2007 Yankees organizational flashback
2007 Yankees statistical overview
2007 Yankees photo gallery
Before the 2007 season began, MLB.com took an in-depth look at every big league team's Minor League system. Now, it's time to recap all 30 organizations, from top prospects to the recent draft class.
Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, even Shelley Duncan. Don't look now, but there's a bit of a youth movement going on in the Bronx these days. That gives a little more incentive for the prospects down on the farm. Do well there and the chance of helping in New York is perhaps much greater than it has been in a long, long time.
And, truth be told, even with the graduation of the aforementioned players to the bigs, there's still more down there than there has been in a while. The strength still lies on the mound, though there are some intriguing bats making noise as well.
The Yankees system actually led baseball with a .580 winning percentage. Every single affiliate, with the small exception of New York's second Dominican Summer League club, finished over .500. Trenton, where much of the pitching talent resided, won its first Eastern League title. The GCL club won its championship as well, while teams in Staten Island and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre also made playoff runs, showing that there's some talent at every level of the organization.
Organizational Players of the Year
Jose Tabata, OF: Our prediction was that he would stay healthy all year and start making the most of his tools, finishing the year in Double-A. Not quite. It's not that he had a bad year. Playing in the Florida State League at age 18, Tabata hit .307 and stole 15 bases, making the FSL All-Star team in the process, though a promotion never came. That probably was because a hand/wrist injury hampered him for much of the year, sapping him of power and allowing him to play in 103 games before being shut down for the year in mid-August. He had a hamate bone removed from his wrist, which presumably will take care of the issue.
Dellin Betances, RHP: The belief was that Betances would jump to the South Atlantic League and dominate in his first full season. Instead, the 6-foot-7 right-hander went to the New York-Penn League and made six starts before being shut down with forearm tightness. That's often a precursor to elbow problems, but it seems Betances is going to be fine and was looking very impressive in instructs this fall, meaning he could be in line for this very same award in 2008.
Austin Jackson, OF: Heading into the 2007 season, Jackson was still all raw tools and little performance. In his first full season (2006), he had done some things well (61 BB, 37 SB) and others not so much (151 K's). The Yankees sent him back to the South Atlantic League as a result and when he got off to a so-so start (.260 average, .710 OPS) in 60 games, it looked like he was a little stuck. So the Yankees did what most organizations would do in such a situation -- they promoted him. The challenge paid off as things started to click for Jackson. The outfielder hit .345 in 67 games at Class A Advanced Tampa, and he even got to fill in for a game in Triple-A. His end-of-season numbers look like they came from a guy with every tool in the book: .304 average, .370 OBP, .476 SLG, 13 homers and 33 steals, all while cutting the strikeouts down to 109 for the year. He followed that up with a strong showing in Hawaii, setting him up for a huge 2008 campaign.
Ian Kennedy, RHP: Before e-mails come in wondering why Joba Chamberlain wasn't tabbed here, keep in mind he threw 88 1/3 innings in the Minors this year and, truth be told, Kennedy's numbers were a touch better. Like Chamberlain, he went from Tampa all the way to the big leagues in his first full season. Along the way, Kennedy finished third in all the Minors with a 1.91 ERA. His 163 strikeouts were second in the organization, and he did it in 146 1/3 innings. He held hitters across three levels to a .182 batting average before pitching very well for New York at the end of the season.
Climbed the Ladder
Joba Chamberlain, RHP: You didn't think we weren't going to talk about him, did you? All he did is start in the Florida State League and finish as the Yankees' best reliever in front of Mariano Rivera. In between, he went 9-2 with a 2.45 ERA in 88 1/3 Minor League innings, striking out 135 while walking 27 and keeping hitters to a .198 batting average. As ridiculous as he was in the bullpen for New York, though, the feeling here is his future is at the front of that rotation.
Shelley Duncan, OF/1B: Every once in a while, there's a story that comes out of the Minors that makes you feel good, a guy who kept plugging away until an opportunity to hit the bigs came along. Duncan was that story for the Yankees this year. Taken in the second round back in 2001, the son of Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan toiled for six seasons in the Yankees system before getting a shot. Before 2007, he had never hit above .270, though he had shown plenty of pop in his bat. This past year, his first real taste of Triple-A, at age 27, everything clicked. He hit .295 with 25 homers, 79 RBIs and a .577 SLG in 91 games for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He held his own in the bigs too. While he hit .257, he did manage to hit seven out of the park in 34 games for a .554 SLG in New York.
