E.J. Fagan been blogging about Yankee baseball since 2006. He is a Ph.D. student at University of Texas at Austin.

Author Archives: EJ Fagan

The Yankee Farm System Collapse in 1 Chart

When I first started blogging about minor league baseball in 2006, the most common narrative about the Yankee farm system went something like this:

“After the late-dynasty era that produced Nick Johnson and Alfonso Soriano, the Yankee farm lay barren from 1998-2003. Robinson Cano and Chien-Ming Wang were the first two prospects to break the ceiling, but true change came that same year, when Brian Cashman was handed more control over the Yankee organization. The team started putting large resources into the farm system. The result was that a tremendous amount of talent was infused into the system in 2006, and the Yankees became one of the best farm systems in baseball.”

I think that the perception among a lot of Yankee fans is that people who wrote about the Yankee farm system, like me, were blowing smoke. We either bought into the hype or created hype out of thin air. While I’d argue that the Big 3 (Hughes, Joba, Kennedy) were actually pretty successful as prospects, there is no doubt that there has been quite a lot of disappointment in the Yankee farm system since 2006.…

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There’s Still Hope! (And Not Just For the Yankee Postseason)

The Yankees may or may not make the postseason. The answer is probably not. Right now, I’m much more concerned with my favorite late-season possibility: the three-way tie.

We all remember some of the classic playoff tiebreaker games. But we’ve never had a three-way tiebreaker. That scenario used to be pretty amazing, but the new wildcard system has made it even crazier.

If three teams finish with the same record for the two wild card spots, the following happens:

In a situation where there is a three way tie between non division winners and there is no other non division winner with a better record claiming wild card 1; a tiebreaker eliminating 1 of the 3 teams will follow. Based on a group head to head record. Teams A, B and C will be created. Team B will travel to team A. The winner wins wild card one. The loser will go to team C. The winner of that game wins wild card two.

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Comprehensive 30-Team Farm System Hitting Environment Rankings: Yankees Dead Last

Yesterday, I posted about the top-12 pivotal Yankee prospects for 2014. One of my observations was that a lot of Yankee hitting prospects are underrated due to the harsh hitting environments that they play in. This prompted Norm to comment,

I’ve read this several times here, that many of the ballparks the farm teams play in are “bad hitting environments”. Charleston has been mentioned several times. Can someone explain what that means, and why these parks aren’t conducive to hitting?

The difficulty of Yankee minor league hitting environments is something that I’ve been asserting for awhile, but without a whole lot of perspective. It may be bad, but how bad? I didn’t really know the answer. So, I decided to find out.

Using Statcorner’s minor league park factors for left and right-handed batters and Baseball Reference’s data for runs allowed per game in each 2013 full-season minor league, I created an index. Half of the index is weight based on home ballpark factors, the other half is weighted for average number of runs scored in each league, compared with the other leagues at the same minor league level.…

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The 12 Pivotal Yankee Minor League Players of 2014

Under every possible interpretation of the events of the past season, 2013 was a huge disappointment for the Yankee farm system. The organization ended the 2012 with four bang-out awesome hitting prospects, lots of interesting supporting players, and a few star pitching prospects. Several disappointing-but-not-busted performances, two surgeries, three breakouts, and an influx of new talent add up to a lot of potential inflection points in 2014.

Few relative good bets alongside as much raw talent as the Yankee system has ever held broadens the range of possibilities for the Yankee farm system. A fortunate year could vault the Yankees into a top-5 organizational ranking, and start to generate the next cohort of Yankee stars. An unfortunate year could doom the MLB team to years of declining veteran production without reinforcements.

I’m calling these guys the top 15 pivotal Yankee farm hands for next season. In my head, I’m defining these guys as the 12 guys who could end up as top-100 prospects in all of baseball by the end of 2014.…

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Seriously, now the Yankees decide to spend money?

The Yankees are about to acquire Alfonso Soriano. They will pay some significant portion of the $25 million remaining on his contract, but will structure the deal so the deal costs them nothing in luxury tax next season. Great! The Yankees need bats, and being right-handed doesn’t hurt. Alfonso will immediately become the 2nd or 3rd best hitter in the Yankee lineup, even though he’s basically an average MLB hitter right now.

