Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Russell Martin: Why Yankees’ Surprise Star May Lead to Trade of Jesus Montero

New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman has had a bull’s eye on his chest since before I can remember—both from opposing fans attacking his spending habits and impatient fans attacking any missed opportunity.

Though many criticisms of his pitching decisions are warranted, his ability to make moves without writing the big check has been underrated at times.

Much like his savvy Jon Lieber move—in which Jon overcame surgery to go 14-8 in addition to making three excellent playoff starts—Cashman put away the checkbook this offseason in favor of good old fashioned scouting.

He took chances on Eric Chavez, Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, Andruw Jones and Kevin Millwood, and all are making him look like a very smart man.

None of these, however, is his greatest move in preparing for the 2011 season. That would be scooping up a 28-year-old former All-Star catcher for the price of a middle reliever.

Russell Martin was just what the Yankees needed in a backstop—especially in a year that Jorge Posada would be bowing out gracefully from the crouch he called home for 15 MLB seasons.

Martin has been far better than advertised, and he currently lands in the top five in the American League in home runs (6), slugging percentage (.656) and OPS (1.047).

The irreplaceable contributions to the Yankees don’t end there for Martin, as he has been an excellent clubhouse presence and a respected caretaker of a pitching staff held together by gum and duct tape.

The French-Canadian—in conjunction with new pitching coach Larry Rothschild—achieved in just two short weeks what others had failed to do for 12 seasons prior.

New York’s duo convinced AJ Burnett to step out of his comfort zone, trust them completely, and transform a developing changeup from novelty into weapon.

Now the Yankees must ask themselves if April was merely a coincidental hot start, or whether Martin is showing signs of a return to health and to his past stardom.

If they decide the latter, especially considering Martin’s age, he may just be the perfect placeholder until heralded prospects Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez mature into MLB-ready options.

Injury fears will always be at the epicenter of any Martin extension conversations, but his resurgence could allow New York to swap some of their catching depth for much-needed pitching help.

Could the first prospect sealed for delivery be none other than the No. 1 prospect in their system?

Hitting phenomenon Jesus Montero suddenly becomes expendable if Martin is tabbed as a multi-year filler, and Montero’s unique bat makes him the most coveted piece New York has to offer.

If Triple-A performance is any indication, Montero is more than ready for a shot at the big leagues—he’s batting .407 with a .925 OPS in about 60 AB.

The Yankees need a front-of-the-rotation starter, and no one would hesitate to second that notion.

The only way they can acquire one without giving up the nearly untouchable LHP Manny Banuelos, however, is to hand over Montero on a silver platter to anyone with a top arm.

In an ideal world, the Yankees would be able to pry a Dan Haren, Jered Weaver, Jonathan Sanchez, or Gio Gonzalez away from a rotation—though I’m not sure that will end up being much more likely than obtaining Felix Hernandez.

What we do know is the Yankees are having their eyes opened to the fact that Russell Martin, if healthy, can provide years of production at a position they have three top prospects at.

It is far too early to count on Martin’s body holding up until July—let alone until 2014—but continued success would put the thought in the back of their minds moving forward.

I’m as much an advocate of Montero’s bat translating favorably to MLB as any scout around the league, but I think he is the fourth best long-term catching option in the organization.

Alex Rodriguez’s need to DH at a much higher frequency as he ages—coupled with Mark Teixeira’s lengthy contract at 1B—makes it difficult to imagine Montero cementing himself at any other position.

I think Montero will be dangled at the deadline for that very reason, and Yankees fans may be forced to watch another “Fred McGriff” grow into a superstar bat in another city.

Nevertheless, it will unquestionably be the right move if that sacrifice leads to five to seven prime years of a top-end starter in the Bronx.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

1927 Yankees vs. 1961 Yankees: Who’s Better? A Position by Position Breakdown

Many consider the 1927 New York Yankees the greatest MLB team ever assembled.

