The Yankees have a lot of strong prospects in their minor league system since about 2005, when they began to turn around one of the worst farm systems in baseball. Some of these top prospects include: Robinson Cano, Chien-Ming Wang, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, Andrew Brackman, Dellin Betances, Austin Jackson, Jose Tabata, Christian Garcia, Tyler Clippard, Mark Melancon, Eric Duncan, Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner, Alan Horne, Jesus Montero, Jeff Marquez, David Robertson, Zach McAllister, Hector Noesi, Eduardo Nunez, plus the current crop.
I list out those names for a couple of reasons. The first is a little bit of nostalgia. I loved following these players as they climbed the minor league ladder. But the second is more important: it seems like Yankeee pitchers have on the whole disappointed a lot more, while quite a few Yankee hitters have significantly exceeded expectations.
I tackled this idea last season, putting the blame on the Yankee coaching and front office staff for generally sucking at evaluating pitchers. But a chart that I saw yesterday gave me another idea. From Baltimore Sports and Life:
This is a chart of how many runs are scored in each minor league. From left to right, Yankee affiliates play in the South Atlantic League, Eastern League, International League, New York-Penn League, Gulf Coast League, and Florida State League. In other words, Yankee affiliates play in the five most difficult minor leagues to score runs in.
Intuitively, we adjust for this. WE all know that the Florida State League is an extreme pitchers league, and keep that in the back of our minds when someone plays at that level. But don’t think we really do a good job of accounting for it. Yankee hitting prospects are effectively running the gauntlet while clawing their way to New York, while Yankee pitching prospects are comparatively nurtured.
What are the implications of this for the current Yankee hitting crop? It definitely makes Slade Heathcott, Tyler Austin, Gary Sanchez, and Mason Williams look great. At the same time, it means we should put a little more faith in David Adams, Corban Joseph, Zoilo Almonte, Austin Romine, and the rest of the second tier Yankee hitting prospects. At the same time, this doesn’t give me a ton of confidence in Yankee pitchers who don’t put up fantastic three true outcome statistics, like Brett Marshall, Nik Turley and Adam Warren.
In the future, I hope to spend some time normalizing Yankee hitting statistics for their league. But for now, its just an interesting note that we should all think more about.