As Yankees fans know, the upper minors serve an integral role for the major-league squad over the course of a season. With ever-changing rosters filled with a mix of prospects, players on the 40-man roster, and free agents signed to minor-league contracts, Triple-A rosters provide a holding ground for the “Next Men Up.” It’s worth to keeping stock of the roster, so let’s take a stab at projecting 2020 starting lineup for the Scranton RailRiders.
Catcher: Erik Kratz
The boomerang catcher once again finds himself in the Yankee farm system, as the thirty-nine-year-old has signed another minor-league deal with the team. As a major leaguer, Kratz has not had much of a career, playing in only 316 games over the course of ten seasons, although he did play a big role for the Brewers during the 2018 postseason. As minor-league catching depth, however, he ranks up there as a veteran leader with solid pitch-framing skills.
First Base/Designated Hitter: Mike Ford
After an incredible (and long-awaited) first season with the Yankees, Mike Ford certainly deserves a spot on a major-league roster. Unfortunately for him, Luke Voit exists, and Ford still has options remaining. And so, Ford’s lefty power bat that contributed 12 HR and a 137 OPS+ might find itself in Scranton to start the season.
First Base/Designated Hitter: Chris Gittens
Gittens had a big 2019, as he posted a 164 wRC+ in 115 games playing for the Trenton Thunder. While he sits behind both Voit and Ford on the first base depth chart, another big season like this and the former 12th-round pick might just force the issue.
Second Base: Thairo Estrada
One of the many players to be a part of the #NextManUp squad in 2019, Thairo Estrada proved that he can play at the major-league level, as he played acceptable defense at four different positions and posted a 92 OPS+. With Tyler Wade more likely to begin the season on the 26-man roster due to his superior positional flexibility, Estrada will likely be the first middle infielder called up due to injuries.
Shortstop: Kyle Holder
The 30th overall pick from the 2015 draft projects to begin the 2020 season in Scranton, after spending the entirety of 2019 playing for Trenton. A defensive specialist, Holder has yet to find his stroke with the bat beyond short spurts. While he sits behind Wade and Estrada, he might find his best use as a secondary piece in a trade, as there is some value to having an elite defender at the shortstop.
Third Base: Mandy Alvarez
The 25-year-old Alvarez opened 2019 with the Trenton Thunder before forcing his way to Scranton after 58 games. Originally taken in the 17th round of the 2016 draft, Alvarez found his bat the last two years, although he struggled a bit when reaching Scranton (114 wRC+ in Trenton, 91 in Scranton); this offensive improvement coincided with a decline in groundball percentage from roughly 50% to 35%. While he remains low on the depth chart, the Yankees hope that he can adjust to the improved Triple-A pitching.
Outfield: Clint Frazier
Firmly behind the starting trio of outfielders and Mike Tauchman, Frazier may find a way to sneak onto the major-league roster as a fifth outfielder and designated hitter. More likely, however, the Yankees will use up his final option, and the 25-year-old outfielder will once again be relegated to Triple-A.
As usual, Frazier’s name has surfaced in trade talks, but for the time being, he serves as quality outfield depth that has shown that he can hit major-league pitching; so long as he improves his defense, he could become a star.
Outfield: Zack Granite
Back in November, the Yankees signed the Staten Island native to a minor-league deal with an invite to spring training. While his bat was decidedly below average in his one stint in the big leagues (as a member of the Twins in 2017), he played above average defense at all three outfield positions, and is in the fastest seven percent of major leaguers. With the injury to Aaron Hicks, he provides valuable center field depth.
Outfield: Trey Amburgey
The 13th-round pick in the 2015 season exploded in a big way in 2019, driving 22 home runs and posted a .822 OPS (106 wRC+). Primarily a corner outfielder, Amburgey finds himself buried on the depth chart at arguably the Yankees’ deepest position; as 2019 shows, however, the depth chart sometimes reaches that far down.