That Yankees‘The training game has just started Sunday and it won’t be March through Monday, so GM Brian Cashman, manager Aaron Boone and the coaching staff are still a month away from deciding which 26 players they will have in uniform for their April. Season 1 opener.
A lot of injuries could happen in a few days at Yankees ground let alone four more weeks, so there’s a good chance at least part of their season opening blueprint will be changed. But regardless of who drops and who stays healthy, evaluations have begun for a job fight that will determine at least one rotation spot, one or two bullpen jobs and bench positions.
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Here’s a recent look at the competition at the Yankees camp:
The Yankees are considering using a four-man rotation to start the season as they have four days off in the 18 days following Opening Day. If they choose to go that route, they are set (unscathed) with Gerrit Cole as No. 1 followed by (in particular order) Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon and lone Jordan Montgomery.
Regardless of how the Yanks lined up from the start, they will need a fifth starter at the end of April, and at that point they will probably choose between rear-of-suspension Domingo German, Michael King’s youth and prospect touted Deivi Garcia. Highly respected prospect partner, Clarke Schmidt, will be on board in the long run, too, if not closed for a month due to an injury like the tennis-elbow.
Not a correct list of names Jhoulys Chacin, who won 15 games and put up an ERA of 3.50 for Milwaukee in 2018, could be a strong rotation candidate if he had a good spring and his competitors were not prominent.
Forecast: Germany took the Opening Days list as a long reliever, then became the fifth starter two or three weeks into the season. The scenario at play would probably have Garcia starting in Triple-A, King in a bout for a bullpen spot and Chacin either underage or outside the organization.
The Yankees would probably go with 13 position players and 13 pitchers, which would leave them with eight or nine relievers depending on how many starters they keep.
Regardless, Boone admits that “there aren’t many” open bullpen jobs “if everyone is healthy.”
The key five are left-handed Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton and Justin Wilson, and high-class Chad Green and Darren O’Day. Top class men Jonathan Loaisiga and Luis Cessa also had to lose their jobs, having performed well as a reliever last season.
If all seven relievers are included in the team then there are only one or two places available, one if Germany is at the club as a starter or reliever.
“You could end up potentially starting in one of those bullpen roles depending on how creative we were in those first weeks,” said Boone. “If everyone’s healthy and doing what we expect, what we’re talking about is maybe a point or two.”
That would leave a place or two for the young arm of King, Nick Nelson and Brooks Kriske plus a group of non-roster vets including Adam Warren, who is returning for a third stint as Yankees.
Forecast: King beat Nelson, Kriske and Warren for Opening Day spots, but all four ended up pitching in relief for Yanks this season.
This is where the biggest drama can be played out in the Yankees camp as an outcast Brett Gardner re-signed on February 19 there may be only one spot in the place of four for the incumbent reserve Mike Tauchman or an accomplished non-list player Jay Bruce.
If Yanks does the expected and keeps the 13-man position, they will have a four-man bench that will include catcher Kyle Higashioka, midfielder Tyler Wade, Gardner and one more.
Working to support Bruce is he is a left-handed swinging snail (with 318 career homers) who also plays a pretty good first base in addition to the corner of the field. With Bruce, Boone was able to avoid an almost all-right lineup by starting Bruce at first, Gardner on the left and Aaron Hicks in the middle.
Tauchman is out of the season, but he is a great defender with a good strength who has a breakthrough in 2019. He is also out of minor league options and under control until 2024, and that could be important come next season if Gardner retires.
“If everything goes wrong according to plan, you can imagine who was there,” said Boone. “But we have brought in some very significant players to non-list situations who can push themselves deeper into the conversation.”
Other notable players besides Bruce include catcher Robinson Chirinos (602 games, 9 MLB seasons) and infielder / outfielder Derek Dietrich (746 games in 8 MLB seasons), but the last two numbers make up the insurance policy. The other three long-range shots fighting for a place on the bench are first baseman Mike Ford, third baseman / left winger Miguel Andujar and Thairo Estrada midfielder, all of whom will likely start the underage season except for injury free spots as they are all selectable.
“Let’s just let it go,” said Boone. “But I think you can look at it and know that we probably have five to 10 people who really have the potential to compete for a place or two on the bench, and that is if everyone is healthy.”
Forecast: Winning the championship is 2021 is what matters now, so Bruce played his way into the team and Tauchman was a trading bait in late spring (along with pitcher Albert Abreu, who also had no choice despite 1.1 innings and two major league appearances).
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