Among the quirks of the 2020 season, every major-league team will face two rounds of cuts to their active rosters. Two weeks after teams played their first game, their active roster will shrink from 30 to 28 players. With a few extra days off, the Yankees did not get the use out of their extra players that they likely expected. Let’s take a look at the performances and circumstances that could have some Yankees headed to the alternate training site in Scranton or onto the waiver wire.
The Yankees surprised some fan by carrying a heavy mix of position players out of the gate. That number has been reduced as Clint Frazier was sent to the minor leagues, and Chris Iannetta was designated for assignment, both in favor of more arms.
A further reduction on the position player side is likely. Two players with minor-league options are Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada. After an Opening Day start, the Yankees have made use of Wade almost nightly in a pinch-running and defensive-replacement role early this season.
It looks like Wade is ahead of Estrada on the Yankees’ depth chart, as Estrada has only played in one game and registered a single plate appearance. It may be beneficial for him to head to the alternate site and get regular at bats against live pitching.
Two solid bats in Mike Ford and Miguel Andujar are also candidates for demotion, but they’re likely safe during the first round of cuts. Both only played twice in the first six games, and with Giancarlo Stanton playing well. neither figure to get many at-bats in the DH position. Andujar could benefit from dedicated practice at the variety of new positions he has dabbled in this spring and summer.
On the pitching side, the Yankees needed only two games to show that they would not shy away from the Scranton Shuttle to bring in fresh arms. After losing to the Washington Nationals in the second game of the season, the Yankees optioned Frazier and Ben Heller down to Scranton for two fresh arms in Brooks Kriske and Nick Nelson.
Kriske, who never pitched above Double-A before his major-league debut in Baltimore, looked impressive in his inning of work, striking out two and allowing a walk. This appearance built off of a perfect, two-strikeout inning in the last exhibition game against Philadelphia. He has made a strong statement in front of the major-league staff over the last two weeks.
Nelson has yet to pitch for the Yankees, and he could be sent down in order to keep him sharp. He came through the system as a starter, but is likely to be deployed as a reliever this year. Nelson can be sent up and down as needed based on his minor-league options.
In Luis Avilan and David Hale, Yankees have two candidates that could be designated for assignment with the hope that they reach the alternate training site. But with several teams affected by COVID0-19 and looking for viable major-league arms, both players could be picked up before reaching Scranton.
The team has turned to Avilan twice in five games, but neither spot was a high-leverage situation. The value of bullpen southpaws is viewed differently this season with the three-batter minimum, making him a prime candidate to be move off the active roster.
Hale has been through this before with the Yankees and other teams. He was designated for assignment five times since the beginning of 2018 by the Yankees and Twins. After pitching on back-to-back days in the Yankees’ first series, he was not used in their next three games despite the extra rest.
The Yankees will be trimming their roster by two spots this week. They have players with options who can be sent to the minors, but that might not be what is best for the team in the long run. With only a small sample size to work with, one good outing over the next week could sway the decisions that have to be made.
Editor’s note: Nelson pitched shortly after this article was scheduled. He logged three scoreless innings, and could be a strong candidate to keep a spot.