There are no more exhibitions planned before the Yankees open the season on Thursday against the Washington Nationals, which means it’s time to begin finalizing the roster that the Yankees will play with. The team will have an expanded 30-man roster to start with, shrinking down to 28 players two weeks into the season and finally contracting to the 26-man roster that will remain for the rest of the year after one month.
This means that it’s also time to start sending down some promising players that just aren’t ready yet, and unfortunately that means that two of the Yankees’ top prospects won’t be starting the year in the majors. The team optioned both Clarke Schmidt and Deivi Garcia down to Scranton today, Aaron Boone announced to the press. The team also made a number of other decisions with players, some of whom we may not see for some time, while others may be back quickly.
Schmidt turned heads in camp this spring, and he remained effective in Summer Camp as well. The 24-year-old posted a 2.57 ERA in seven innings spread across four appearances, and won the Yankees’ James P. Dawson Award for being the most outstanding rookie in camp. Boone mentioned that the Yankees sent Schmidt down to continue his development with the satellite squad in Scranton, the team consisting of the other 30 players the Yankees are eligible to call-up this year, but added that Schmidt was “very much in the conversation” to get a promotion this year.
Schmidt had a shot at earning his way onto the team right away, but in the end the Yankees opted against it. It probably wasn’t the same for Garcia, who is the Yankees’ top prospect but has yet to find his way at the top levels of competition yet. Garcia struggled in his stint at Triple-A last season, posting an ERA north of five, and his command was shaky in his spring training performances. The door may be open for Garcia to appear this year too, but it was more likely that he would start the year in Scranton.
Jordan Montgomery was expected to not only make the roster, but start in the rotation. He certainly didn’t do anything to dissuade Boone from utilizing the 24-year-old, looking sharp throughout camp and particularly impressing in his exhibition start against the Mets. The Yankees opted to sent him to the Alternative Site, however, and the logic seems to be that they could carry an additional reliever for the first week or so before calling up Monty when he’s needed for the first full turn through the rotation. If that isn’t the case, then this one is a headscratcher.
Estevan Florial has been a fixture in Yankees camp for several seasons now, but the young outfielder is still far from ready to play in the majors. Florial has yet to play beyond High-A Tampa, and his development is a significant reason why he’s on the 60-man and playing for the secondary roster in this weird season. He’s here to improve, but he likely won’t be called up this year.
Brooks Kriske, Nick Nelson and Miguel Yajure all impressed in the lower levels of the Yankees minor league system last year, and they were rewarded with spots on the secondary roster for their efforts. They weren’t going to make the main roster with how little experience they all had facing upper-level hitting, but it wouldn’t be surprising if any of them earned a stint with the big-league team later in the year filling in for someone.
Tyler Lyons, Nick Tropeano and Tony Zych were all hoping to win out as veteran options from camp. Lyons had some experience with the team previously, pitching in 11 games last year down the stretch following his release from Pittsburgh, Tropeano was looking to bounce back from some injury-riddled seasons and Zych is a couple of years removed from the show. Give Lyons the inside track of the three for appearing in any games this year, as relievers could be in demand for the Taxi Squad.
Matt Duffy, Zack Granite and Erik Kratz were the position players also looking to impress. Duffy was signed on as a depth piece for the infield back in June, and could merit a chance down the road, but the Yankees appear set with their infielders for now. Granite was a non-roster invitee who spent the majority of his career in Minnesota’s organization before spending last year with Texas’ Triple-A team, and produced enough to warrant a look. Kratz was one of several veteran catchers vying for either the backup spot or a place below Kyle Higashioka, but he’ll be manning the backstop for Scranton and working to prepare the pitchers down there.
Made the cut
The Yankees did announce that one young pitcher would be making the Opening Day roster, however. Michael King got a cup of coffee in the majors last year, appearing in just one game out of the bullpen, but he’ll be with the team when they break camp for Washington. King had an impressive final outing in the Yankees’ first exhibition game against the Mets, pitching four innings and allowing one run while giving up three hits. King is in play to appear in the third game of the season, but whether that’s as a starter or following an opener like Chad Green is yet to be decided.
Another player who got a small sample size in 2019 was Thairo Estrada, and he’ll get an opportunity to pick up some more games after making the cut today. Estrada slashed .250/.294/.438 with four homers and 12 RBI in 69 plate appearances last season, and offers the Yankees another option for backing up the infield alongside Tyler Wade.
David Hale has spent portions of the past three seasons in pinstripes, most notably last year when he appeared in 20 games out of the bullpen. Hale was a surprising find there, contributing to the bottom half of the ‘pen, and he earned the right to remain there entering this season.
The Yankees took a flyer on Luis Avilan after the 31-year-old mostly imploded for the Mets last season. Avilan has been steady for multiple teams prior to his Mets stint, however, and his numbers in camp were more indicative of his former self — 5.2 innings, 3.18 ERA, 10 K’s. He may just be up on the 30-man until the team needs Montgomery to start, or the team may envision one last competition between Hale and Avilan for the final slot in the bullpen. We’ll have to watch this one unfold.
Chris Iannetta has been a mainstay in the league for a while, whether it be as a starter or a backup. The longtime Rockie was another veteran competing for a role among a crowded field at catcher, but it looks like he won out for some playing time. The Yankees will roll with three catchers — Sanchez, Higashioka and Iannetta, and while he may be the lowest on the ladder Iannetta could play a part in mentoring the rookie backup.
There you have it, the final pieces of the Yankees 2020 roster. There were plenty of candidates and few roles to win, but many of the players that didn’t earn a spot could still have an impact on the team’s title contention. For now though, it’s full steam ahead with the guys that made the cut.