The New York Yankees Off Season Update 6 – Part 2

We continue our survey of the Yankees who have done well and not so well in Spring Training:

Catchers

Brian McCann - 3434 Brian McCann

McCann has improved on his performance of last Spring and the Yankees hope that improvement will continue similarly in the real season.

In 2014 Spring Training, he batted .200, with a .333 slugging percentage and 1 homer.

In 2015 Spring Training, so far he has .243, .432 SLG and 2 home runs.

His regular season stats (2014) were .232 and .406 SLG which in both categories need improvement. The Yankees look to see that but without any loss in his defensive work.

Austin Romine - 5555 Austin Romine

Since Gary Sanchez (.111 in 6 games) was reassigned to Scranton, the Spring Training for catchers has been whatever everybody expected – a duel between Romine and John Ryan Murphy for the remaining catcher slot on the opening day roster.

Romine has played in 15 games and has shown his usual solid defensive game whilst batting .160 with 4 hits, 1 double across 26 at bats.

John Ryan Murphy - 6666 John Ryan Murphy

JR Murphy has 16 games under his belt to this point, with .216, 8 hits, 2 doubles across 37 at bats. He is also a solid defensive player but needed to show himself a sufficient upgrade offensively from Romine to win the spot. Romine is out-of-options and this means the Yankees must either keep him on the 25-man roster or risk losing him. For this reason, if for no other, Romine has my vote to be in the Bronx on opening day.

Infielders

Chase Headley - 1212 Chase Headley.

Chase Headley would have to have had an astonishingly bad Spring Training in order to lose the starting role at third-base for opening day.

Thankfully, that hasn’t happened. Alex Rodriguez is waiting in the wings and Headley could have nose-dived from that pressure but he has shown no signs of media-enhanced strain.

He has batted .327 with 7 extra bases – 4 doubles and 3 home runs – and has been one of the standout Yankees on every level during the Grapefruit League period.

Alex Rodriguez - 1313 Alex Rodriguez

I can’t be the only Yankees writer who was hoping that Alex Rodriguez might nose-dive this Spring although I might be one of the few who is brave enough to admit it.

He hasn’t been quite as hot as Headley but he hasn’t been far behind. .324 with 3 home runs in 16 games, 37 at bats. It is more than the Yankees could have hoped for. He has also show that he can be a makeshift third-base or first-base and so there will be a spot in the line-up for him most days although it will be most commonly at designated hitter.

However, if he doesn’t get injured before I get to the Stadium, he might just catch a few boos emanating from my seat.

Stephen Drew - 1414 Stephen Drew

I’m also big enough to admit that I thought that the re-signing of Stephen Drew was a terrible decision on the part of the Yankees. I thought the trading of Martin Prado was disastrous but that Pirela or Refsnyder might just be up-to-the-job. But Drew? C’mon!

I thought he would hit below the Mendoza line in Spring Training and then he would give the Yankees a hard decision as to whether to release him or keep him around.

Well, like A-Rod, he proved me wrong. It does seem that Scott Boras (Drew’s agent) came pretty close to screwing his career by making him sit out Spring Training in 2014 because he can still hit. Well. at least a little and certainly better than he showed any signs of during regular season 2014.

He has only hit .244 with 2 home runs but most of that has come in the last few days and there are finally signs that his bat is coming to life.

I wouldn’t bet on him still being around come season end but he has done enough for now.

Brendan Ryan - 1717 Brendan Ryan

Ryan came to the Spring Training party late because of injury and has done little offensively since then – .200 with three doubles – but then the Yankees don’t keep him around for his offense. There doesn’t seem to be any reason that he won’t be coming off the bench as a late innings defensive substitute and a spot starter.

Didi Gregorius - 1818 Didi Gregorious

Didi Gregorious is not going to be the next Derek Jeter but he is going to be the next Yankees shortstop.

His Spring Training has been slowed by a strained left wrist which will mean he will need assessing before taking up the role on opening day. He has shown panache and flash and skill in the infield and a good deal of ability with the bat prior to that injury.

He is .300 with 4 doubles and 2 triples, some speed on the bases and 1 stolen base.

If fit, he is a good solid signing.

Mark Teixeira - 2525 Mark Teixeira

Teixeira was awful last Spring (.086, no homers). He wasn’t much better during the regular season (.216, .313 OBP, missing 39 games).

He really needed to step up during this Spring to persuade people that he wasn’t just another New York over-the-hill veteran (read CC Sabathia)!

He has gone some distance towards achieving that with .261 and one home run. There are others in the first-base race but Teixeira has the contract and the Spring to remain ahead in that chase.

