The Yankee Farm: Outlook for 2004, Part 1

Last season, the Yankee Farm System was anything but earth shattering, and as it has been reiterated a number of times, their crop of prospects seems to be weakened. However, with the 2004 season approaching, there are some new faces looking to burst onto the scene and some familiar ones looking to break out, but also others that could be on the way down. Who's on their way to top prospect status? Who's on the downside? These questions and more will be answered in the 2004 Farm Outlook.

For obvious reasons, the Yankee organization is hoping for some better results out of their prospects than they had last season and are hoping to at least partially shed the current reputation of their farm system. As there is in all farm systems, there are players in the Yankee Farm System that are on their way up to becoming top prospect caliber players and there are others that have that title slipping away.

On the Rise. If there was one player to look at that is on the fast track through the farm system and on the verge of a breakout year it would be outfielder Estee Harris. The 19 year old is touted as a possible five tool player and showed flashes of brilliance in the Gulf Coast League last season. He has the skills that he could be impressive enough this season that he could jump multiple levels over the course of a year. Keep a close eye on this young man; he could hop up the charts as one of the few best Yankee prospects.

As for a pitcher that could have a breakout year it would be righthander Matt DeSalvo. Last year with Battle Creek, DeSalvo was lights out posting an incredible 0.82 ERA but only in a limited number of innings. Taking into account that barring injuries he will get many more innings, DeSalvo should be able to be translate his electric stuff in top notch results. With a fastball in the mid 90's to go along with a slider, curveball and a good changeup, DeSalvo could rocket to the top as a dominant starter.

On the Downside. In this particular case, it is a tough to call to say any certain player could be on the decline because in baseball it could really be anyone. However, judging by several different signs it seems that Alex Graman is on his way downward in his minor league career. He showed signs of being a brilliant young pitcher in recent years but has since sank to mediocrity and inconsistency. After putting together an unimpressive 9-10 season last year to go along with his 4.48 ERA, Graman has a ways to go improvement wise but at this point it appears that his top prospect days are soon coming to an end.

Another player that appears to have his best farmhand days behind him is infielder Andy Phillips. It was not long ago that Phillips was highly considered as the next power hitting middle infielder that could be a possible major league star. However, once the injury bug bit and age has begun to catch up with him (28), Phillips has become for the most part an afterthought. Actually, it seems doubtful at this point that Phillips will even be able to win a starting job at Columbus next season.

Playing Under the Radar. There are naturally many opinions on to whom this title would go to but it seems that the most natural fit would be outfielder Melky Cabrera. Melky was one of the few bright spots for the dismal Staten Island Yankee offense in 2003 and it is likely that the 19 year old will only improve in 2004. He is a rangy outfielder with a strong throwing arm while he is also a speedy baserunner. Melky has also come up with a very strong bat that could produce a solid batting average and an overall scrappy approach at the plate. Despite his easily apparent skills, Cabrera seems to be fairly unnoticed, but with another good performance this season could change that very quickly.

The Cream of the Yankee Prospect Crop

POS

Yankees All Prospect Team

C

Dioner Navarro

1B

Aaron Rifkin

2B

Robinson Cano

SS

Ferdin Tejeda

3B

Eric Duncan

OF

Rudy Guillen

OF

Estee Harris

OF

Bronson Sardinha

SP

Jorge DePaula

SP

Ramon Ramirez

SP

Danny Borrell

SP

Sean Henn

SP

Chien-Ming Wang

RP

Edwardo Sierra

RP

Scott Proctor



Now that we have set straight who is the best of the best in the Yankee farm system and what to expect as far as negative and positive performance, it is up to the player's themselves to show what they can truly do on the baseball diamond. We have answered only a few of thousands of possible questions that are yet to arise regarding this upcoming year. Who will be this year's new stars? Who will slip into the background and watch their top prospect status drift away. All these things and more will be found out as the season unfolds and the Yankee prospects hit the field to prove speculations right or wrong. Either way, with an outlook to the quickly oncoming minor league season, it gives us much to look forward to in regards to the Yankee farmhands.

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