New York Yankee winners and losers
For the New York Yankees, spring training is approaching the half-way point. So far, they are 10-6-2. Of course, the record really doesn’t count until the regular season. The primary purpose of spring training is two-fold, to get players ready for the season and secondly to evaluate players for starting positions once the regular season starts. This writer has viewed or listened to all eighteen games so far. Many pitchers and position players have lived up to what was expected of them, but there are some surprises at this half-way point. Some winners and some losers in the different categories.
Pitching winners and losers:
The big surprise winner is J.A. Happ, who was almost offloaded from the payroll but ended up with the Yankees for another season. With injuries to Severino and Paxton, that turned out to be a good decision. With Happ’s increased importance, the front office was hoping that he would at least hold down his spot in the rotation. As it turns out in this spring training J.A. Happ is the best performing starting pitcher with an excellent ERA of 1.38 in four games. An even bigger surprise is that the worst starter is ace Gerrit Cole who has an ERA of 9.53, mostly because he got hammered in one of his four starts. Honorable mention goes to Masahiro Tanaka as he remains steady with an ERA of 2.08.
Of those hoping to get a spot and make an impact at the Major league level, Jonathan Loaisiga is the clear winner. In four games, his ERA is 2.57 in seven innings of work. The biggest disappointment this spring training is Yankee prospect Deivi Garcia who has pitched in two games for a total of 4 innings but has given up three earned runs for an ERA of 6.57. Other pitching notes of interest include the struggles of two pitchers. Starter Jordan Montgomery has gotten off to a languid start; in 6.2 innings, he is sporting an unflattering 6.43 ERA. Hopeful Michael King has a respectable ERA of 3.86 but has as times struggled mightily.
The catching competition:
There has been much attention to the catching situation this year due to losing longtime backup catcher Austin Romine who is now a Detroit Tiger. Kyle Higashioka, who has been with the Yankees for 12 years, is expected to easily get the backup job behind catcher Gary Sanchez. Although Higgy is a very valid defender, he has always not been the producer behind the play that Romine was. Well, in this camp, Higgy is the home run leader with two at the half-way point. Chris Iannetta is doing nicely, hitting .500 with an OPS of 1.293. The other catcher vying for a spot is Erik Kratz, who is the clear loser, hitting only .250.
Two standouts that you might call winners in this spring training are Rosell Herrera and Thomas Milone. Rosell Herrera has been turning heads so far, with Manager Boone singing his praises at every turn. Herrera is a super-utility player who is very DJ LeMahieu-like, seemingly always getting on base. In 20 base appearances, he has three doubles and a triple for an OPS of 1.214. Milone has made his name going three for three two days ago and hitting a colossal triple yesterday. The biggest loser so far is Tyler Wade; if he is trying to make the case that he should be a regular player, he is off to an abysmal start. In 26 appearances, he did hit a home run, but he’s certainly not doing himself any favors with his batting average, speaking volumes at just .080. Also of note is the lack of any offense coming from catcher Gary Sanchez, he has only one hit in 20 appearances for a batting average of .059, without any long balls.
A bullpen filled with winners:
The Yankee for the last several years has been known to have a solid bullpen. Starting this spring training season, it seems to be no different. Of the typical regular-season relievers, Adam Ottavio, Tommy Kahnle, and Zack Britton, they all have an ERA of 0.00. Chad Green is at an ERA of 2.25. Closer Aroldis Chapman has pitched only two innings but has given up no runs. The surprise winner in this category is Tyler Lyons, who has pitched the most innings in relief and given up no runs.
General Manager Brian Cashman and Field Manager Aaron Boone will be watching all of these players very carefully as Yankee injuries begin to mount up. Of the six injuries, the two most significant blows to the team are the loss of ace Luis Severino (Tommy John Surgery) for the whole season and Aaron Judge’s fractured rib that may require surgery. There are bound to be more, but hopefully not like last year. Whatever the case, many of the top performers in this report may very well find themselves making an impact at the major league level.