Yankees Spring Week 1: Thoughts
By Patrick Gunn
The Yankees have officially broken camp and started Spring Training. That feels good to write. It’s been a long winter, but as of this moment, the Yankees are just a few weeks away from the start of another World Series Campaign.
Players are practicing together in sunny fields, throwing bullpens, and giving nicknames to new training facilities.
Stoppin’ by the ⛽️ station. pic.twitter.com/EcnXDmb6PY — New York Yankees (@Yankees) February 19, 2021
Yes, 2021 is going to be a difficult year to play professional baseball with the COVID pandemic still affecting the entire country and the vaccine just now starting to roll out across the country. Most players will not be able to get the vaccine for several months at least, and teams are going to have to be strict following COVID guidelines this season to stay safe. Also, MLB is going to have to enforce said rules.
Hopefully, MLB can be smart and not have the same issues that hurt the league at the start of last season and the issues that occurred during the World Series. For just one day, let’s only think about love. Or, love of baseball players for a few minutes at least.
The Yankees have plenty of reasons to be excited about this upcoming season, but there are some lingering questions and concerns that have arisen from the end of last season to today. Briefly, here are some of my thoughts about the Yankees as Spring Training gets underway.
Brett Gardner returning to the fold should help improve the Yankees’ depth, but the move does raise questions about the Yankees’ final outfield spots. The Yankees already have Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, and Clint Frazier as starters, with Giancarlo Stanton taking most of his at-bats from the DH spot. Gardner returning would mean that he joins the Yankees’ 40-man roster alongside Mike Tauchman and newly acquired Greg Allen.
The Bombers also have some interesting names joining the team for the Spring as minor league signees, including Jay Bruce and Derek Dietrich (who can also play several infield spots). Both players are lefties and both have some discernable pop that would play well to the short porch in right field. Tauchman, age 30, is a solid defensive player, but he could not buy a hit or a home run last season. His production against fastballs (.189 BA, .264 SLG, .263 WOBA, 25.4 Whiff%) noticeably dropped from 2019 (.286 BA, .537 SLG, .383 WOBA, 20.9% Whiff%), per Savant.
Bruce is a weaker defensive player, but he does have more power than Tauchman and his experience and pop would be valuable for the Yankees. Also, Dietrich provides interesting depth in that he can play multiple positions. So, the Yankees have several decent options for the bench, Spring Training performance may decide who hears their name called in the Bronx on Opening Day.
OTHER INTERESTING NON-ROSTER INVITEES:
Bruce and Dietrich are far from the only interesting minor league signings coming to Tampa. The Yankees are also welcoming in pitcher Jhoulys Chacín, a former Rockie and Brewer who as recently as 2018 led MLB in starts with 35, and the Brew Crew advance to the NLCS. He’s never been a phenomenal starter, but Chacín has proven to be a reliable back-end pitcher from time to time. He did only allow 0.8 home runs per nine innings in six seasons in Colorado, so he has some pedigree.
Reliever Kyle Barraclough is joining Chacín in Tampa. The 30-year-old right-hander posted a 2.85 FIP, 135 ERA+, and 12.3 K/9 from 2016 to 2017 with the Marlins, emerging as a rising talent in the bullpen. Then, Barraclough fell hard to Earth, and he’s coming off a 2020 season not pitching a single inning in the Majors. He still averaged 93.4 MPH on his fastball in 2019, so maybe he finds something new with the Bombers.
Robinson Chirinos made some waves signing with the Yankees. The catcher has spent most of his career in The Lone Star State, posting some strong seasons as both a backup and starter for the Rangers and Astros. He also helped Houston reach the World Series in 2019. Chirinos is most likely here to provide extra depth and experience, taking Erik Kratz’s role from last season.
Aside from those names, Yankees fans will recognize several players returning to Yankees camp. Southpaw Nestor Cores Jr. is back in the Bomber’s system following a rough 2020 with the Mariners. Reliever Nick Goody is also back after a few solid seasons in Cleveland and a tough 2020 in Texas. Oh, and Adam Warren is trying to come back after Tommy John surgery in 2019 in another stint with the Yankees. So, the Yankees have a slew of interesting names coming to Tampa for the spring.
BRITTON’S COMMENTS ABOUT GERMAN:
Zack Britton recently spoke about Domingo German’s return to the Yankees. Here’s part of his statement:
Zack Britton on Domingo Germán’s return to the Yankees: “Sometimes, you don’t get to control who your teammates are. I don’t agree with what he did, I don’t think it has any place in the game or off the field at all.” pic.twitter.com/BjysY4XnS6 — Yankees Videos (@snyyankees) February 18, 2021
MLB suspended German for 81 games at the start of 2020, and he missed the entirety of the abbreviated season suspended because of alleged domestic abuse allegations. German has done horrible things over the past few years, and his social media posts of late only raise more questions about the right hander. Britton has every reason to feel uncomfortable about playing with German, and the Yankees should proceed with caution in handling this situation.