Steinbrenner excited about Yanks' prospects

Steinbrenner excited about Yanks' prospects

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Just about this time a year ago, the Yankees flew their corporate sponsors to George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa to meet some of the players.

"Everybody wanted to meet Greg Bird, and he wasn't even playing that year [because of a torn labrum]," managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said during the first full day of the quarterly Owners Meetings at The Breakers.

Yankees' farm system bursting with talent

The Yankees have always been about marquee players, And while that hasn't completely changed, there's no doubt that much of the anticipation surrounding a team that has uncharacteristically appeared in just one postseason game in the last four years is being generated by youngsters. Bird hit 11 homers in 46 games during his rookie campaign in 2015. Catcher Gary Sanchez mashed 20 homers in 53 games after being called up in 2016. Outfielders Clint Frazier and Aaron Judge, shortstop Gleyber Torres and infielder Jorge Mateo are among the Top 100 Prospects according to MLBPipeline.com.

"Every Spring Training brings new hope," Steinbrenner said. "It's a great thing. It's exciting, but this one feels different and there's no doubt the kids are a part of it. There's a lot of excitement going on already in Tampa, and we know from our fans that this is as excited as they've been in a while."

The Cubs won the World Series last fall for the first time since 1908 and now have one of the most formidable rosters in baseball. Steinbrenner thinks Yankees fans understand that patience can pay off in a big way.

"Look, we always try to do what we can," Steinbrenner said. "When we have money coming off the payroll, we try to put as much back into it as we can. We need marquee players. You've heard me say that a million times. We need the veteran players as well. You need that other dynamic, too. It can't be all young kids.

"But I've got to tell you. As much as I ever could have expected, people want to see these kids. They want these kids. Maybe it's because we did not do a good job for a number of years of getting these kids from [Class] A all the way up to the varsity club. We just didn't."

For the past few years, Steinbrenner has rebuffed overtures to trade the organization's best prospects. At the same time, the video board at Yankee Stadium was used to remind fans of the kind of talent that was working its way through the system. And that's paid off.

"It's clear from monitoring social media, from talking to our fans directly, they want to see these kids," Steinbrenner said. "Clearly there's excitement. The fans want to get to know these guys, and we have made an effort in the stadium to show more Minor League highlights and to get these names out there because we really had high hopes for these kids and fully expected to see them on the varsity at some point. And now it's coming to fruition."

How well the prospects do will not only go a long way toward determining how well the Yankees will do on the field, but will play a big role of Steinbrenner attaining his longtime goal of getting the team payroll under the luxury tax threshold. He even invoked the youngsters when asked about the agreement that will return telecasts of Yankees games to Comcast homes.

"It's a lot of fans who are going to be able to see the games again and hopefully see these kids really make an impact and be successes. They're excited about it, so that's great news for everybody," he said.

Paul Hagen is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.