There’s not a lot of joy to be derived from the New York Yankees‘ present.

Their 58-56 record is far from an Atlanta Braves-level disaster, but it marks the fourth year in a row they’ve been mired in mediocrity. And for the first time in a long time, they’ve accepted they need to make things worse to get better. When New York moved Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Carlos Beltran at the August 1 trade deadline, its first rebuild in over two decades was on.

There is, however, some joy to be derived from the Yankees’ present. At least they now have Gary Sanchez. We knew the 23-year-old was an elite catching prospect when the club called him up last week. Now we know he can do things like this:

Sanchez’s first home run was the exclamation point on his coming-out party. It was one of four hits he collected in a 9-4 romp over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, and it had the Yankees a’buzzin‘.

“We’ve liked the way this kid has swung the bats for years,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, per Craig Forde of “I think he’s done a good job catching. To have his first homer, and he had some big hits tonight, was really nice to see.”

Fun fact: Girardi‘s not kidding about the “for years” part.

A thunderous bat that produced a .799 OPS and 99 home runs in the minors makes Sanchez arguably the top catching prospect in baseball, but it was in 2011 that he first appeared on top-100 lists

As a junior member of a farm system Baseball America ranked at No. 5 in MLB, it was easy then to imagine Sanchez as the finishing touch of a new Yankees core that would already feature Jesus Montero, Dellin Betances, Manny Banuelos, Eduardo Nunez and Slade Heathcott.

Obviously, that didn’t pan out. That could be why New York is taking no chances with its latest attempt to build a winner from the ground up.

The team’s farm system was stuck in neutral just a few months ago. Nobody thought much of the system in 2014 and 2015, and they were singing the same old song going into 2016. Baseball AmericaBaseball Prospectus and all put the Yankees’ farm system in the middle of the pack.

It only took about one week in late July and early August to change this. When Chapman, Miller and Beltran went out the door, 10 prospects came in. Included among them were two elites, shortstop Gleyber Torres and outfielder Clint Frazier, and other well-regarded names like left-hander Justus Sheffield, right-hander Dillon Tate and outfielder Billy McKinney.

Keith Law of and Jim Callis of have both elevated the Yankees system to among the top three in baseball, with Callis offering this note: “They may come in No. 2 in our rankings, but the Yanks do have the deepest system in the game.”

That doesn’t strain the limits of believability. After all, Sanchez is just one of seven young Yankees in’s current top 100:

Not pictured here are McKinney and Tate, who popped up on preseason top-100 lists and may do so again if they put rough 2016 seasons behind them.

Elsewhere in the system is right-hander James Kaprielian, who made it into Baseball America‘s midseason top 100. Tyler Austin, a first baseman/third baseman/outfielder, isn’t on any top-100 lists. But with a 1.061 OPS at Triple-A, he has to be on the Yankees’ radar. The same must be true of Aaron Judge, whose .844 OPS at Triple-A is a substantial improvement over what he did in a reality-check 2015 season (.680 OPS in Triple-A).

If Judge and Austin join Sanchez in The Show in the coming weeks, New York’s future will come further into focus. So it will go in 2017 and 2018. Of all the names mentioned above, the only one who doesn’t figure to be ready for the majors within the next two years is Blake Rutherford, whom the Yankees just drafted out of high school in June.

Oh, and don’t forget the other young talent the Yankees have.

Betances, 28, is set to close games for years to come. It’s too soon for anyone to give up on right-hander Luis Severino, 22, who was an elite prospect just last season. Slugging first baseman Greg Bird, 23, will be healthy next year after missing 2016 due to a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Rob Refsnyder, 25, could blossom into a useful utility player. Torres and Jorge Mateo may have higher ceilings, but Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro are A) effective and B) only 26.

Exactly how the Yankees should handle all their young talent is a matter for another day, or one that can be left up to them. All that’s clear now is they have a lot of it, and they have a lot of it at the perfect time.

Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira are just about finished in New York. CC Sabathia will be finished after 2017. Brett Gardner, Brian McCann and Chase Headley are likely gone after 2018. These departures mark the opening of a window. Like they did with Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera in the early and mid-1990s, the Yankees can lay the foundation for a new dynasty.

And at low costs, to boot. Then whatever the Yankees don’t have after 2018, they’ll be able to buy.

Between Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Jose Fernandez and many others, the 2018-2019 class of free agents will be L-O-A-D-E-D. It was apparent last winter the Yankees were setting their sights on all that talent.

After recent events, one imagines a shopping spree that winter could do for the Yankees what the Chicago Cubs‘ shopping spree this past winter did for them: take a young team that already had a lot of potential and use a few blank checks to fill in the blanks.

It may not be until then that the Yankees are ready to contend for championships again. They’re only in a position to take whatever bright spots they can get the rest of the way this year. In 2017 and 2018, there’s bound to be growing pains.

But to build an empire, you have to start somewhere. We know where the last Yankees empire started. Years from now, we may be able to say their next empire started with Sanchez.


Stats courtesy of and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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