Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Back to the Future?

It doesn't take a modified DeLorean to realize the Yankees have never cared about the future under the rein of King George. That mindset has supposedly changed (excuse me for still being a bit leery since most of the Yankees clubhouse hasn't seen 20 for quite sometime) with Brian Cashman pulling the strings. Makes for some interesting dreaming on a Winter's day.

The new ballpark opens in April, 2009 and the face of the Yankees will be quite different (that's a given in any year), and possibly a lot younger. The Captain should be about two seasons shy of 3,000 hits. Roger Clemens will not be close to a decision whether or not he'll want to pitch in his 26th season. Barry Bonds will be trying to explain why his hat size is an 11. But I digress...this is about youth. In particular the young arms and one very capable looking outfielder the Yankees have on the way, barring a Jay Buhner-esque deal.

Scranton today,
Bronx tomorrow?

The biggest of those names, of course, is 2004 1st-round draft pick Philip Hughes (I will try to stop spelling his name with two "l"s by this Summer). Hughes will start the season at new Triple-A affiliate Scranton, but could find himself in the Bronx by Summer's end. The Yankees have been very cautious with the kid thus far, restricting the number of pitches and wear and tear on his expensive right arm. The Bombers haven't had a starter this highly touted since a 20-year old Dave Righetti split time between Double-A West Haven and Triple-A Columbus in 1979.

Hughes made a quick splash after the draft, making 3 appearances for the Gulf Coast League (GCL) Yankees, by striking out 8 in 5 innings pitched. After going 7-1, 1.97 ERA with 72 K's in 68 plus innings for Single-A Charleston in 2005, the Yankees moved him up to high 'A' ball Tampa for the remainder of the season. Hughes made just 5 appearances before being shut down for the remainder of the season with a sore shoulder. That led to an even more cautious approach last season.

Hughes averaged 6 innings over 5 starts, striking out 21 hitters and posting a 1.80 ERA. That got the right-hander a trip north to Double-A Trenton for the remainder of the season. After a rough start, Hughes finished the Thunder campaign with a 10-3 record and a very impressive 2.25 ERA. He also struck out 138 batters in just 116 innings while issuing only 32 walks.

His overall minor league numbers of 21-7, 2.13 with 269 K's in 237.1 innings have made the Yankee's front office and fans drool on themselves, while every opponent has brought his name up in trade talks.

The thought of a rotation starting out with Chien-Ming Wang, Hughes, and one of the many recent draft picks or acquisitions (Humberto Sanchez, Ross Ohlendorf, Ian Kennedy, Tyler Clippard, and on it goes) , mixed with some veteran presence, makes me believe the Yankees will be raising a number of banners in the new stadium.

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