by Paul Semendinger
November 30, 2023
There are reports that Anthony Rizzo has been working out this winter with Aaron Judge's batting coach. This, of course, is always a good sign. There is hope that Rizzo is well following his concussion from last season. I also always love to hear that players are serious about their off-season training. The Yankees need a big year from Rizzo, and Rizzo, for his own part, a free agent after this season, needs a bounce back year himself. This could pay great dividends for both the player and the team.
On the other hand, this isn't the best look for the Yankees' as an organization. Aaron Judge, the one position player they have had in the system who has become a superstar, really since Robinson Cano (who came up in 2005), basically a twenty-year period, uses a coach outside of the Yankees to hone his hitting skills. In other words, the Yankees don't seem to have a coach who helped Aaron Judge become great, rather he did this on his own. More, they don't seem to have a coach who helped any young player in their system succeed.
Now, the Yankees don't seem to have a coach who can help Anthony Rizzo - and for him to find his old success, he, too, is going outside the system.
I understand that great players often have their own coaches. I get it. But, it would be nice if there was evidence, somewhere, that the Yankees themselves have the people in place to help their players succeed. This is especially true for their youngest up-and-coming players.
I know so many fans are high on so many of the Yankees' top prospects right now, but, the Yankees do not have a good track record (at all) in developing their prospects. Here is a list of the top five position player prospects in the Yankees system each year since 2005:
2005: Eric Duncan, Marcos Vechionacci, Melky Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Bronson Sardinha
2006: Jose Tabata, Eric Duncan, C.J. Henry, Eduardo Nunez, Austin Jackson
2007: Jose Tabata, Brett Gardner, Mitch Hilligoss, Francisco Cervelli, Eric Duncan
2008: Jose Tabata, Austin Jackson, Bradley Suttle, Austin Romine, Jesus Montero
2009: Jesus Montero, Austin Jackson, Austin Romine, Brad Suttle, Eduardo Sosa
2010: Jesus Montero, Austin Romine, Slade Heathcott, Gary Sanchez, JR Murphy
2011: Jesus Montero, Gary Sanchez, Austin Romine, Eduardo Nunez, Slade Heathcott
2012: Gary Sanchez, Mason Williams, Dante Bichette Jr, Ravel Santaa, Tyler Austin
2013: Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, Gary Sanchez, Tyler Austin, Angelo Gumbs
2014: Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Eric Jagielo, Slade Heathcott, JR Murphy
2015: Aaron Judge, Jorge Mateo, Greg Bird, Rob Refsnyder, Gary Sanchez
2016: Jorge Mateo, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Wilkerman Garcia, Dustin Fowler
2017: Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier, Blake Rutherford, Aaron Judge, Jorge Mateo
2018: Gleyber Torres, Estevan Florial, Miguel Andujar, Thairo Estrada, Billy McKinney
2019: Estevan Florial, Anthony Seigler, Everson Pereira, Antonio Cabello, Joshn Breaux
2020: Jasson Dominguez, Oswald Peraza, Estevan Florial, Anthony Volpe, Kevin Alcantara
2021: Jasson Dominguez, Oswald Peraza, Austin Wells, Estevan Florial, Anthony Volpe
2022: Anthony Volpe, Oswald Peraza, Jasson Dominguez, Austin Wells, Trey Sweeney
There is this hope that Anthony Volpe, Jasson Dominguez, Austin Wells, and Oswald Peraza will be solid to good and possibly even impact players for the Yankees - many hope as soon as the 2024 season.
But when one looks at the list above, going back a very long time, the only constant is that the Yankees' biggest prospects flamed out. None, except for Aaron Judge, became a star. The only other players (since Robinson Cano reached the Major Leagues) who became regulars on the Yankees have been Brett Gardner and Gleyber Torres. But, let's remember that when the Yankees acquired Torres, he was already one of baseball's biggest prospects. That the Yankees got him (for Aroldis Chapman) was seen as a big win for Brian Cashman. Torres wasn't developed by the Yankees, he came as a bright star already. And, while Gleyber Torres has been a very good Major leaguer, he has not become the superstar that many predicated for him. He's been very good, terrific at times, but he hasn't become the impact player so many thought he would become.
Looking back at that list, to me, shows a long track record of failure. It's failure in drafting great talent and it's failure in developing players through the system to reach the Major Leagues and contribute in a positive way, over a period of time, to the big league club.
Because of this history of failure, I cannot buy into the Yankees' prospect hype year-after-year. I hope the new group of kids is great, but I've been sold on young stars for decades - one up-and-comer after the next. The only constant is the disappointment that comes when the latest batch of young great players turns out to be a mirage.
In any other area of one's life, if the track record was littered with failures like the list above, no one would accept it. If this was one's financial planner ("Invest in these areas"), that person who trusted in that planner would have lost much of their wealth. If a lawyer lost this many cases, that lawyer would be seeking employment with a new firm and most likely seeking a new career. If your car repair service failed this often, you would never go back. Be honest, if this were the record of any person in your life in whom you put your trust, you wouldn't be satisfied. The results are, bluntly, unacceptable.
Fool me once, shame on you.
Fool me twice, shame on me.
Fool me a gazillion times... no, you won't. No way.
The Yankees prospects who got their shots the last few years, except for Jasson Dominguez who played for only about a week, all disappointed. They did not live up to their hype. Maybe they'll come around in 2024. That's the hope. But the track record of the system to this point has not been great.
Wouldn't it be amazing is we read a report that said, "Anthony Rizzo, looking to get back to his best days, is working out with the Yankees' coaches..."
But it seems the best chance he feels he has for success is to go outside the system.
I think that, alone, says a lot.