Most of this credit is given to the heralded “Murderer’s Row” lineup including Hall of Fame inductees Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, and Earle Combs—though having two Hall of Fame pitchers in Herb Pennock and Waite Hoyt certainly didn’t hurt.

Others would argue for the 1961 Yankees—a star-studded roster in its own right with Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard, and Whitey Ford.

Though the latest generation of fans would fight to the death for their 1998 team, and rightfully so, I’m going to focus on the two immortal Yankees teams of the past—breaking them down position by position.

One player will be picked in each position battle, and a tally will then be made at the end to create an “on paper” favorite if the two were to play head-to-head in a World Series.

Without further ado, let’s get started with a look at catcher where you will not see Yogi’s name—he had since moved to the outfield at this point of his career. Here we go:

C – Pat Collins/Johnny Grabowski ’27 vs. Elston Howard ‘61

The 1927 Yankees had a platoon situation at catcher which also included contributions from a third catcher named Benny Bengough.

While Collins was the best offensive threat—compiling a .407 OBP in 251 Abs—he and Grabowski combined for a 29 percent caught stealing rate (33 for 114).

The 1961 Yankees, on the other hand, had one of the best catchers in MLB at the time in Elston Howard. He hit .348 with a .387 OBP and .939 OPS that season, and added an exceptional 50 percent caught stealing rate (20 for 40).

The Decision: Elston Howard – ‘61

This is an easy one for me, as Howard was both a dynamic offensive and defensive player in 1961—beating out the less productive trio of the ’27 roster.

1B – Lou Gehrig ’27 vs. Bill “Moose” Skowron ‘61

Lou Gehrig, arguably the greatest first baseman in the league’s history, had an otherworldly season in 1927—hitting .373 with 47 HR, 175 RBI, 52 2B, .474 OBP, 1.240 OPS, and 149 R.

Yes, these are actual statistics…and you can throw in 18 triples while you’re at it.

“Moose” Skowron, meanwhile, put up decent power numbers with 28 HR and 89 RBI. His .318 OBP and .790 OPS at a power position at first base were far from his best years as a Yankee in 1956 and 1960.

The Decision: Lou Gehrig – ‘27

Remember when I said the decision at catcher was easy? Well this one is the equivalent of being asked whether you’d rather have a massage at the hands of Minka Kelly or a colonoscopy.

Lou Gehrig put up numbers that even gamers could not produce on Xbox 360, and had in my opinion one of the two to three greatest seasons in the history of the game in 1927.

2B – Tony Lazzeri ’27 vs. Bobby Richardson ‘61

Hall of Fame second baseman Tony Lazzeri was at it again in 1927, as he collected 18 HR, 102 RBI, a .383 OBP and .866 OPS for a position and time period that rarely witnessed years like these.

Richardson had his best MLB season the following year in 1962, and his best World Series in 1960—where he would have been the easy choice for MVP if not for Bill Mazeroski’s timeless Game Seven home run.

In 1961, however, Bobby could only muster a .295 OBP—not enough to prevent the defensive gap between the two to be overcome by Lazzeri’s offensive prowess.

The Decision: Tony Lazzeri – ’27

Richardson was the far superior defender, and put up some solid offensive years in his Yankees career, but 1961 was not one of them. Lazzeri takes this one in a landslide.

SS – Mark Koenig ’27 vs. Tony Kubek ‘61

Koenig had 62 RBI, 99 R, and 34 extra-base hits in 1927, which was a very representative offensive arsenal for any shortstop of the time period.

Kubek had an impressive 52 extra-base hits to go along with 84 R in 1961, as well as earning a reputation as one of the best double-play shortstops in the game (turning 107 of them that season).

The Decision: Tony Kubek – ’61

Offensively, the two are very similar in an overall side-by-side analysis. Defensively, however, I cannot ignore Koenig’s 47 errors in 1927.

Errors are not the end-all in determining defensive abilities in ballplayers, but 47? That makes Kubek’s 30 look like Ozzie Smith at his best.

