While the Yankees major league team has been largely disappointing, the minor league system has actually shown a lot of promise this year. There were multiple breakout stars and an overall solid showing from the team's top prospects. Let's take a look back at the best storylines to come out of the 2014 minor league season.
Luis Severino tops the list
After several years of having Gary Sanchez on top of the Yankees prospect list, we finally have a new number one contender in Luis Severino. Practically immediately after Sanchez was crowned as the top prospect in the system he began dropping in value season-after-season. This year, multiple prospect outlets ranked the up-and-coming Severino as the best the Yankee farm system had to offer, and at just 20 years of age and at Double-A it was an exciting thing to see. Severino pitched to a 2.46 ERA with an awesome 10.1 K/9 and solid 2.1 BB/9, while also only surrendering three home runs over 113.1 inning over three levels. Not only is he getting results, but he's being considered as a legitimate top prospect, ranking high on top prospect lists and being considered one of the best pitchers in the minors. It's been awhile since the Yankees have had a prospect that got positive reviews from both evaluators and scouts and it's going to be exciting to see what he can do in 2015.
Aaron Judge is more than meets the eye
After missing the 2013 season due to injury, Aaron Judge finally got a chance to play professional baseball and he did not disappoint. Many people considered Judge to be a lumbering, all-or-nothing power hitter, but he proved everyone wrong when he proved he could basically do just about anything with the bat. Judge showed he had an advanced approach at the plate, and despite his gigantic size, he could control himself and make solid contact with the ball without having to obliterate it. In fact, there was some worry that his home run power was lagging behind the rest of his skill set, but the 22-year-old ultimately ended up with a respectable 17 dingers. He finished the season in High-A Tampa and will get more playing time in the Arizona Fall League, so he still has plenty of time to impress. Many have said that Judge had the best overall season in the organization, so it's probably safe to say that he's ready for Double-A next year.
The resurrection of Tyler Austin
Remember the halcyon days when Tyler Austin hit .322/.400/.559 with 17 home runs across three levels back in 2012 to put himself on the prospect map? Well that player has been non-existent in the year and a half since, leaving many to believe that his prospect status had peaked and it was all down hill from there. It seems, though, that the 23-year-old outfielder just needed time to recover from the wrist injury he suffered in 2013 and in the second half of the 2014 season he came back to life, hitting .302/.353/.483 from July 1 on. Austin will get another chance to perform in the AZL this year and maybe if he continues his hot hitting he could end up in Triple-A next season. It's hard to figure out where Tyler Austin will ultimately end up, but he's shown a propensity to hit at a non-stop rate, despite not having the power of a corner outfielder or the speed and athleticism of a center fielder. If he can hit, the Yankees will find a place for him.
Rob Refsnyder is ready
Refsnyder actually built off of his impossible .293/.413/.413 2013 season in A-ball and came up with something even more impressive this year, hitting for more power with 17 home runs and a .318/.387/.497 batting line. Over the span of one calendar year, he went from intriguing trade chip to possible second baseman of the future and he did not disappoint. While his bat made him a fan favorite, his glove made him an organizational project, as the Yankees neglected to give him a call up to the majors, despite clearly deserving one. The hope will be that they give him a fair shot to win the second base job in 2015, and given the lack of free agent depth at the position and their other needs, there's a really good chance that Refsnyder could lock down the job in spring training. After years of criticism for lacking major league-ready position players, the Yankees finally have one and he looks ready.
The bullpen rises
We've learned that if it's one thing the Yankees organization knows how to do, it's develop relievers. This year was no different as a slew of potential high-leverage relief pitchers made their mark on the system and likely deserved a call up in September. The Yankees drafted the major league-ready arm of Jacob Lindgren, the Strikeout Factory. He didn't disappoint when he struck out 13.9 batters per nine innings and likely could have seen major-league action if not for the excessive workload he had put on his arm between college and pro ball. 2013 draft picks Tyler Webb and Nick Rumbelow also dominated the minor leagues this year and both deserved a September call up that just never materialized. Both pitchers made it to Triple-A this year with a 12.3 and 12.5 K/9, respectively. Between the three of them, the Yankees have a chance to have an elite bullpen filled with closer-level arms and two lefties (Lindgren and Webb) who are more than just LOOGYs. Hopefully next year will be their year and the Yankee bullpen will be ridiculous, and cheap, for years.
Others: Dante Bichette is alive again!, Jake Cave is legit, Ty Hensley actually pitches, Jaron Long might actually be good, Peter O`Brien and the dingers, Jose Pirela tears up the minors
What was the best storyline of 2014?