Five System Game-Changers

With the Yankees failing to land prized Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada this week, the farm system is once again getting wildly criticized despite a rather solid season last year. Here are five things that could realistically happen that would quickly turn around that perception in a big way in 2015.

Obviously the majority of the Yankee prospects staying relatively healthy for the most part in 2015 is paramount to any success. And continuing to get top-level production from the likes of Luis Severino, Greg Bird and Aaron Judge [the top three prospects] like all three did a year ago is a foundational baseline start as well. Outside of those basic factors remaining at a 2014 level, however, here are five things that could drastically change the perception of the Yankee farm system.

1. Jorge Mateo producing in the long-season leagues -- The bemoaning of the New York media and Yankee fan base in regards to losing top International prospect Yoan Moncada to the Red Sox this week highlights one indisputable fact; the Yankees desperately need a face of the franchise for the years to come. Nearly everyone in the game believed the 19-year old Cuban could have been that for the Yankees. The fact is the Yankees already have a 19-year old that can be that in Mateo and now more than ever they need him to be that, whether fair or unfair.

Mateo has a Moncada-like offensive upside without all of the defensive question marks at shortstop. He might not have the same degree of power but he has power and he can run like the wind. Mateo is electric and he can be dynamic, and he needs to prove that with his everyday production in 2014...and he needs to do it in the long-season leagues. Dominating in a short-season league would cushion the blow of losing Moncada to some degree but it would not have nearly the same effect were he to post equally punishing numbers in low-A Charleston, if for no other reason than to give organizational outsiders the future Yankee face they so desperately seek.

2. Gary Sanchez, Tyler Austin, and/or Eric Jagielo becoming a consistent force -- Obviously having all three take that next step up in the consistency department at the higher minor league levels would be the ideal scenario for the Yankees but the natural attrition rate with prospects suggests it isn't likely. However, having just one or two of them begin to start tapping their potential with tangible, consistent on-the-field production for an entire season would do wonders in altering the outside perception of the Yankee farm system.

All three have shown to be impact bats in spurts; Austin hit .336 in the second half at Double-A Trenton last year, Jagielo clubbed 18 home runs in his first full minor league season despite missing seven weeks due to injury, and Sanchez continues to have way above average production for a catcher. All three are closing in on being big league ready too so a bit more consistency could help take the Yankee farm system value to the next level.

3. Miguel Andujar and/or Jake Cave power surge -- Both Andujar and Cave haven proven to be very capable hitters in recent seasons, and both excel defensively too. Throw in great makeup and neither has a glaring weakness in their respective games outside of rather average power production thus far. Both have hit some absolute bombs though, the kind of power display that suggests more power is coming. A significant step up in the home run production for either player in 2015 would give the Yankees another blue-chip prospect to use either as a long-term internal option or potential trade chip.

4. A reclamation project reemerges -- The Yankees have a few household names in their farm system that have hit hard times in recent years; Slade Heathcott, Jose Campos, and Mason Williams. All either have been on the 40-man roster in the past [Heathcott and Campos] or are on it now [Williams] it's because they have top-shelf talent. However, all three have sputtered in the production department recently, albeit most of it due to health concerns. Should just one of them reemerge as a top prospect by staying healthy and productive in 2015 it could be a real game-changer for the Yankees.

5. Luis Torrens producing in the long-season leagues -- Mateo is the bigger name in national media circles and the more overall dynamic player that grabs headlines, but Torrens has quietly become a favorite in the scouting community for his outstanding defensive game behind the dish and his advanced hitting approach in the batter's box. A big year from Torrens would absolutely have the Yankee farm system trending upward and if that big year production-wise came in A-ball it more importantly could prove to be the harbinger of the extreme lower level depth of the Yankees beginning to ascend.

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