For years Gary Denbo has been a name unknown to most fans of baseball. He’s still no household name, but many Yankees fans with more than a passing interest in the sport have come to associate him with success and progress. As the organization’s Vice President of Player Development, Denbo has been a huge part of the team’s current success, and now it’s likely he might get hired away.
He joined the Yankees organization in the early ‘90s as a hitting coach and manager, working with Derek Jeter before he reached the majors. After a stint with the major league team in 2001, Denbo toured around the world as a coach and a scout before returning to the Yankees as a player development consultant. Derek Jeter famously brought him out of obscurity, where Denob helped Jeter fix his swing during a resurgent 2011 season, and then he was brought into the fold.
Now that Jeter’s purchase of the Miami Marlins has been approved by MLB owners, it has been rumored that the former Yankees captain will want Denbo with him as his general manager. It’s far too early to tell what will happen in the offseason, but Jeter has already fired several key positions in preparation for the installation of a new front office regime. If Denbo is about to go, the Yankees would be losing someone who has helped form the foundation of success for years to come.
Since becoming the farm director in 2014, Denbo has been instrumental in changing the culture created by his predecessor, who failed to develop any lasting talent at the major league level. Part of this revamp was the introduction of the Captain’s Camp, which would reward the team’s most promising prospects with leadership training and a chance to learn from former big league players.
This initiative helped to change the organization’s personality at the minor league level. It was Denbo’s guidance and leadership that led to the benching of both Gary Sanchez and Jorge Mateo while they were still on the farm in order to impress upon them the importance of discipline on and off the field, and teach them how to handle themselves when things don’t always go their way. Since this time, Sanchez has really turned into something special on the field and could one day become a clubhouse leader.
Under Denbo’s supervision, Aaron Judge went from a big kid with big potential to a possible MVP winner in just three seasons. Chance Adams was also converted into a starter under Denbo, and the results have been brilliant over the last two years. Domingo Acevado has gone from a kid with a good fastball and has been transformed into a prospect with legitimate promise.
Under his regime, they have even managed to transform a young international signing into an uber prospect in the making by the name of Estevan Florial. Guys like Miguel Andujar, Thairo Estrada, and Tyler Wade have also jumped out of the shadows and really turned into something intriguing. All three have the potential to become big league contributors within the next year or so.
While someone like Gleyber Torres hardly needs anyone to help develop him, Denbo has given him a place to grow, and allowed Justus Sheffield and Clint Frazier to adjust to their new team. The organization has even taken in the likes of Dillon Tate and Billy McKinney, former top prospects down on their luck, and helped them rejuvenate their careers.
This is all not to say that Gary Denbo is responsible for each and every good player the Yankees have in their system. Some of it is good scouting and drafting, and some of it is good coaching. The thing is that he has made the right decisions so far, and if this is truly the end of his time with the Yankees, I’m already grateful that he has managed to produce so many important pieces for the team in such a short amount of time. It may not be all his doing, but his name has become associative with winning.