Spring training is not just for MLB players to sharpen their skills and prepare for the regular season, it's also a time for prospects on the fringe to make an impression and hopefully land on their team's radar. It looks like two such players, Dellin Betances and Fred Lewis, might be doing just that after both recieved recognition from Joe Girardi for their performances so far.
We all know that Betances is up for a job in the 2014 bullpen. After becoming a full-time reliever in 2013, he improved his stock so much that he finally returned to the majors for a cup of coffee in September. The big righty has been one of the more impressive relievers in camp, collecting five strikeouts and allowing a two hits and two walks in 6.1 innings. He's also getting a good long look as the most heavily used Yankee reliever up to this point. It's a good sign for Betances, who still has one remaining option year, so he's not necessarily promised a position with the big league team.
With the 2014 bullpen essentially a mystery, I believe that he is one of the best options the Yankees have at this point. He'll be under contract for many years to come and it's finally time to see whether or not this former top prospect can offer the team any value before he gets too old.
Lewis, on the other hand, is a complete unknown and was unlikely to ever get a real chance to crack the big league team. At the age of 27, he's already too old to be a prospect and he spent the majority of the 2013 season in Double-A, though he did pitch to a 2.28 ERA and 3.68 FIP. He also impressed in the Arizona Fall League where he pitched 11 innings without giving up a run. So far the lefty has collected four strikeouts while allowing two hits and a walk in 4.1 innings. After seeing him perform this spring, Girardi says "he's a guy that you're not going to worry about putting him against right-handers...He gets a lot of ground balls."
Girardi's interest in Lewis is interesting. It won't necessarily mean he will make the team out of camp, since there are likely many more players on the totem pole ahead of him. What this might mean is that the has lined himself up for a potential call up, should the need arise. If the Yankees are interested in carrying two lefties out of the bullpen, they'll probably turn to Vidal Nuno instead, but Lewis could have jumped over Cesar Cabral in the depth chart of potential injury replacements. He could start the season in Triple-A and be available as the next LOOGY should something go wrong on the big league team.
Spring training is all about making impressions. If either of these players want a chance to make the team, impressing Joe Girardi is probably a very good first step.