SPANISH HARLEM – Baseball is in the air, Pitchers and Catchers reported for Spring Training this week which means… all is well in my world. Last year was a great year for New York Yankees fans, sure they didn’t win a World Series but they proved that they were ready to take the next step. Fans, including myself, expected a transition year or two but now that is long gone. They are expected to be one of the very best teams in baseball and they will have a target on their back once again. With that said, let’s start the 5 things to watch this Spring Training in Pinstripes.
(1) How will Aaron Boone fare as the Yankees Manager?
All eyes will be on Aaron Boone when the games start. They will look to see how he handles the pitchers and the monstrous line up the organization has given him. The Yankees took a big chance replacing Joe Girardi after taking this team to game 7 of the ALCS but this organization decided a different direction was needed and now Boone will try to live up to the huge expectations placed on this team. He said all the right things about embracing the opportunity as favorites and he understands the media from his time in the Bronx. If this team plays bad early on, he will face the wrath of New York City. His mistakes will be magnified but if this team wins, he will become the next big thing in sports… No Pressure.
(2) Will defense be a problem again for Gary Sanchez?
Gary Sanchez is one of the best offensive catchers in the game but last season was a bad year for him defensively. Those same questions persist going into this Spring Training. He is a big bulky guy and those in the media have stated that he seems thinner than last year but I don’t think will matter. Do I believe that he will get better… Yes but I also realize that he will have his share of mistakes. Catching is not easy, he gives you value with his arm and his bat, he also calls a good game too. He will never be considered as one of the best defensive catchers in the game but if he continues to rake the way he has, no one will care.
(3) Can this Rotation stay healthy?
Masahiro Tanaka’s right elbow is always in question, C.C. Sabathia has a bum knee, Luis Severino has to prove that he can be the workhorse this teams expects after throwing the most innings ever last season, Sonny Gray has had his fair share of injuries in the past and Jordan Montgomery has to prove that he can be the 5th starter again. A pitching rotation can be fragile, as we saw with many teams last season. The organization would love to bring in another pitcher for depth but haven’t found one for the price they are looking for. They have some guys who may be ready at some point this season in Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield, so expect to see one of them this year because every one knows its hard for a rotation to stay healthy over a full season.
(4) Where will Giancarlo Stanton hit in this lineup?
The reigning National League MVP is expected to hit in the middle of the lineup but no one knows where exactly. You can write up 9 different lineups with this group and somehow never go wrong. With guys like Greg Bird, Didi Gregorius, Sanchez and Aaron Judge, this unit will produce no matter where they hit. I’m still not sure what the perfect lineup would look like but any manager would love to have that problem.
(5) Will the Yankees actually play the Rookies on 2nd and 3rd base?
My gut tells me no but if they play well in Spring Training, they may go with Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar to start the season. The only bump in the road for them would be if the organization signed someone like Mike Moussakas on a one year deal. Torres will definitely be up at some point this season for the Yankees but they may start him in Scanton if they feel he needs more at bats to shrug off any rust after only playing half a season last year. Andujar could be held back for a full year if Moustakas is there and with the Yankees interested in Manny Machado next year, this could be an opportunity missed for the young 3rd baseman. All signs point to Brian Cashman waiting it out and letting the young guys play but we all know that change in the drop of hat.
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