But god damn, this makes me angry. The Yankees are already spending $11.5 million on Vernon Wells this season. They are now deciding to open the piggy bank again to take on another salary dump, and spend likely about the same money on Alfonso Soriano. Let’s use a round number and say that the Yankees are spending $20 million on both.

If Hal Steinbrenner knew nine months ago that he was willing to open up and spend an additional $20 million on one horrible baseball player and one deeply flawed baseball player, how the hell was he not able to spend a little bit of money on Russell Martin, Nate Schierholtz, Eric Chavez, or whomever?…

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Mason Williams Hasn’t Been Bad This Season

It’s safe to say that 2013 has been a poor season for the Yankee farm system. They’ve had a few muted breakouts (Rafael DePaula, JR Murphy, O’Brien) coupled with quite a lot of stalled momentum from the 2012 season (Williams, Austin, Heathcott, Sanchez, Montgomery), and some decent work down low.

Depending on who you talked to, Mason Williams was the top Yankee outfield prospect entering this season. After two strong showings in short season ball in 2011 and Low-A in the first half of 2012, Williams was on top of the world. He was promoted to High-A to finish out the 2012 season, and did passably well enough (104 wRC+, 16.3 K%, 3.5 BB%, .303 BABIP, .145 ISO, .277/.302/.422) there to merit articles like these. People were justifiably comparing him to top Yankee outfield prospects like Austin Jackson, and celebrating the performance of the other members of his prospect trio.

And then, the bad news started to hit. In front of the backdrop of the 2013 MLB Yankee season, all of the above minor league disappointment followed.…

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Brian Cashman’s Front Office Deserves Credit for a Good 2013 Season So Far

I love Mike Axisa. However, I strongly disagree with his impassioned rant after last night’s 18-inning loss:

The Yankees didn’t just lose Thursday afternoon/night’s 18-inning marathon with the Athletics because they couldn’t buy a hit after the first inning. They also lost because they half-assed their way through an offseason in which they deemed it acceptable to downgrade all over the field despite a) winning the division by the skin of their teeth last year, and b) knowing it was very likely going to be Mariano Rivera‘s final season. Real nice going away present. That surfboard the A’s gave him today was more respectful.

The Yankees lost on Thursday because they’re desperate. Desperate to hold onto the last glimmer of success from the dynasty years and afraid (unable?) to adapt and move forward with a new chapter in franchise history. Now they’re left with this laughable relic of a roster that is caught between being not truly good enough to contend and not bad enough to completely tear down and rebuild.

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Another One Bites the Dust: Ty Hensley Out Until Spring Training 2014

Originally, Ty Hensley was going to miss 2-3 months following surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip. Given that he was 19 years old, the missed time wasn’t a big deal. He was likely ticketed for EST anyway. But bad news broke today: Hensley won’t pitch until Spring Training 2014. Its way too early to label him a bust, but its not too early to place him into a larger pattern of terrible Yankee minor league pitching prospect management.

The Yankees need to stop sucking at keeping their minor league pitchers healthy. You can’t blame them for any individual case, but a strong pattern is emerging for the team: they just aren’t good at developing minor league pitching. Their success rate at taking promising young arms and turning them into big league 25-man roster players is almost zero. Over the past five years, you balance the successes of David Robertson, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova (kinda-sorta), and David Phelps against the brutal, injury/trade/terribleness graveyard of their top prospects.…

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Please, Give Me More Rainouts

The Yankees made the road trip to Cleveland, but only played two of four games due to rain. Outside of their division, this means that the Yankees are going to have a headache double header to play at some point in the future, most likely in September. Axisa at River Ave Blues is a little bit worried:

Now here’s where things get really messy: it’s supposed to rain all day in New York tomorrow. The heaviest stuff is expected in the morning, but the forecast right now says the showers will continue through the night. Three consecutive rain outs (in two different cities) would be pretty crummy. Not only would the bombers have three postponed games to make up just two weeks into the new season, but you also have to worry about the hitters losing their rhythm and what not. The Yankees’ bats did some major damage on Monday and Tuesday and I really would like that to continue.

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