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Yankees Making the Team Meter: Week One

With the Yankees off today, it’s a perfect time to kickstart our annual Making the Team meter.

MLB: Spring Training-Pittsburgh Pirates at New York Yankees Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

One of the best parts of spring training is that we have a Yankees game almost every day. Even if nobody outside of the stadium is able to watch it or follow along on the radio (how hard is it to do even a barebones broadcast of every game, MLB?), we get new footage from beat reporters in attendance and new stats to pore over to insatiate our unquenchable thirst for Yankees baesball.

I say almost every day, of course, because there are a couple of days off sprinkled here and there. Today, unfortunately, is one of those days: for the first time since February 25th, the New York Yankees do not have a game scheduled. While this is, on the whole, a sad thing, it does give us the perfect opportunity to start up our annual Making the Team Meter.

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

As you can see, it’s fairly straightforward: red means that a player is almost certainly not going to make the roster, yellow tells us that a player has a shot if things break right, and green says, “We’ll see you on March 30th in the Bronx.”

Let’s start with what is, in my mind, always the most intriguing part of the annual shuffle: the pitchers. Note: for non-roster invites, I took their projected role from FanGraphs Depth Charts; starting pitcher NRIs are often in competition for a bullpen spot, but return to the rotation in Triple-A.

Officially cut: RHP Sean Boyle, LHP D.J. Snelten, RHP Mitch Spence, RHP Yoendrys Gómez (per Yankees PR)

Right off the bat, we know that, so long as they’re healthy, Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodón, Luis Severino, and Nestor Cortes have guaranteed spots in the starting rotation, while Clay Holmes, Jonathan Loáisiga, Wandy Peralta, Michael King, and Lou Trivino are sure bets for the bullpen. Only right biceps tendinitis is keeping Tommy Kahnle off this list, as it’s fair to wonder if he’ll be ready in time for Opening Day.

This gives us one rotation spot and three seats in the bullpen up for grabs. Domingo Germán and Clarke Schmidt are the two favorites for that fifth rotation spot — if Schmidt wins the job, expect Germán to work out the bullpen because he’s out of options, while if Germán wins the job, I expect Schmidt will report to Scranton to keep him stretched out. Out of the 2-3 bullpen spots that will be available, Ron Marinaccio will probably receive one of them due to his amazing performance last year, and Albert Abreu, who is out of options, is the betting favorite to win the other.

That said, very often, the pitching staff is the last thing to come together in spring training. Injuries, unexpected trades (e.g., Albert Abreu for Jose Trevino last year), and unheralded pitchers coming out of relative obscurity to secure a spot (e.g., 2021 Lucas Luetge) makes it hard to project exactly what the Opening Day roster will look like a few weeks out.

Next, let’s take a look at the catchers.

Officially cut: C Josh Breaux, C Anthony Seigler, C Austin Wells (per Yankees PR)

At the moment, catcher is the position dealing with the most turbulence. Kyle Higashioka is away at the World Baseball Classic, while Josh Breaux, Ben Rortvedt, and Austin Wells are on the shelf. Because of this, the Yankees are looking into bringing in a veteran catcher just to have enough guys to catch bullpens in spring training.

None of that matters. So long as they’re healthy, Jose Trevino and Kyle Higashioka will be the team’s two backstops on Opening Day.

And finally, the rest of the position players:

Officially cut: IF Jesus Bastidas, IF Andres Chaparro, OF Elijah Dunham, OF Everson Pereira (per Yankees PR)

Let’s get the first thing out of the way: Jasson Domínguez is not making the Opening Day roster! It’s not happening. It never was happening. The Yankees do not generally promote minor leaguers straight from Double-A, particularly ones with less than 100 plate appearances in Double-A, and especially not because of a good spring training. Remember Kyle Higashoka last season? He looked like Barry Bonds during the spring, then played like his normal self once the regular season began. Do we understand that, as nice as this dream is, it’s not happening? Good — because there are plenty of other interesting storylines that deserve our attention.

At the moment, I only have eight players that I’ve guaranteed a roster spot to: Harrison Bader, Oswaldo Cabrera, Josh Donaldson, Aaron Judge, DJ LeMahieu, Anthony Rizzo, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gleyber Torres. If Aaron Hicks and Isiah Kiner-Falefa are still with the Yankees on Opening Day, they’re guaranteed a spot, but at this point in time, there’s still the possibility that one or the other could be traded (although IKF is much more likely than Hicks to be flipped at this point).

That brings us to our two position battles. Oswald Peraza is the betting favorite for the shortstop job, but Anthony Volpe has done well enough this spring to potentially force the issue and take the job. In left field, while the battle primarily appears to be between Hicks and Cabrera, don’t count out Rafael Ortega, whose ability to mash right-handed pitching from the left side makes him a perfect fit for a lineup that is still very right-handed.

And that is where the Yankees roster stands coming into today. Do you agree with our assessments? Tune in again next week to see how things change after another week of game action.