Good afternoon everyone, it’s time to dive back into the mailbag and answer some of your questions. Remember to send in your questions for our weekly call by e-mail to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.
WhittakerWalt asks: Biggest concern continues to be the offense. There’s potential for an entire season that looks like our second half of last year.
I see a lot of concern about the lineup, even at full strength, and while I understand the hesitation I don’t think it’s unreasonable what the Yankees are banking on. Aaron Judge is obviously the centerpiece of the offense, and barring the minimal assumed downtime Anthony Rizzo will be nearby him providing some protection. Health is also what inhibited Giancarlo Stanton and DJ LeMahieu from posting extremely good seasons, the former more so than the latter. Add in Harrison Bader at the top of that lineup, and that’s a top five that goes toe-to-toe with any other.
There’s valid worry to be had from the amount of qualifications in just the good half, but going into this year the one I was the most concerned about was LeMahieu, and he’s looked right back in line with his elite form. That alone alleviates a lot of my worries about the run production going into the year, and means that only one or two of the bottom half of the lineup needs to step up for this to be an elite offense. Gleyber Torres is a candidate to give at least league-average production with upside, and only one of the young guns in Anthony Volpe, Oswaldo Cabrera, and Oswald Peraza needs to fill in to match that expectation. Volpe is tearing up the Grapefruit League in a bid to be there out of the gates, but even if he doesn’t make the Opening Day lineup I fully expect him to be up sooner rather than later at this point. All of this bodes to build an offense that resembles the first half of 2022 rather than the second half even if they never get the All-Star version of Jose Trevino or Josh Donaldson again.
ConorGallogy asks: What’s the best outfield configuration for Opening Day and for when Bader returns?
At the moment, I believe the best outfield combination would have Cabrera-Judge-Stanton from left to right field, to provide the best offense that the club can produce. Cabrera might be more of a fit in right field and Stanton probably won’t play the field every day, however, so the realistic outfield alignment has Aaron Hicks in left and Cabrera shifted over to right. Make of that what you will, but it is what it is.
Once Bader is back in the fold, things become simpler. With Judge able to shift back to right field, it’s a no-brainer to me to eat the slightly off-role defense from Cabrera to get the superior bat more starts and have Hicks assume the fourth outfielder role. None of the other outfield candidates are truly shining (and the ones who had the best chance pre-spring like Estevan Florial have severely underperformed), so there isn’t much of a challenge to who gets rostered here but rather how much starting time each player gets. I’m not expecting much from the Isiah Kiner-Falefa center field experiment, but hey — he’s got two weeks or so to prove me wrong.
The idiot that said, “Harper is coming” asks: Regardless of thoughts about these two before this spring, after seeing Volpe and Dominguez perform, it’s clear they’ll be prospects held tight by the organization and off the table in trade talks. Of the remaining prospects, who would you consider to be valuable enough to be included as major trade pieces that could help bring a significant return?
The interesting thing about the Yankees’ top 10 or so prospects are that they have a lot of repeat positions, meaning prospects who are also good but are blocked by their fellow prospects as well as the big leaguers. I’m mainly looking at guys like Everson Pereira and Trey Sweeney when I’m talking about this group of players — I think both are exceptional talents who have MLB potential, but I don’t see a world where they make it with the Yankees. The organization also has brought in new talent that has immediately jumped to around their status in outside rankings in Spencer Jones and Roderick Arias, making their position in the future quite volatile.
Because of this, I could see one or both being flipped at this year’s deadline to fill whatever need the team has, and I think that barring a major setback they could develop enough to entice some teams to part with a solid player or two for them. They’re the most likely to move, but outside of Austin Wells I think the team could play fast and loose with most of the remaining top 10, and certainly any of the players in the tiers below them. I have an eye on Clayton Beeter and how he’ll look with a full year in the system, as he took a dramatic step forward once he arrived from the Dodgers. He could be a fast-riser, but given his distance from contributing to the major league team I’m not opposed to flipping him again even if his development progresses well.