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From the Ground Up: How a Change in Philosophy Has Made the Yankees Great Again

Outfielder and rising star Aaron Judge in 2015 as a member of the Trenton Thunder, the Yankees’ AA affiliate. PHOTO/ Flickr Creative Commons - Ash Marshall
Outfielder and rising star Aaron Judge in 2015 as a member of the Trenton Thunder, the Yankees’ AA affiliate. PHOTO/ Flickr Creative Commons – Ash Marshall

By Gabriel Pariente

Published: May 10th, 2017

As we approach the end of the first quarter of the 2017 MLB season, one of the biggest surprises so far is the New York Yankees’ ability to consistently flourish offensively. Their lineup has become one of the most dangerous in baseball—with no signs of slowing down.

Heading into yesterday’s matchup against the Cincinnati Reds, the Yankees held the top spot in the American League East with a 20-9 record, and have used their young talent to create a new atmosphere of excitement and success at Yankee Stadium. Leading the charge is new Yankee outfielder Aaron Judge, whose on-field defense, work ethic, and offensive prowess draws comparisons to former Yankee captain Derek Jeter.

In addition to Judge, other standouts from this new young core include catcher Gary Sanchez, who exploded on the scene last year with his 20 home runs and nearly .300 batting average in only 51 games. Sanchez’s home run numbers earned him a spot in MLB history, as he is the fastest player to hit that many home runs in his first 50 games, per Bleacher Report.

Along with their talent in the field, the Yankees are also beginning to develop talent on the mound, an area where they have struggled to find durable bodies. The 24-year-old pitcher Jordan Montgomery has recently emerged with his precision and off-speed pitches. Pinstripe Alley has reported that “Montgomery, among pitchers with at least 20 innings pitched, has the fifth highest swing-strike rate [in the league], one spot behind [Washington Nationals’ ace] Max Scherzer.”

These new young stars have led to a resurgence not only for the Yankees in the standings, but also among their fans. Recent years have seen Yankee fans frustrated by the bloated contracts and injuries to former players like Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Jacoby Ellsbury. Fans were worried that, with these bloated contracts, the Yankees would be stuck paying aging players for what they had already accomplished and impede a much-needed revamp.

The recent rebuilding over the past few seasons was spearheaded by General Manager Brian Cashman and has created a buzz that team not seen since the emergence of the “Core Four” era, from 1995-2009.

As per Pinstripe Alley, the Yankees’ farm system, which ranked 13th in baseball last year shot up to second this year with the rise of stars like Sanchez and Judge. Future, highly-touted prospects like Clint Frazier, Gleyber Torres, and Justus Sheffield, were acquired in last year’s deadline trade with the Chicago Cubs in exchange for star closer Aroldis Chapman. These were part of moves to acquire young talent from a team that was in one of the most publicized “win now” modes of all time.

Torres, a 20-year old phenom currently spending time on the Trenton Thunder, the Yankees’ Double-A affiliate, teases Yankee fans with his amazing talents. His fielding ability and speed on the base paths make him a potential future star—and possibly a new inclusion to the new core of talent the Yankees are putting together.

Cashman and the Yankees’ front office utilized the opportunity to cash in on valuable prospects. By signing Chapman from free agency prior to this season, the Yankees were able to obtain talent worthy of baseball’s best closer, calling to mind the previous great—and Yankee—closer Mariano Rivera.

The Yankees have finally accepted this model of building a team from the ground up and have steered clear of buying talent to fill holes in the roster. With astronomical salaries and luxury taxes implemented in baseball, the Yankees have transitioned from purchasing talent to pledging to use the minor leagues, a task that has been handled extremely well by the front office thus far.

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