clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Yankees Making the Team Meter: 2022 short spring edition

At just over the halfway point in this abbreviated spring training, glimpse in at the battle to make the Opening Day roster.

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees-Workouts Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Normally, by this part of the spring, spring training is wrapping up. If we don’t already know who will be breaking camp with the team for Opening Day, we generally have a good idea, with maybe the last man in the bullpen or final spot on the bench still up for grabs.

This isn’t a normal year, however, and despite the fact that April begins on Friday, we are just two-and-a-half weeks removed from the start of spring training (March 13th) and just 12 days removed from the first spring training game (March 18th). With games scheduled through April 5th — just two days before Opening Day! — we’re slightly over the halfway point of this modified spring training. In short, it’s the perfect opportunity for this year’s “Making the Team Meter.”

For those who are new to Pinstripe Alley or who need a refresher, here’s the grading key that we use:

It’s fairly straightforward: red means that the player is certainly not making the roster, yellow means he has a shot, and green means that he’s a lock to break camp with the big league club.

Let’s start with the pitchers:

Year in and year out, the pitching staff is always one of the last things to fully take shape during spring training. Between injuries (hello, 2019 Luis Severino) and surprise breakouts (looking at you, 2021 Lucas Luetge), even teams that think their pitching staff is largely set in stone heading into the spring always find themselves closely monitoring the competition for the final spot or two in the bullpen (at bare minimum). This year, the expansion of roster sizes from 26 to 28 for the month of April throws a massive wrench into the equation, especially since the Yankees will almost certainly use those two extra spots to add two more pitchers to the bullpen.

It almost goes without saying that barring unforeseen circumstances, Gerrit Cole, Jordan Montgomery, Luis Severino, and Jameson Taillon have four of the five starting spots lined up, while Aroldis Chapman, Jonathan Loáisiga, Chad Green, Clay Holmes, and Wandy Peralta likely represent the first five arms out of the bullpen (despite his rough spring, Joely Rodríguez would probably also be a lock if not for his neck stiffness). From here, things get a little trickier. Nestor Cortes and Michael King will almost certainly make the team as well, with Cortes likely getting the last spot in the rotation after his superb end to 2021.

Part of the reason these two see their roles somewhat up in the air is the return of 2020 Deivi García. Actually, scratch that — he’s been better than his 2020 self, allowing just one run on three hits in five innings, with a fastball averaging almost four miles per hour faster than it did in 2020. Given the shortened spring, it’s fair to question whether the Yankees want to rush him after his horrendous 2021, but given the increased roster size, it’s also fair to wonder if the Yankees might decide to piggyback him with Luis Severino to keep the latter’s innings down as he returns to the rotation for the first time in three years.

Also making a push for either the rotation or the bullpen is Luis Gil, who has paralleled the beginning of his big league career this spring by not allowing a run in eight innings across three appearances so far. While I suspect that he, along with fellow prospect Clarke Schmidt, will likely start the season in Scranton, both pitchers have definitely put themselves on the map this spring.

A pair of former top prospects, Manny Bañuelos and Shelby Miller, are also in the mix for a bullpen spot, battling Albert Abreu. At this point in time, Miller probably won’t make the roster by virtue of the fact that he just arrived in camp this week, while Abreu probably gets the nod over Bañuelos due to the fact that he’s out of options and already on the 40-man roster. There is still time for things to change, however — and when it comes to the pitching staff, things can change very, very, very quickly.

Next up, let’s take a look at the catchers, which I’m splitting off from the rest of the position players because they’re in a category all their own:

After the Yankees exchanged Gary Sánchez for Ben Rortvedt as part of the Josh Donaldson/Isiah Kiner-Falefa blockbuster, it seemed like the catching situation was fairly set: a platoon between Higashioka and Rortvedt. An oblique injury sustained before the trade happened, however, has put Rortvedt’s status for Opening Day in question, leading us to a battle for the second catcher spot.

Going into the fight, Rob Brantly seemed the odds-on favorite, and he still might be. But David Freitas is doing his best to seize the job, going 4-for-9 with a double and a home run in six games. Brantly, meanwhile, has just one hit in eight plate appearances, although that one hit was a three-run home run, so at least he’s made the most of the times he put good wood on the ball.

Still, it’s anybody’s game. Who knows — they might even decide to only take one extra pitcher and instead devote an extra bench spot to a third catcher since they have a 28-man roster in April.

And finally, the rest of the position players:

Assuming the Yankees take 15 pitchers and two catchers, they will have 11 spots for non-catcher position players. Most of those area already set in stone: Anthony Rizzo, Gleyber Torres, DJ LeMahieu, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and Josh Donaldson have the infield nailed down, while Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Joey Gallo, and Aaron Hicks take care of the outfield. That leaves the Yankees with two bench spots remaining — one infielder and one outfielder, presumably.

Although I don’t want to call it just yet, I expect Tim Locastro to take Brett Gardner’s old fourth outfielder spot. Not only can he serve the same pinch-runner role that Tyler Wade filled last year — and speed is something the team definitely needs — the Yankees signed him to a major league contract at the start of spring training. You don’t sign a player to a guaranteed contract in the middle of March just to send him to the minors in early April, even if he does have an option remaining. More likely than not, Ender Inciarte and Ryan LaMarre will join Jeisson Rosario, Estevan Florial, and Blake Perkins in the minor league camp before long.

With Oswaldo Cabrera and Oswald Peraza already re-assigned to the Triple-A camp, the battle for the final bench spot comes down primarily to Miguel Andújar, José Peraza, and Marwin González. Despite joining camp late, González in particular has made a strong push, as he has gone 3-for-8 with two home runs in three games, all the while spending time at first base, second base, shortstop, and in left field. His hot spring and immense positional versatility give him, in my opinion, the inside track for the Yankees bench.

Do you agree with my assessment of the situation? What directions would you be leaning in when it comes to the final few roster spots? Let us know in the comments section below!