The New York Yankees still have holes on the 2023 roster. Things always come up: underperformance, injury, a random suspension for something off the field, etc. As spring training comes about, teams will reveal the types of contingency plans they are making and even start integrating some things for the future. Left field, shortstop, third base, starting pitching, an official closer … I’m actually thinking of more holes than I initially intended as I sit here writing this.
Even with the resigning of American League MVP, Aaron Judge, the Yankees still have some areas to address. Here are my thoughts on what you should keep your eye out for in spring training.
Captain obvious here: left field is a problem for the Yankees. It’s not an apocalyptic problem, but it’s a problem nonetheless. JMo has already given his opinion on left field options, but I’m not going to tell you who the best option is. I’ll let spring training decide that for us.
You’re going to see a plethora of names in consideration for the everyday left fielder job. In reality, we will most likely see Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Cabrera compete for the job. Those two guys aren’t bad. Both are switch hitters, and neither of them are great defensively out there. Oswaldo has the upside of being young and likely having the capability to learn the position, whereas Hicks is an old dog trying to learn new tricks. JMo is really high on Willie Calhoun, who at one point in his career was thought to be someone that could be, well, kind of special.
Jurickson Profar, who is still available, has a ton of versatility around the entire ballpark. He can play middle infield, outfield, he can even sell hotdogs in the stands! However, I highly doubt the Yankees sign another utility player since they have a handful already. Estevan Florial is an interesting name this spring. He’s definitely in a prove-it situation, because I doubt the Yankees bring him back if he is even mediocre in spring training. If you listen to our podcast (you really should), you know I’m a huge advocate of giving Florial 100-150 at bats if he does well in spring training and going from there. If he is hitting under .245 after those 100-150 at bats, cut him loose. If he’s above that or has shown promise in the field or stealing bases, keep him around.
Aaron Judge. This picture comes from the video of the reigning American League MVP taking some ground balls at first base, which has taken Twitter by storm.
Will Judge play first base in 2023? NOPE! But is it a good time for him to start learning first base? YUP!
The Yankees have locked up Judge, age 30, through the 2031 season. How many more years can this larger than life behemoth run around the outfield? Starting to learn how to play first base will help the back end of his contract and should help keep him healthy. All of this being said, I think everyone should keep an eye on Judge. If he’s not at a workout or a full participant, I don’t think it’ll be due to an injury. I think it will be part of an initiative of injury prevention. Keeping Judge healthy after signing a nine-year, $360 million deal is a top priority.
The Yankees have one of the best starting rotations in the majors. Or so we thought.
It was recently reported that Nestor Cortes is pulling out of the World Baseball Classic due to a “hamstring tweak.” Hopefully it’s nothing too bad, but he may not be there for opening day. It was also recently reported that Frankie Montas may undergo surgery and miss the 2023 season. Nestor could and should come back healthy and not miss a whole lot of time. So there’s one opening in the Yankees starting rotation. Who’s going to get the spot?
There are two leading candidates for the job: Domingo German and Clarke Schmidt. I’m definitely keeping my eye on this, because neither one has really blown us away with anything special. German had a record of 18-4 in 27 games (24 were starts) in 2019, but he also had a 4.03 ERA that year. I think German could be a good 5th starter, as he has shown he can win games. It won’t be sexy, but I believe he can get the job done.
Now we move to Schmidt. He was drafted as an up-and-coming starting pitcher, but we haven’t really seen that. I think Schmidt fits in well as a long reliever, but he had a 3.12 ERA over 57.2 innings in 2022. Those numbers don’t, or maybe I should say can’t tell the whole story. In the three starts he made, he had 12.1 IP, allowing 13 hits, 14 Ks, and six runs. Not exactly what I call starter material. In those three starts, he played Tampa twice and Oakland once. Keep an eye on Schmidt in spring training. Hopefully he takes a step forward and pushes German in a battle, but I’m leaning toward Domingo German getting the job as the fifth starter.
There’s always the potential of Deivi Garcia or Luis Gil coming out of the woodwork to compete as well, but I doubt we see those guys on the opening day roster.
The Other Guys
The last element to look out for is the non roster invitees. The Yankees signed a handful of guys and are inviting them to spring training to see what shakes out. Maybe they can catch lightning in a bottle with one of these guys.
The obvious names that people are really excited about seeing are Anthony Volpe and Jasson Dominguez. These top two prospects should be fun to watch, and hopefully we can see something in them once they start rolling with the big boys. However, there are a few other guys who could compete for an everyday job at their respective positions, particularly if an injury should happen.
Willie Calhoun, Jake Bauers, Ryan Weber and Austin Wells are the guys you should pencil in as names to keep on your radar throughout the 2023 season. All four of those guys could be interesting should something happen to one of the everyday guys. A couple of them could even compete for a position. As they say, the cream always rises to the top.
These are just my thoughts on what we should look out for during spring training. We are still six weeks away from opening day, and a lot of things can happen.
Who knows? Maybe Cashman will make a move and acquire or let go of some people. Only time will tell, and hopefully we see some positives come from spring training 2023.
p.s. – after this post, my new moniker will be of Austin Wells above.