3B – Joe Dugan ’27 vs. Clete Boyer ‘61

Dugan could not be considered much of an offensive threat in 1927—managing to gather 44 R, 2 HR, 43 RBI, and 29 extra-base hits.

Boyer, who like Richardson had his best year as a Yankee in 1962, did not fare much better than Dugan in 1961. He topped Dugan with 61 R, 11 HR, 55 RBI, and 35 extra-base hits, but he hit an anemic .224.

The Decision: Clete Boyer – ‘61

This explanation could be virtually copied verbatim from the shortstop debate, as offensively neither man separated himself with conviction.

Boyer was possibly the greatest defensive third baseman in Yankees history—some would argue Graig Nettles—which is what pushed him over the top in a close battle.

LF – Babe Ruth ’27 vs. Yogi Berra ‘61

First of all, let me acknowledge that Babe Ruth is viewed primarily as a RF.

Ruth played 56 games in left field in 1927, and it did not seem fair to completely wipe out Roger Maris’ record-breaking season by matching him up with the Sultan of Swat.

How could 61 home runs be crushed so easily? Well, Ruth had 60 of his own—adding 164 RBI, 158 R, a .356 AVG, .486 OBP and 1.258 OPS. What’s even more horrifying is that no one would consider this Ruth’s greatest year in pinstripes.

Berra was a 36-year-old in decline in 1961, but was still able to produce 22 HR to help chip in. It’s impossible not to respect Yogi, but this fight was over before the bell was rung.

The Decision: Babe Ruth – ’27

I will keep this short and sweet. Babe Ruth is the best hitter in MLB history, and 1927 was no different.

CF – Earle Combs ’27 vs. Mickey Mantle ‘61

Combs, an excellent player and offensive force in the Bronx, hit .356 with a stellar .414 OBP and .925 OPS in 1927. He also produced 65 extra-base hits—including 23 triples—and scored 137 runs as part of “Murderer’s Row”.

Mantle was at the epicenter of one of the most captivating seasons in Major League Baseball history, and would go on to have his best Yankees season since his back-to-back MVPs in ’56 and ’57.

“The Mick” would put together 54 HR, 128 RBI, 131 R, .317 AVG, .448 OBP, and 1.135 OPS—while leading MLB in walks and slugging percentage.

The Decision: Mickey Mantle – ‘61

Combs put up excellent numbers, and easily could have beaten out many others in a head-to-head battle.

The Yankees outfield is a crowded one in this debate, however, and Mantle had one of his immortal seasons.

RF – Bob Meusel ’27 vs. Roger Maris ‘61

Meusel had a rock solid 1927 season offensively, and did everything that could have been expected of him.

He drove in 103 runs, had a .393 OBP and .902 OPS, and stole 24 bases—all while only suiting up for 135 games.

Maris’ 1961 season needs absolutely no introduction. In many baseball fans’ eyes, it still represents the true pinnacle in single-season home run history—and I tend to agree with them.

Amidst unimaginable stress and torment, Maris slugged 61 HR while amassing 141 RBI, 132 R, and a nearly 1.000 OPS.

The Decision: Roger Maris – ‘61

This is yet another opportunity to keep it short and sweet, as there is truly no explanation needed. Maris had baseball’s greatest exhibition of power since Ruth’s 1927 season.

