The New York Yankees have never been short on elite prospects. They never let their farm system get torn down to nothing.
MLB.com’s prospect scouting MLB Pipeline has been ranking top prospects since 2004. They put out a top 50 prospect list from 2004-2011, they moved to 100 prospects from 2012-present.
The New York Yankees have appeared on every single list. They join the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Indians, Tampa Bay Rays and Colorado Rockies as the only teams to do so.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) January 28, 2020
Interestingly enough, those teams have a combined one world series victory in those 17 years. That’s why these lists should be taken with a grain of salt. Elite prospects fail every year; take the Yankees as an example.
The Yankees had the 44th best prospect in baseball on MLB Pipeline’s inaugural list, Dioner Navarro. Navarro did play 13 years in the MLB, an impressive feat, but he spent almost all of that time as a backup catcher.
In 2005, the Yankees had the 49th best prospect in Eric Duncan. Duncan never reached the majors. in 2006, the Yankees had the 30th best prospect, Phil Hughes. He was the 4th best prospect in 2007. He was joined by the 23rd best prospect Jose Tabata on that 2007 list.
Hughes went on to have a fruitful career as a reliever, though he was nothing more than a middle reliever for the majority of his career. Tabata played on six years in the majors mostly as a fourth outfielder.
The point is the Yankees farm system may have had a number of prospects ranked highly on a number of lists, but they didn’t produce at the major league level.
Only five Yankees prospects in those 17 years have produced at least 10 rWAR in their careers. Only five are on pace to have more than 15 rWAR in their careers.
Seventeen years of top prospects and only five players who could be called above average. That’s quite the miss rate. Obviously the Yankees have done better recently with Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Luis Severino and Gleyber Torres.
That just goes to show how bad the farm system truly was from 2004-2014. That’s one player who could be worth over 15 rWAR in their career in 11 years. That one player is Dellin Betances.
Just a reminder that having top prospects is great, but it doesn’t guarantee success.