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The youth movement and where the Yankees are headed: Position Players

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Whether management wants to publicly admit it or not, the youth movement is underway in the Bronx.

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

As the Yankees are further removed from the "Core Four" and their last World Series Championship from 2009 fades away in the rear view mirror, the team and some fans have held out hope that "Father Time" could be defeated. Unfortunately, old age has caught up to the team and as much as ownership will never admit it, they began a transformation this offseason. The final link to the dynasty teams left baseball when Derek Jeter retired at the end of the season, so let's look at the team as it’s currently constituted and where it’s headed over the next couple of seasons.

Outfield

Heading into the season the outfield appears set as Brett Gardner will be in left field, Jacoby Ellsbury will man center field, and Carlos Beltran will be in right field with Chris Young backing up all three positions, and the recently acquired Garrett Jones backing up right field. However, as we all shudder at the thought of Beltran in the outfield, it could be a short-lived venture, since injury or his physical abilities might simply not allow him to play there. When plays like the "daydream" inside-the-park homer below occur, his quality of play has to be concerning.

Beltran watching HR

One big positive of re-signing Chris Young is his ability to play all three outfield positions, giving Joe Girardi some flexibility. Looking at the chart below you will see that half of the outfield is projected to change by 2016, with top prospect Aaron Judge taking over right field duties and Tyler Austin taking over fourth outfielder duties. Obviously, prospects are not a guarantee to make it, but this is one possible scenario in two years. If this were to come to fruition, not only will the farm system have contributed to half of the younger outfield, but they will be cost-controlled, allowing Brian Cashman to allocate the budget to other areas of need.

POS

2015 Line up

Age

POS

2016 Projected

Age

LF

Brett Gardner

31

LF

Brett Gardner

32

CF

Jacoby Ellsbury

31

CF

Jacoby Ellsbury

32

RF

Carlos Beltran

38

RF

Aaron Judge

24

OF

Chris Young

31

OF

Tyler Austin

25

Infield

With the retirement of Derek Jeter and Martin Prado's trade to the Marlins, it appears as if the Yankees infield is going to get a lot younger in 2015. Like the outfield, the infield appears set, barring any surprising trades or free agent signings. Didi Gregorius will be taking over at shortstop after a three-way trade with Detroit and Arizona. As much as we all like and respect the Captain, he became a hindrance in the field during his past few seasons, an area where Gregorius excels. Here’s a video courtesy of MLB.com showing some of the defensive ability that he possesses out in the field.

Like shortstop, it appears that a youth movement is in the cards at second base heading into next season. Cashman seems committed to letting top-10 prospect Rob Refsnyder and farmhand Jose Pirela battle it out in spring training for the second base job. Although Refsnyder has the superior bat, Pirela is currently the better defender, though neither will be in contention for any Gold Gloves. At third base, the Yankees re-signed Chase Headley to a four-year deal to continue his exceptional defensive play and his solid offensive production.

Across the diamond, Mark Teixeira and his solid glove return to first base with hopefully fewer nagging injuries, which have hurt both his playing time and his declining offensive production. Just in case Teixeira remains hampered by injuries, Cashman has brought in an insurance policy by trading for Garrett Jones in the Nathan Eovaldi trade. Below, you can see that the projected lineups from 2015 and 2016 are similar with the middle infield being manned by players in their mid-twenties. With Greg Bird pouring it on and with injuries and declining performance plaguing Mark Teixeira, I see Bird taking over in 2016. It’s also expected that Refsnyder’s advanced bat and hopefully improving defense could show up in the Bronx as soon as 2015.

POS

2015 Line up

Age

POS

2016 Projected

Age

3B

Chase Headley

31

3B

Chase Headley

32

SS

Didi Gregorius

25

SS

Didi Gregorius

26

2B

Jose Pirela

25

2B

Rob Refsnyder

25

1B

Mark Teixeira

35

1B

Greg Bird

24

CI

Garrett Jones

34

CI

Mark Teixeira

36

MI

Brendan Ryan

33

MI

Jose Pirela

26

Catcher

With Brian McCann signed long-term and John Ryan Murphy under team control, this could very well be our catching tandem for the next couple of years, unless Murphy gets traded or an unexpected injury takes place.

***

The Yankees are in a tough position until 2016. Large long-term contracts on declining players have left the team in a pickle. Overachievements have kept this team in the playoff hunt, and by no means are the Bronx Bombers out of it for 2015, but better times are ahead if they can remain patient. A younger nucleus, along with financial flexibility may be the reward for the team and its fans in 2016.