About the Off-Season: Is a Youth Movement Coming?
by Tim Kabel
November 28, 2022
Many of the SSTN writers, including me, have been advocating that the Yankees finally concentrate on developing their young talent. Last year, the Yankees declined to sign any of the big free agent shortstops. Instead, they traded for Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who was clearly a stopgap. During the 2022 season, Oswaldo Cabrera and Oswald Peraza made their Major League debuts. Anthony Volpe reached AAA. The Yankees refused to trade any of those three players. Clearly, they are on the roster for a reason.
Many of the writers here have advocated playing at least one and as many as all three of them in the starting lineup on a regular basis next year. Not everyone agrees with that. There are some people who think Kiner-Falefa is more than adequate. Aaron Boone seems to believe he is the second coming of Ozzie Smith. Other people believe Cabrera, Peraza, and Volpe might not be ready. I have read several commentaries that suggest the young players need more seasoning, like a beef roast or a holiday turkey. Volpe in particular, has been described as needing a few hundred more at bats in the minor leagues. I’m not sure how one arrives at that conclusion. Do you need a slide rule, abacus, and a Ouija board? Well, it doesn't matter what any of us say. Someone significantly more important to the equation has weighed in.
Hal Steinbrenner was very recently quoted as saying he believes Volpe and Peraza should both be given an opportunity to make the team in spring training. Mr. Steinbrenner is the owner of the team. Last March, he said that at some point, he envisioned Volpe and Peraza manning the middle of the Yankees’ infield. Based on those statements, I think it is very likely Volpe and Peraza will be given opportunities to win the starting jobs at shortstop and second base in 2023. If either or both of them struggle, then, they can be sent down to the minors for more of that proverbial seasoning. I don't know if they would use paprika, or garlic salt. I use all the Paul Prudhomme blends myself. They have poultry and steak varieties but, I’m not sure if they have a middle infielder blend.
I think it's absolutely wonderful that the Yankees seem to be headed toward a youth movement. Other teams, including the Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies have worked young players into their lineups, as recently as last season. It can certainly be done. My only concern is that Aaron Boone has never proven to be very adept at developing young players. I have discussed this before in great detail. I felt it was one of the reasons the Yankees should make a change at manager. They didn't do it.
The owner of the team specifically stated that he envisions two of the top prospects on the team being given an opportunity to win starting jobs. The manager of the team has never been very encouraging or nurturing in working with young players. He prefers to stick with, pardon the expression, seasoned veterans. You only need to look at the way Boone played Kiner-Falefa down the stretch of the season, as opposed to working Peraza into the lineup on a regular basis. That blew up in Boone's face in the playoffs when he wound up replacing Kiner-Falefa with Cabrera and Peraza. Since the owner wants the kids to play and the manager has never proven to be open to that notion, something needs to change. My guess is that Boone will suddenly become the reincarnation of Mr. Rogers when it comes to dealing with the rookies. If he does not, he may be on the outside looking in.
Incorporating rookies into the team is an excellent idea. The Yankees need to develop some young talent. Certainly, the most important move of the off season is to re-sign Aaron Judge. They also need a starting leftfielder and another starting pitcher and one or two bullpen arms. Those players will most likely be veterans acquired through either free agency or trades. The Yankees want to build a team that will be a contender for many years. Part of that process is adding youth into the lineup and the pitching staff. If the Yankees have a starting lineup in 2023 that includes Anthony Volpe, Oswald Peraza, and Oswaldo Cabrera on an almost daily basis, that will certainly be a good thing. They will add youth, athleticism, and speed to the roster. Blending that with established talent like Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Anthony Rizzo, and Harrison Bader will give them a more well-rounded and diverse team. It is the way to go. If you don't believe me, ask Hal and then put down your jar of seasoning mix and watch the games.