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  • Ed Botti

Notes from Tampa

By Ed Botti

February 26, 2024

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Photo by AP


I am not one to get too high or too low during spring training. The way I look at spring training, especially for the high priced Yankee roster, is very basic -- stay healthy and stay out of trouble.


Yes there are always competitions to a degree in Yankee camp, but as Mike Francesa so famously would say “let’s be honest”. Most of the players have nothing to prove or even earn to break camp, notwithstanding the annual preseason prognostications we live through each winter.


If you are reading this, you are no doubt a highly educated Yankee fan that could have put the opening day position player roster in ink back in December when Juan Soto and Trent Grisham were acquired from San Diego for Michael King, Kyle Higashioka, Randy Vásquez, Jhony Brito and Drew Thorpe and Alex Verdugo landed in the Bronx in a rare Red Sox Yankee trade.


There are plenty of questions marks surrounding this team, no one is disputing that, but you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to piece together the 2024 position players’ roster.


All the question marked player’s spring training performances are subordinated by payroll obligations. Does anyone seriously believe that if Stanton repeated his 2023 stats and hit .191 this spring, he would be left off the roster? No chance, and I can understand that. By the way, I predict a much better season from Mr. Stanton.


We always have a few interesting story lines. For example we now see that Giancarlo Stanton showed up in completely different physical condition then the chiseled power lifter physique we have become accustomed to seeing, and that is a welcome change, albeit a little late, IMO.


Most of us knew what the starting infield was destined to be months ago, it is also no secret who will be in the outfield rotation, and who will be wearing the tolls of ignorance.


I guess the real uncertainties yet to unfold are how will they be used and rotated, as opposed to who will be used and rotated?


One thing that I do always look forward to in spring training is seeing the prospects we have read about and maybe even seen play a few games in the minors, and to watch the off season acquisitions put on the pinstripes and take the field clean shaven with haircuts.


Along those lines, game 1 of the 2024 grapefruit league season did not disappoint in a Yankee 22-10 win over the Tigers.


Photo Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post


Last September, when he was called up to AA, I was too busy (lazy) and did not go see Spencer Jones play in Somerset (I will this year for sure, and it looks like I better hurry up before he is promoted again). In his opening act of 2024 he launched a 470 foot (wind assisted) bomb that landed beyond the bullpen over the right-field fence onto a patio.


Wind assisted or not, 470 feet is impressive. Just as impressive, but not nearly as news worthy to our mainstream media friends, was a subsequent 12 pitch at bat in which he fouled off six pitches with a full count, and eventually stroked a line-drive RBI single the other way.


He ended up going 3-for-3 with four RBIs and a hit by pitch.


Spencer has some work to do, such as cutting down on his swing and miss rate. But the tools are all there, including great speed and a very strong arm. Most scouts see him as a centerfielder.


I was against any, and I mean (just about) any, trade that involved him.


Acquired in the Padre trade with Soto, Trent Grisham, who has been on my radar since winning his first of two Gold gloves in 2020, showed those of you that are still skeptical what he can do by hitting a 421 foot home run.


Grisham, who has become known for his outstanding jumps on balls, elite range and his innate ability to chase down balls few other outfielders can even think of getting to ended up going 1-2 with a walk and 3 RBI.


If you though Bader can “go get em”, wait to you see Grisham play the outfield. He will be a very competent and valuable 4th or even 5th outfielder. And, get this, he stays healthy. In the 60 game 2020 season he played in 59 games, followed by 132, 152 and 153 in full 162 game seasons since.


In case you missed it back in the 2022 NL Division Series vs the Mets he hit two big home runs including one off of a 101 MPH Jacob deGrom pitch.


Another recently acquired prospect I am anxious to see play is lefty hitting second baseman Jorbit Vivas. Jorbit came over in the Victor Gonzalez trade that sent Trey Sweeney to LA LA Land.


Jorbit’s skill set includes excellent bat-to-ball skills, with a profound eye for the strike zone. His pitch recognition ability, knack for staying in the strike zone and disciplined approach contributed to him walking (69) times, almost as many times as he struck out (71) last season.


Nonetheless the 5-foot-10 second baseman does possess some power. The 22 year old hit 13 home runs in two minor league stops last season.


Vivas contributed yesterday by hitting a 404-foot home run to right field in addition to walking twice and scoring twice.


Vivas is penciled in to start the season at Triple-A, but who knows, he could find his way to The Bronx at some point this season if needed.


I would also like to point out lost opportunity. This weekend we learned that two potential useful acquisitions decided to take their spikes elsewhere.


Gio Urshela signed a 1 year deal for $1.5 MM with the Tigers. I felt he would have fit in nicely at third base this season, putting DJ back to the super utility role he signed on to play. Also, the Yankees can find $1.5MM in between Hal's car seats. It would have been a cheap risk to take.


We also learned late Saturday evening that the Cody Bellinger decided to stay on the North Side and inked a three-year, $80 million contract with the Cubbies. According to sources he has opt-out options after each of the first two years.


