Opening Day is an exciting day. We spend the whole day talking about the aces getting the ball, or the superstars getting their first plate appearances. That's why I'll be focusing on... the bottom of the roster. It's not flashy, but I'd say the fringe of the roster is pretty important. If there's one thing that can give a decent team a boost to push them into the postseason, it's good depth.
This spring the Yankees added four new faces out of camp: Luis Cessa, Johnny Barbato, Kirby Yates, and Ronald Torreyes. Cessa, 23, is a pitcher some thought would be in New York, but in Queens. Just one year ago he was pitching at Double-A Binghamton for the Mets, and he was shipped to the Tigers as a part of the Yoenis Cespedes trade, and then was sent from the Tigers to the Yankees in the Justin Wilson deal this offseason.
I actually caught a glimpse of Cessa at Binghamton last spring, and I saw what many analysts saw: a pitcher with a decent fastball that could bring him to a big league bullpen, at least if his change-up remained effective. In spring training Cessa tossed 11 innings and allowed four runs while striking out 11 and walking three. So, does he stick with the team? He certainly has a shot. Obviously things could get sticky when Bryan Mitchell and Aroldis Chapman return, but it seems like the club is giving him a shot at making the bullpen.
The team does need someone to fill in a middle relief or sixth inning role, and he also has the ability to spot start, unlike Barbato and Yates. If Ivan Nova were to get injured before Mitchell returns, Cessa would be the de facto spot starter. Even if the Yankees send him down in a month or so, he will absolutely get a shot to stick with the team. Considering the rotation depth, I'd rather have Cessa over Brady Lail or Chad Green.
Barbato, like Cessa, is young at only 23 and pitched reasonably well in Triple-A last season (0.36 ERA in 25 innings), and he also had a 1.64 ERA in spring training. With Dellin Betances, Andrew Milller, Chapman, Chasen Shreve, and Mitchell all higher in the pecking order, Barbato would need to enter the circle of trust before he finds himself without a seat when the music stops.
Yates is a bit older at 29, and he's bounced around between the Rays, Indians, and Yankees this offseason. He has 73 ERA+ in 56.1 innings, so even though it's a small sample size, I would imagine the poor performance so far and two teams basically passing on him should say something. If there's one player that could fade from the roster and turn into a Sporcle fun fact in short order, it's probably Yates. Here's to hoping I'm pleasantly surprised.
The only position player addition was none other than Torreyes. Other than having an excellent name, he takes the spot that many thought would go to Rob Refsnyder. Well unfortunately for Refsnyder, "backup second baseman" is not a thing that exists, and until he learns to play third base, that spot belonds to Torreyes. Torreyes, also 23, has actually been in the league for a while, as he's played for six different teams since 2010. He was traded to the Yankees for Rob Segedin in January, selected off of waivers by the Angels later in the month, and then selected again by the Yankees just one week later.
He only has eight major league plate appearances to his name (with the Dodgers last year), and he had a .655 OPS last year in the minors, and that was largely in the Pacific Coast League, which is notorious for the incredibly high run environment. So, he's probably not hitting much. But at the same time, he has the ability to play both second base and third base, which Refsnyder is unable to do. He's also better than Pete Kozma, who by the way, had a lower OPS than Francisco Liriano last year.
Do I think Torreyes is with the team in a year? Probably not. But in 2016, Torreyes will be adequate as a utility infielder, especially considering the players the Yankees have trotted out in that role in the past (Cody Ransom, Miguel Cairo, Ramiro Pena... you get the idea).
Overall, the new additions to the roster are not throwaways. I don't think I want Torreyes or Cessa in the position of starting this year, but as bottom-of-the-roster depth, they will suffice. While Cessa, Barbato, and Torreyes could have some utility, Yates may not have a place in the long term. But with injuries always a persistent issue, you could find one of these players in a regular role for a short period of time. These guys aren't the superstars to get excited about, but I take them over a lot of depth pieces on other active rosters in baseball.