Chase Wright, LHP: Wright was for pitchers what Duncan was for hitters in the Yankees system in 2007. Taken one round after Duncan in that 2001 draft as a high schooler, Wright more or less stumbled along before things started to click a little in low-A back in 2005. He was the FSL Pitcher of the Year in 2006, but excitement was somewhat muted since he was already 23 and had five years under his belt. Then things really took off this past season. He began -- and ultimately ended -- his Minor League season in Double-A, going a combined 13-5 with a 3.45 ERA in 145 IP between Trenton and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He also got to jump up to the big leagues and appear in three games when the injuries piled up before Chamberlain and Kennedy flew by him. Still, the simple fact he's on the 40-man roster shows he's definitely climbed the ladder.
Kept Their Footing
Brett Gardner, OF: Gardner's skill set is one that is oft underappreciated in today's game. Since being drafted in 2005, Gardner has done nothing but hit for average, get on base and run like the wind. Gardner has hit .289 in his Minor League career with a .381 OBP and 116 steals. His 2007 season was no different as Gardner hit a combined .281 with 39 steals and a .369 OBP between Trenton and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The reason he didn't land on the "Climbed" list is that he did slow down once he hit Triple-A for the first time, hitting .260 in 45 games. He picked up the pace in the AFL and, at the very least, could be in the running for a backup outfield spot in the bigs very soon.
Alan Horne, RHP: Caught in the shadow of the Joba-Kennedy express, Horne had a pretty gosh darn good second full season of pro ball. Normally, going 12-4 with a 3.11 ERA gets you some attention. So would the 165 strikeouts in 153 1/3 IP to lead the organization. Granted, Horne was 24 pitching in Double-A and it seems like he's been around forever, considering he was first drafted out of high school way back in 2001 by the Indians in the first round, but his 2007 was clearly another step in the right direction after finishing off his first year so well in '06.
Jose Tabata, OF: You have to wonder if the expectations are almost too high. The amazing thing is he still almost met them, despite the hamate injury that allowed him to pick up 411 at-bats in 2007. Still, he probably hit enough to warrant moving to Trenton in 2008 (even if they keep him in Tampa until the weather warms up some), so he'd be in Double-A at age 19, which isn't too shabby.
Slipped a Rung
J. Brent Cox, RHP: When the Yankees took the University of Texas closer in the second round of the 2005 draft, the idea was that he'd be one of those college relievers who made it to the big leagues quickly. After a first full season in which he posted a 1.75 ERA for Double-A Trenton, things looked to be headed in that direction. Then things turned south. First he broke his pitching hand in December in an altercation. Then he hurt his elbow, requiring surgery (not Tommy John). He didn't throw a competitive pitch all year and will have to start over again in 2008.
Eric Duncan, 1B: Yes, it's still true that Duncan will still be 23 for the 2008 season, but his career appears to be hitting somewhat of an impasse. The 2003 first-round pick was moved quickly early on and reached Triple-A in 2006 for the first time. That was on the heels of his 2005 AFL MVP performance in which it appeared he had figured some things out. A nagging back problem caused a lot of problems in '06, but he spent most of the year relatively healthy in Triple-A this past year. But he hit .241 with a .712 OPS for the year. He was better in the second half, but even that wasn't overly impressive (.260, .793 OPS). It's decision time for the Yankees now: Duncan has to be put on the 40-man roster or be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft.
Humberto Sanchez, RHP: With all of the excitement over Chamberlain and Kennedy, it's easy to forget they had a guy they thought would be perhaps the first one called up in 2007 should there have been a need. Sanchez came over from the Tigers as the key part of the Gary Sheffield trade, but he didn't throw a pitch in 2007. Instead, he had Tommy John surgery and missed the entire season. When he does come back, he'll turn 25 in May with a couple of young pitchers who have passed him by on the organization depth chart.
On the Radar
Eric Wordekemper, RHP: To say a 46th-round draft choice isn't on the baseball radar is sort of like saying a Libertarian candidate for president isn't on the political radar. Get it? It's an understatement. Wordekemper was taken in that round in the 2005 draft out of Creighton University, started a few games early on, then switched to being a reliever full-time with some startling results. He had a 1.81 ERA in the South Atlantic League in 2006, then followed that up with one of the best seasons any reliever in the Minors had in 2007. Outside of one game in Trenton, Wordekemper spent all year in Tampa and had a 0.56 ERA there while piling up 33 saves. In 47 IP, he gave up 39 hits for a .223 batting average against. He followed that up with a solid Arizona Fall League season and is now most certainly on the map.
Francisco Cervelli, C: The question is often asked who the Yankees have in their system to replace Jorge Posada, whether it be next year, if Posada leaves via free agency, or a few years from now after Posada retires. It's a little too early to tell if Cervelli might be the answer to that question, but he's working his way into the discussion. We had Cervelli on our "Under the Radar" list before the season began. After making the Florida State League All-Star team, having jumped over low-A ball, he's got to be considered on the radar now. Known for his defense -- the 21-year-old made two errors all year and threw out 41 percent of would-be base-stealers -- he's also shown some ability with the bat. He hit .301 in the first half of the season, then slowed down considerably as pitchers adjusted. He was getting hot again, going 7-for-18 in August before a knee injury caused by a home-plate collision ended his season. His knee is fine and he finished the year with a .279 average and a .387 OBP. He should move up to Double-A at age 22 in 2008 and then the conversations about New York can really begin.
