The Yankees roster is pretty much set for most of the positions, though a few are still up in the air. What that means is that there may be a few surprising guys that crack the 26-man following what could be a great spring training. Two guys that I’m going to be watching closely are Willie Calhoun and Andres Chaparro.
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Willie Calhoun could have a renaissance season with the Yankees:
Calhoun is one of the more interesting pickups that the Yankees have made in recent years. While he isn’t anything special, the former top prospect for the Rangers could find a bit of a resurgence in a new setting. Calhoun’s last few seasons haven’t been great, but perhaps he can be this year’s Matt Carpenter for the squad. The last three seasons combined have been ones to forget about for Willie, as he’s accumulated -1.8 fWAR since 2020. The redeeming factor is that his 2019 season was solid as a guy that can play DH.
He only posted a 0.2 fWAR that year, but it’s entirely attributed to the fact that he’s a terrible defender in the outfield. His bat, however, is still solid. That year he clubbed 21 HR, posted an .848 OPS, and tossed up a 110 wRC+. He did all of that over just 337 PAs, and maybe he can channel a bit of that performance this spring, enough to nab himself a spot on the OD roster.
Calhoun likely won’t be the biggest impact contributor, but I have this feeling that we’ll see a bit of him as a Yankee. He’s got the pedigree as one of the best prospects in baseball, he just hasn’t panned out the way many has anticipated. He doesn’t strike out at a concerning rate, with a 15.3% K% for his career, compared to a 7.1% BB%. He’s got good batted-ball skills, and his ability to pull the baseball as a lefty could mean he takes advantage of that short porch at Yankee Stadium. I’ll be watching him this spring, and hopefully, he puts it together and cracks the roster.
Andres Chaparro is too good a hitter to pass up:
As for Andres Chaparro, one of our own, Ryan Garcia, has been a huge fan of his for some time. The slugging infielder can crack the roster as a potential 3B/1B/DH depth guy on the bench, and I still wouldn’t be shocked if the Yankees move some pieces prior to OD. Chaparro is a guy that deserves much more attention than he’s received, and this season he could put his name on the map.
Last year he clubbed 19 HR in AA Somerset in just 271 PAs. He’s got unreal power, walked 9.2% of the time and struck out a manageable 19.9%, and plays good enough defense to where he could make the jump to the majors sooner than expected. The Yankees 3B position is currently looking like it’ll be the combination of the veterans DJ LeMahieu and Josh Donaldson, so why not add a bit more youth to the mix?
Chaparro finished 2022 with a 158 wRC+ with the patriots, OPS’d .963 and was one of the key members of that championship squad. He will most likely start the year in AAA, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes a big enough splash in spring that maybe he nabs one of the bench spots on the roster. He has crazy quick hands, and his 47.0% FB% in AA last year was the best of his career. He also posted the career-best opposite field hit % at 27.3%. That means he knows, as a righty, he should be trying to send the ball to the short porch, regardless.
Both these guys can make a name for themselves in pinstripes, even if their paths to this point are wildly different. Spring training games for the Yankees begin in just a week, and I can’t wait for baseball to be back in swing. The position battles and roster construction will be exciting to watch unfold, and maybe we see one of Calhoun or Chaparro get a shot.