Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Developing Pitchers

If only the Yankees could develop ace-like starters.

A comment under my post at the LoHud Yankees blog has been rattling around my head for a few hours now. I don't remember exactly what it said, but it was in the form of a question, which went something like this...

Why can't the Yankees develop ace-like pitchers, instead of buying or trading for them?

I looked up the top 10 Yankee starters, in terms of WAR, over the last 10 years. Here's the list, including where they started their careers...

Mike Mussina - 31, drafted by Baltimore
Andy Pettitte - 24.8, drafted by NYY
CC Sabathia - 18.8, drafted by Cleveland
Chien Ming-Wang - 12.8, signed by NYY (spent 5 years in minors before MLB debut)
Roger Clemens - 11.4, drafted by Boston
David Wells - 8.4, drafted by Toronto
Randy Johnson - 8.2, drafted by Montreal
AJ Burnett - 6.4, drafted by NYM (spent 2+ years in Florida's minors before MLB debut)
Phil Hughes - 4.9, drafted by NYY
Orlando Hernandez - 4.4, signed by NYY (although he was 32, so not a true prospect)

So that's three pitchers that entered, and were brought up in, the Yankees farm system that turned out to be among their top 10 best pitchers over the last decade (note, I'm not including Hernandez as he was not "developed" by the Yankees). Not bad in my opinion, especially when you consider the fact that the list includes the #2 pitcher (Pettitte), a guy who had a lot of promise before a freak injury (Wang), and another that's only 25 and whose future is yet to be determined (Hughes).

And let's not forget that, during those 10 years, the team missed the playoffs once (2008), made it to the World Series once (2003), and won the World Series (2009). Which brings me to my main argument... the Yankees are not a team that rebuilds. They aren't going to settle for missing the playoffs for a few years in order to develop players, and make a run at a title down the road. This is a team that looks to win now and develop players (at least in the past few years, as their philosophy has changed quite a bit). And due to winning like they have, the Yanks aren't able to draft nearly as much great raw talent as teams like the Tampa Rays, Washington Nationals, or Kansas City Royals have.

This topic has been brought up a handful of times by me over at Daily Sports Pages, and I'll repeat it again...

If you want to root for a team that has great minor league systems, then take off the Yankee t-shirt and root for somebody else. I'd much rather cheer for a team that not only creates some great players every once in a while (Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Robinson Cano), some serviceable MLB players (Brett Gardner, David Robertson, Melky Cabrera), and has some good/great prospects (Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Gary Sanchez), but also wins.

And just for kicks, here are the 4 teams that made it to their respective League Championship Series last season, along with their 2011 farm system ranking according to AOLNews' Frank Piliere...

Milwaukee - 30th
Detroit - 24th
Texas - 9th
St. Louis - 17th

Where did the Yankees finish on that list? 4th. I rest my case.

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