The Yankees dropped their seven-inning contest with the Pirates 3-2 Saturday afternoon, but there were a range of positives concerning the possible No. 2 in the rotation, and the race for the last bench spot stayed hot.
I am starting to giggle when I think about Jameson Taillon. I’ll have quite a bit more on his mechanical changes tomorrow, but Taillon, through three innings this spring, looks legitimate. He struck out the first batter he faced, former Yankee Dustin Fowler, and ended up sitting down four of the nine men he saw. Throwing 39 pitches, he did walk a batter, and the two singles he allowed were both very hard, with exit velocities over 105.
That’s really the only thing you can say as a negative to Taillon’s spring so far. He’s been excellent in two short outings, and critically, his fastball is hovering around 94 and located well up in the zone. Three of the four strikeouts he notched today came on fastballs above the letters:
We’ve all seen Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom dominate the pitching leaderboards for the past five years or so, and that’s largely how they do it, by throwing hard above the swing planes of hitters. Taillon isn’t in the same conversation as those guys of course, but he’s following the same pattern, and that projects really well for the rest of 2021. Hopefully we’ll see him work longer and longer outings soon, and get an eye for how his body adapts to increasing the workload.
Jhoulys Chacín followed Taillon, giving up two runs on three hits. We’re dealing with only two innings of data on Chacín, but he has looked awfully rusty this spring, allowing four runs while walking exactly as many batters as he’s struck out. There were some whispers he had an inside track on the Yankees’ fifth starter spot, but he really needs to start pitching if that’s to happen for real.
Offensively, Jay Bruce continued his impressive spring, clubbing a first-inning home run to give the Yankees an early lead:
Jay Bruce continues to make a case for an Opening Day roster spot.— Max Goodman (@MaxTGoodman) March 6, 2021
He crushes his first home run of the spring, a no-doubter to deep right-center field. #Yankees take a 1-0 lead. pic.twitter.com/kBqTPk00vf
Jay Bruce has a 2.000 OPS this spring. Has it been six at-bats? Yes. Do I care right now? No. In the competition for the last bench spot on the roster, Bruce is hampered by his lack of defensive versatility, but if he can hit like a well-above average bat, he starts to build a pretty good case for himself.
Clint Frazier added a long home run in the sixth, further solidifying his status as the team’s left fielder. I’m as high on Frazier as I’ve ever been, and it makes me laugh that it’s hard to see him hitting higher than fifth or sixth in a regular Yankees lineup. This team is stacked.
The Yankees are back at it tomorrow, hosting the Phillies with a 1:05 p.m. Eastern start time.