Even though the Yankee outfield is already set with the current group of 5 (not including injured Jasson Dominguez), Bellinger showed enough last season to be considered a first base option. Currently 28 years old, he would fit well in 2025 if they decide to move on from the currently 34 year old Anthony Rizzo next year.


I guess they will cross that bridge when they get to it. But, Man, oh man his swing in the Bronx would have been nice!


So, I have catch myself, just like all of the rest of you and remind myself that it is only early spring training and most of what we see take place on the field does not necessarily equate to what these prospects and acquisitions will do when it counts.


But, but it sure is fun to watch these kids play and dream on a bit!


As I have stated here all off season, the Yankees need starting pitching. I wanted two starters. They landed 1 in Marcus Stroman. I am not and have never been a big fan of Marcus. He is fine if he is a 4th or 5th starter. They actually needed a 2 and a 3 starter, especially since Nestor Cortes is coming off of a serious shoulder injury, which is never a good thing for a pitcher, and they have Carlos Rodon charged with being the number 2.


As you guys know, I have zero faith in Rodon. Prove me wrong Carlos! If you can win 15 games this season and actually earn your paycheck, I’ll be the first to say I WAS WRONG!

 

Photo Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports


The good news is, it is not too late to address the starters. Jordan Montgomery is still unsigned and a reunion would be great, if Jordan can forgive and forget Mr. Cashman’s ill-advised comments made after Jordan was dealt to St. Louis for an injured Harrison Bader.


That is probably a long shot, but one worth investigating before we get too far along in the spring and he signs elsewhere.


A couple of other observations.


Aaron Judge - The most famous toe in sports is supposedly healed and fine. However, it did raise my eyebrows this week when he stated his toe will "likely require constant maintenance for the rest of his career." I’m not so sure Centerfield is a good idea if that is the case.


Derek Dietrich - The Yankees hired the former player to work in their Player Development department for the upcoming season. Dietrich, you may recall was suspended in 2022 after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs while he was with the Yankees on a minor-league deal.


Analytics - The Yankees announced this week that they have added Aaron Leanhardt as an analyst to the major league coaching staff. Mr. Leanhardt will be in the clubhouse and assist with how analytics are presented to players, which we learned was somewhat of an issue last year with Aaron Judge and Gerrit Cole.


Next week I will take a deeper dive into Anthony Volpe’s revised approach at the plate and look deeper into the bullpen.


It is early, but it sure is nice to know that some 1,200 miles away baseball is being played, and will be coming home in just over a month!


Fingers crossed that they stay healthy and out of trouble!!

20 Comments


Jeff Korell
Jeff Korell
Feb 26

It is so easy to get caught up with how hitters hit and how pitchers pitch in Spring Training. But all too often, how those same players perform in the regular season is a whole different story.


Biggest case in point. Kyle Higashioka. A few springs ago, he was hitting homers at a frequency you would expect of Aaron Judge. He was the team's most prolific slugger that spring, and he could not be stopped.....homer after homer after homer....except he was stopped by the end of the Spring Exhibition Season, because when the regular season started, that amazing spring power of his went away, and he wasn't getting a whole lot of hits either!


Then, last season, there was Franchy…


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Alan B.
Alan B.
Feb 26

Spencer Jones's speed was on display yesterday with that chopper down the 1B line yesterday. The pitcher really had a do or die play of pick it and do a swipe tag, and with how fast Jones got down the line, the pitcher rushed, and couldn't even pick the ball cleanly. But as he has also played some 1B in the past, why not create our own Bellinger, CF-1B. Only Henson & Flores at AA at 1B, so why not a game a week there? Or, will Jones spend some time in the corner OF spots?


As for Leanhardt, what was most surprising to me, is that he was replacing someone. Someone actually had his job last year. To m…


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jjw49
Feb 26

Plenty of food for speculation and this much is very certain the Yankees will not be boring moving forward. They have a lot of pieces in play after this year. Yankees might be done this year or until the trade deadline.

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fuster
Feb 26

Spencer is a very lovely name

I've always been quite pleased with it


of interest to me is that the Yankee announcers discussed Me Jones' great size and power, but spent more time talking about his speed.

43 stolen bases in 2023 is noteworthy

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Jeff Korell
Jeff Korell
Feb 26
Replying to

Back in the late 90's, I saw that "Spencer For Hire" headline in the New York newspapers back when Shane Spencer came up to the Yankees and was experiencing that amazing start to his career.

Like

Melfman1
Melfman1
Feb 26

It’s only been a couple of games, but it’s hard not to be impressed with Jones this spring. Saw him play for Somerset twice last year and he just looks like a ball player in the mold of a lefty Aaron Judge. I, too, am glad he wasn’t dealt for a mediocre arm like Cease this offseason.


I wouldn’t hold hopes out for another pitching addition, no matter what price Boras sinks to at this point. My guess is that the team is saving one bullet for the trade deadline. If they need another starter/reliever at that point, they’ll be more willing to incur the luxury penalty for half a year rather than a full season.


Couple of additional early…


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Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
Feb 27
Replying to

Stanton played today.

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