This has actually been a fun spring training! We have seen Aaron Judge smash scoreboards while several of his fellow Baby Bombers have raked at the plate. We even saw incredible teamwork on the mound as Masahiro Tanaka, Chasen Shreve and Jordan Montgomery combined to no-hit the Tigers on Friday.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have seen some Yankees struggle so far this spring. Some struggling youngsters have already been reassigned, while struggling veterans are just trying to find their stroke before Opening Day.
Spring training numbers certainly don’t tell how the 2017 season will pan out, but let’s look at the best and worst of this spring so far.
A trio of Baby Bombers has the Bronx buzzing about the future (holy alliteration). Gary Sanchez is hitting like he hasn’t skipped a beat since his historic rookie season, having already slugged four homers with an OPS of 1.205 so far this spring.
Meanwhile, Greg Bird’s shoulder seems just fine as he carried a 1.558 OPS into the weekend with four home runs of his own. Bird has appeared to be the Yankees’ best hitter of the spring, which has to thrill Joe Girardi and the Yankees because he needs to be the team’s starting first baseman.
One of the Yankees’ most promising prospects has lived up to the hype so far this spring. Gleyber Torres currently holds a 1.424 OPS with two dingers. His ability to hit to the opposite field has also been a huge plus for the young shortstop.
Newcomer Matt Holliday holds a .323 batting average with two homers, which are great numbers for a veteran looking to fill the steady DH role this season.
On the mound, Bryan Mitchell is making a strong case for one of the final two open spots in the starting rotation. Mitchell’s 3.77 ERA isn’t phenomenal, but he had his best outing of the spring against Toronto by striking out five in three innings of work. He now has 12 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings.
On the veteran side, Tanaka has looked utterly brilliant. After tossing 4.1 shutout innings without allowing a hit, his ERA remains a goose eggs. His splitter looks absolutely filthy, and another Cy Young-caliber season appears to be on the horizon.
I’m still not sure what to make of this, but Michael Pineda has also been very good. His ERA stands at 1.80, and he has struck out 14 over 10 innings of work. Of course, he could lay an egg in his next start, but it is nice to see Pineda showing flashes of what we all know he is capable of.
Not all of the promising prospects have turned heads this spring. Jorge Mateo struggled mightily before he was reassigned to minor league camp, batting .136 for the spring. The speedster also struggled in 2016, although there is still reason to be optimistic that the 21-year-old will turn it around this year, at whatever level he ends up playing.
The overall sense of the youngsters has been overwhelmingly positive, unlike many of the veterans who have struggled so far. Newcomer Chris Carter has only managed one home run with 14 strikeouts, while Chase Headley holds a lowly .200 batting average, though he was also a slow starter last season too.
Brett Gardner finds himself below the Mendoza line, batting .194 for the spring. Utility man Rob Refsnyder has struggled at the plate as well, and his future with the Yanks remains uncertain.
What it means for the roster
Though many of the team’s younger prospects are performing and their veteran counterparts are struggling, there are still not many surprises expected come Opening Day. Torres is certainly making his case for a major league spot, but with the infield at capacity between Headley, Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro, the Yanks will keep him in the minors where he will get regular reps.
Struggling veterans like Headley and Gardner are under contract for multiple years and are not going anywhere, except via trade. They will be starters on Opening Day.
The only positions still to be determined are the final two spots in the rotation. Right now, Mitchell and Luis Severino look like the two solid options for those roles given their performances.