1927’s Pitching Staff

1. Waite Hoyt: 22-7, 2.63 ERA, 256.1 IP, 1.16 WHIP, 23 CG

2. Herb Pennock: 19-8, 3.00 ERA, 209.2 IP, 1.30 WHIP, 18 CG

3. George Pipgras: 10-3, 4.11 ERA, 166.1 IP, 1.35 WHIP, 9 CG

CL - Wilcy Moore: 19-7, 2.28 ERA, 213 IP, 1.15 WHIP, 6 CG, 13 SV

1961’s Pitching Staff

1. Whitey Ford: 25-4, 3.21 ERA, 283 IP, 1.18 WHIP, 11 CG, 209 K

2. Bill Stafford: 14-9, 2.68 ERA, 195 IP, 1.16 WHIP, 8 CG

3. Ralph Terry: 16-3, 3.15 ERA, 188.1 IP, 1.08 WHIP, 9 CG

CL – Luis Arroyo: 15-5, 2.19 ERA, 119 IP, 1.11 WHIP, 29 SV

This call is about as tough as any that I’ve come across in this discussion, and is one that came down to the tiniest of details to separate the two from each other.

Both staffs are headed by big-time Hall of Fame arms in Hoyt and Ford—though Ford’s innings, strikeouts, and ability to dominate give him the edge.

Having a second Hall of Fame hurler in the second slot gives 1925 the edge back in their favor, though Stafford performed plenty well enough in 1961 to make it close here.

Pipgras was not 1927’s third starter entering the World Series, but he was given the start and performed admirably. Terry had an out-of-body season, however, which gave 1961 back the lead by a nose.

This brings us to the final call, and there was only one closer who could come out on top as difference-maker: Wilcy Moore.

Not only did Moore pitch 213 innings while only starting 12 games in 1927, but he threw a Game Four complete game to close out the World Series after saving a one-run contest in Game One.

Arroyo had about as good a year as you can have as a relief pitcher in the time period, but the determining factor was Moore’s versatility to both start and close with extreme efficiency.

The Decision: The 1927 Pitching Staff by the Slimmest of Margins

Who Wins the Head-to-Head Series?

The Closing Breakdown:

The 1961 Yankees took the position by position hitting breakdown over “Murderer’s Row” by a head-to-head margin of 5-3.

While it should technically be a 4-4 tie if Ruth was switched over to RF, the ’61 team wins the coin flip with its ability to bring an infinitely more dangerous bat off the bench—or slotted in at hypothetical DH—in Johnny Blanchard (21 HR, .305 AVG, .382 OBP, .995 OPS in 243 AB).

Unfortunately for the 1961 team, they did not perform as dominantly on the field as they should have on paper—losing the runs scored battle by a considerable margin.

The 1927 Yankees won a microscopically close battle in the pitching staff race, which sealed 1961’s fate in the overall head-to-head breakdown.

Miller Huggins was the superior manager to Ralph Houk by virtually any standard, and 1961’s complete lack of any speed on the bases took away their chance at taking advantage of 1927’s poor catching arms.

The Final Call: The 1927 Yankees Win the Series in 7 Tight Games

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

MLB Rumors: New York Yankees May Get Dodgers’ Andre Ethier Into Pinstripes

Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier has quickly risen up the ranks from breakout star to Triple Crown contender to MLB All-Star.

Ethier is a staple in the middle of the LA lineup, and he showed in 2009 that he has the ability to carry a team with clutch performance in the postseason. This season, however, may ultimately be his lame duck campaign in Dodger blue.

Negotiations have seemingly been unsuccessful to this point, and Ethier himself has sounded rather pessimistic about his future out west:

“A lot of signs are pointing that way [in terms of this being his final year in LA]." "If I don't play well, we have seen them non-tender guys here. If you do play well, sometimes they don't offer those guys arbitration because their salaries are too high." [courtesy of ESPN.com]

While this does not at all mean anything of certainty, it seems as though there is a rising sense of frustration surrounding the talks. Ethier simply thinking about life after LA so soon is a disconcerting concept.

In the event that talks disintegrate to the point of a non-tender, the Dodgers’ hitting star will undoubtedly be a hot commodity on the open market.

What team will be the most aggressive in that pursuit, however, in both compensation and general recruitment?

That’s where the perennial free agency heavyweights out of Bronx, NY come into play.

Following the 2011 MLB season, the New York Yankees have the ability to clear more than $30 million off of the payroll. While money is often times not a factor in their persistence to improve, this money—and potentially more—will soon be relocated.

