According to Bob Klapisch, the audit of the Yankees organization by an outside firm will begin as soon as the regular season ends. This comprehensive examination will reportedly include an objective evaluation of the successes and failures of the player development system. While there should be several departments who don’t withstand the scrutiny, those who operate in the minor leagues should be able to hold their heads high after a 2023 season that can only be viewed as an unqualified success.
Perhaps that is more of a subjective judgment of the farm system, and there are numerous ways to form an opinion about how it has fared, but the important markers of health, the progress of the player group, and the performance of top prospects should cast this season in a positive light.
In contrast to the team in the Bronx, the minor league players were remarkably healthy. Injuries are inevitable, especially in the pitching group, and the Yankees weren’t completely unscathed. They would have rather seen Trystan Vrieling, Angel Benitez, and Carson Coleman pitch this year, and the wait continues for catcher Engelth Urena to join his exciting cohort, but the vast majority of players were able to stay on the field, and those who didn’t were still able to get in a significant amount of games. Roderick Arias broke his pinky finger, but not before establishing himself as one of the better prospects in the organization. Tyler Hardman went down with an injury later in the season and did not return, but that was after he hit 26 home runs in Double-A.
While it is not foolproof to judge the health of a farm system by the number of players who get promoted, it certainly is a good sign when so many are reaching higher levels during the course of a season. Austin Wells, Jasson Domínguez, and Everson Pereira began the season in Double-A and made it to the big leagues, and Oswald Peraza got the call from Triple-A. At the end of August, the Tampa Tarpons had 11 players who had come up from the Florida Complex League. They also sent 22 players up to Hudson Valley who were on the roster when the Renegades played in their league championship series. In their playoff dugout, the Somerset Patriots had 15 players who had suited up for Hudson Valley in 2023. It would be a different story if those players had been elevated to replace those who were injured, but in most cases the promotions were anticipated and merited.
During the winter we ran a series that named the top 10 prospects in the Yankees’ organization. Six of them will finish the year on the big league roster, if the injured Domínguez is included. Randy Vásquez and Yoendrys Gómez, who would be considered among the players just outside the top 10, will also end the year as major leaguers. That’s a tremendous achievement for a development system, with the caveats that it only happened because the Yankees weren’t going to make the playoffs and we don’t know how many of the kids are keepers yet.
The other four players in that offseason top 10 — Spencer Jones, Trey Sweeney, Will Warren, and Clayton Beeter — only enhanced their prospect status with their performances. They were joined in that upper echelon by 2022 draft picks Chase Hampton and Drew Thorpe, with fellow right-hander Richard Fitts making a strong case to be there with them. That trio lit up minor league hitters to the tune of 490 strikeouts this year. Catchers Ben Rice and Agustin Ramirez burst onto the scene with tremendous offensive seasons, and infielder Jared Serna made a name for himself with a showing of speed, power, and the ability to hit in Single-A. Baseball America’s Josh Norris said scouts were “gushing over the concentration of talent” on the complex league team, which featured Arias, Keiner Delgado, Enmanuel Tejeda, John Cruz, Henry Lalane, and Carlos Lagrange, among others. The draft brought in well-regarded George Lombard Jr., who finished the season leading off in Tampa at age 18. A wave of prospects crested in the Bronx while the next wave formed behind it.
It was such an enjoyable year that it was a shame to see it come to an end, but as the summer and the season draw to a close, so does my time with Pinstripe Alley.
Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby once said, “People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” I can relate to that sentiment. Pinstripe Alley gave me the opportunity to do more than wait for a dreary northeast winter to pass. It gave me a place to think and write about a distinct and specific corner of the game that has never ceased to captivate me.
Sports are escapist entertainment. It’s what you think about when you are trying to avoid thinking about things that really matter, and minor league baseball is perhaps the purest form of the sport. The minors are all about hope. No one gets too bent out of shape when their team loses, because it’s just fun to watch them play. I would almost defy you to go to a minor league game and have a bad time. The cynicism that pervades every loss at the major league level can be forgotten in the minors. The guys who aren’t good today still could be. The belief that better days are to come is what makes following prospects fun.
There are many things that lose luster when you get to see how they are made. A peek behind the curtains at Pinstripe Alley has the opposite effect. The team of relentless, prolific, and talented writers and editors puts out a perpetually admirable product that Yankees fans can enjoy. The result of their efforts behind the scenes is a constantly whirring machine of ideas and words dedicated to a game and a franchise about which people feel very deeply, often to their detriment. It was an honor to be a part of it for a while, and I have nothing but gratitude for those who opened the door for me and showed me so much patience.
Thank you to those who have spent time reading so many words about this wonderful niche. As Sarah Langs often reminds us, baseball is the best, and it’s made better by all of its loyal and passionate fans, like the ones who create and visit this website. It’s been a treasured experience to be among them.
Editor’s note: And we thank Marcus for stepping into Dan’s shoes so smoothly as our resident prospect expect. He was on top of all the minor league action throughout 2023, and we’ll deeply miss his insight. Best of luck to him in his future endeavors!