Yesterday when I raked Damon Oppenheimer over the coals and mocked the Yankees for allowing him to keep his job, the general consensus in the comment section was that the problem in the Yankee farm system was more development-based than draft-based. There’s a lot of truth to that statement, more than I might have realized at the time I was writing the Oppenheimer post, and Senior VP of Baseball Operations Mark Newman shoulders the bulk of that responsibility. He’s the one in charge of the team’s developmental plan in the Minors and his recent track record is actually worse than Oppenheimer’s. Case in point, Baseball America’s 2013 top 10 Yankee prospects and their career paths to date:
- 1) Mason Williams– .404 wOBA in SS Staten Island in 2011, .381 in Low-A/.331 in High-A in 2012, .317 in High-A in 2013.
- 2) Slade Heathcott– .335 wOBA in Low-A in 2010, .346 in Low-A in 2011, .389 in High-A in 2012, .334 in Double-A in 2013
- 3) Gary Sanchez– .461 wOBA in the GCL in 2010, .364 in Low-A in 2011, .390 in Low-A in 2012, .336 in High-A/.348 in Double-A in 2013
- 4) Tyler Austin– .434 in SS Staten Island in 2011, .442 in Low-A/.391 in High-A in 2012, .333 in Double-A in 2013
- 5) Jose Campos– 2.38 FIP in SSL in 2011, 3.24 in Low-A in 2012, 2.83 in Low-A in 2013
- 6) Brett Marshall– 2.96 FIP in Low-A in 2010, 3.24 in High-A in 2011, 4.09 in Double-A in 2012, 4.62 in Triple-A in 2013
- 7) Angelo Gumbs– .347 wOBA in SS Staten Island in 2011, .339 in Low-A in 2012, .282 in Low-A/.266 in High-A in 2013
- 8) Manny Banuelos– 2.76 FIP in Low-A in 2009, 1.71 in High-A in 2010, 4.01 in Double-A in 2011, 3.83 in Triple-A in 2012
- 9) Ty Hensley– 4.20 FIP in 12.0 GCL IP in 2012, injured in 2013
- 10) Rafael DePaula- 1.84 FIP in the DSL in 2012, 2.03 in Low-A/4.63 in High-A in 2013
Among both pitchers and position players, far more often than not the developmental trend has been start off like gangbusters in the lower levels and then slowly come back to Earth as they move up. Injuries have played a part in some cases (Campos and ManBan in 2012, Austin and Gumbs this year), but that’s still a very disturbing trend and one that’s crept all the way up to the Majors. Guys like Jesus Montero, Austin Romine, David Phelps, Adam Warren, and David Adams all followed similar performance trends as they came up through the system. Even though most of them had lower ceilings than the 10 players listed above, it’s fair to say that their collective performance at the Major League level has been underwhelming.
So not only have the Yankees struggled to consistently identify and draft legitimate top tier amateur talent, they’ve struggled even more to develop the talent they do have. When you’re drafting as low as the Yankees have been, you’re usually not going to have the luxury of no-doubt prospects falling into your lap every year (Mike Trout excluded), which makes your developmental plans and personnel even more important. The Yankees have fallen on their face in this aspect during Newman’s tenure and it’s the reason why their farm system continues to rank in the middle of the pack despite being acknowledged as having plus depth.
The problem with the Yankee farm system was always two-fold. The greater of those folds does appear to be the developmental arm of the system, at least according to the statistical trends of the top prospects, and that could shed some light on why Oppenheimer was allowed to stick. Perhaps Hal and Cash see the development as the main problem and are planning on removing Newman from his position as a result. Personally I’d like to see both of them gone, but if they’re only going to pick one it’s hard to argue with the decision to choose Newman over Oppenheimer.