This morning PeteAbe took the time to rank his top 20 most important individuals in the Yankees organization.

I’m going to copy/paste the list here and offer my take in italics.

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1. Joba Chamberlain: The Yankees will need stars once Those With Rings leave the scene and Chamberlain is the best candidate in that he’s a dominating player, has a personality and the fans love him. The Yankees very badly need him to be great as they continue their transition.

He’s the biggest star draw for the Yankees since A-Rod came into town. Plus my brother has a man-crush on him. He’s definitely #1.

2. Hal Steinbrenner: While his verbose brother grabs headlines for no good reason, Hal has learned every aspect of the organization in the last 20 months, developed working relationships with all the right people and now he’s officially the owner. He’ll be 39 in December and if his family keeps the team, Hal could be The Boss for the next 30 or 40 years

3. Alex Rodriguez: Like him or not, he’s probably going to be around for a long time. Despite his great talent and work ethic, A-Rod has yet to win the fans over and won’t unless he plays a role in winning a championship. Will the next nine years be about chasing Barry Bonds or being part of a winner? Either way, he’s front and center.

4. Derek Jeter: He’s still the face of the franchise and enjoys widespread popularity despite those anxious to point out what he doesn’t do well. How his next contract plays out will be a huge story. But it’s hard to imagine Jeter in another uniform or the Yankees allowing that to happen.

5. Mariano Rivera: He was the MVP of the dynasty and is unquestionably the best player ever at his position. He’ll be 39 on Saturday and nothing lasts forever. But in a world of few sure things, he remains one.

6. Brian Cashman: His new three-year deal and tight relationship with Hal Steinbrenner means that the roster, for better or worse, will be his creation through 2011. Cashman is smart enough not to have allowed a replacement to emerge.

7. Chien-Ming Wang: Young, inexpensive and productive starters are the single most valuable commodity in baseball and Wang is the only one the Yankees have. He is 46-15 over the last three seasons.

Some don’t call him an ace. Some do, including me. The injury to him was devastating enough that the Yankees struggled mightily afterwards and someone had to take over the reins of the rotation. (who knew it’d be Mussina?)

8. Joe Girardi: Injuries soured his first season, making his worthiness for the job difficult to judge. Girardi showed he could handle a bullpen. But can he handle New York? Reports of player unrest aren’t a good sign. Managers come and go, which is why he isn’t higher.

All of the running he had the players do in spring training helped some, and did not help others. Now than some players have bought into his fitness regiment (Giambi did last year, and Cano is reportedly thinner and toned), he needs to instill the work ethic that some players apparently don’t have. If he can get them to follow the way, then he’ll move up the list.

9. Robinson Cano: His collapse in 2008 led directly to the team sitting out the postseason. Cano is 26, signed to a long-term deal and could be a cornerstone player if he commits himself. He is said to be readying for a big 2009 by adopting a new workout regimen.

10. Jorge Posada: Now 37, the heart-and-soul catcher is at a career crossroads as he recovers from extensive shoulder surgery. Will he be close to the player he was in 2007 (.338/.426/.543) ever again?

11. Xavier Nady: He murdered the ball for a few weeks after being obtained from the Pirates then finished at .268 for the Yanks, albeit with 12 homers and 40 RBI in 228 at-bats. They need a No. 3 hitter, could he be it? He’ll be a free agent after 2008, which should provide motivation.

12. Andrew Brackman: He’s 6-foot-10, 270 pounds and can throw a fastball close to 100 mph. The Yankees spent $4.55 million to sign Brackman in 2007 and hope he’ll overcome elbow surgery to become an ace.

13. Jesus Montero: Only 19 (as of today), he hit .326 with 17 homers and 87 RBI for Single-A Charleston in 2008. Montero could be the best offensive player the team has developed since Jeter, only with light-tower power.

I’d have put him at #10, before Posada. He is their future star. He could be in the bigs as early as September 2009, maybe earlier?

14. Randy Levine: The team president since 2000, his loyalty to the Steinbrenners has given him great power. But he is heavily invested in Girardi’s success as many believe he led the charge to run Joe Torre out of town.

15. Hank Steinbrenner: George Steinbrenner’s oldest son seems content to let his brother run the show. But he is the team co-chairman and has power to wield if he wants to.

16. Phil Hughes: Will he be a key starter for a championship contender or just another guy? The former first-round pick has seen his star fall. But he’s still only 22.

I have mixed feelings on this one. Just like Hughes gives us mixed results. We’ve seen his “near-no-hitter” last year against Texas and times when he has just collapsed and again saw mixed results in the AFL. I am not ready to give up on Hughes yet, he’s only 22 as PeteAbe says and many of the top pitchers today (Schilling, Santana for starters) did not blossom until past the age of 24.

17. Austin Jackson: A star in Class AA ball, Jackson has a chance to be their center fielder for a decade. His baseball skills still lag behind his athletic ability but are catching up fast.

18. Johnny Damon: The coming season figures to be his last in pinstripes. But Damon can still be one of the most dynamic and productive leadoff hitters in the game. He’s also one of the few players on the team with an actual personality.

19. Damon Oppenheimer/Mark Newman: As the Yankees focus on development, the performance of their scouting director and farm director becomes more crucial than ever.

20. Dave Eiland: The Yankees decided he would be the pitching coach before they named Girardi as manager. If another managerial change is made, he’ll likely survive. He could be their Leo Mazzone.

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There you have it…the list. Your thoughts?