Before Jay Bell became an 18-year infielder in the majors, he was a kid rooting for his Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1977, ’78 and ’81 World Series.

Those darn New York Yankees beat his Dodgers in 1977 and ’78, but L.A. beat the Yanks in 1981.

New York did not get back to the World Series for 15 years. But then the Yankees built a dynasty again – seven World Series appearances and five titles, 1996-2009 – utilizing a core of players that came through the system, and some productive free agents.

“Jeter had something to do with that,” said Bell, referring to shortstop Derek Jeter, one of five core players that came through the Yankees’ organization.

Bell, 52, never played for the Yankees. He joined the organization last year as a Class A minor league manager, and moved up to Double-A Trenton this season. He’s experiencing another Yankees rebuild, but this one more thorough with several players up from the Yankees minor leagues. Through good drafts, international signings and shrewd trades for prospects by New York GM Brian Cashman, the Yankees have a bigger core.

Of the Yankees that have played in the majors this year, 16 had come through Trenton, and that does not include first baseman Greg Byrd, who is on the disabled list.

“They’re implementing the Yankee Way in the minor leagues,” Bell said. “You look around (Yankee Stadium) and you see Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, and Gardi (Brett Gardner), and Tyler (Austin), Gleyber (Torres), (Luis) Severino …

“What they found is that some of these guys that are homegrown can be just as talented as some of the guys they go after.

“Now it takes a little bit more time because you have to develop a young player into an established major league player.”

The Yankees are still developing. This Trenton team is not as loaded as previous years, but the Thunder are winning – a trademark of New York minor league teams – and they have prospects.

Justus Sheffield is listed as the third-best left-handed pitching prospect in the minors (ranked by mlb.com). He stymied the Sea Dogs Tuesday night, throwing six shut-out innings, striking out nine. When he needed to, he fired in 94 mph fastballs on the corners, complemented by a slider and change-up.

Sheffield will turn 22 this month. He made 17 starts in Trenton last year and seems prime for a promotion.

“Sheffield’s pretty special,” Bell said. “He’s learning how to pitch, how to set guys up, how to control his demeanor on the mound.

“I think he’s a big leaguer this year at some point – depending on our needs. If not sooner, then in September.”

Sheffield was a first-round pick of the Cleveland Indians in 2014. But Cleveland made a push for the playoffs in 2016 and traded Sheffield and three other players (including outfielder Clint Frazier) for reliever Andrew Miller.

Cashman made the same sort of deal to land right-hander Dillon Tate, the Rangers’ first-round draft pick in 2015. Texas traded Tate and two others to the Yankees on Aug. 1, 2016, for Carlos Beltran.

Tate, 24, is scheduled to pitch against the Sea Dogs Wednesday. He has a 3.00 ERA, with 19 strikeouts in 21 innings.

“He understands how to utilize all his pitches,” Bell said. “He’s got really good stuff. He goes at hitters with quality fastballs that breaks right through the zone. He’s got a really good slider and a change-up that’s a swing-and-miss pitch.”

As a team, Trenton has a 2.70 ERA.

“We’ve got several pitchers that I think will be big leaguers,” Bell said.

Cashman loves to hear that.

“Pitching is the key to the kingdom,” Cashman said, quoted in the 2018 book, The Baby Bombers by Bryan Hoch.

In the book, Hoch, a writer for mlb.com, details how the Yankees constructed an enviable farm system. One chapter is titled “Repairing the Pipeline.”

That pipeline keeps flowing through Trenton, and into the Bronx.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-7411 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: @ClearTheBases

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