Earlier this month, Punxsutawney Phil proclaimed there would be six more weeks of winter. However in the northeast, it's been a crisp 40-50 degrees and now that the Super Bowl is behind us, all signs are pointing to spring.
Pitchers and Catchers report today and just like that, baseball is among us. We saw some of the Yanks already get a head start on things, including the core group of guys led by our captain.
So is this year that the Yankees "Chase for 28"? I mean, on paper, the Yankees did get better? They swapped Jameson Taillon for Carlos Rodon, a top CY Young candidate. They have the opportunity to inject youth
Could they have done more? Absolutely. Am I disappointed? A little. Do I think this team can compete and be at the top? 100%.
With that being said, there is 42 days until Opening Day. We are in the wee hours of Spring Training, so here are the biggest questions heading into the season.
Which young gun makes the team?
This season will be the year of the rookie. The next wave of Baby Bombers is upon us. First up, who I think is a sure lock for the roster, is Oswaldo Cabrera. We got a small sample size last season, playing in 47 games, and starting in 41 of them, including 8 games in both the ALDS and ALCS. What makes him special is his versatility. He is a switch hitting defensive wizard. He boasted a 1.9 WAR, with 6 homers, 19 RBI's, hitting .245 with a 31% on-base rate, a 26.6% strike-out rate and 8.9% walk rate. He had seven defensive runs saved above average. In right field alone, he has nine defensive runs saved above average with a perfect fielding percentage. He played 27 games in right, 9 in left, 4 at short, 3 at first, 3 and second, and 3 at third.Overall, this guy is the future. If he's eligible, he's my AL Rookie of the Year.
Then we have Oswald Peraza, the future shortstop, who I have slated as the starter. Again, we saw a limited amount from MLB's No. 3 prospect, but after a strong September, and IKF getting boo'd out of the position, it is a no brainer he gets the nod, as long as he performs well this spring.
Anthony Volpe will have the opportunity to compete for a roster spot, but I think his time will come. Maybe middle of this season, maybe next year, but there is no way the Yankees start two rookies in the middle of the infield. Speaking of Volpe, he is part of the group that was a non-roster invite. We are going to see the prince that was promised, the Martian, Jasson Dominguez, in spring training. I am PUMPED, but obviously know it's just a PR move/opportunity for him to get reps. I think the one player who could make a case is Austin Wells. He is an excellent catching prospect that could give Higgy a run for his money.
Prediction: Oswald Peraza and Oswaldo Cabrera make the Opening Day Roster. Volpe begins the season in Triple-A SWB.
What does the infield look like?
The Yankees have a logjam in the infield. Normally, that would be okay, even with all of the depth, youth potential, and past accolades, it still doesn't look perfect.
With the assumption that Peraza makes the team (as he should), I have him slotted as the starting shortstop. No need to inch him in, insert him right away. Look at the Astros and Pena? Just make it happen.
Rizzo is obviously locked in at first, even with Judge taking some reps there. Second base, I have Torres. Volpe won't be ready, and Gleyber gets unnecessary hate. He's been talked about in trade rumors, but that ship has sailed (in my eyes).
Cashman has said that Donaldson will “definitely” be the starting third baseman in 2023. I don't buy it. Why hinder the lineup, when it makes sense to slot DJ there, and have Torres producing at the plate.
1B: Rizzo - DJLM
2B: Torres - DJLM
SS: Peraza - IKF - Torres
3B: DJLM - Donaldson - IKF
The Fifth and Final Starter?
We arguably have one of the best rotations in all of baseball. Two CY Young Canidates and four ace's in their own accord. Then that leaves us to spot number five, which was supposed to go to Montas, who might be a bust of a trade if his shoulder issues nag throughout the season. He will be out through spring training and the beginning of the season, so who takes his place?
The obvious answer is Domingo German. He's started multiple games in his tenure, and for the fifth guy, I think it's fine. Clarke Schmidt could offer some competition, but it's safe to say, Domingo is the guy.
Prediction: Domingo earns the spot, with Clarke Schmidt pitching in long relief and will get bumped as a starter if injury occurs.
Who is your starting left fielder?
I mentioned above that Cabrera is the guy, but he can play all across the diamond. All signs are pointing to Cabrera, but I could see the Yankees slotting in Hicks there because he has some blackmail on the team.
Stanton, could and should, make some starts in left, and his bat actually gets better when he is in the field. I think we could see an outfield of Bader left, Judge center, and Stanton in right from time to time, but it would be seldom.
The only way this changes is if the Yankees go all in on Bryan Reynolds. If they make this move then the Yankees should be the favorites to win it all. He is no Juan Soto, but he complements this lineup and roster perfectly. Until that happens, then expect a platoon of Oswaldo and Hicks.
Prediction: Unless a trade happens, Oswaldo Cabrera gets the nod in left. Aaron Hicks is unable to be traded, Yankees won't cut him. Expect him as the 4th/5th OF rotation and switch hitting pinch hit spot.
Do the Yankees add anybody from the outside?
Reynolds still wants out, but the Yankees won't bite on the price. There is one player who I think could join this team and make a serious impact. Jurickson Profar.
If we are being real with each other, I think the Yankees should be all in on Profar. Not just saying that because we missed on other outfield options, I've been saying that for quite some time because I think Profar fits the bill of a solid pinstripe contributor. Profar is projected to be a 20 HR hitter at Yankee Stadium via Baseball Savant and has a lower strikeout rate compared to the league. Profar gets the ball in play, and could provide great value to the Yankees.
Outside of Profar, I think the infield logjam could result in a second tier starter or some bullpen depth, but again, would the Yankees make that move now?
Prediction: A move or two might be made, but I don't think for anybody needle moving.
What does the bullpen look like?
Once upon a time, this was our strongest unit. There was outs and strikeouts from top to bottom. Then the wheels fell off. Mike King got hurt. Clay Holmes was banged up. Aroldis Chapman quit the team and lost his touch. The rain cloud came over the team quick. Well, Chapman is on the Royals. Chad Green is on the Blue Jays. Lucas Luetge is a Brave. Zack Britton is a free agent. But all of that is okay. The 7-8-9 of Loasigia/Wandy/Holmes is one of the best in the big leagues. Tommy Kahnle is back, Clarke Schmidt offers versatility, Mike King will be healthy. When Effross comes back, this unit will be fierce.
CL: Clay Holmes
Is Gary Sanchez...back?
Had to throw this one in because I am very surprised Gary Sanchez hasn't been signed yet. Then, out of the blue, Sanchez drops a training video with him wearing Yankees gear. Is it a coincidence or is it a bread crumb?
Disclaimer: I don't want Gary Sanchez. However, if his defense is improved and his bat is what we used to see, maybe he replaces Higgy in the long run? I don't know?
We saw Greg Bird come back to the team in minor league fashion, does the Kraken follow suit?
Prediction: Minor League Reclamation Deal