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Yanks' homegrown talent often overlooked

Yanks' homegrown talent often overlooked

During the Yankees' run to the 2009 World Series title, most of the attention, understandably so, went to big free-agent acquisitions CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira. And while it's overstating the obvious to say that trio played a large part in bringing the championship back to New York, it shouldn't be forgotten that there were a number of young, homegrown players who played vital roles as well.

It was most evident in the bullpen. A weakness heading into the season, the bullpen ended up being a strength when all was said and done thanks to arms scouted, signed and developed by the Yankees' farm system.


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Phil Hughes became a go-to eighth-inning guy, Alfredo Aceves won 10 games out of the 'pen, David Robertson's 12.98 strikeouts per nine innings was the best among relievers with more than 40 innings pitched in the American League, even Phil Coke, who had more bumps along the way than his colleagues, was a solid contributor to the relief effort. Throw in Joba Chamberlain's move to the 'pen in the postseason and that's a quintet with an average age of 24.6, all of whom came from down on the farm.

"That was big," said Mark Newman, Yankees senior vice president of baseball operations. "We don't get there without those guys. The bullpen was a major question early, and those guys solidified it."

The big league club also got a boost from young players like Brett Gardner in the outfield, Ramiro Pena as a utility man and Francisco Cervelli, who stepped in behind the plate when needed.

There was progress down below, though some injuries slowed some, Ian Kennedy being the biggest example. The two top prospects in the system, Austin Jackson and Jesus Montero, continued to make positive strides, though Montero was shut down early due to a broken finger (he's expected to be fine). With Montero, Cervelli, Austin Romine and Kyle Higashioka, catching continues to be a strength in the system.

They're joined by some arms who have kind of flown under the radar but are moving through the system nicely. MLB.com's two-time organizational pitcher of the year Zach McAllister might the closest to helping out in New York. He'd gone relatively unnoticed during his climb up the ladder, but after a 2.23 ERA with Double-A Trenton in 2009 brought his career mark down to 2.81, the phone has been ringing a bit more with inquiries about the right-hander.

"There are sexier guys than him, but he's moved solidly through the system," Newman said. "He made a big jump with improved performance and we're getting more hits on him from the industry. There's no better indication than that."

McAllister moved up to Triple-A Scranton at the end of the season to join another of those interesting arms, Ivan Nova, during the team's playoff push. Scranton made it to the championship round in the International League, Tampa won the Florida State League title and Staten Island took home its fifth New York-Penn League championship. Even the rookie-level Gulf Coast League club made it to the playoffs. The end result was a .544 winning percentage for the organization, the second best success rate in baseball.

ORGANIZATIONAL PLAYERS OF THE YEAR

MLB.com's Preseason Picks

Jesus Montero, C: It was easy to pick Montero to take home back-to-back organizational hitter of the year awards, predicting he'd keep hitting for average and add some more power. Mission accomplished. Before an injury ended his season early, Montero hit .337 with 17 homers and 70 RBIs between Tampa and Trenton. He slugged .562 and finished with a .951 OPS, all at the age of 19.

Dellin Betances, RHP: The temptation was to go with McAllister as a repeat along with Montero. That would've been the right way to go. The prediction that Betances, another year removed from arm trouble, would challenge for the Minor League strikeout crown, didn't come to fruition.

MLB.com's Postseason Selections

Jesus Montero, C: That's two-for-two for the young backstop. Even though his season got cut short, he still was among the tops in the organization in homers and RBIs. He's also two-for-two in Futures Game appearances, going to New York in 2008 and St. Louis this past year. In his brief professional career, Montero has hit .325 with a .379 OBP and .509 SLG.

Zach McAllister, RHP: Back-to-back and belly-to-belly, as Yankees broadcaster John Sterling might intone. This past year, McAllister posted an organization-leading 2.23 ERA, marking the second season in a row he topped the system in that category. He continued to show good command, with 33 walks in 121 innings and moved up to Triple-A to help Scranton in the playoffs.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["minor_leagues" ] }
{"content":["minor_leagues" ] }