Current right fielder Nick Swisher has been a fan-favorite, a clubhouse gift, and a valuable producer on the field for New York. That said, we’d be na├»ve to think that would prevent them from jumping at the opportunity to acquire a talent like Ethier.

In theory, the Yankees could replace Swisher’s .148 Yankees postseason average—in addition to Jorge Posada’s purged salary—with an All-Star who has proven October is not too big for him.

Ethier’s left-handed swing would transition very well to the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium, and he would likely flourish in a lineup housing Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano.

The move would not be a popular one within the Yankees fan base, and I would completely understand their disappointment. Swisher has been the consummate teammate, and no one treats the fans with more respect and adoration.

What fans need to remember is that “Swish” is a career .250 hitter, and not long ago was so devalued that he was moved straight-up for Wilson Betemit.

The 2010 season was the exception as opposed to the rule, and he is typically good for 25-30 HR, 80 RBI and a .250 AVG. Ethier, on the other hand, is capable of putting up .300, 30, and 110 in pinstripes.

One player is a scrappy overachiever who provides fuel to a smooth running hemi engine. The other is an established star with additional upside, and one that would help inject another younger star into an otherwise aging lineup.

Assuming New York makes a move for a starting pitcher at some point in 2011, their rotation will be set with CC Sabathia, “Trade Target X”, Phil Hughes, AJ Burnett, and Manny Banuelos heading into 2012.

This will allow them to focus on other areas in the offseason, and the Steinbrenners will find it difficult to pass up the opportunity to bulk up—especially if Boston finds a way to recapture AL East supremacy.

A ringing endorsement from reconnected Yankee alumnus Joe Torre would do nothing but fan the flames of their interest, and they know they need to add more punch as Derek Jeter, Rodriguez, and others continue to move toward their 40s.

Nothing is written in stone with the situation, and Ethier could easily turn around and sign an extension in LA before Easter. Signs are beginning to point to the contrary, however, and New York is one team who will undoubtedly display interest.

It would be difficult for Yankees Universe to watch No. 33 walk out the clubhouse doors in “The House that George Built” for the final time, but Ethier’s talent is simply far superior.

If LA’s late-20s star hits the open market next winter, expect the Yankees to make a very strong push to have him trade in one shade of blue for another. His situation is one to watch closely during the 2011 season, so stay tuned.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Derek Jeter and New York Yankees “Lucky 13” Most Hyped Prospects of All-Time

The New York Yankees are proud to display their best collection of minor league talent since the early-to-mid 1990s.

They also have a fan base that is now more abreast on prospects than ever before, which inevitably causes love affairs and limitless hype thrust in the direction of teenagers.

There has been a heightened interest in young stars across the MLB landscape in general, as players such as Stephen Strasburg, Buster Posey, Jason Heyward, Bryce Harper, and Aroldis Chapman have captivated baseball circles.

All of this prospect hysteria has inspired me to create a list of the most hyped Yankees in team history—representing a caveat that cliffs lay waiting at each turn on the way to the mountain top.

These prospects will span more than six hype-filled decades, and will tell stories of both immortalized success and unbridled failure. Without further ado, let’s dive into the archives of Yankees minor league development:

Honorable Mention: Kevin Maas

Drafted by the Yankees in the 22nd round in 1986, Maas was not originally hyped or viewed as a big-time prospect.

That all changed after a torrid start to his MLB career in 1990, as he broke the record for fewest at bats to reach 10, 13, and 15 home runs. Suddenly he was viewed as “the heir apparent to Don Mattingly at first base.”

Mattingly’s back had limited him at this point of his career, and it was actually argued that the Yankee captain was going to be “Wally Pipp-ed” by Maas. This of course refers to Lou Gehrig taking over for Pipp at first base and subsequently never losing his spot.

Needless to say that never happened, and Maas amassed just a .230 AVG, 65 HR, and 169 RBI in his career. He finished up in the Japanese leagues after trying his luck with three other MLB franchises.

