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Yankees Opening Day Roster Projection

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With Opening Day just one week away, plenty of jobs are still up for grabs on the Yankee roster. Spring Training has not been kind to the Bombers, as Luis Severino, Dellin Betances, C.C. Sabathia, and Aaron Hicks have all suffered injuries that will land them a place on the injured list to begin 2019. Five Spring Training games remain until the roster has to be decided by manager Aaron Boone. Here’s a look at the 25 men that could be dressed in pinstripes on March 28.

Players Starting 2019 on the Injured List: Luis Severino, C.C. Sabathia, Jordan Montgomery, Aaron Hicks, Didi Gregorius, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dellin Betances

Catcher: Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine

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No team in the majors has a better one-two punch behind the plate than the Yankees. Sanchez’s sub-.200 batting average in over 300 at-bats last season cannot be ignored, but neither can his other 750 career plate appearances prior to 2018.

Injuries limited Sanchez to just 89 games last season, but a career year from Romine helped ease the blow, producing the best numbers of any back-up catcher in baseball. His 10 home runs and 42 RBIs both ranked in the top-20 among backstops.

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First Base: Luke Voit and Greg Bird

 The biggest question the Yankees faced entering 2019 was in regard to the starting first base job. Although D.J. LeMahieu was named the back-up first baseman earlier this Spring, Voit and Bird are almost making it impossible for manager Aaron Boone to split one roster spot between the two.

Voit has left the yard four times this Spring while knocking in 11 runs through 34 at-bats. He has continued to show impressive power going to the opposite field, building off a year where six of his 14 home runs ended up in the right or right-center field seats. This is a tremendous ability to have when playing half of your games at Yankee Stadium.

A promising August and September in 2015 have resulted in 450 at-bats of hitting below the Mendoza Line over the next three seasons for Bird. Voit’s emergence in pinstripes left many questions on Bird’s future as a Yankee. His .479 on-base percentage leads the team this Spring as he is taking a free pass almost a quarter of the time he steps to the plate with 10 walks in 48 appearances. With Gregorius, Hicks and Ellsbury shelved to begin the season, it will be difficult for Boone to leave a hot left-handed bat off the roster.

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Second Base: Gleyber Torres

 Torres lived up to the hype in his rookie campaign and will enter his first full season in the Bronx. His 24 home runs ranked fourth and his 77 RBIs ranked second among all rookies, earning him third place in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. Torres is expected to see time at shortstop as well while Gregorius is on the injured list, a position he played throughout his minor league career.

Third Base: Miguel Andujar

 Andujar was the most impactful rookie in the 2018 season, finishing top three among first-year players in hits (1st), doubles (1st), home runs (T-1st), RBIs (1st), runs (2nd), and batting average (3rd). When Aaron Judge went down on July 26thwith a fractured wrist, Andujar was the glue to the Yankees batting order hitting .300, with 32 XBH and 51 RBIs from that point on. His defense, which kept him on the bench in the Yankees final Game 4 ALDS loss, remains a concern. The organization, however, has invested much confidence in Andujar improving his defense, knowing that if he does, they have themselves a top-5 third baseman for years to come.

Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki

 The five-time all-star will have the first crack at serving as Gregorius’ replacement until he returns. The Yankees could not go wrong with their starting shortstop experiment, signing Tulo to a veteran minimum, $550,000 contract. Tulowitzki has not played in the majors since July 2017 but has shown this Spring that his bat still has some pop left in it, going deep three times in his 29 at-bats.

Outfield: Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Brett Gardner

Judge and Stanton make up the hardest-hitting duo in the major leagues, both ranking in the top five in average exit velocity on batted balls. Stanton accounted for 10 of the 12 hardest hit baseballs in 2019, with the other two being off the bats of Judge and Sanchez. If both stay healthy throughout the whole season, there is a legitimate chance they could become the sixth pair of teammates in history to eclipse 100 home runs.

Gardner offers a much different role in the Yankee lineup as the table-setter for the plethora of sluggers lurking behind him. He will move over from his regular left field position to center field until Hicks returns from his back injury.

Utility: D.J. LeMahieu and Tyler Wade

 Although he has accumulated nearly 900 games and three Gold Gloves at second base, LeMahieu will take over a utility role with his new team. He is expected to get time at all four infield positions, allowing Boone to plug the career .298 hitter into his lineup on a regular basis.

The injury to Hicks opens up the fourth outfield spot on the roster. Clint Frazier may also be an option, but his poor Spring numbers may come second to Wade’s stellar March. Wade offers more versatility than Frazier since he is not only confined to the outfield but is a natural middle infielder.

Starting Pitchers: Masahiro Tanka, James Paxton, J.A. Happ, Gio Gonzalez, and Luis Cessa

 The Yankees’ opening series versus the Baltimore Orioles will go Tanaka starting his fourth Opening Day, with Happ and Paxton slated for games two and three. After that, remains an unknown for New York.

With Severino’s season not expected to start until May, the Yankees went outside of the organization to find starting pitcher insurance with the signing of Gio Gonzalez this week. He has proven to be a reliable piece in any rotation he has taken part of, making at least 27 starts and winning double-digit games in the past nine seasons.

When Sabathia returns from his anticipated short stint on the injured list, he will then have to serve a five-game suspension. The numbers that Cessa has produced this Spring would certainly point to him taking the start in the games Sabathia will be absent. Cessa has allowed one run in 17 innings, allowing only ten batters to reach base and striking out 18.

Relief Pitchers: Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino, Chad Green, Jonathan Holder, Stephen Tarpley, Tommy Kahnle and Domingo German

Not only the injury to Betances but the injuries to the starting rotation as well have opened early and middle innings roles in the Yankee bullpen. Chapman, Ottavino, Britton, Holder, and Green were five definite locks in the bullpen prior to Spring Training. The Yankees bullpen has led the majors in strikeouts-per-nine-innings in the past five seasons, and their 11.4 K/9 in 2018 was the highest in major league history.

Kahnle, German and Tarpley have all produced Spring campaigns worthy of earning a place on the big league club. Combined, they have tossed 29 innings of 0.93 ERA baseball, striking out 34 hitters and holding them to a .198 average.

 

 

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