With spring training about two weeks away, the Yankees are gearing up to start the 2023 season coming off a disappointing campaign last year that ended in a premature playoff exit.
With several position battles preparing to unfold and the team seemingly depending on a rather large youth movement, this off-season should provide plenty of answers to key positions that otherwise struggled in 2022.
However, general manager Brian Cashman only managed to upgrade a few spots, instead retaining the team’s best players, notably Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo.
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Ranking the Yankees’ three biggest concerns ahead of the season:
Left field should be at the forefront of every list, given the Yankees didn’t add any legitimate talent to the position and are hoping that Oswaldo Cabrera steps up and takes the starting job by storm. Cabrera enjoyed 44 games last year during the regular season, tallying nine defensive runs saved in the outfield.
Offensively, he hit .247 with a .312 OBP, six homers, and 19 RBIs. His Steamer projections have him hitting .231 with a .293 average, including 12 homers and 41 RBIs with a 97 wRC+. Those would be underwhelming numbers, to say the least, but if he can replicate his defensive prowess in left field and start to ramp up his hitting contributions, he could be a solid starter for the time being.
I believe the Yankees will try to trade for a left-fielder at the deadline this upcoming summer, allowing Cabrera to slot back into a super-utility role, which may be more advisable as a long-term solution.
Shortstop is another major question, given the Yankees have Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Oswald Peraza as their primary competitors. Management gave Anthony Volpe the green light to make a run at the starting job as well, but most believe he will end up in Scranton with AAA to start the 2023 campaign. Volpe isn’t ready yet, but he will get promoted at some point this year. It’s just a matter of how quickly he assimilates to Scranton’s level of talent and proves consistency.
In the meantime, Peraza has a leg up, and the Yankees would like for him to win the starting job, moving IKF into a utility role at shortstop and third base.
The problem is Peraza’s offensive contributions are questioned, and nobody really knows what he will offer as a rookie. A Gold Gove defensive performance isn’t out of the question, given the small sample size of quality he showed last year, but it may take him a few weeks, if not months, to adjust to major league pitching, despite putting together adequate numbers over 18 games at the end of the 2022 season.
Starting pitching longevity:
The Yankees added Carlos Rodon on a six-year, $162 million contract this off-season. While that is a major addition, supplementing the loss of Jameson Taillon, there are concerns about longevity with multiple starters.
Rodon pitched a career-high 178 innings last season after recording 132.2 in 2021. He’s had a few years dampened by injury, so the Yankees will have to manage his workout carefully, ensuring he’s ready to go during the playoffs.
In addition to Rodon‘s limits, the Yankees also have to play it carefully with Luis Severino, Nestor Cortés, and Frankie Montas, who is already expected to miss the first month of the regular season.
Only Gerrit Cole can pitch 200+ innings with ease and not break a sweat, so expect to see plenty of Clarke Schmidt and Domingo German mitigating fatigue this upcoming year. Don’t underestimate their value to the team because they will end up pitching a significant amount to help keep the primary starters healthy.