- E.J. Fagan
Who are 2023's Reinforcements?
by EJ Fagan
February 5, 2023
NOTE: The following comes from EJ Fagan's substack page and is shared with permission.
Please check out EJ's substack page for more great articles.
At some point this season, the Yankees are going to need help. Someone will get injured. Someone will suddenly be bad. World Series are won by organizations, not by the team that breaks camp after Spring Training.
Who will the Yankees call up when something goes wrong? How good are their Plan B and C options? Let’s take a tour.
Realistically, the Yankees Plan B at infield involve players on the 25-man roster. Oswaldo Cabrera, DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, Anthony Rizzo, Oswaldo Peraza Josh Donaldson and Isaiah Kiner-Falefa will collectively cover each other. Pretty much any three can get injured and the Yankees can piece together a four-man infield.
But what about Anthony Volpe? Volpe is about as good of a replacement player as you can find. I wouldn’t be shocked if he is the best player in 2023 among this group of seven. For a Plan B, Volpe is an A+.
After Volpe, the pickings are slim. Andres Chapparo could “play” third, meaning he could hit his way into all of us forgetting about his defense. Tyler Hardman is going to play first at Double-A after a killer Arizona Fall League performance. MLB washout Jake Bauers could provide 1st base depth in case of an emergency. Luckily, the Yankees are unlikely to have to play any of these guys.
Unlike their infield depth, the Yankees are going to be in trouble if an outfielder gets injured. They have three real outfielders on the roster: Judge, Bader and Hicks, plus Cabrera. As soon as anyone gets injured, they will have to call someone up.
The Yankees are clearly taking as many bets as possible to provide outfield depth. Check out this jumbled mess of a Roster Resource depth chart:
Estevan Florial is still on the 40-man, but is out of options. If he doesn’t make the team out of Spring Training, the Yankees will have to DFA him. Barring a trade, I think that’s pretty likely. There isn’t room for him on the roster right now.
Then you have the former MLB guys. I don’t think all of them stick around past whatever opt-out clauses are in their minor league contracts. Calhoun might try to let the Yankee coaching staff work their magic. Hermosillo has put up insane minor league hitting numbers over the past two seasons at Triple-A, but hasn’t hit in the majors. Of this group, I think Ortega is most likely to make the roster. He’s not a bad platoon option from the left side.
Then you have the prospects. Everson Peirera and Jasson Dominguez are both in the “center field but only while we’re young and fast” zone. If Peirera gets off to a hot start and the Hicks/Cabrera experiment isn’t working out, we could see him real soon. If the Yankees didn’t have so many damn Triple-A outfielders, he could even start the season there. Dominguez is probably farther out, but no one would be shocked if has a major breakout in 2023, forcing his way onto the major league roster by summer.
Beyond the big two, keep an eye on Elijah Dunham and Brandon Lockridge. Dunham is a left-handed hitter who has hit well enough in the minors. If all goes wrong in left field, Dunham could be a good stabilizer. Lockridge is one of the fastest players in the minors, but can’t hit. If Bader goes down, he might be their first call up for center.
Overall, I give the Yankees a B+ in outfield depth. They have a ton of options, but each one needs something to go right for them to not hurt the team.
Like outfield, the Yankees have a mess of options at starting pitcher:
Roster Resource has Deivi Garcia making the team, but that’s not going to happen. I think Clark Schmidt makes the major league team as a short reliever, where he stays. Unlike last season, the Yankees have a wealth of options at Triple-A to replace him. But, which are starters and which are likely heading to the bullpen?
Randy Vasquez is a starting pitcher. He’s consistently projected in prospect rankings as a back end starting pitcher, similar to a Jordan Montgomery. I think he’s the first call up should a starter get injured before Frankie Montas returns. He hasn’t pitched at Triple-A yet, but I think he’s a solid B option as a 6th starter.
After Vazquez, I think one of Will Warren and Clayton Beeter are next. Neither are on the 40-man roster, but both are making top-10 Yankee prospect lists consistently. They are similar prospects in that the Yankees took pitchers with a lot of spin on their fastball and got them to throw harder. I’m skeptical, given that neither have long track records of success in the minors. However, either could easily break out in 2023 as the next great Yankee starting prospect.
Behind them, Matt Krook and Johnny Brito are pretty boring options. Both held their own at Triple-A, but didn’t destroy their competition. I’ve heard both mentioned as potential relief pitcher conversions. However, unlike Warren and Beeter, they are on the 40-man roster. We’ll likely see both on the Triple-A bus this season when the bullpen is exhausted or the Yankees need a 27th man.
Relief pitching is much thinner:
18 relief pitchers. Maybe zero will be any good in 2023? I guess someone has to eat innings in Scranton. There is no Ron Marinaccio in this group. Weissert and especially Cordero seem like early DFA candidates for a Warren or Beeter.
Overall, I give the Yankees a B- grade at pitching. They have lots of options, but they are in trouble if one of the Warren/Beeter/Vazquez group doesn’t take a step forward early in the season. They are better at relief pitching of one of Krook or Brito makes a successful conversion, but neither have any real experience out of the bullpen. Get well soon, Frankie Montas.
The Bottom Line
The Yankees have a brought in a ton of depth players, but are counting on catching a few lucky breaks. If they have a rash of injuries, they really need the damage to be concentrated in the infield. Two outfield injuries could result in Rafael Ortega and Brandon Lockridge playing every day. Two starting pitching injuries means Randy Vazquez and ??? will be in the rotation.
I think the Yankees are in better shape than previous years. They aren’t in danger of having to play a Rougned Odor or Marwin Gonzalez or Tim Locastro, major league players who we know are bad, for 400 plate appearances. They have a legitimate shot at getting lucky and ending up with one or two future stars out of their depth.
I’m probably most concerned about relief pitching depth. If two relief pitchers get injured, they are going to be scrambling for options. I hope they consider converting Krook or Brito to the bullpen immediately. They are going to need them.