Yankees fans are ready to end their 11-year championship drought. With the regular season right around the corner, the organization has a few key decisions to make before April 1st. And injuries to a few key players will test Aaron Boone’s roster management. Luckily for him, his players are battling tooth and nail to play in Pinstripes next week. Let’s take a look at who’s hot or not as Spring Training winds to a close:
Who’s Hot in the Pitching Staff?
Is it a cop out to say the entire likely starting rotation is hot right now? I mean, it’s not, and the numbers don’t lie. Gerrit Cole, Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon, Jordan Montgomery, and Domingo Germán all boast ERAs under 4.00 this spring, with the latter two under 1.00. Through 55 innings, all five starters have a combined 3.2 K/BB. While velocity is down for Kluber, everyone else is right where the should be in the final days of Spring.
Moving into the pen, Yankees fans should be encouraged by strong work from Jonathan Loaisiga and Nick Nelson, and thoroughly rewatching game tape from non-roster invitee Lucas Leutge. Loaisiga has racked up the most innings of any bullpen arm this spring, tossing 13+ innings of 1.35 ERA ball. His hot stat of the Spring is a minuscule .147 BABiP, continuing his propensity for eliciting weak contact over his 3-year career. Nelson is also staking a case for higher leverage innings, showing great control with 9 K/BB and a 1.04 ERA.
But the revelation of the Spring is Lucas Leutge. Out of the MLB since 2015, Leutge’s been called on by Boone to make 8 appearances and strike out 16 in just over 9 innings of work. With Justin Wilson now likely joining Zack Britton on the IL to start the season, Leutge has a great shot at taking his spot as the bullpen lefty.
And Who’s Not…
The aforementioned injured Yankees notwithstanding, it’s hard to pick on too many relievers for their difficult springs. Aroldis Chapman did not have a great penultimate outing, allowing 3 hits, 3 runs, and retiring only one batter in relief of the again brilliant Cole. But Chapman had only allowed 1 baserunner in his prior 4 innings of work.
Luis Cessa has been patchy, allowing 4 homers in 7 appearances, but he has the benefit of an assured roster spot given the Yankees unwillingness to trade and his lack of options. Michael King and Deivi Garcia didn’t grab the opportunity of an even race to be the 5th starter. Both righties showed trouble with control at an identical 1.75 K/BB.
Germán set the tone early and eventually ran away with the role, as Aaron Boone told Bryan Hoch he expects to start the season carrying five starters, making King more likely to make the opening day roster so Garcia can continue to lengthen out.
Who’s Hot Among the Position Players?
It’s hard to fathom at 37 years old, but Brett Gardner can still rake. Gardy is hot this spring, hitting .320 with 6 RBIS and 3 XBH. He’s also started two games in RF, showing willingness to move around the outfield for playing time as necessary. Giancarlo Stanton continues his power tear from the 2020 playoffs, hitting the ball extremely hard and often. Even with only 1 HR and no BABiP numbers available, it’s clear he’s healthy and prime for a strong start.
On the fringes of the roster, Mike Tauchman seems likely to win the final bench spot for the Yankees. His spring, while error-filled in the outfield, is reminiscent of his 2019 season. With an OPS of .960 and 3 HRs, the Sockman should provide outfield depth and versatility in 2021. In more of an audition for other MLB teams, non-roster invitee Chris Gittens has absolutely raked. The 1B has 3 HRs and a robust 1.500 OPS in only 18 PAs for the Bombers.
And Who’s Not…
Oh the woes of Miguel Andújar. The 3B just can’t catch a break, even after a not so hot start, he picked up a muscle/nerve issue that will shelve him for several weeks. Around the horn, non-roster invitee Derek Dietrich failed to impress and has been released from his minor league contract as of Saturday afternoon.
But the most notable of the “nots” is Mike Ford. Since his cursed pinch-hit appearance in Game 5 of the ALDS vs. Tampa Bay, Ford had a miserable spring, with paltry OPS of .341 in 24 PAs. What’s even worse is after news broke on Saturday of Luke Voit’s meniscus surgery, his potential spot on the roster went to non-roster invitee Jay Bruce. Held out of camp for the last two days prior to the impending Saturday decision deadline, the now utility player looks set to be at 1B until Voit comes back in May.
Are You Ready Yankees Fans?
So here we are. The injury bug bites again. But as Yankees fans, we’ve learned to persevere with the next man up. And in reality, Spring Training is about building up arm strength and getting reps for our guys. Who’s hot and who’s not is all fun and games in March, but when April Fool’s Day rolls up on Thursday, we hope Aaron Boone is playing the tricks on Blue Jays and not on Yankees fans hearts.