For all the talk about the high-priced big league stars on the Yankees roster, where would this team be without at least a little help from down on the farm?
Several young pitchers will be counted on to make contributions in New York in 2010, from Phil Hughes at the back end of the rotation to a number of arms in the 'pen. This year's rookie reliever will be Mark Melancon, who could make an impact similar to Alfredo Aceves and David Robertson a year ago.
In New York, the prospects aren't always used to help out directly to the cause. Offering them as trade bait is par for the course. The Yankees sent some good prospects -- Austin Jackson and Arodys Vizcaino -- in deals that helped bring Curtis Granderson and Javier Vazquez into the fold. They managed to do that without giving up one of the better pure hitters in the Minors in Jesus Montero. All of it, of course, is aimed at the only thing that makes the Yankees brass and fans happy: Bringing yet another championship to the Bronx.
Francisco Cervelli, C
A concussion at the beginning of Spring Training worried the Yankees, but he's fine and ready to be Jorge Posada's backup. Technically, he's no longer a rookie due to service time, but he's just now establishing himself in the bigs. He's been a solid performer, with a .273 average and .367 on-base percentage. Perhaps more importantly, he's thrown out 41 percent of would-be basestealers.
Mark Melancon, RHP
His pure stuff is perfect for the back end of a bullpen and he could join forces with Joba Chamberlain to help shorten the game to Mariano Rivera. For Melancon, it's all about command. If he's got it, he'll be a weapon. If he doesn't, he may not last long.
Kevin Russo, INF
Ramiro Pena won the utlityman spot on the 25-man roster out of Spring Training, but Russo could get called upon if Pena isn't getting it done or there's another need in the infield. He's a career .300 hitter, he can run some and has played three infield positions, and even the outfield corners, to add to his versatility.
D.J. Mitchell, RHP
The 2008 10th-round pick pitched at both levels of A-ball in his first full season and fared well at both stops. Combined, he went 12-7 with a 2.63 ERA and 125 strikeouts over 140 1/3 innings. That was good for second in the organization in strikeouts, and third among full-season pitchers in ERA. Next stop: Double-A Trenton
Jose A. Ramirez, RHP
In his United States debut, Ramirez went 6-0 with a 1.41 ERA in the Gulf Coast League. He finished eighth in the GCL with a ERA and 53 strikeouts. But what set him apart was his .159 batting average against and 7.23 base-runners per nine innings ratio, both tops in the league. He could enter full-season ball at age 20 this season.
Pat Venditte, LHP/RHP
There's always room here for the switch-pitcher. The 2008 20th rounder started to show that perhaps he's more than a fluke, pitching across two levels of A ball and finishing with a 1.87 ERA while tying for the organizational lead with 22 saves. The jump to Double-A could be a very good test for the 24-year-old.
First-round pick Slade Heathcott barely got his feet wet in the GCL last summer (1-for-10), but the Yankees are excited about his five-tool abilities. ... C J.R. Murphy (2) went 11-for-33 in his brief debut, and the athletic catcher should be able to stay behind the plate. ... RHP Adam Warren (4) was a NY-Penn League All-Star and finished with a 1.42 ERA in 56 2/3 innings. He pitched well in the postseason, as short-season Staten Island won another title. ... Staten Island's championship team was full of interesting picks. There was ninth-rounder Gavin Brooks, who had a 0.62 ERA and three saves in 30 relief outings. The UCLA product had 48 strikeouts in 43 1/3 innings while holding hitters to a .180 batting average. OF Neil Medchill (11) joined Warren on the NY-Penn League All-Star team and hit .278 with a .350 on-base percentage and .551 slugging percentage in 62 games. The outfielder out of Oklahoma State hit 14 homers and drove in 41 runs for Staten Island. He topped the league in homers and slugging percentage. OF Deangelo Mack (13) was also an All-Star for Staten Island, finishing with a .306/.372/.513 line. He also hit .304 in the postseason.
Hitter of the Year -- Jesus Montero, C
Considering he's gotten this honor in each of the past two seasons, this was about the biggest no-brainer prediction one could make. He'll spend the year in Triple-A and once again hit for average and power, perhaps making a run at an organizational triple crown.
Pitcher of the Year -- Manny Banuelos, LHP
The obvious choice might be Zach McAllister, given that he's won the honor the past two years running. But why be obvious? Banuelos will pitch all year at age 19. Look for him to top the system in ERA and strikeouts while hitting Double-A way ahead of the curve.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.