It is rare that any player or story line can fly under the radar in the media saturated Yankee Universe. Alex Rodriguez's return from suspension, CC Sabathia's recovery from knee surgery, and the health of Masahiro Tanaka's elbow have dominated the spring headlines. While these highly compensated stars will certainly influence the Bombers' success in 2015, I'd like to highlight a couple of lessor known players that could have significant roles.
The following two Yankees will not grace back page of many newspapers or sell many jerseys, but their performances could make a big difference in the playoff race of what should be a tightly contested AL East.
When the Yankees signed Chris Young to a minor league deal late last season it almost seemed like a move made just to troll Met fans. Young was an unmitigated disaster for the crosstown Metropolitans. Signed by GM Sandy Alderson for over $7 million to be the starting left fielder, Young managed to hit just .205 with eight home runs and 28 RBI over 88 games in Queens. He was much better during his brief time in pinstripes, posting a .285 average with three homers and ten RBI in only 23 games.
It is likely that Chris Young will be the only true backup outfielder to make the Yankees opening day roster. Garrett Jones has played some outfield, but is better served as a first baseman/DH. Given the injury history of the three starters in the Yankee outfield, Young could wind up getting a decent amount of at bats. Jacoby Ellsbury is already nursing a minor oblique strain, Brett Gardner has had his share of nagging injuries throughout his career, and Carlos Beltran is coming off elbow surgery at 37-years-old. If Young can be a productive fill-in at all three positions he would provide tremendous value to the Yankees.
Carpenter came to the Yankees along with Chasen Shreve in a winter trade for onetime top prospect Manny Banuelos. The hard throwing Carpenter had his best year with the Braves in 2013 when he pitched to a sparkling 1.87 ERA over 65.2 innings. It is looking increasingly likely that Adam Warren will win the competition for the job of fifth starter. If Warren is not in the late inning bullpen mix, David Carpenter's role becomes even more prominent. He will likely function as the primary right-handed setup man to closer Dellin Betances. With all the question marks in the starting rotation the Yankees will need to have a lights out bullpen to compete for a division title. Though his name may not be familiar to the casual Yankee fan, David Carpenter figures to be an integral part of the bullpen equation.