We are nearly two weeks into spring training and already we have learned so much about this team. Not all of it will end up meaning something in the end, because it’s such a small sample size and is still just spring training, but we’ve seen some things that do deserve some notice. Here are the 10 things we have learned about the Yankees so far. (Stats are up through Tuesday’s games.)
Greg Bird is healthy again
Heading into spring training, we were expected to have a competition between Greg Bird and Tyler Austin for the first baseman job. Then Chris Carter was signed and someone’s playing time was put in danger. We all knew that Bird was the favorite, but was he going to be healthy enough to start?
Two weeks in and the answer is pretty clear. He now has seven hits and three walks, proving that he can still hit even after the surgically repaired shoulder. More importantly, he is still hitting for power with two doubles and three home runs. Not only does he look healthy enough, but he’s also been effective enough to win the starting job.
Aaron Judge has the right field job locked up
While the competition for the starting right field job was never going to be steep, you would have thought the Yankees weren’t just going to give it to a prospect without some competition. However, now that Mason Williams is hurt, Aaron Judge really doesn’t have much standing in his way. Aaron Hicks exist, but there is no way the team would start him unless Judge looks really bad.
As it turns out, Not only does he have a clear path to the majors, he’s also dominating the field. Right now Judge has seven hits with a home run and three walks. The strikeouts will always be there, but he isn’t even leading the team in that category. Maybe he slows down, maybe he doesn’t. Right now Judge is proving that he will be the team’s starting right fielder in 2017.
Gary Sanchez is going to be fine
Gary Sanchez had an incredible run last year, almost to the point where you have to wonder if it was all a mirage. While he will certainly not be putting up Babe Ruth numbers for the rest of his career, Gary is doing enough to show that he is for real. So far he has seven hits, two doubles, two home runs, and six RBI while he continues to throw out runners on the base paths. There is a chance he is the best catcher in the American League this year.
Matt Holliday can still hit
It’s hard to look too deeply into spring training numbers because there are times where players hit in spring but not during the regular season. There are other times where a player looks done in spring training, but can turn things on when he needs to (re: Raul Ibanez).
So far Matt Holliday is hitting. He has eight hits, three doubles, and a home run, showing he isn’t dead yet, even at 37 years old. It could all be a lie and he ends up falling apart in April, but right now, he’s looking pretty good for an old man. Hopefully he can keep this up now that he won’t have to play the field.
The starting rotation competition might not be very interesting
The big competition this year was going to be the starting rotation and which pitchers were going to make the team. Could Luis Severino seize a spot? Who is the best option between Chad Green, Luis Cessa, and Bryan Mitchell? So far, it’s been pretty uninteresting stuff to watch.
Severino, the guy who probably has to do the least amount of work to get a chance, is not looking too hot right now. He has a 4.15 ERA in just 4.1 innings of work, which doesn’t look great. However, it’s important to understand that he has only allowed two runs so far and has struck out five already. He isn’t dominating, but he doesn’t have to when his competition is so much less interesting.
Chris Carter is already in midseason form
The Yankees were able to pick up Chris Carter for $3 million because Chris Carter isn’t a very good baseball player. He might be able to run into 41 home runs in a single season, but he can’t really do anything else. The only other skill he has is striking out, and right now, he’s in midseason form. He has four hits, one of which is a home run, and he has eight strikeouts. If he can walk half that amount during the season, he’ll be okay, but that has yet to be seen. Regardless, he will be an interesting player to watch.
Masahiro Tanaka is in midseason form
Masahiro Tanaka hasn’t pitched much yet, but in the 5.0 innings he’s thrown this spring, he’s only allowed three hits and currently leads the team with six strikeouts. This is the kind of performance we want to see from the ace of the staff. His arm is always going to be in question to some extent, but the 2016 season and a strong spring should make people forget.
Billy McKinney’s prospect status isn’t dead just yet
Most people don’t expect Billy McKinney to amount to much at this point. He can certainly hit, but he has no power to speak of and no glove to make up for it. The Yankees acquired McKinney hoping they could turn things around for him, and now that he’s another year removed from knee surgery, there is at least a chance things are heading in the right direction.
McKinney has come out of the gates swinging. He has six hits, two doubles, and two home runs. While the production is nice to see, it’s the home runs that are key for him. If he can continue on like this, he would be able to eliminate the notion that this is just spring training noise.
Kyle Higashioka could be someone to watch
Another guy who came out swinging is Kyle Higashioka, the organization’s only other catcher beyond Gary Sanchez. He was awarded with a 40-man roster spot after a strong 2016 campaign, but he was expected to wait in Triple-A for his chance. Now, Higashioka has five hits and two home runs. If he can keep this kind of hitting up, it’s going to at least become a question whether or not they should keep Austin Romine. Remember when Yangervis Solarte beat out Eduardo Nunez for a roster spot? Stranger things have happened.
The prospects are performing
The Yankees have several key prospects in camp this year, and they are all performing in the early goings of 2017. Right now, Clint Frazier, Tyler Wade, and Gleyber Torres all have six hits apiece, which is towards the top for the team. Center fielder Dustin Fowler also has six hits and he’s stolen two bases. Miguel Andujar has five.
This isn’t to say that now we know these players can hit major league pitching, but it is certainly nice to see them thrive over the alternative. This group might not be in camp for very long, so it’s a good thing that the Yankees are giving them a chance to play now. More importantly, it’s good that they are taking advantage of this opportunity.
In the coming weeks, things will certainly change for the team and for many of the players here. Some of what we have learned so far could end up being nothing but noise, however, right here, right now, this is what we know. What have you learned over the last two weeks of spring baseball?