Garrett Jones - 3333 Garrett Jones

It seems likely that the final offensive spots on the Yankees roster will be fought out between Garrett Jones, Ryan and Jose Pirela.

With Pirela injured (more on that in a moment), Jones may just have found a lucky break because his Spring has been nothing to shout about.

His situation looked secure but with A-Rod batting well, he will be needed less at DH and with Teixeira improving he may have less time at the 1b corner. His Spring figures are .171 BA and .220 SLG – which is not good. He should be on the roster but if things had worked out differently then it could have been a closer call.

Jose Pirela - 6363 Jose Pirela

Life hasn’t been kind to Jose Pirela recently and I’m not sure the Yankees have been fair to this gifted young player either.

Last year, he was told (and the media too) that the Yankees’ second base job was a straight scrap between him and that other prospect, Rob Refsnyder. Youth was the way that the Yankees were going and Cashman was committed to that idea.

Then the Yankees decided to sign Stephen Drew, for reasons best known to themselves. They said that at $5m Drew was too cheap to refuse. This is the sort of logic that makes the average working man’s blood boil. And no doubt did nothing for Jose Pirela who will earn about a tenth of that in 2015 whatever happens to him.

Then the Yankees’ management started (in the middle of Spring Training) to talk about the fact that even though Pirela was hitting .370 with some power and speed in Spring Training, he probably wasn’t going to make the opening day roster.

Just to twist the knife they then put him in a game in centrefield and Pirela, no doubt with a head full of vinegar and vigour-and-vim, hit a wall. A real one – the kind of wall that puts you in hospital with concussion.

Since then he hasn’t been available and looks doomed to start the season at Scranton and with Drew ahead of him and Refsnyder on his shoulder, he must wonder if he might soon just find himself at another club.

Outfielders

Brett Gardner - 1111 Brett Gardner

There weren’t many offensive highlights in 2014 for the Yankees but when they came, they came from players who earned their defensive corn in the outfield. It is, therefore, doubly-worrying that those who did well last season have ceased to perform in Spring this year and those who didn’t do too good have not really improved.

And they don’t have much in reserve…

Brett Gardner batted .306 last Spring and then a slightly disappointing .256 in the regular season.

Neither of these, however, prepared us for the .143 BA, .184 SLG Spring he has delivered in 2015. He has no injuries to blame for his quiet bat. His loudest cheer of the Spring came when he scaled a wall to retrieve team-mate, Chris Young’s lost glove during a game against the Astros – a bit of fun which earned the ire of manager, Joe Girardi, who saw only the potential for injury.

There is a lot of expectation on Gardner to step up and deliver now the Core Four are all gone. He hasn’t shown much sign of a First Class response this Spring.

Jacoby Ellsbury - 2222 Jacoby Ellsbury

Ellsbury was the Yankees’ brightest offensive light in 2014 but he, like Gardner, is pretty quiet at the moment.

Unlike Gardner, he can look to an injury as a possible explanation for that – a mild oblique strain – which has kept him out of all recent games and has him wondering whether he will be ready for opening day.

When he has been able to be in the lineup he has managed only .222 with no power to speak of.

Chris Young - 2424 Chris Young

Young is the Yankees’ ace-in-the-hole when it comes to the outfield reckoning. He began last season in Queens on quite a sizeable contract. His time at the Mets didn’t work out (.205) and he was quite relieved to find himself an opportunity on the cross-town team. He batted .282 BA, 521 SLG with the Yankees and has been re-signed albeit on a much reduced contract (his $14.1m of 2014 has become $5m for this season).

Sadly his Spring figures are looking far more like his time with the Mets than his short sojourn on the 2014 Yankees. He has a little power, a little speed and is capable defensively but only .234 BA. Hey, but what do you expect for mere Stephen Drew money?

Carlos Beltran - 3636 Carlos Beltran

Carlos Beltran assures us that he is fully recovered from injury and back to his old self. He just doesn’t look like it with the bat is all. Apparently, appearances can be deceptive.

In 34 at-bats across 13 games, he has hit only .235 with no homers but two doubles. Now this does make him the leading batting average amongst the players on the Yankees’ roster who could play in the outfield on opening day but it has to be said that that is not a very encouraging fact.

So expected opening day line-up?

Infield – Teixeira (1B), Drew (2B), Headdley (3B), Ryan (SS), McCann (C)

Outfield – Gardner (LF), Young (CF), Beltran (RF)

Designated Hitter – Rodriguez

This is anticipating that Gregorious and Ellsbury will need an extra day or two to warm-up to a starting role but won’t be on the disabled list.

Bench – Gregorious, Ellsbury, Jones, Romine.

Anticipated finish – third in the AL East with an outside shot of the second wildcard slot.

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