THE VOID, USA – We’re deep in the sports void between the Super Bowl and spring training. And with the weather flopping around like Trump’s weave in windstorm, this year has been particularly sh!tacular. Let’s pass the time with a MLB Hot Stove look at the potential 2019 Opening Day New York Yankees roster.
Assuming everyone stays healthy, there aren’t too many roster spots up for grabs.
The rotation looks set. The lefty heavy (no offense, CC) rotation will balance what looks to be a bullpen dominated by righties. While the rotation looks solid, there are plenty of questions.
Will we get the ace Severino of the first half or the mediocre guy from the second half? Can Happ live up to what he did after his deadline acquisition? Can Paxton, who’s had six stints on the DL in five seasons, stay healthy? Will Tanaka’s elbow continue to hold up? How much does CC have in the tank and will his knee hold up?
At some point they’re sure to need reinforcements from the likes of guys like Luis Cessa, Jonathan Loaisiga, Domingo German, Chance Adams, and Jordan Montgomery (if he can make it back).
Projected starters: Tanaka, Severino, Happ, Paxton, and Sabathia.
Compared to 2018: The starting rotation last year was Tanaka, Severino, CC, Sonny Gray and Jordan Montgomery. The Yankees surely upgraded their rotation with Paxton and Happ replacing Montgomery and Gray. And as I like to remind people, the Yankees staff only gave up three more earned runs than the Red Sox last season.
This is again a strong group with the potential to chop games in half with Green, Ottavino, Britton, Betances, and Chapman taking an inning each. I think we have five definites there plus Jonathan Holder, which leaves maybe just one spot up for grabs.
While they might go with a long man like Luis Cessa, I’m projecting Stephen Harply as the second lefty. Harply showed signs of being able to win the lefty specialist job last season. Tommy Kahnle could make the team if he can regain his 2017 form, but he was not the same guy last season.
Projected Pen: Chapman, Betances, Britton, Ottavino, Green, Holder, Tarpley.
Compared to 2018: Gone from last year are David Robertson, Chasen Shreve, Adam Warren, and maybe Tommy Kahnle. Let’s call Ottavino for Robertson a wash. Britton is surely an upgrade over Shreve. Adam Warren was reliable cog at one point, but struggled at times last season. Kahnle lost velocity and was very hittable. I’d say this group is a slight upgrade with Britton here for a full season. This is expected to be one of the best pens in the league.
No change here. Sanchez took a step back last year. His power numbers were not bad, but his average was embarrassing for a pitcher. This guy is way too susceptible to silders out of the zone. Boone stuck with him in the playoffs and he came through with some big hits. Maybe that will pay dividends. If Sanchez can return to form, the lineup will be that much more nasty.
Passed balls are still a major problem, though he has a great arm. Austin Romine established himself as a quality backup catcher. Kyle Higashioka looked capable when Sanchez was out.
Projected C: Sanchez, Romine.
Compared to 2018: Same
This is the part of the team where there is the most potential for drama. Didi’s injury and the additions of Troy Tulowitzki and DJ Lemahieu have put a lot of options in play.
Gleyber figures to get most of the action at SS with Lemahieu getting the bulk of playing time at second until Didi comes back. It doesn’t seem wise for them to be playing Tulowitzki half of the time and then shuttling Gleyber back and forth from SS to 2B. Who knows what they’ll get from Tulo and I don’t think they’ll want to open the season with only Torres and Tulowitzki as viable shortstops. That opens the door for a versatile player like Tyler Wade to sneak his way onto the roster. Wade can play defense at multiple positions and has speed. But up to this point, he’s looked like a quadruple A player.
First base is also a position to watch with Luke Voit coming on and dominating last season. Everyone is assuming he was a one hit wonder and is going to turn back into a pumpkin. Many have even advocated for putting Bryce Harper there. This confuses me. Voit was their best hitter down the stretch. He’s cheap and a monster. I say pencil him in and let him roll. The Yankees could look to move Bird. But they are in desperate need of lefty bats so I think he’ll make the roster.
Projected IF: Torres, Andujar, Bird, Voit, LeMahieu, Tulowitzki
Compared to 2018: Shockingly, the Yankees may start the season without one infielder from the 2018 opening day roster of Didi, Walker, Austin, Drury, Torreyes, and Wade. Obviously, the 2019 version is much better. But this is deceiving because Andujar and Torres came up early and played most of the year. Still, Voit and LeMahieu are upgrades over Tyler Austin and Neil Walker. Anything they can get from Tulo is a bonus. If Manny decides to take the Yankees “lowball” offer, this all could go out the window. And the Yankees still have the best odds in Vegas to sign him. So who knows.
Contrary to the infield, the team will likely start the season with the same four outfielders as last year. With a healthy Judge back in the fold and a year in New York under his belt, Stanton might be primed for a big year. I was a little surprised the Yankees brought back Gardner so quickly. I thought they would at least kick the tires on Harper first,. especially with Clint Frazier waiting in the wings. Aaron Hicks is trending in the right direction. Frazier might sneak onto the roster and get some time over Gardner. But roster spots are tight. It would take multiple injuries for Jacoby Ellsbury to get on the roster.
Projected OF: Judge, Stanton, Hicks, Gardner
Compared to 2018: Same
The bullpen looks deadly and the rotation should be improved. Their bench should have more pop and the lineup will have depth. There likely won’t be a weak hitter on the roster and there is plenty of power.
With Didi out and Voit bumping Bird to the bench, there is little left handed pop. I only see three lefties on the roster, with Hicks, Gardy, and Bird. While the lineup has power, it comes with a lot of strikeouts. The rotation should be improved, but there are still a lot of questions including durability.
Unless something funny happens in the next week or so, it was a good but not great offseason for the Yankees. As in past years, Cashman tried to improve the team on the fringes instead of making the biggest free agent splash. The Yankees seem to have a framework for what they think guys are worth and they have stuck to it.
They did give up highly touted prospect Justus Sheffield for the injury prone Paxton. And they did spend big money on two relievers, Zack (not Zach) Britton and Adam Ottavino. They also brought back JA Happ. So it wasn’t exactly a frugal winter for the team, but right now, they remain under the luxury tax.
The Yankees won 100 games last year, but since the Red Sox won so many, it doesn’t feel like it. This projects to be an improved team.
Thanks for stopping by. Come back tomorrow for the Yankees biggest superfan, Angry Ward. Follow us on Twitter at @BenWhit8, @MeetTheMatts, @Matt_McCarthy00, Instagram @MeetTheMatts and like our Facebook page, Meet The Matts.