Pinstripe Alley managing editor Andrew Mearns published a prompt on Monday asking readers who would make their New York Yankees Opening Day roster ahead of FanPost Friday, so here would are my updated selections if I was sitting in Brian Cashman or Aaron Boone's chair.
My 26-man Opening Day roster
Before we get going, manager Aaron Boone said during camp that he wants to carry 13 pitchers, which leaves 13 remaining spots for the position players and a designated hitter.
Catchers (2): Gary Sánchez, Kyle Higashioka
Gary Sánchez obviously had a terrible year in 2020, as he hit just .147 before being practically benched in the postseason in favor of Kyle Higashioka. However, the Yankees aren't going to just give up on him because he had two bad months.
Sánchez will be catching Gerrit Cole on Opening Day and it looks like he will have a greater impact in the batter's box this season, as he's had a solid start to spring camp with three home runs including one that soared over the batter's eye in center field.
Higashioka is one of the best backup catchers in the league and has an extremely good relationship with Cole, so the Yankees have him as a safety net should Sánchez have a repeat 2020.
First Base (1): Luke Voit
Luke Voit had a breakout season in 2020, leading the league in home runs (22) so there was no doubt he was going to be the club's first baseman heading into 2021.
The only question about Voit is if he can stay healthy for the entire season. The former Cardinal has already dealt with some issues in spring training, including a brief knee injury that kept him out of the lineup. He will be dealing with a bloody knee likely the entire season, as it opened up after he slid into third base earlier in March.
Other than that, Voit should have an impact in the middle of the Yankees' lineup in 2021.
Second Base (1): DJ LeMahieu
The Yankees needed to bring back their best position player this past winter and they did just that. The Colorado Rockies made a terrible decision of letting him walk to the Bronx (and that's a whole other conversation), but the Yankees have benefited immensely from it.
LeMahieu finished last season hitting .364/.421/.590 atop the Yankees lineup--good enough to make him an American league MVP finalist alongside Jose Abreu (CHW) and Jose Ramirez (CLE). Let's not forget that he will play games at first base and third base in 2021 when players need a day off or if injuries come up.
LeMahieu is still one of the most underappreciated players in baseball, as most people still don't have him as a top-ten player in the league. But, if Aaron Judge was healthy and put up the numbers that LeMahieu has put up the past few years, he'd likely be in every expert's top ten.
Shortstop (2): Gleyber Torres, Tyler Wade
Gleyber Torres came into summer camp last year out of shape and then wasn't great defensively (leading the league with nine errors) but he came into camp this year in good shape and said recently that he's only focused on one thing. "I am here to win a World Series," Torres says.
Torres was an All-Star in his first two seasons--meaning the Yankees are aware of the impact he has in the lineup, so like Sánchez, they aren't giving up on him after one bad defensive season.
I put Tyler Wade, who is competing with Derek Dietrich for the final infield bench spot, as a shortstop because it's the position he would likely play if he is in the lineup. Wade gets the edge over the aforementioned Dietrich primarily because of what Dietrich can't do.
Dietrich is primarily a first baseman or a designated hitter and the Yankees have a lot of options at those two positions including Jay Bruce (who I'll get to shortly). Wade, on the other hand, can play second base, shortstop, and third base if needed so he is a solid backup option should a starting infielder get hurt or need a day off of their feet.
Third Base (1): Gio Urshela
Gio Urshela has given the Yankees no choice but to make him the starting third baseman. Ever since Miguel Andújar was forced to have season-ending surgery in 2019, Urshela has performed as well as anyone could've imagined.
Urshela has been tremendous defensively at the hot corner--finishing as an AL Gold Glove finalist alongside Isiah Kiner-Falefa (TEX) and Yoan Moncada (CHW)--but he has also held his own at the plate. In a shortened 2020 season, he nearly hit .300, crushing six homers and driving in 30 runs before he underwent offseason surgery to remove a bone spur in his right elbow.
Outfield (5): Clint Frazier, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner, Mike Tauchman
Clint Frazier, Aaron Hicks, and Aaron Judge are obviously the three starting outfielders on Opening Day against the Toronto Blue Jays. Frazier improved tremendously in the outfield (3 Defensive Runs Saved compared to -10 runs saved in 2019) and the organization has finally given him the playing time he needed to show his worth at the plate. Hicks and Judge will be Boone's two and three hitters on most days and will put up above average numbers as long as they stay healthy.
The big question surrounding camp as we inch closer to Opening Day is if the Yankees will include Jay Bruce on the roster. If Bruce makes the roster, it probably would keep Tauchman off of the roster, who is out of options. If Tauchman makes the team, then Bruce would opt out and be picked up by another team before Opening Day.
Tauchman was a great find by the scouting department, as he was a struggling outfielder with the Colorado Rockies--combining for a -0.7 WAR in two combined seasons in Denver. But in 2019, he was one of the many players that stepped up after a starter went on the Injured List. In his first campaign with the Bombers in 2019, Tauchman had a great season, compiling a 2.6 WAR in just 87 games.
While some will make the argument that Bruce might help the Yankees win more right now, Tauchman would definitely still have an impact off the bench in 2021 and in the future. He has the ability to play all three outfield positions including center field, which is something that Bruce cannot do. Bruce signed a minor league contract with New York, so he would only be on the roster for one season while Tauchman still has four years of control left including this season.
Even if the Yankees don't plan on keeping Tauchman for the long haul, they'd be able to continue shopping him on the trade market as teams see outfielders go down with injuries. For example, the Chicago White Sox will be without Eloy Jiménez for five to six months after suffering a ruptured left pectoral tendon, so suddenly GM Rick Hahn might be calling Brian Cashman about the availability of Tauchman.
