This offseason has felt like it's gone on forever, probably due to the fact that the Yankees missed the postseason and actually stayed true to their word and avoided pursuing the top free agents. Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in five days, though some, like Michael Pineda, have already showed up. The Yankees first spring training game is March 3rd against the Phillies, which means baseball is happening soon! Here are some reasons to be excited about spring training and the Yankees' 2015 season:
1. When spring training starts, we'll actually hear updates on players. The worst part of the offseason for me, besides the obvious lack of baseball being played, is that there is very little information available about the team. Since the offseason was so quiet, there were spans of several days where we didn't hear anything new about anyone except Alex Rodriguez.
2. We'll get our first look at some of the prospects at spring training. I know that the level of play is fairly low as the everyday players work to build their stuff back up, but that also means that the prospects get more playing time in the latter innings. Just looking at the list of non-roster invitees makes me want to fly to Tampa so I can see guys like Jacob Lindgren and Aaron Judge play in person. Plus, we also get our first look at players who are fresh off the disabled list, like CC Sabathia. There's no reason not to be optimistic about how he will do until he shows us otherwise.
3. As Jim mentioned earlier, we get to see multiple competitions between players. In the past it's typically just been a question of who would be the fifth starter in the rotation, but there are a lot of positions up in the air still. Realistically, I know that Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela could both play phenomenally while Stephen Drew played like hot garbage and he could still get the second base job over them. However, there's something about the Yankees' new offseason philosophy that gives me hope that they might be open to doing other things differently too.
1. Some of the players in the lineup had their worst seasons last year, which means they may be able to bounce back this year. Carlos Beltran may be another year older, but he also was dealing with an elbow injury which he's taken care of, so there's no reason that he can't play significantly better than he did last season. Brian McCann also had a down year, but part of that can be blamed on the shift. Unlike some people (Mark Teixeira), McCann has taken it upon himself to change his approach. He reportedly spent the offseason trying to shorten up his swing and use the whole field, which will hopefully help some. I think one of the best things about the start of the season is that there's so much potential for the team to play well and for the lineup to be significantly better than last season.
2. There is also that group of pitchers who were tremendous (when healthy) in 2014, including Pineda, Masahiro Tanaka and Dellin Betances. Will they be able to keep up the same level of play this season? Who knows, but for now we can imagine how good the team could be if certain players are able to repeat their success.
3. The staff change up has been interesting. It's difficult to say how much impact Kevin Long had or didn't have on Yankee hitters the last couple of seasons, but a new hitting coach and assistant could result in a positive impact on the lineup. Possibly the best change was the decision to move human windmill Rob Thomson from third base coach to the role of bench coach. According to his Wikipedia page, which amusingly references a PSA game recap written by Andrew, the Yankees led the league with 21 runners thrown out at home plate last season. Joe Espada will be taking over the third base coach job, so we can only hope to see a reduction in that number.
What are you most looking forward to about spring training and the 2015 season?