13. Eric Duncan

Before the days of Alex Rodriguez in New York, Eric Duncan was determined to be yet another “Yankees third baseman of the future” candidate as an 18-year-old first round pick back in 2003.

Duncan was viewed as a true “can’t-miss” prospect, and was riding high after winning the MVP of the High School All-American game after his senior year. I was in attendance, and his 3-for-3 day had everyone buzzing about what he could be at the next level.

Growing pains hit him hard early in his career, and the Yankees quickly abandoned the idea of him playing long-term in the Bronx. A resurgence in the 2006 Arizona Fall League put him back on the map, but his MVP honors were not enough to translate into a successful Triple-A season.

Duncan was later let go, and all hopes of playing for his favorite team (he grew up in NJ and attended the same high school as Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello) were squashed.

12. Manny Banuelos

The newest branch of the Yankees hype tree is 19-year-old left-handed stud Manny Banuelos.

Though still a teenager, and with zero career innings beyond Double-A, he is already being discussed as the system’s best pitching prospect in decades (I’m admittedly guilty of this).

Banuelos is flying up prospect lists (as high as No. 12 on Keith Law’s Top 100), and is reaping the benefits of jumping from 89-91 to 94-96 MPH while already knowing how to get by with command.

Mariano Rivera called him “the best prospect I’ve ever seen,” Alex Rodriguez said “I wouldn’t trade him for anyone,” Joe Girardi that he “reminds of Johan Santana on the mound,” and Russell Martin added “he is like a more refined Clayton Kershaw.”

Very lofty expectations and praise for a pitcher after five dominant spring innings, no?

11. Joba Chamberlain, 10. Ian Kennedy, 9. Phil Hughes

These three recent prospects are lumped together for good reason. While Hughes was the most hyped in the minor leagues, he was often discussed as part of New York’s new trio of high-ceiling arms.

Joba, Phil, and Ian were essentially the New York Yankees version of Bill Pulsipher, Jason Isringhausen, and Paul Wilson. The hype seemed to reach a new level when a Johan Santana trade fell through based on the organization’s feelings about the young stars.

They have all experienced mixed results at the big league level, but each has established himself as a quality arm with room to rise.

8. Ruben Rivera

Former Yankees outfield prospect Ruben Rivera is the epitome of knee-jerk hype.

Though already a legitimate blend of speed and power, he began to captivate baseball circles after a big 1994 season in the minor leagues.

Rivera clubbed 33 HR with 101 RBI in 139 games in Single-A, but it may have been his 48 steals that wowed scouts most of all. The breakout campaign catapulted him from Baseball America’s No. 76 prospect all the way up to No. 2.

The success and hype accumulation continued until he was eventually traded to the San Diego Padres in a package for Hideki Irabu (another player potentially worthy of this list). His MLB career fizzled, and he managed just a .216 batting average over 662 games.

7. Jesus Montero

Another recent addition to the list, hitting phenomenon Jesus Montero has been hyped as the next Miguel Cabrera or Manny Ramirez (I have also heard a 40 home run version of Victor Martinez).

A perfect combination of power, plate discipline, high average, and the ability to hit with authority to all fields by the age of 18 will generally cause that sort of reaction.

Jesus has inevitably had his name turned into a bevy of nicknames and plays on words of the well-known Christian savior of the same name, and the Yankees fan base worships him in much the same way.

Will he ever reach his potential? I have no idea, but if hype was any determinant he will be somewhere between Mike Piazza and Babe Ruth.

6. Drew Henson

The first of many “third basemen of the future” candidates, duel-sport star Drew Henson was drafted by the Yankees in the third round of the 1998 MLB June Amateur Draft.

Following much the same path as Rockies star Todd Helton—who backed up Peyton Manning at Tennessee—Henson was the No. 2 behind Tom Brady on the Michigan Wolverines football team.

