospects like Clarke Schmidt, Deivi García and Estevan Florial to step in and help the big league club if help was needed in the Bronx. Unfortunately, those three players aren’t available to help the Yankees right now. Schmidt is on the recovery track but still dealing with an elbow injury, García has pitched terribly, and Florial’s offensive development is not progressing as much nor as fast as the organization would like. The prospects who were supposedly close to making a major league impact have taken a detour in their development and need to iron out their kinks in Scranton before they are able to provide support to the big league club.
Without pitchers like Schmidt and García available to fill in the gaps, the Yanks have been forced to rely on veteran depth (Nestor Cortes Jr.), look for solutions outside the organization (Wandy Peralta), or embrace using a glorified opener for several games — even if the role doesn’t quite fit Michael King to a tee. It’s unclear if García’s shortcomings this season — and to a lesser extent, Florial’s — represent a normal blip in their development, or if there is something else at play. Not playing a full season in 2020 due to the pandemic certainly may have contributed to the roadblock. The cancelled minor league season presumably made it harder for the Yankees to assess and project prospects in the most precise fashion. To some degree, everyone is playing catch up.
So, what does the Yankees’ farm system have going for it? Despite the logjam of pitching talent at the top, the organization continues to do a solid job developing the arms of young pitchers and helping them reach higher velocities. Luis Gil and Luis Medina remain quite promising as the climb the ladder. The Yankees excel at maximizing their young pitchers’ potential — that is something they have always done well. The organization is clearly invested in this area. The Gas Station, the Yankees’ newly-built pitching facility in Tampa, demonstrates the organization’s dedication to helping pitchers refine their craft.
The Yankees need to address several weaknesses in their farm system in order to elevate it to the top-tier status it enjoyed in the days of the Baby Bombers. This might be a stretch, but my eye test views the gaps, logjams and unevenly-distributed talent across the Yankees’ minor league levels resembles the imbalance and cobbled-together nature of their current roster construction at the big league level. The organization could undoubtedly benefit from adopting an approach that takes into account the big picture and considers how complementary its individual pieces are with one another, and not just on their own.