There are a lot of positive things that could happen to enhance a farm system's value but few have the potential to move the proverbial needle as much as these factors:
1) Get James Kaprielian healthy and back on the mound. Back in Spring Training this former first round pick was hands down the biggest impact player on either side of the ball for the Yankees down on the farm and he appeared poised to move extremely quickly through the minor leagues until an arm injury arose just three starts into his first full season. His eight hits allowed in 18 innings and 22 strikeouts were just a sign of things to come. Yes his top-shelf talent is one of the bigger reasons why the Yankee farm system is ranked where it is these days but his actual production back on the mound is only going to further enhance that opinion. He needs to get healthy once again.
2) Get Jorge Mateo consistently productive. Gary Sanchez's big league exploits aside, it wasn't all that long ago that nearly every outside analyst had this Domincan speedster as the top ranked Yankee prospect [not Sanchez] and Mateo didn't respond nearly as well as anticipated, hitting just .254 and seeing his stolen base production decreased from 82 bags in 2015 to 'just' 36 in 2016, a year in which he also served a two-week team suspension. Like Kaprielian, the ultra high-ceiling talent is one of the reasons the Yankees' system is ranked where it is but yet getting back to being consistently productive between the lines is only going to further strengthen that perception too; a top prospect needs to perform like a top prospect.
3) Get Dillon Tate on-track. Nothing brings up the value of an entire farm system more than a first round pick being productive, especially a former top four overall pick. Acquired from the Texas Rangers, Tate has the top-shelf arm and stuff scouts want to see from such a high pick but he hasn't yet had the results to match, posting just a 5.12 ERA in low-A Hickory before being dealt to the Yankees. Yes his presence in the farm system is another reason why the Yankees have jumped so high in the rankings but getting him back on-track numbers-wise would be absolutely huge for the farm system overall.
4) Continued health & innings for Ian Clarkin. Another former first round pick, this southpaw had a respectable season in 2016 after missing all of last year, posting a 3.31 ERA for the high-A Tampa Yankees. He got shut down in July after hitting 98 innings; that was most likely his high-water mark anyway after missing the entire 2015 campaign. Getting him back on the mound accumulating innings and building up his arm strength, and remaining productive as he continues to move up, is only going to increase the collective stock of the Yankees farm system going forward; first round picks being productive usually do.
5) A full season chipped in by both Luis Torrens & Domingo Acevedo. There's no doubting the rare talent exhibited by both players. In fact, poll outside analysts and collectively their names will pop up as consensus top five prospects talent-wise in the Yankee farm system. However, both have had their fair share of nagging injuries in recent years and neither has put together a full year in the long-season leagues, let alone being productive doing so. Talent and ceilings are great, but sooner or later they have to be backed up with production and neither have done so yet. If either can remain healthy and tap their potential in 2017, or both for that matter, it would do wonders for the overall perception of what is already considered an elite farm system.
6) The 2014 International free agent class stepping up. Two years ago the Yankees set historic spending records when they landed a slew of top-shelf, 16-year old International prospects. Expecting such young players to make immediate marks even at the lowest minor league levels is asking and expecting too much. However, those 16-year olds are now becoming 18-year olds two years into their careers and the adjustment process has been given some time so it is now realistic to expect one of more of these highly touted prospects to step up and advance their games next season. Who it will be remains to be seen but if one of Estevan Florial, Wilkerman Garcia, Hoy-Jun Park, Dermis Garcia, Nelson Gomez, Diego Castillo, or a host of others can make that next jump in prospect status, with accompanying statistics, it could only strengthen what is already an incredibly deep farm system. If one or more can make that next step up then it's a game-changer in farm system circles.
7) Trey Amburgey being the 2015 version of Trey Amburgey. Just a year ago this former 13th round pick was quickly becoming a name to be reckoned with in Yankee prospect discussions after he completed his debut season hitting a combined .346 with five home runs and 21 stolen bases between the Gulf Coast League and Staten Island Yankees. He reported to Spring Training camp in fantastic shape this year too and seemed poised to build on his first-year success but a bad hamstring injury pumped the brakes on his development. He's just too good not to turn things around and he has legitimate five-tool impact potential when he's healthy. A return to his 2015 self [although expecting anyone to hit .346 is ridiculous] could do wonders for the overall farm system value.
8) The next step for Tyler Wade, Thairo Estrada, and/or Abiatal Avelino. Make no mistake, all three middle infielders had good to above average seasons for the Yankees in 2016 and given the makeup of all three it stands to reason that they'll each make continued progress in 2017 and beyond. However, despite their on the field success all three still have significant upsides yet to be tapped and nothing brings up the perceived value of a farm system more than a talented shortstop putting up eye-popping numbers. Should one of them begin to do that in 2017 -- a very possible scenario -- it would take the Yankees farm system up yet another notch given the current prospect values of both Gleyber Torres and Jorge Mateo.
9) Austin DeCarr and/or Drew Finley jumping up in stuff. A lower level pitcher posting numbers is beneficial to any farm system but they don't exactly move the farm system needle unless there's a jump in stuff. And not everyone has the potential to see a significant uptick in stuff either but these two right-handers out of high school have the recipes in place to do exactly that if everything goes right; both have knockout breaking pitches and both have ticked the mid-90s with their fastballs on occasion in the past too. Should either develop their changeup into a similar level as their breaking ball and/or see a Rookie Davis-like spike in sitting velocity, given their enormous mental makeups and advanced pitch-ability, it has the chance to be game-changing down on the farm.