Spring training wrapped up yesterday, as the Yankees lost 8-2 to the Washington Nationals (today's game is just an exhibition game, so it doesn't count towards spring training). While they might have lost their final game of the spring, this has been a great month of the baseball for the Yankees, who enter April looking just about as good as any of us could have hoped. Here are a few observations on their performance during spring training.
The team is as healthy as we could've hoped:
Yes, Brendan Ryan is out for the indefinite future, Jose Pirela got a concussion after running into an outfield wall, and Chris Capuano will miss the first month or so of the season with a strained quad. And of course, there is always Masahiro Tanaka's UCL, Alex Rodriguez's hips, Carlos Beltran's elbow, and Mark Teixeria's everything. But all in all, the Yankees escaped spring training without any major injuries - the rotation is still in tact at the top (Capuano's absence will likely not be a major difference maker), Beltran and Rodriguez look healthy at least, and so does Teixeira. While some of these players haven't quite produced yet this spring, the biggest thing they needed to prove this first month of baseball is that they're starting the season healthy. So far, so good. Now let's all go knock on wood, fast!
The third basemen (yes, I'm including Alex Rodriguez) are starting off hot at the plate:
While it looked like the Yankees might repeat their splashy 2014 offseason after yet again missing the playoffs last season, Max Scherzer and Pablo Sandoval will not be suiting up in the pinstripes this year. Instead, Chase Headley turned out to be the Yankees biggest offseason pickup, and while some fans might be disappointed the Yankees didn't splurge on someone flashier, Headley has rewarded Brian Cashman's faith in his elite defense and steady bat with an excellent spring training at the dish. Headley led the Yankees in hits this spring with 18, including five doubles and three home runs. He's been just about the Yankees best hitter, and of course has flashed his usually stellar leather in the field. We'll be seeing Headley in the Bronx for the foreseeable future - hopefully this is the version we'll be watching.
Of course, the talk of spring training, at least before it began, was Alex Rodriguez. While he might not have provided the sound bites that one knows the media was craving, he's quietly (at least for him) put together a very solid spring, hitting .286/.400/.524 with three homers in just 42 at bats. Coming into this season, it seemed like Rodriguez might have nothing left, and Cashman made it clear the Yankees expected nothing of him. Now, it looks like Rodriguez could at least be a serviceable (if not above average) DH, and could even spare Headley and Teixeira in the field here and there. He won't be the MVP, but Rodriguez should certainly be a useful player this season.
Pineda looks like an ace:
While Tanaka has had some velocity issues this spring and hasn't been quite as dominant as he was in the early months of last season when he took the major leagues by storm, Michael Pineda has looked every bit as devastating this spring as he did during his 76 innings in pinstripes last season. In 19 innings this spring, Pineda has struck out 23 opposing hitters while giving up just three earned runs (for a 1.42 ERA), posting a 0.89 WHIP, and limiting batters to just a .229 average. He'll always be an injury risk until he shows he can get through a full season healthy, but the pitcher we've seen this spring is everything we could have dreamed of when the Yankees gave up the promising (at that time, at least) Jesus Montero for a hurler from Seattle.
The outfield has been dreadful offensively (and no, you shouldn't be worried):
While the Yankees have a lot of performances to be happy about this spring, one group that didn't have the best spring training is the outfield. Brett Gardner hit a dreadful .161/.277/.196 this spring, and Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran haven't hit much better - Beltran hit .243/.310/.297 and Ellsbury hit just .212/.212/.273 in 11 games while dealing with an oblique strain. While it would've been nice to see Beltran show some signs of life after his disastrous 2014 campaign, no one should be worried about Gardner and Ellsbury. These were the two most dependable position players on the team last year, and while they might have had a rough spring, they'll round into shape to form one of the better outfields in the majors this season.
We might have prospects for the first time in forever:
The Yankees have had one of the lesser farm systems in the majors for a while now, and while they still don't have one of the top collections of minor league talent in the league, they at least have some promising youngsters in Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, Rob Refsnyder, and Jose Pirela. Each of these four showed some serious talent this spring - Judge posted a .429 OBP, Bird hit .353/.421/.706, and Refsnyder and Pirela both hit over .300 and posted OPS's above 1.000. Hopefully we'll get to see Refsnyder and Pirela this season, and with Judge and Bird moving up the ranks - along with top prospect Luis Severino - the Yankees have a more promising group of young prospects than they've had in quite some time.
Opening Day is finally here - baseball fans rejoice! Which Yankees are you most excited about seeing in 2015?