Spring Training Has Arrived. Here are My Thoughts From This Past Week.
by Owen Hetherington
March 6, 2021
Baseball is back. The sun is shining down in Florida and the Yankees are 3-2-1 in their first 6 Spring Training games. Spring Training provides a small sample size, with the majority of the starting lineup seeing two at-bats in each game. It’s a time for hitters to see live pitching, pitchers to get stretched out, and young prospects to showcase their abilities.
I’m ecstatic just to see the green grass and sun shining as we’re just under a month away from the regular season. My expectations during Spring Training are always low, especially during the first week of play.
Pitchers never get me worried in their first few outings. Remember when Gerrit Cole let up 6 earned runs in his third Spring Training outing in 2020? I think he ended up being okay in 2020, going 7-3 in 12 starts with a 2.84 ERA.
In this article, I’m going to look at a few players who I thought stood out in the first week of Spring Training:
Cole’s First Outing
In Gerrit Cole’s first outing this spring, he threw one inning allowing three hits, one run, one walk, and struck out one batter. It’s common for pitchers to struggle in their first outing. Imagine if you hadn’t seen live hitters in over four months. Nothing to worry about with Cole. He will be ready and improve throughout the spring and be ready to start Opening Day.
It was a small sample size and there’s not really much else to say about his debut. I was excited just to see him out on the mound again in pinstripes. No matter how many times I see him pitching, it never gets old to see him as a Yankee.
Jamison Taillon was traded to the Yankees on January 24. Coming off two Tommy John surgeries, there are question marks whether or not he can return to the pitcher he once was with the Pirates. In four seasons with Pittsburgh, he had a combined 29-24 record in 82 starts with a 3.67 ERA. He did not pitch in 2020.
Taillon has been a guy that has had me excited since the Yankees acquired him. He has a lot of potential to be great on this team and could be a key piece come October. He’s a cancer survivor and as his buddy Gerrit Cole said, one of the most resilient people he’s ever known.
In his first outing against Detroit on Monday, he went one inning and struck out one batter. He only threw 7 pitches that inning and ran back out to the bullpen to get some extra reps in. He didn’t even break a sweat on the mound and is someone I’m really excited to see in his next few outings as the Yankees give him some more innings. Like I said before, small sample size and we can’t get too excited about a pitcher who had a 1-2-3 inning in 7 pitches. But he appears to be promising for Yankees fans this upcoming season.
There are plenty of questions who the Yankees will decide to go with for their fifth starter spot in 2021. My initial guess coming into the Spring was that Deivi Garcia would be a lock for the spot. He looked promising last season, making 6 starts during the regular season and posted a 4.98 ERA in 34.1 IP.
Garcia made his first start of the spring on Thursday. He went two innings on the mound, allowing two hits, two runs and struck out three batters. He is someone that I’m looking forward to seeing make a few more starts before the 2021 season and lock up that fifth rotation spot.
Another guy the Yankees acquired this offseason was Corey Kluber. Kluber was shut down after only making one start last season with a right shoulder tear. The two-time Cy Young winner will look to be the second starter in the Yankees’ rotation and look to get back to his old self.
Like Taillon, there are some questions around Kluber on how much he has left in the tank. The Yankees took a gamble on Kluber, as he looks to have a bounce back, “prove it” season.
His first start came on Wednesday, going two innings with three strikeouts and was hitless. “The Bot” looked great in his outing and will look to add onto his success in his next spring start. I liked what I saw from him this week and am excited to see how he progresses and fits into this rotation, come the regular season.
The 2020 batting title winner signed a six year, $95M deal to rejoin the Yankees this offseason. He looks to continue his success in New York during his 2021 campaign. There were people who questioned whether or not the Yankees should bring back LeMahieu this offseason. My comment to those individuals: You’re crazy.
LeMahieu has been the one thing consistent about the Yankees lineup over the last two seasons. His ability to hit the ball the other way is breathtaking. He could have played baseball in any era of baseball because of his approach at the plate. He’s a pure hitter and I’m so happy he’s back.
This past week, LeMahieu appeared in 4 of the Yankees 6 games and is 4-for-8 at the dish. Not a surprise to see The Machine producing at the plate this early of the Spring Training season. In yesterday’s game, he was 2-for2 on a pair of opposite field singles and walked in his first at bat of the game. Just vintage DJ LeMahieu at the plate and no one should be surprised.
A few weeks ago, Aaron Boone said that Kyle Higashioka would not serve as Gerrit Cole’s primary catcher coming into Spring Training. It caught me by surprise Boone would come out and say this, but hopefully it lit a fire under Sanchez.
Visually, Sanchez looks leaner this year than he did coming into Spring Training last year. He looks noticeably better behind the plate and is seeing a lot of playing time. He caught Gerrit Cole in his Spring debut and appeared as a DH in the first Spring Training game.
He has made appearances in four games this week, going 2-for-7 with 2 HR’s and 2 K’s. He is the only player on the roster to hit multiple home runs and looks to be in mid-season form. His blocking looks noticeably better and has thrown out 2/3 runners stealing on him.
It’s a little early to say that 2021 will be Sanchez’s breakout season, but the first week looked promising for sure. The Yankees need Sanchez to get back to his old self to make a deep run in the postseason.
Torres was criticized by General Manager, Brian Cashman, for coming into Spring Training 2 in 2020 overweight and out of shape. This past offseason, Torres took minimal time off and began working on his training. Torres appears to be in great shape and back to his old self.
Gleyber Torres has appeared in 4 games this Spring Training and is 4-for-8 with a walk, and one run. He hit his first home run of the spring in yesterday’s contest on a solo shot that scored the Yankees’ only run. In this past week’s small sample size, he looks locked in offensively.
I think Torres is going to have a big year both offensively and defensively this season. He was not ranked in MLB Network’s Top 10 shortstops prior to the start of the season. I think Torres is looking to do well to prove the haters wrong about his defensive struggles last season. Expect Torres to have a big year and be a key piece in October.
One week is only a small sample size to look at. Starting pitchers are only going an inning or two, hitters are restricted in the number of at bats their getting, and young prospects are getting the majority of work in the later innings. I was happy with what I saw from the Yankees this past week. Records and winning games are not the priority of Spring Training games. It’s all about getting reps in and getting back into the routine of being a professional baseball player.
These Yankees are off to a great start!