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Around the Empire: Yankees news - 2/13/24

Emerging storylines as spring training approaches; Rodón has it all to prove; The Athletic’s top-20 Yankees prospects; Jones/Judge comparisons; Jen Pawol could become first female umpire in MLB

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MLB: MAR 24 Spring Training - Twins at Yankees Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

MLB.com | Bryan Hoch: Hoch begins our roundup of spring training previews with three storylines to watch, starting with the superstar pairing of Aaron Judge and Juan Soto. The two figure to terrorize opposition pitchers atop the Yankees lineup while Soto’s is a storyline to follow throughout the year as we gauge his comfort with the Yankees as he heads into free agency. Hoch also reflects on the recent models that predict the Yankees to win the division, as those projections depend on bounce-backs from players like Carlos Rodón, Nestor Cortes, Giancarlo Stanton, Anthony Rizzo, and DJ LeMahieu. Finally, plenty of attention will be paid to the youngsters — Anthony Volpe won the shortstop job out of a red-hot spring and one wonders whether top prospect Spencer Jones can turn heads with a similar experience.

SNY | Phillip Martinez: Martinez builds on this theme with his own list of five storylines to watch, opening with the catchers, where Kyle Higashioka’s departure in the Juan Soto trade should create some playing time for Austin Wells. There’s also the question of which young pitchers will step up to fill the void left by Michael King, Jhony Brito, and Randy Vásquez, guys like Will Warren, Chase Hampton, Luis Gil, and Clayton Beeter likely the first names called. There’s also the question of outfield deployment — how much time Alex Verdugo, Trent Grisham, and Giancarlo Stanton will get on the outfield grass — and lineup construction — Soto and Judge will likely bat two-three, but how are others deployed ahead and behind them? Perhaps the biggest question: can Rodón, Cortes, and Marcus Stroman remain healthy and effective the whole campaign?

New York Daily News | Gary Phillips: In the final spring training preview we’ll cover, Phillips reiterates many of the same points others have gone over. Even after adding Soto and Stroman, have the Yankees done enough to address the roster, particularly the starting rotation? Can the rotation stay healthy? How will Stanton rebound from an awful year, Rizzo from traumatic brain injury, and can LeMahieu repeat his second-half production from 2023? Finally, will Volpe improve his weakest areas, namely low OBP and high strikeouts, whiffs, and chasing?

New York Post | Greg Joyce: Carlos Rodón’s first season in pinstripes was a disaster, a fact that does not escape the big-money starter. The southpaw is eager to prove himself in 2024, detailing an offseason training program that helped redistribute body composition. He also assures that he and Matt Blake have patched things up after he turned his back on the pitching coach during a mound visit last season.

The Athletic | Keith Law ($): Law released his top-20 Yankees prospects list for 2024 and suffice to say it looks quite a bit different than other publications. He lists Jasson Domínguez, Everson Pereira, and Roderick Arias as the top-three with the trio also placing on his top-100 overall list in MLB. Law is the noted low man on Austin Wells, Chase Hampton, and Will Warren, calling the catcher a future bench player and the pair of pitchers fringe back-of-the-rotation candidates if not ticketed for the bullpen.

Forbes | Chuck Murr: Spencer Jones placed fourth on Law’s list and just outside his top-100 overall, but the big bodied outfielder is already drawing comparisons as the left-handed Aaron Judge. The strikeouts are an issues just as they were for a young Judge, though Jones’ speed on the bases is a real plus. It’s noted that much of his power is to the opposite field and some are worried this is an indicator of struggles against high velocity.

ABC News | Ben Walker and Ronald Blum: This one is not exactly Yankees related yet is important all the same. 47-year-old umpire Jen Pawol has been selected to work full-time during spring training, which opens the door for her to become the first woman in MLB history to umpire a regular season game. She has been a minor league ump since 2016 and was behind home plate for the 2023 Triple-A Championship game. MLB lags behind other major sports leagues when it comes to female officiators, NBA breaking the gender barrier 27 years ago and NFL nine years ago while Stéphanie Frappart became the first woman to referee a World Cup match at the most recent tournament.