The biggest knock against the Yankees, from the mouths of rivals and ignorant fans, has been that the club purchases championships. That the pens and dotted lines do the talking, rather than the gloves and bats. That the double buttoned suits and ties are more of a reason for the World Series Championships than the pinstriped uniforms. If there wasn’t a good enough counter to that argument yet, there now seems to be one. Actually two–Slade Heathcott and Jacob Lindgren.
On Monday, both of the Yankees' high-celling prospects were on display at Yankee Stadium. And, like most Yankees that day, they shined. In New York’s 14-1 defeat of the Kansas City Royals, everything seemed to go the Yankees' way. Slade Heathcott enjoyed his first home run, while Jacob Lindgren saw his first MLB action.
Heathcott was drafted in the first round of the 2009 draft, going 29th overall. In 37 games this season with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Heathcott batted .285/.335/.358 with 17 RBI. He has had a long, trying road to the major leagues, but after seven seasons of minor league work, an outright release and re-sign in the offseason, and a Jacoby Ellsbury injury, he finally found his way to the majors. Thus far, he’s made the most of the opportunity. He’s batting .417/.417/.750 with the big club so far. Sure, that’s in 13 plate appearances, but we must remember to celebrate the little victories. Heathcott has already added more value in his Yankees career than was ever expected at this point, and he might have provided further glimpse into what is to come for the Bombers.
Lindgren’s road to the Yankees is nearly the opposite. He was a second round draft pick in 2014, quickly making his way to the Major Leagues, debuting behind only Brandon Finnegan and Carlos Rodon in his draft class. In fact, he is the first Yankee to make his MLB debut within one year of being drafted since Deion Sanders did so in 1989. Baseball America has the 22-year-old ranked as the eighth best Yankees prospect, while Baseball Prospectus has him slotted at ninth. In his first and only two innings of work, Lindgren faced seven batters, not allowing a hit while walking two and striking out two. His debut was pretty encouraging for him, the bullpen, and the minor league system going forward.
Even more encouraging are the reinforcements coming behind these two. If you follow any of our content at Pinstripe Alley, you’d certainly know that by now. You’d also be well aware of who Greg Bird, Aaron Judge, Rob Refsynder, Luis Severino and many others are. If you’re not, poke around the site or head to Roster Resource. You’ll likely be pleased, if not borderline anxious, at the possibilities.
Some fresh faces for the Yankees turned out to be just what the team needed. Coming out of an awful losing skid, they were (along with the 14 runs on Monday) a reason to think of better times. They also serve as a glimpse at what the Yankees may be in the future—a team that builds within, fostering and growing young talent. Of course, as long as currency still exists, the Yankees will always spend money and obtain exceptional talent. They would be silly not to. But, Heathcott and Lindgren gave us a shimmering hope for a new core, built on the homegrown Yankee tradition–even if it doesn't end up including them.
Earlier this year, I wrote that this year’s Yankee team was in a transition period back to normalcy. In the lens of this new, young talent, that seems even truer. The young talent gave the feeling that this team and possibly the next few years’ teams are simply a bridge, connecting the Core Fore Yankees era to the next. Again, that is not to say that this year’s team cannot compete and win—it has already proven it can do so–but it may be the passage to even brighter days.
There is no telling whether Heathcott or Lindgren will be successful in the majors. They may not be part of the next great Yankees’ generation either, but they certainly lend a glimpse into what could be. The grass should always be greener anyways, shouldn’t it?