The Yankees’ farm system is much maligned, and deservedly so. There is reason for hope as a major organizational revamp is reportedly in the works.

Yet, even though the Yankees’ farm system is the butt of many jokes, it doesn’t mean there aren’t some kids worth tracking for one reason or another. So, if you aren’t a big prospect junkie, here’s a handful of Yankee minor leaguers worth familiarizing yourself with — either because they appeared frequently on our in-season Minor League Players of the Week feature or because this year is a particularly important one for them.

The ‘We Could See Them in the Bronx in 2014′ List

Dellin Betances, 26 (March 23), RHP
Why he’s worth watching: Could be part of the MLB bullpen

Betances is yet another example of the club’s deficiency in developing young starters. However, after he was converted to the bullpen in May of 2013, the Brooklyn native’s career was resurrected. He pitched great out of the Triple-A bullpen, and finally began to not walk EVERYBODY. In 60 IP of relief, he had 83 K (12.45 K/9) and walked 26 (3.9 BB/9 – still not great, but much better). He also had a 1.35 ERA. The 6’8″ 2006 draft pick could evolve into a decent weapon out of the pen if he continues to improve in his new role.

Chase Whitley, 24, RHP
Why he’s worth watching: Could be part of the MLB bullpen

We’d put Chase Whitley in the Preston Claiborne camp — basically a kid who had a successful under-the-radar minor league career, which culminated in a solid 2013 campaign at Triple-A: 67.2 IP, 8.2 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 3.06 ERA, 3.05 FIP.

What makes Whitley more interesting is that he was transitioned to a starting pitcher for the last month of the minor league season, and performed well in that role. So, he could give Girardi some flexibility as a multiple-inning reliever.


The ‘Big 2013 Campaigns’ List

Peter O’Brien, 23, RHB 3B/C
Why he’s worth watching: Had a very successful 2013 season

Peter O’Brien was all over MLPW last season. The 2012 2nd round draft pick lit up Low-A Charleston, hitting .325/.394/.619 (181 wRC+) in 226 PA. He also hit well upon his promotion to High-A Tampa — .265/.314/.486 (122 wRC+) in 280 PA. O’Brien was shifted to 3B after his promotion, after manning the catcher position since being drafted by the Yankees.

Greg Bird, 21, RHB 1B
Why he’s worth watching: Had a superb 2013 season

If there was one player who appeared more in our weekly minor league feature than Peter O’Brien, it was 2011 draft pick Greg Bird. The Colorado native tore up Low-A Charleston, hitting .288/.428/.511 (170 wRC+) over a full season (573 PA). We openly asked why he wasn’t promoted to High-A, and we still don’t know why he wasn’t. Bird’s most impressive quality was his plate discipline. He led the SAL in walks with 107, with the player in 2nd with only 74 free passes. We never like to get too excited over success at the lower levels of the farm, so we’ll see how he does once he starts to face better competition.

Robert Refsnyder, 22, RHB 2B
Why he’s worth watching: Breakout year in 2013

Drafted out of the University of Arizona in 2012, Refsnyder had an excellent campaign at High-Tampa last season. The 22-year old hit .283/.408/.404 (140 wRC+), while walking (78) more than he whiffed (70). He was the best-hitting second baseman in all of the Florida State League.


The ‘Make it-or-Break It’ List

Gary Sanchez, 21, RHB C
Why he’s worth watching: Consensus best prospect in NYY system, but underwhelming 2013

Sanchez is very young, so it may be a bit unfair to label his 2013 as ‘underwhelming.’ However, he did slip in the prospect rankings of minor league publications, so there is belief that his shine dimmed last season.

For someone lauded for his power, he didn’t flex his muscles in either High-A or Double-A. At Tampa, he hit .254/.313/.420 (108 wRC+ / .166 ISO). When promoted to Trenton, he hit .250/.364/.380 (113 wRC+ / .130 ISO). Those aren’t bad numbers at all, but worthy of top prospect billing?? Probably not, and the drop in his consensus rankings reflect that. There are also many questions about whether he’ll be able to catch in the bigs, as the jury is still out on his defensive abilities. This season will be an important one to gauge whether Sanchez has All-Star potential or if he’s been overhyped.

Mason Williams, 22, LHB CF
Why he’s worth watching: Consensus 2nd-best prospect in NYY system, but disappointing 2013

This is an important season for Williams, as his 2013 campaign was certainly disappointing. He hit only .261/.327/.350 (95 wRC+) at High-A Tampa, and looked awful in his brief stint Double-A Trenton: .153/.164/.264 in 76 PA. He also still hasn’t figured out how to use his speed to effectively steal bases (64% MiLB success rate). It’s no surprise why he slipped in just about major prospect list. Still, he’s very young and has faced primarily older pitchers. There’s plenty of room for improvement, but this season will be very telling of his real future with the Bronx Bombers.

Tyler Austin, 22, RHB RF
Why he’s worth watching: Consensus 3rd-best prospect in NYY system, but disappointing 2013

If you’re noticing a theme here, it’s because there is one. The consensus is that the Yankees’ top prospects all took a step back in 2013. Our boy Tyler Austin was one of them. Plagued with a wrist injury that has mildly flared up again during this spring training, Tyler had a pedestrian Double-A campaign, hitting .257/.344/.373 (103 wRC+). It was a stark contrast to all of his previous stops in the Yankees’ system. He’s dropped off the Top 100 lists as a result, and like Sanchez and Williams, this is a critical season for evaluating his potential future role with the big club.

Mark Montgomery, 23, RHP
Why he’s worth watching: Was on the fast track to the bigs as D-Rob v2, but experienced first difficulties in 2013

Mark Montgomery put up video game numbers for much of his minor league career, prompting David Robertson comparisons. In every stop prior to Triple-A, he struck out more than 13 hitters per nine innings, and looked to be a future cog in the Yanks’ big league pen. Last year, Mark experienced his first hiccup. While he still struck out over 11 hitters per nine, he lost his control, walking 5.63 BB/9. He also allowed 4 HRs in 40 innings of work, while he only allowed 1 HR in his previous two years. He still had a decent season (3.38 ERA / 4.00 FIP), but it was different than his previous trajectory as a potential high-leverage reliever. Hopefully, he can get back to his best in 2014.