There isn't a huge cause for concern if injuries come up because veteran outfielders are available on one-year deals every offseason and are even available at this very moment (Yasiel Puig, Yoenis Céspedes, Josh Reddick, Matt Kemp, etc.) if numerous outfielders go down early in the season.
Bruce, on the other hand, is already 33 years old and has a recent track record of not staying on the field. He has been put on the IL two times since August 22, 2019, playing just 98 games in 2019 and 32 games in 2020. Boone told members of the media including NJ.com's Brendan Kuty that Bruce didn't working out with the team on Thursday and "He's going to stay away until we make a decision." The Yankees have 48 hours to decide whether or not they keep him.
If you connect the dots, it isn't hard to presume that Bruce is staying away from the club because is wants to ensure he's healthy when he opts out to ensure that a team is confident in giving him a major league contract.
Designated Hitter (1): Giancarlo Stanton
In the postseason last year, Giancarlo Stanton turned the clock back to 2017, when he won the NL MVP and hit 59 home runs for the Miami Marlins. After struggling to stay on the field in most of the first three years of his Yankees career, Stanton hit six home runs in seven postseason games.
Everyone knows that Stanton is an extremely talented hitter with immense power, but his health continues to be what is holding him back from being an MVP candidate once again. Because of Stanton's injury history, GM Brian Cashman has said that it's a "safe bet" the organization will try to limit the time he spends in the outfield this season.
Starting Pitchers (5): Gerrit Cole, Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon, Jordan Montgomery, Domingo Germán
Cole is going to pitch like a true ace because he is one. Kluber and Taillon have ace-like potential but haven't been able to pitch every fifth day for the last couple seasons due to injuries. Both Kluber and Taillon have looked good this spring though (three combined runs allowed), and they will need to step up if the rotation will be great this season.
Jordan Montgomery will be the fourth starter following his final 2020 start in the ALDS where he went four innings and gave up one single run. The 28-year-old left-hander hasn't allowed a run in spring training since his first inning of work.
The big debate this spring among the media and fans is who should get the fifth spot: Deivi García or Domingo Germán? I have Germán getting the final spot out of the gate primarily because he has been sharper than García.
In nine innings, Germán has struck out 13 batters and hasn't allowed a single run. I'm well aware that it isn't always the smartest thing to judge a player solely based on his spring training performance, but even Boone is impressed with how Germán has pitched after such a long (and self-induced) layoff.
On the other hand, Boone has seen some rust from García. After making his debut in 2020, the 21-year-old has had issues with his command in spring training.
Although he has a 1.64 ERA in four games, García has issued six walks including a four-walk start on March 20 before allowing two home runs to Bo Bichette and Teoscar Hernández on Wednesday afternoon. Following García's penultimate star, Boone told reporters that the prospect needs to hone in on the strike zone as we head into the season:
"[He was just] unable to put some guys away. But then does what he's capable of doing in making pitches and wiggling out of it...I didn't feel like for walking four guys, he was all over the place, but still wasn't quite able to put some guys away that he probably should have."
It might actually end up benefiting the Yankees to have García not in the rotation to begin the season because it would lessen his cumulative workload coming off of a short season. He is still a very young pitcher who has been a prized prospect for years, so it wouldn't surprise me if the Yankees carefully watch García's innings throughout the season, particularly if they want Garcia to pitch in October.
Relief Pitchers (8): Aroldis Chapman, Darren O'Day, Chad Green, Justin Wilson, Jonathan Loaisiga, Luis Cessa, Nick Nelson, Lucas Luetge
Chapman will enter the season as the closer yet again, and look for him to be one of the best relievers in the game. He has been working on a splitter that has received rave reviews from just about everyone around the organization including his skipper.
Darren O'Day is welcomed as one of the newest Yankee relievers, and he will be carrying a sizable load thanks to the injury to the team's most reliable reliever, Zack Britton.
Britton, 33, had surgery recently to remove bone chips in his left elbow, so he is sidelined for at least the next three months. His injury obviously has ripple effects for the entire bullpen but it mostly affects the front end of the bullpen.
Justin Wilson left Monday night's game due to left shoulder tightness, but received "nothing actionable" from his MRI, according to the Yankees. He will receive "an anti-inflammatory medication" and "continue to receive treatment over the next several days before resuming a throwing program."
Boone told the media on Wednesday that it's "too early" to know if Wilson will be available for Opening Day. Therefore, I still included Wilson on the roster with the thought that he'll be ready in some capacity on April 1 after five days of throwing (if he starts doing so on Saturday).
Jonathan Loáisiga and Luis Cessa have the opportunity to make a name for themselves around the league because they'll be receiving more opportunities to serve as the bridge from the starter to the back end of the bullpen.
The Yankees have a multitude of options for the final couple spots in the bullpen such as García, Tyler Lyons, and Michael King, but I have Nick Nelson and Lucas Luetge heading north. Nelson, who hasn't surrendered a run yet this spring, was a favorite to earn the last bullpen spot if Britton was healthy so he theoretically slides up to the seventh reliever spot.
Luetge, meanwhile, has turned into a fan favorite this spring. Entering camp, he was just another journeyman minor leaguer who hadn't pitched in the majors since 2015, but it's safe to say that Luetge is on the Yankees' radar now.
While Luetge isn't currently on the 40-man roster, it's hard to imagine the Yankees not rewarding his tremendous month of March, where he has struck out 16 batters in 9.1 innings with two walks, especially following Britton's injury. It's important to factor in that Luetge is a lefty, which would give New York the same amount of lefties in the 'pen that they would've had if Britton was healthy.
All right, Pinstripe Alley community, let me know what you think of my roster in the comments section and be sure to answer the poll question.