Ranking the Yankees’ 3 biggest problems ahead of Opening Day

carlos rodon, yankees
Feb 17, 2023; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Carlos Rodon (55) throws a live bullpen session as he works out at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees still have plenty of problems that need solutions ahead of Opening Day in just about two weeks. General manager Brian Cashman didn’t make too many acquisitions this off-season, instead retaining some of his more prominent players, specifically Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo. The big addition was Carlos Rodon, who is already on the injured list with a left forearm strain that is keeping us on edge.

Manager Aaron Boone has a few big decisions to make over the next few days, notably regarding their top prospects and what to do with the team’s surplus of infielders. The left field position is also in limbo, and they are trying to figure out the back end of the starting rotation, so let’s take a look at which issues rank the highest.

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Ranking the Yankees’ three biggest problems ahead of Opening Day:

1.) Left Field in disarray

The only position that doesn’t have enough quality talent is left field, currently expected to be filled by Aaron Hicks, despite coming off two poor seasons and posting dismal numbers this spring. Hicks has struck out eight times in his last four games combined, so the Yankees cannot be sure he can serve as their everyday starter in left field, especially with Oswaldo Cabrera on the team.

The best course of action would be to start Cabrera, despite moving him around to different positions the past few weeks. This spring, Oswaldo is hitting .267 with a .333 OBP, showcasing improved offensive qualities and a solid switch-hitting bat.

With Harrison Bader already missing time due to an oblique strain, the Yanks will need Cabrera’s services early and often to start the 2023 season.

2.) Starting Rotation in limbo

With Rodon already on the injured list and Frankie Montas out until August at the earliest, the Yankees are already having to find supplements in the starting rotation during spring training. Luis Severino has struggled over the past few weeks but often has bumpy spring training performances leading up to the regular season.

Expect to see Domingo German and Clarke Schmidt earn starts this year, at least until Rodon can make a return. German has been solid this spring training, hosting a 3.52 ERA across 7.2 innings, dotting the corners, and showing good velocity on his fastball.

New York Yankees, Domingo german
Mar 6, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Domingo German (0) throws a pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the second inning during spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

On the other hand, Schmidt has struggled to a degree but is working through a few kinks, adding a cutter to his repertoire. He hosts an 8.10 ERA across 6.2 innings, but the Yankees have high hopes for him and expect more consistency during the regular season.

I imagine that both German and Schmidt will start until Rodon returns, which will likely push Schmidt back into a bullpen role until his services are needed in the rotation, supplementing injury or fatigue.

3.) Infield log jam

The Yankees are still trying to expand upon Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s value, starting him in center field Friday. He is likely the odd man out, so expect GM Brian Cashman to execute a trade within the next two weeks, clearing $6 million of his salary off the books and maybe adding a lower-level prospect in return.

With the performance of Anthony Volpe this spring, the Yankees find themselves in an interesting position, wanting to elevate him but also having to figure out Gleyber Torres’ role all moving forward. Volpe is hitting .333 with a .459 OBP, 1.126 OPS, 10 hits, two homers, and three RBIs across 30 at-bats. The 21-year-old is ready for The Show, and the Yankees can’t hold him back if they can find a way to get him in the starting lineup.

We can assume that IKF won’t be a part of the equation for much longer, but Torres stands in the way of Volpe’s promotion, so that will be the more interesting scenario.