Lefty Pitchers, Left Field: Yankees Thoughts Pre-Spring Training
by Patrick Gunn
February 13, 2023
Hard to believe that the Yankees are days away from opening camp. Glendale, Arizona has cleaned the last confetti off the turf as MLB players prepare their bags and take their final workouts at home before joining the team. Oh, and several Bombers jump right into competition for the World Baseball Classic. There is still plenty of time for the Yankees to figure out their roster ahead of opening day on March 30th against the Giants. Here are five of my loose thoughts on the state of the team heading into the week.
I would’ve liked to see the Yankees go after Andrew Chafin. Sure, he walks a lot of batters (career 9.2 BB%) and low fastball velocity (23rd Percentile per MLB Savant), but he gets a lot of strikeouts and whiffs and would give the Yankees an inexpensive Southpaw (Rosenthal reports he’s signing for $6.5 million). Not to mention the Yankees have only one southpaw - Wandy Peralta - confirmed to make the open the season in the Yankees’ bullpen. I still don’t understand why the Bombers released Lucas Luetge to bring in Tommy Kahnle. Excluding starters Nestor Cortes Jr. and Carlos Rodon, Matt Krook is the only other lefty on the Yankees’ roster and he’s never pitched in the majors. He did do a good job against lefties as a starter last season in Scranton, but New York should find some more help.
In terms of non-roster invitees, the Yankees invited four left-handed pitchers to camp this year. Nick Ramirez is an interesting story - he started as a first baseman before switching to the mound in 2017 with the Brewers. He’s still growing but a cool story. Not sure if any of them have a chance of making the opening-day roster, but keep an eye on Lisandro Santos. The 24-year-old has struck out more than 25% of batters in the minors the last two seasons (albeit with consistently high walk percentages. Here’s a FanGraphs scouting report from early last season when he got off to a torrid start). That is to say, the Yankees are most likely looking outside the house for left-handed pitching.
I’m not as upset about David Peralta signing elsewhere. He’s a decent platoon player who rates better on defense per outs above average than you’d expect, he hit righties well but struggled in the second half and he’s 35. He could have been a good stopgap option but not essential. Now, the Dodgers (reportedly) signing him does raise an eyebrow and make me reconsider, but the Yankees should not lose sleep over this miss. However…
They should still look for improvements in left field. It is surprising the Bombers have nearly made it to Spring Training without any external help - or position player changes in general. Free agency offers slim chances for improvement, but Jurickson Profar, Tyler Naquin, and Robbie Grossman are still available. Why not a reunion with Ben Gamel? Our own Andy Singer and Paul Semendinger made compelling cases as to why the Yankees should trade for Seth Brown of Oakland as a platoon player.
The Yankees have some compelling non-roster sleepers for the position. Rafael Ortega has been around the block and had some success with the Cubs in 2021. Jake Bauers has struggled since his early years with the Rays and Guardians and may be more of a first baseman than outfielder, but he can get on base and is only 27. Finally, Billy McKinney is another former Bomber who could offer some occasional pop.