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Yankees Making the Team Meter: Week Three

The battle for the shortstop job is on everybody’s mind as spring training moves into its final stretch.

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New York Yankees v Minnesota Twins Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

It’s a Tuesday in March, and you know what that means: it’s time for another round of Pinstripe Alley’s Making the Team Meter! This past week has been rather kind to the Yankees, at least from an injury standpoint, as after injuries have ruled out Carlos Rodón, Tommy Kahnle, Lou Trivino, and Harrison Bader for Opening Day, the only injury suffered this week was a wrist injury to Jose Trevino, and he’s already back in the lineup. Between the team’s relative health and cuts made as players return from the World Baseball Classic, we can begin to get a clearer sense of which 26 players will be Bronx-bound when the team breaks camp later this month.

As always, in case you need it, I’ve included the key below as a refresher. I’d also like to remind you that, like last week, players who were cut or removed from the injured list prior to last Tuesday will not appear on these lists, while those cut in the last seven days will.

As always, let’s start with the pitchers:

At this point, the starting rotation is about as straightforward as can be. With Rodón on the shelf for Opening Day, the Yankees will hand the ball to Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, Nestor Cortes, Domingo Germán, and Clarke Schmidt, although it’s unclear at this point what order they will go in their first turn through the order (for example, Cortes might wind up as the fifth starter in order to give him a bit more time to stretch out after injuries delayed the start of his spring). Likewise, the back of the bullpen is set, as Clay Holmes, Wandy Peralta, Michael King, and Jonathan Loáisiga project to be among the best back-fours in baseball.

That leaves us with four seats in the bullpen left. All indications are that Ron Marinaccio gets one, as does Albert Abreu. Greg Weissert, too, feels like a frontrunner to me, although his spot is less secure than Marinaccio’s and Abreu’s. That leaves us with Jimmy Cordero, Matt Kook, and Ian Hamilton competing for the final roster spot, and here is where things get a bit tricky. The Yankees seem to really like Matt Krook and his sweeper, and with Wandy Peralta the only southpaw in the Yankees bullpen, the fact that he’s a left-hander could be to his benefit. He’s been a starter for most of his career, however, and the team needs starting pitching depth in the upper minors. Jimmy Cordero, now in his age-31 season, has a power sinker capable of hitting 99, a pitch that has enticed the Yankees and led them to add him to the 40-man roster this past December. But he’s been outperformed by Ian Hamilton, who has yet to give up a run this spring.

Which of those three will be donning the pinstripes on March 30th, and which will be heading to Scranton, PA? Only time will tell.

Next up, catchers:

Depending on how Jose Trevino’s wrist holds up, we might see a change here next week, but ultimately, the catcher position has been settled since November.

Last, but not least, the position players:

Slowly but surely, the active roster is beginning to take shape. Out of the players on this list, 11 can make the Opening Day roster. With Michael Hermosillo, Jamie Westbrook, Jake Bauers, Billy McKinney, and Jasson Domínguez getting cut this week, there are currently 15 players left in camp. Oswaldo Cabrera, Josh Donaldson, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, DJ LeMahieu, Anthony Rizzo, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gleyber Torres all have eight of those spots locked up, while Wilmer Difo is almost certainly ticketed for Scranton to start the season.

This accounting leaves the Yankees with six players — Willie Calhoun, Estevan Florial, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Rafael Ortega, Oswald Peraza, and Anthony Volpe — competing for three spots. There’s many different ways the Yankees can approach from. Brendan Kuty and Chris Kirschner of The Athletic expect Peraza to open the season as the shortstop, with Florial and Ortega taking the two bench spots; in this scenario, IKF gets traded and Volpe starts the year in Scranton. Randy Miller also sees Peraza and Florial on the team, although he opts for IKF as veteran insurance in the infield; if any infielder gets traded before Opening Day, it’s Torres who’s the odd man out (although he seems to think that’s unlikely). For his part, Bryan Hoch thinks the team will go with Peraza, IKF, and Ortega.

I don’t have the access that any of these guys do. Judging from the team’s lineups, however, I think Volpe has a better shot at making the team than we might realize. The Yankees’ top prospect has almost exclusively hit near the top of the lineup, and has led off in three of the team’s past five games; that said, the counter-argument to this is that Volpe has not shared a lineup with DJ LeMahieu in more than a week, and hit fifth when he did. Peraza, meanwhile, has hit all over the lineup, and made an appearance as the eighth hitter in a lineup that could be what the team sends out on Opening Day. There’s arguments to be made for both hitters; in truth, the only thing that’s clear is that IKF is no longer in the running.

The more I look at the whole middle infield situation, in fact, the more I am reminded of the Yankees’ outfield logjam at the start of 2021. On Opening Day that year, the Yankees took five outfielders north with them — Clint Frazier, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner, and Mike Tauchman — giving them two backup outfielders, plus a DH who could play the outfield in Giancarlo Stanton, and a utility infielder who could play the outfield in Tyler Wade. This logjam, however, did not last long, as Tauchman was traded to the Giants for Wandy Peralta on April 27th.

Could we see the Yankees do this again, taking Peraza, Volpe, and IKF, while DFA’ing Florial and sending Calhoun and Ortega to the minors? It’s at least in the realm of possibility, as first Cabrera and now IKF have shown/are showing an ability to play the outfield in a pinch, and the team seems more intent on getting Stanton time in the outfield as well. By doing this, the team would in essence kick the can down the road until Harrison Bader returns — assuming everybody remains healthy in the meantime, that is.

And that’s where we stand today. We’ll be back again next week, this time on Monday, for one last projection before the Yankees open the season next Thursday. In the meantime, let us know in the comments section below what you think about our read on the Yankees roster bubble.