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Assessing where the Yankees’ position battles stand now

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The Yankees have some questions to be answered now that spring training has been delayed.

Kansas City Royals v New York Yankees Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

We are now on day three since the Yankees played their last game. With the abrupt delay in the sports world because of the coronavirus pandemic, there is a ton of uncertainty as to when things will resume. One of the many unanswered questions the Yankees have are in regards to position battles and who leads the pack as of now. Major League Baseball may or may not have anymore spring training games before the regular season. If that’s the case, here’s where everything stands right now.

Fifth starter

The Yankees came into camp with their rotation pretty much set and ready to go. However, injuries to James Paxton and Luis Severino opened up competition in the starting five. Jordan Montgomery will be slated in as the fourth starter, which leaves the last spot for the taking.

Candidates for the fifth starter spot include: Jonathan Loaisiga, Clarke Schmidt, Mike King, and Deivi Garcia. Let’s not forget about the “opener” strategy either. Out of all of the options listed, it seems as though Loaisiga has a lead on the rest. In ten innings pitched this spring, he has 14 strikeouts and opponents hit just .091 against him.

“Open (rotation spot) or not, I just want (Loaisiga) to be in a good place with his delivery,” Aaron Boone said. “He’s coming in on the attack right now and seems to have a feel for his pitches.”

Clarke Schmidt has definitely opened some eyes during his outings and could very well win the fifth spot, but I still think Loaisiga is the favorite. Mike King and Deivi Garcia are still young, especially Garcia, and still need time to develop. Expect Loaisiga to be the Yankees’ fifth starter when the season begins.

Outfielders

This is another spot the Yankees thought they were all set with coming into spring training, but that didn’t last too long. Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge have played a combined zero games this spring, and Aaron Hicks is recovering from Tommy John surgery and won’t return until mid-season. With that said, the regular season on delay could actually benefit the Yankees immensely. It would give extra time to all three of them (along with the other injured Yankees) to recover and get back on the field before they miss games, if any at all.

Since we don’t know exact timetables for Stanton or Judge, there are open spots in the outfield. If the season started today, I’d say Mike Tauchman would start in left field, with Brett Gardner in center and Clint Frazier in right. Frazier has had a great showing at the plate, batting a .320 in 25 at-bats. His fielding has been decent, but has had some mishaps. Miguel Andujar has also taken some reps in the outfield and has looked better than anticipated. Though, I’d expect him to start in the DH spot before getting regular time in the field.

Bench

Bench spots are open for the taking as well. Kyle Higashioka will be the backup catcher behind Gary Sanchez, that’s almost certain. But guys like Tyler Wade, Mike Ford, Thairo Estrada, and Rosell Herrera have all made the case to come off the bench. Wade has had troubles at the plate, hitting .131 with 11 strikeouts in his 11 games. He has a good glove and speed, so he could still be considered a favorite to make the team that way. Mike Ford showed last year that he could be a good backup first baseman, but with the versatility of DJ LeMahieu, it will make his fight harder. Estrada hasn’t made any big splashes so far. He will most likely start the year in Scranton. Finally, we have Herrera, who has hit and hit. He owns a .400 batting average and a 1.044 OPS, which are both some of the best marks on the team. He can play both the infield and outfield, which makes him an interesting candidate. The bench will be the hardest decision the Yankees will have to make.