Last week, we put together the oldest lineup in Yankees history, taking a look at all oldest players to appear in a game at each position for the Yankees. In general, all the names on that list tended to be a notable name from history, as players with a reputation for being great tend to get more chances and stick around longer.
The same is not necessarily true for the youngest players in baseball history. Where there are plenty of examples of Hall of Famers making their debuts at 18-19 years old, there are other players from over the years who do that and then don’t end up having much of a career.
While there will be a couple people in this lineup that you know, most are randoms from many, many years ago. Let’s flip what we did last week and now look at the youngest players by position in Yankees’ history.
Pitcher: Neal Brady (18 years, 205 days)
The distance between Brady’s MLB debut and final game is just a couple days short of a full decade. You might think that means he had a decently long career for himself. Not really. Brady debuted with the Yankees as just an 18-year old in 1915, and gave them 8.2 solid innings across two games. He wouldn’t appear in another MLB game until 1917. After nine more solid innings, he then didn’t play in the bigs again until 1925 with the Reds. In terms of calendar years, Brady’s career lasted basically a decade. In terms of innings, Brady lasted just 81.1.
Catcher: Harry Hanson (17 years, 178 days)
In addition to being the youngest person to ever play for the Yankees, Hanson is also the only person younger than 18 to appear in a game for them. Hanson appeared in just one major league game, catching for the Yankees on July 14th, 1913 against the St. Louis Browns. He came off the bench to replace Joe Smith, who himself was only 18 years old. The 1913 season was an especially weird one for the Yankees at the catcher position, and they seemingly kept throwing anything at the wall, including someone who was still legally a child.
First Base: Frank Leja (18 years, 83 days)
New @SABRbioproject: Frank Leja made his debut with @Yankees at age 18 in 1954. But the heralded prospect languished on Casey Stengel's bench and never got a chance to play, a victim of the “bonus baby” rule. Here’s his story: https://t.co/x4fIl2ieiF #SABR pic.twitter.com/0lBHq8LWef— SABR (@sabr) January 8, 2019
The first “bonus baby” on the list, Leja made his way onto the Yankees’ roster via the rule that anyone amateur who signed a bonus over $4000 had to go straight to the big leagues. Yankees’ manager Casey Stengel had advocated for the Yankees signing Leja, but was apparently reticent to use him once he was on the MLB roster. Leja had his debut as a late innings replacement in a blowout, just a few months after his 18th birthday. He played just 19 games over two seasons with the Yankees, and a few more with the Angels a few years later, but seemingly never gained a solid footing against MLB competition.
Second Base: Johnny Priest (19 years, 350 days)
Edging out longtime Yankee Bobby Richardson by just a day is Priest, who made his debut for the then Highlanders in 1911. Priest played 10 games across two seasons and hit just .174 before never playing in the bigs again.
Shortstop: Tom Carroll (18 years, 288 days)
We remember Tom Carroll - @Yankees 1955-56; @Athletics 1959. #Yankees' "bonus baby," he appeared in 14G in '55 and made 2 appearances as PR in World Series - at age 19. Was also on '56 WS roster but did not play. Went on to serve in the CIA for 26 years. #RestInPeace pic.twitter.com/z9jfGrKBYp— Baseball Digest (@BaseballDigest) September 30, 2021
The other “bonus baby” on the team is Carroll, who had to go straight to the bigs after signing with the Yankees out of Notre Dame in 1955. He made his debut as a defensive replacement on July 2nd, a few months short of his 19th birthday. Like Leja, Carroll never really gained a footing the bigs, because the bonus baby system was not a great idea.
Third Base: Tom Carroll (19 years, 265 days)
Under the bonus baby system, a player had to spend two years on a MLB roster before they could be sent down to the minors. In the first of his two seasons, Carroll was used exclusively at shortstop. In his second, he got a couple games at third, allowing him to get a second place on this roster.
Left Field: Justin Fitzgerald (19 years, 359 days)
Most of the names on the team so far been from games where they’ve come in as late inning defensive replacements, maybe getting one at-bat, and not doing much in it. Fitzgerald was a late inning replacement in his 1911 debut, but he did have a moment. Fitzgerald recorded an RBI in the ninth inning as the Yankees scored five runs to turn a 8-4 loss into a 9-8 win.
Center Field: Mickey Mantle (19 years, 344 days)
Whoever this Mantle fellow is played his first game in center field during the final couple days of the 1951 season, having spent most of the season in right. Donning No. 6 at the start of his career rather than his eventual signature No. 7, Mantle went 2-for-3 with a walk in his 94th game of his rookie season.
Right Field: Mickey Mantle (19 years, 179 days)
Well there he is again. While his first center field game didn’t come until the end of the season, Mantle’s first game in right came on Opening Day, making him the youngest Yankee at two different positions. If only we knew more about him ...
Designated Hitter: Jesús Montero (21 years, 277 days)
Please excuse my prolonged sighs at this guy popping up. It’s no surprise that the DH is the oldest player on this list, as that position skews older in general. The then-Yankees’ top prospect Montero made his debut at the spot in a September 2011 game against the Red Sox. Nothing weird ever happened with him and I presume he’s still in the midst of a long major league career.