Every so often, it’s fun to look back, to see how a baseball prediction played out. Such is the case with Yankees prospects in turning the clock back five years to 2009.
Prospects, Yankees or otherwise, don’t always turn out to be the finished product scouts predict. Take this report on 2013 National League MVP Andrew McCutchen, who is having another excellent season in 2014.
“He looked like a No. 3 hitter in the past, but since he is pull-happy, his power hasn’t developed. He now profiles as a lead-off hitter.”
Since then, McCutchen, who has hit 125 homers in five-plus big-league seasons, and has a career OPS of .880, has become one of baseball’s premier No. 3 hitters. The point is, one never knows what will happen on the field.
Of all the prospects the Yankees touted in 2009, they have gotten the biggest contributions from emerging bullpen star Dellin Betances, outfielder Brett Gardner and present closer David Robertson.
For instance, the Yankees’ top prospect in 2009 was Austin Jackson, who was turned into Curtis Granderson in an off-season trade before the 2010 season. Jim Leyland nurtured him in Detroit and, now in Seattle, is a defensive star who holds his own at-bat with a career .276 average. The Yankees figured they had a complimentary player in Gardner, who arrived in New York in 2008 and has stats in the same area as Jackson and has developed more power.
Jesus Montero was right up there, as was right-handed pitcher Andrew Brackman. Both, of course, flamed out in their own way, the former by ineptitude after a trade that netted Michael Pineda, the latter due to injury.
Betances then leads a group that has proven useful. It was predicted in 2009 he would likely reach New York as a starter in 2011. Actually, he was up-and-down in the minors at that time and didn’t click until he was moved to the bullpen and learned to ignore base-runners. He overcame adversity to become a star.
While back injuries have limited Romine, righty Zach McAllister has been a useful starter for Cleveland, Alfredo Aceves made his contributions on the mound, while Phil Coke, who went to Detroit with Jackson, has had his moments in the Tigers bullpen. Righty Mark Melancon, traded to Houston for Lance Berkman at the 2010 trade deadline, recorded his 27th save for Pittsburgh Monday night.
So would have the Yankees made out better if they kept Melancon, who had success in Houston, a disastrous time in Boston and emerged as a top-drawer closer in Pittsburgh? Actually they had a guy in their system they liked, rated nowhere near Melancon by many.
Robertson was even ranked behind another reliever named J. Brent Cox, who had potential, but also injuries that spoiled his career.
“He seems, despite not throwing as hard as others the Yankees have, has something because he pitches aggressively,” was one report on him.
Robertson, who has 35 saves for the Yankees in 2014, didn’t excite people with a 97 mph fastball, but he developed a sinker that has been his bread-and-butter and a solid change that allows him to set down left-handed hitters.
Three of the 2009 prospects have made major contributions to the Yankees this year. Others were traded for needed pieces. Others found success elsewhere after being traded.
There was also a young pitcher who had 12 Gulf Coast League starts in 2008. He was compared to Whitey Ford by the Yankees’ Mark Newman. The jury is still out on lefty Manny Banuelos, who made progress in 2014 coming back from Tommy John surgery.
Where will Aaron Judge, Eric Jagielo, Jacob Lindgren and Ty Hensley be in five years? It will be fun to look back.