Juan Miranda, 1B: While Miranda made a bit of a splash as a Cuban defector signing this past offseason, it wasn't anything like El Duque or Jose Contreras in magnitude. He then went and had a quiet debut, starting in Tampa and ending in Trenton. Combined, he hit .265, but with 16 homers, 34 doubles and 96 RBIs, leading the organization in that category. The Yankees then sent the 24-year-old to the Arizona Fall League and he responded well with four homers, 15 RBIs and a .514 SLG through 21 games. First base isn't exactly a position of tremendous depth for the Yankees, so if Miranda can keep improving, he may hit the Bronx sooner rather than later.
Scott Patterson, RHP: As recently as 2006, Patterson was toiling in the independent Atlantic League. It looked like he was making a career of that, spending parts of five seasons in some form of indy ball or another. The Yankees needed some bullpen help in the Minors, so they signed him and sent him to Double-A Trenton, where he promptly posted a 2.33 ERA in 26 games, striking out 44 in 38 2/3 IP. He went back to Trenton this past season and was even nastier, with a 1.09 ERA over 74 1/3 innings. He allowed 45 hits for a .170 average against, striking out 91 and walking 15. As a Yankee, that means he's whiffed 136 and walked 23 while yielding 71 hits. He's 28 now and a Minor League free agent, but the Yankees wouldn't mind bringing him back into the fold.
Jesus Montero, C: Those who follow the international signee scene -- and let's face it, who doesn't -- probably already know about Montero after he signed a $1.6 million bonus out of Venezuela a year ago, the second highest international bonus of the year. He got off to a slow start in the Gulf Coast League this past summer because of an early ankle injury, but really hit his stride near the end and into the playoffs. He's got some serious raw power and he showed it particularly in the championship series with a pair of homers as the Yanks beat the GCL Dodgers for the crown. He's got a long way to go behind the plate, but the Yankees are confident he'll get there.
2007 Draft Recap
1. Andrew Brackman, RHP: Headed into the 2007 draft season, Brackman was very much in the conversation about possible top draft picks. The towering right-hander out of North Carolina State hadn't pitched much as he had been playing basketball in college as well, but when he was on the mound, his stuff was often electrifying. Things didn't go so well in his junior season and when he missed some important late starts, the alarm bells went off. The Yankees took a chance and took him No. 30 overall, knowing of the elbow problem. Turned out it did require Tommy John surgery, meaning the Yankees won't see any kind of return on their investment until 2009.
2. Austin Romine, C: Romine barely got his feet wet in the Gulf Coast League because of a thumb injury, so it wasn't until instructional league that he got to show the Yankees what he could do. And they liked what they saw. Coming from a baseball family -- dad Kevin is a former big leaguer and brother Andrew is a shortstop in the Angels system -- Romine is advanced well beyond his years in terms of baseball acumen. He's got some ability with the bat, but the tool that likely will make everyone turn and take notice is his arm from behind the plate. It will get unleashed full-time in 2008.
3. Ryan Pope, RHP: At 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, the Savannah College of Art & Design right-hander has the prototypical pitcher's body and he rose up the charts during draft season. After the Yankees took him, he went to Staten Island and excelled with a 2.49 ERA and 46 K's in 43 1/3 IP. He's got an above-average fastball, a pretty good change up and a curve that needed some refinement. He'll unleash all of it on a full-season league in '08.
Others of note: The Yankees gave fourth-rounder Brad Suttle (3B) first-round money to keep the draft-eligible sophomore from returing to the University of Texas. He got a few GCL games under his belt and then went to play Hawaii Winter Baseball. ... 2B Damon Sublett (seventh round) hit .326 with a .957 OPS in 68 games for Staten Island. ... RHP Nick Chigges (13th round) had a 2.29 ERA in 55 IP for Staten Island, striking out 62 and holding hitters to a .208 average. ... 3B Braedyn Pruitt (14th round) hit .347, good for second in the New York-Penn League, with a .458 OBP in 51 games with Staten Island. ... INF Justin Snyder (21st round) finished fifth in the New York-Penn League batting race, ahead of Sublett, with a .335 average in 68 games. He also led the league in OBP with a .459 mark. ... 3B Brandon Laird (27th round), big-league catcher Gerald's brother, hit .339 and slugged .577 in 45 Gulf Coast League games.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.