For a team having a disappointing season, it was quite a heady week for Brian Cashman and the Yankees, as the raves continued to pour in for the young talent they have now accumulated in their farm system.
Even so, let’s hold off on nominating Cashman for executive of the year until at least some of the hotshot prospects he has acquired deliver on their promise in the big leagues.
But for now he sure has changed the conversation, from how little the fans seem to care about the 2016 Yankees to how bright the future suddenly appears to be for this franchise.
Here’s some of the evidence, from evaluators of both minor league and major league talent:
– After the trade deadline, MLBPipeline.com ranked the top farm systems in the majors, putting the Yankees at No. 2, behind only the Brewers, who cashed in on trades of Jonathan Lucroy and Will Smith.
The rankings were based on the most high-end talent, but one of MLBPipeline’s analysts, Jim Callis, made a point of noting that nobody has more overall quality than the Yankees, who acquired a total of 10 minor leaguers in the trades for Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, and Carlos Beltran.
“They may come in at No. 2 but the Yankees do have the deepest system in the game,” Callis said.
– Baseball America released its “Best Tools” rankings of minor leaguers, as voted by the managers of individual leagues, and Yankee prospects new and old showed up all over the place.
In the Triple-A International League, Aaron Judge was voted as the top power hitter; Luis Severino was voted to have the best fastball; and, in perhaps the most significant and surprising development, Gary Sanchez was voted as the best defensive catcher.
– Severino is back in the big leagues and again convincing baseball people he’ll reach that ace-like potential so many were predicting for him before his failures early this season, after he dominated the Mets on Wednesday night with a 98-mph fastball and a sharp-breaking slider.
“The stuff is electric,” said an AL scout who was at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, “but the big thing for me is that he was commanding the fastball on both sides of the plate and his slider had depth. Those things were missing when he was getting beat up at the beginning of the season.
“He has to prove he can do it with some consistency, but he looked like a No. 1 (starter) to me.”
– In Baseball America’s Best Tools rankings for Class A, newly-acquired Justus Sheffield was voted the best pitcher for his work with the Cubs affiliate in the Carolina League; also-newly-acquired Gleyber Torres was voted as best defensive shortstop, with the best infield arm, in that league.
And shortstop Jorge Mateo was voted to have the best speed and best infield arm in the Florida State League.
(One note for Mets’ fans: shortstop Amed Rosario, now in Double-A, was voted the best hitter and most exciting player in that Florida State League).
– Then there’s Clint Frazier, he of the “legendary bat speed,” as Cashman put it last week. We know he’s not shy either, after he made a much-publicized play on Twitter last week for Jen Selter, a celebrity fitness guru and Instagram model.
As for baseball, Frazier was compared favorably to none other than Mike Trout, as Perfect Game scouting service president Jerry Ford told the Daily News’ Evan Grossman.
“From a sheer tools standpoint, he is Mike Trout,” Ford said. “Entering the draft, his tools were Mike Trout with more power. Trout was faster but Frazier had a better arm, more power, and they were about equal hitters.”
– Finally, after being promoted to the Yankees, Sanchez started Friday night at catcher and demonstrated his defensive improvement.
He’s always had a great arm, which he showed off in gunning down two base-stealers, but there were always questions about his receiving skills, his catch-and-throw times, and his mobility behind the plate, but apparently that’s all changed.
One former catcher, manager Joe Girardi said he was impressed with what he saw, while another former catcher, YES analyst John Flaherty, went into more detail.
“His hands were easy, no tension,” said Flaherty. “He was cradling the ball, working it toward the strike zone. I didn’t see anything tonight that would tell me he is not going to be an above-average major-league receiver.”
THE LUCROY LEAD
The Mets got Jay Bruce at the trade deadline but could they have had Lucroy? Two sources say the Brewers were firm in asking for Zack Wheeler as part of the deal, after the Mets made it clear they weren’t giving up Michael Conforto.
Remember, the Mets agreed to trade Wheeler to the Brewers last year as part of the Carlos Gomez trade that fell through due to medical concerns about Gomez’s hip.
Since then David Stearns has replaced Doug Melvin as Milwaukee GM, but apparently the Brewers’ feeling about Wheeler remained strong, despite his setbacks the last couple of months as he makes his way back from Tommy John surgery.
However, the Mets said no on Wheeler, and understandably so. Even with the setbacks he made his first rehab start Saturday in Port St. Lucie, and could be 3-4 weeks from being ready to help the Mets.
If he’s right he could provide some late-season dominance they may need to earn a wild-card berth, most likely replacing Logan Verrett in the starting rotation.
TWO POINTS ON HERRERA
So were the Mets right to give up Dilson Herrera for Bruce? I’ve gotten different opinions from Mets people. Some think his stock has slipped a bit, and that he projects as an average major-league second baseman, but others still feel he has a high ceiling, with power and speed that could translate into an above-average major league career.
I definitely get the sense that having Jose Reyes for next year at league minimum salary was a factor in dealing Herrera. Reyes certainly seems more likely to be the starting second baseman than Neil Walker, if it’s going to take a multi-year deal to re-sign Walker as a free agent.
But as one Mets person said, “There is going to be a lot to sort out” next winter, starting with whether Yoenis Cespedes opts out, which would put the onus on GM Sandy Alderson to add more offense in some fashion, even with Bruce locked up for next year.
Meanwhile, the Bruce trade wasn’t well-received in Cincinnati. Pitcher Homer Bailey said publicly that unless Herrera is another Robinson Cano, “it looks like they got us on that one.”
Star first baseman Joey Votto also was critical of the ballclub for dealing Bruce, and the local media mostly labeled the trade a salary dump.
Reds’ GM Walt Jocketty responded by hyping Herrera, and perhaps putting unnecessary pressure on him, saying that he “is considered one of the brightest young stars in the game today.”
You think every manager wouldn’t sell his soul to have an Andrew Miller? Not just because he might be the best relief pitcher in the game, but because he seems practically ego-free about when he is used in games.
No sooner did the Indians acquire him from the Yankees than Terry Francona brought him into the sixth inning on Thursday to get what he considered a big out in a 4-2 game, setting him up to pitch the seventh as well because the Twins had their 1-2-3 hitters coming up.
It was bullpen use as it oughta be, utilizing your best reliever as dictated by game situations rather than designated roles.
Most managers just don’t do it, however, largely because players make such an issue of wanting to know when they’ll pitch, as well as the fact that late-inning roles, and especially saves, equate to higher salaries.
Money isn’t such an issue for Miller, as he’s in the second year of a four-year, $36 million deal. But even so, many a pitcher of his status would object, not only to being moved out of the closer’s role by Chapman as a Yankee, but being used in the sixth inning after arriving in Cleveland as a celebrated bullpen savior.
Maybe it will pay off in the form of a championship for the Indians.