New York Yankees: Scouting Reports By John Manuel
January 7, 2008
For all the back-page news the Yankees made in 2007, the biggest story was the cold, hard fact that they no longer are the preeminent franchise in baseball.
The Red Sox passed them in 2007, winning the American League East—the first time New York hadn't won the division since 1997—and then winning their second World Series of the decade. It's a decade in which the Yankees have yet to win a championship despite consistently maintaining the game's largest payroll.
The Yankees' 2007 season included 94 victories and rallying from a 21-29 start to make the playoffs. It also included superlative individual performances by the likes of BA Player of the Year and AL MVP Alex Rodriguez, a career year from 35-year-old catcher Jorge Posada and the dynamic major league debut of Joba Chamberlain, the organization's No. 1 prospect.
But 2007 also included a 4.49 team ERA for New York, a figure that ranked just eighth in the AL. The team had to turn to 44-year-old Roger Clemens when injuries and a slow start jeopardized the season, and Clemens proved to be no savior. A four-game defeat to the Indians in the Division Series marked the third straight first-round playoff exit for the Yankees, who have gone 4-13 in the playoffs since taking a 3-0 lead on Boston in the 2004 AL Championship Series.
The string of playoff disappointments, plus the ascendancy of brothers Hank and Hal Steinbrenner to prominent roles in the ownership group as their father George continued to fade into the background, helped shape the franchise's immediate future. Club officials insisted the younger Steinbrenners already had become more involved in recent years, and one went so far as to say it was "business as usual around here," but events say otherwise. Manager Joe Torre was ousted after 12 seasons when he rejected a one-year extension, and the Yankees turned to Joe Girardi, their former catcher and color analyst on the YES Network, and the 2006 National League manager of the year with the Marlins.
Girardi's Florida team was built around young pitchers such as Josh Johnson, Scott Olsen and Dontrelle Willis, and he'll have more young talent to work with in New York. Staff ace Chien-Ming Wang is coming off consecutive 19-victories seasons and is still just 27. Also, the Yankees are counting on Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy to claim rotation spots. That trio has undeniable talent, but also just 16 starts and 116 innings in the big leagues between them.
The farm system has made significant strides in the last four years, with improved talent allowing the system's domestic affiliates to combine for four first-place finishes, two league championships and a collective .597 winning percentage, the best mark in baseball. Scouting director Damon Oppenheimer, who started running New York's drafts in 2005, has the budget to pick aggressively, and the Yankees regularly pay draft picks more than MLB's bonus recommendations.
That was true more than ever in 2007, when they went over slot for five picks in the first 10 rounds and spent $8.03 million on the draft, more than any other team. They also were as active as any organization internationally, adding high-priced, high-ceiling talents led by Dominican outfielder Kevin DeLeon, who signed for $1.1 million.
TOP 10 PROSPECTS:
- Joba Chamberlain, rhp
- Austin Jackson, of
- Jose Tabata, of
- Ian Kennedy, rhp
- Alan Horne, rhp
- Jesus Montero, c
- Jeff Marquez, rhp
- Brett Gardner, of
- Ross Ohlendorf, rhp
- Andrew Brackman, rhp
PROJECTED 2011 LINEUP
- Best Hitter for Average: Jose Tabata
- Best Power Hitter: Jesus Montero
- Best Strike-Zone Discipline: Brett Gardner
- Fastest Baserunner: Brett Gardner
- Best Athlete: Austin Jackson
- Best Fastball: Joba Chamberlain
- Best Curveball: Joba Chamberlain
- Best Slider: Joba Chamberlain
- Best Changeup: Edwar Ramirez
- Best Control: Ian Kennedy
- Best Defensive Catcher: Francisco Cervelli
- Best Defensive Infielder: Alberto Gonzalez
- Best Infield Arm: Marcos Vechionacci
- Best Defensive Outfielder: Austin Jackson
- Best Outfield Arm: Seth Fortenberry
- Catcher: Austin Romine
- First Base: Jesus Montero
- Second Base: Robinson Cano
- Third Base: Alex Rodriguez
- Shortstop: Derek Jeter
- Left Field: Brett Gardner
- Center Field: Austin Jackson
- Right Field: Jose Tabata
- Designated Hitter: Bobby Abreu
- No. 1 Starter: Joba Chamberlain
- No. 2 Starter: Phil Hughes
- No. 3 Starter: Chien-Ming Wang
- No. 4 Starter: Ian Kennedy
- No. 5 Starter: Alan Horne