Why the Yankees’ Spring Training May Be Its Most Intriguing In Years
By Derek McAdam
March 3, 2023
Ah, yes Yankee fans. We are nearly one week into Spring Training games, and the start of the regular season is less than four weeks away. In fact, we can now officially say that the season starts THIS MONTH. I’m unsure of where the time has gone, but it feels great to have baseball back.
Coming into Spring Training, the Yankees had many questions. Will Isiah Kiner-Falefa or Gleyber Torres end Spring Training with the Yankees, or would they have a new team? How do the young players such as Anthony Volpe and Jasson Dominguez do playing against tougher pitching? These are just a couple of the many questions that Yankee fans were left wondering, which is making this year’s Spring Training that much more interesting.
So far, Yankees fans have been treated to watching top prospects Volpe and Dominguez play, as Volpe has played great in the field, but Dominguez has scored several runs in just three games.
The Yankees’ roster is by no means close to being finalized. Sure, we have a general idea of who will make the roster, but what we don’t know is who will be starting come Opening Day. The only definitive answer, barring injuries, is that it’s likely that Gerrit Cole and Jose Trevino will start. As for the rest of the infield and outfield, there are a couple of positions that are still up for grabs.
Regarding the infield, the only definite is that Anthony Rizzo, barring an injury, will be the Yankees’ starting first baseman on Opening Day. As for the other three positions, there is still some uncertainty. Josh Donaldson will most likely start at third base, with Kiner-Falefa at shortstop, but what about second base? Torres seems like the obvious answer, but DJ LeMahieu is also coming back, and the question of what to do with Oswald Peraza will also come into play.
LeMahieu is going to play the field most of the time, and can play all positions in the infield except shortstop. Donaldson can only play third base, but still has a solid glove and plays a better third than LeMahieu. Peraza has shown in his brief time that he is the best defensive shortstop than either Kiner-Falefa or Torres, so how do the Yankees address that? The Yankees have six infielders who are all extremely capable of playing their positions, but a tough decision will have to be made, as it seems unlikely that the team will carry that many infielders.
Shifting gears to the outfield, it’s a little simpler in deciding who will most likely start in the outfield, but it’s not a given. We know that Harrison Bader and Aaron Judge will start in the field on Opening Day. But who takes the final position? Will Oswaldo Cabrera make his first Opening Day start in the outfield or will Giancarlo Stanton break right into the season in the outfield? What about Aaron Hicks? Does he see the field on Opening Day, or will his 2023 season debut be delayed?
Luckily for the Yankees, the outfield position will not be hard to solve. They’ll have Bader, Cabrera, Hicks, Judge and Stanton as their five outfielders to begin the season, but it will just be a matter of who is playing in each position. Could we possibly see Judge in left field? That would be an interesting start to the season.
As I mentioned, the roster spots are mostly set. The bullpen may end up getting one or two new faces added into the mix, but the hitters are almost a given. But the infield situation is going to be something to watch over the next couple of weeks.
My thought is that the Yankees will end up trading either Kiner-Falefa or Torres for several reasons. First, no one wants to take Donaldson, while Rizzo and LeMahieu are not going anywhere. Plus, it may be time for the Yankees to see what they have in Peraza. Trading either of these two players opens up a spot for Peraza, who can show the Yankees what he has. Most likely, if Torres is traded, Peraza will slide in as the main second baseman, and vice versa for Kiner-Falefa.
Also, Volpe has had a strong start in Spring Training, and while he is still not yet ready for the Majors, he may see himself beginning the 2023 season in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. If he spends the season there and has a productive season, he may potentially be a candidate to get called up in September, or at least be in the running to make the Opening Day roster next year.
Trading either Torres or Kiner-Falefa would be a hard pill to swallow. Torres has been with the Yankees for many years and was part of the Baby Bombers from several years back. What some may consider a hot take of mine, I’ve liked Kiner-Falefa playing for the Yankees. While he is not the most gifted shortstop out there, a fair point to make is that he is not a natural shortstop. Last year was only his second year at the position, as he was primarily a third baseman with Texas.
Kiner-Falefa does not have the greatest power in the world, but he is a good hitter, which is something the Yankees have lacked a lot of over the past few years. He brought an additional hitting approach to the lineup, which came in handy when LeMahieu went down with an injury. However, Kiner-Falefa is unlikely to receive an extension from the Yankees with their depth at shortstop, which is why he could be the odd man out.
All of these questions will come to light very soon. Some may be within the next couple of weeks, while others may not be answered until the start of the regular season. Nonetheless, it’s making the Yankees’ Spring Training that much more interesting to watch, or at least keep up with on a regular basis. Let’s just sit back and see what happens.