Forced to choose between signing a guaranteed baseball contract or pursuing the fortunes often awarded first round NFL quarterbacks, Henson followed his dream—fully committing to baseball in 2001.

Ranked as highly as No. 9 by Baseball America’s Top 100 MLB Prospects list, Henson never lived up to expectations—accumulating a .248 AVG, 67 HR, and 274 RBI in 501 minor league appearances. His MLB career was “brief” to put it generously, as he retired from baseball 1-for-9 with 0 RBI.

5. Derek Jeter

Expected to be taken No. 1 in the 1992 MLB Draft and long gone before the Yankees’ selection, Derek Jeter seemed destined to land far from his tri-state area roots.

In a shocking development, the Houston Astros were scared off by Jeter’s Michigan scholarship and selected college star Phil Nevin. Astros scout Hal Newhouser felt so strongly about Jeter's potential that he actually quit his job after the Astros went in another direction.

Not only did Houston pass on him, but Paul Shuey, Jeffrey Hammonds and Chad Mottola were also taken ahead of him.

Needless to say, the Yankees were not going to make the same mistake. The hype began to crescendo until hitting its peak with a 1996 Rookie of the Year Award and World Series title. The rest, my friends, is history.

4. Bobby Murcer

Bobby Murcer was a solid ballplayer and an even better man. I could never say a bad word about him for as long as I live, and neither could scouts once he entered the Yankees organization.

All that needs to be said to understand the level of hype surrounding Murcer was that he was dubbed “The Next Mickey Mantle”. No one should have to carry that burden, and to be frank no one could.

Murcer collected 250+ home runs, 1000+ RBI, made five All-Star teams, won a Gold Glove, and finished in the Top-5 of MVP voting. He had a very solid and respectable MLB career, but he unfortunately never lived up to the impossible expectations placed on his shoulders.

3. Ron Blomberg

More infamous for his “MLB’s First Ever Designated Hitter” moniker, Ron Blomberg was also the first ever No. 1 overall pick in Yankees franchise history back in 1967.

Much like another former Yankee Dave Winfield, Blomberg was an athletic freak in multiple sports. He was the first (and I believe only) high school athlete to ever be selected as an All-American in baseball, basketball and football in the same year.

After already being hyped as a future superstar, Blomberg enjoyed a very hot start to his MLB career with the Yankees in 1971. His streak of success immediately got him on the covers of Sports Illustrated, Sport, and The Sporting News.

Blomberg slugged just 54 home runs in his MLB career—which essentially ended at the tender age of 26. He unfortunately suffered four knee and two shoulder injuries, and this run of bad luck and pain forced him out of the game he loved.

2. Mickey Mantle

Perhaps the most hyped of all Yankees prospects, Hall of Fame outfielder Mickey Mantle was first noticed by a team scout in 1948 as a 16-year-old. He hit home runs from both sides of the plate in the game, and was later called “the best prospect he’s ever seen”.

Mantle was quickly dubbed “The Commerce Comet” for his blinding speed, and was called up to the big club at just 19 years old. Shortly after his arrival, manager Casey Stengel already was quoted as saying he “[had] more natural power from both sides than anybody I ever saw."

Though the early months of his pro career nearly drove him to quitting, he of course rebounded to become an immortalized player.

1. Brien Taylor

It was impossible to limit the hype on New York’s second No. 1 overall pick in franchise history, so lefty flamethrower Brien Taylor seemed doomed from the beginning.

Taylor possessed a fastball that touched 100 MPH with a horrifying ease to it, while also adding in a curveball that could be described as nothing less than a “hammer”. He was supposed to be the Yankees version of Dwight Gooden, but he unfortunately only achieved that symmetry while off the field.

A fight in which he defended his brother resulted in his shoulder being shredded, and the promising young prospect would never be the same. We will never truly know what might have been, but the hype tale will live on forever.

Member of Boxxet Network, inc ThrillOf (Sports)