The Yankees extended invites to many players not currently on their 40-man roster for spring training, as is usual to fill spots for a travel team and potentially generate some competition. The major-league and the 40-man roster were both nearly full entering camp, so it was a foregone conclusion that most of these players wouldn’t make the cut. Still, there were some interesting and noteworthy performances that could warrant them sticking around with the club for a while, even if it is just in the minors.
One of the biggest areas of competition entering camp revolved around relief pitching, and the Yankees brought in several veteran arms to push their young prospects. Two of those pitchers — Luis Avilan and Dan Otero — have had some recent MLB success and didn’t hurt their chances in spring.
Avilan has bounced around a bit the past couple of seasons, most recently pitching for the Mets last year. Like most of the Mets’ relievers, he struggled, but his numbers with the Dodgers, White Sox and Phillies from two seasons before his time in New York show that he has a pedigree of providing decent middle relief. Avilan was impressive in his Yankees tenure this spring, striking out ten in just 5.2 innings, and while spring training numbers aren’t much to go by, Avilan could be a useful arm to hold onto in the minors should injuries take their toll on the main relievers.
Like Avilan, Otero has been a successful pitcher career-wise that fell on some hard times of late. Otero was once one of Cleveland’s highest priority relievers, but after giving up 12 home runs in 2018 and dealing with injury in 2019 he elected to find a new opportunity. Otero was given the chance to pitch the ninth inning several times this spring — an indication that the Yankees might see some of his former glory, but likely need to see some more appearances to place their faith in him.
Some depth with starting pitchers can never hurt — as we’ve learned with two starters needing surgery in camp already — and Nick Tropeano put on the pinstripes trying to earn his way into the conversation. Tropeano has been a capable major-league pitcher, but his career has been defined by a number of injuries that have held him back. Given the tendency to need some spot starters on hand, and with the organization’s top pitching prospects needing more time to get innings under their belt, Tropeano could be a capable candidate to have on hand.
Offense has been one area that the Yankees have seemingly covered, but Rosell Herrera forced his way into the discussion by having the best spring of any Yankee. Herrera slashed .400/.444/.600 and scored seven runs in just 25 at-bats, and showed that he can be versatile by playing in the infield and outfield. Herrera has been mostly a non-factor in his big-league career so far, playing for three teams in two seasons and collecting a total of 383 at-bats, but his skillset deserves a shot at working towards a backup role if he’s willing to sign on and play in Scranton.
Ultimately, it probably doesn’t move the needle too much if the Yankees get some results or not out of this group of players. The roster they have as-is is a championship caliber team, and it’ll mostly be on their backs to get them to the Fall Classic. Last year proved that the organization’s ability to identify talent can keep them afloat in times of crisis, however, and it seems like they’ve found some quality pieces to keep around just in case.