It's time again for our Making the Team Meter, where we see who has the best chance of making the Yankees Opening Day roster based on their performance and roster status. In our fourth and final installment, most of the players in camp have been cut, so it's down to just a few contenders. At this point, it's probably pretty easy to guess who might be making the team. Surprises could happen, so we're going to analyze it anyway.
This week the Yankees announced their final round of cuts before they make their decisions and it essentially brought the wide open bullpen race to an end. They have optioned Danny Burawa, Fred Lewis, David Herndon, Chris Leroux, Jim Miller, and Yoshinori Tateyama to the minors, though none were really expected to make the team. The most shocking cut they made was sending Preston Claiborne to Triple-A to begin the year. He's been terrible this spring, but it was kind of expected that he'd be in the lead for a bullpen spot all along. Now we're left with eight pitchers to fill one rotation spot and four bullpen roles. Who has the best chance to make the team?
As we all know, the battle for the fifth starter spot has been settled. Michael Pineda is now in the rotation, but that doesn't mean his competition has to miss out on any major league action. Joe Girardi has confirmed that David Phelps will have a role in the bullpen, though what he will be doing is as yet unknown. Adam Warren will likely have a spot on the team as well. One of these two will serve as the longman out of the bullpen. I would imagine that Warren would and maybe Phelps will be used as a middle reliever, but Girardi could switch things up.
The last competitor, Vidal Nuno, is slightly less likely to make the team, but there's still two spots left in the bullpen. One is certainly going to go to Dellin Betances after his dominating spring. Now that Claiborne has been optioned to Triple-A, the 6-foot-8-inch reliever really has no one left to compete with. The last spot will likely come down to Nuno or Cesar Cabral, ensuring that there will be a second lefty in the 2014 bullpen. Nuno has the ability to both start and relieve, but it's unclear if that will help him get a job or ensure that he remains in Triple-A to remain a starter.
There are still two more pitchers in camp, though it is highly unlikely either will be making the team. I find it interesting that Matt Daley is still in camp at this point. The Yankees obviously like him. They originally signed him before he was healthy enough to pitch, they brought him back in the offseason after they non-tendered him, and now he's the last Non-Roster Invitee left in camp. Not being on the 40-man roster really kills his chances of making the team, but it's certainly possible that someone (Eduardo Nunez? Dean Anna? Preston Claiborne?) could be designated for assignment to make room for him. Shane Greene is on the 40, though he won't be making the team despite his quietly solid spring. He only has so much Double-A experience, but it's possible that he will move up to Triple-A to be rotation depth in case of an injury.
When everything is all said and done, I believe the Yankees will have a bullpen of David Robertson, Shawn Kelley, Matt Thornton, David Phelps, Adam Warren, Dellin Betances, and Cesar Cabral. Though I certainly won't be upset if Nuno makes the team instead. Despite all the talk about the Yankees bullpen being weak this season, it could actually turn out to be surprisingly valuable. They might lack high-octane impact across the board, but Phelps, Warren, and maybe Nuno are sure to bring some interesting versatility into the mix.