Let’s just get this out of the way at the top: there have been, and unfortunately will continue to be, much more serious consequences to the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc across the country. Earnestly discussing baseball in this context seems like a hopelessly pointless endeavor.
But trivial distractions can be useful, and as there are no games to serve that function, so the next best thing we can offer is speculation about what those games might look like once they return. So in that spirit, please allow me to offer up some thoughts about the 2020 New York Yankees and a few of their young players, whenever we may see them:
Boy, Clint Frazier is kind of getting hosed here, right?
I write that because a couple of weeks ago, Frazier not only seemed like a lock to make the 26-man roster with injuries to outfielders Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks, he probably would’ve been in the starting lineup at Camden Yards this Thursday, when the season was scheduled to begin.
I realize Frazier is a divisive player, and remarkably so given how little time he’s actually spent in the major leagues. I’m sure that if we tracked hot takes per plate appearance as a stat, he’d lead by a mile. He has a swagger that rubs some people the wrong way. At times, he can play comically bad defense. He had the audacity to be born with curly, red hair and a big personality.
But he was having a really good spring training (.320/.455./.600 in 33 plate appearances) and was poised to get another opportunity to prove he’s a major-league player and not merely a Quad-A depth piece. Now, with the season on hold until at least mid-May (after that, your guess is as good as mine), players like Judge and Stanton will have the chance to get healthy and reclaim their everyday lineup spots.
Of course, everybody should want that! But two years after losing nearly an entire season to concussion problems and one year after being exiled to Scranton for a large chunk of the year to work on his defense, it seems Frazier’s at risk of being blocked once again. At 25, he’s undoubtedly eager to get his major-league career started in earnest. I feel for the guy, that’s all.
A similar scenario may play out in the starting rotation, for which the Yankees were essentially having an open audition for the final two spots after both Luis Severino (Tommy John surgery) and James Paxton (back) were sidelined. Into the breach rushed Jordan Montgomery, himself returning from Tommy John, as well as Jonathan Loaisiga, Deivi Garcia, Mike King, and Clarke Schmidt. At least one of those kids appeared likely to get a shot.
Now, it seems like Paxton is aiming to be ready whenever Opening Day arrives, leaving just one spot open, which Montgomery has all but locked down. That probably means it’s back to the bullpen for Loaisiga and further minor league seasoning for Garcia, King and Schmidt, who, it should be said, was quickly becoming the darling of spring camp.
These are hardly problems for the Yankees. Having your regulars healthy is obviously good. But there’s always a bit of excitement watching a young player try to prove he belongs. Now it looks like they’ll have to wait just a little bit longer. Much like the rest of us.