With less than two weeks until Opening Day for the New York Yankees, position battles and the full 26-man roster are still yet to be determined. Of course, the shortstop and left field positions are of most pressing concern, as we could see a few trades ahead of the regular season. Isiah Kiner-Falefa stands out as the most probable, given the Yankees stand to gain $6 million in salary space and help unclog the log jam in the infield.
In addition, it would open up a roster spot that could be allocated toward a bullpen piece or a deserving non-roster invite.
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Three surprise players who could make the Yankees’ 26-man roster:
1.) Willie Calhoun
One of the Yankees’ leading spring training performers is none other than former top prospect Willie Calhoun. Calhoun has had an up-and-down professional career but is hitting .367 with a .472 OBP across 30 spring training at bats, posting 11 hits, four runs and a homer. His last quality season came way back in 2019, so he’s certainly far removed from any sort of success at the MLB level. Nonetheless, his performance the past few weeks is encouraging, and manager Aaron Boone believes he’s in the mix for a roster spot.
“I think he’s in the mix,” Boone said.
2.) Matt Krook
One of the more intriguing young prospects on the Yankees is Matt Krook, a player who enjoyed 29 appearances for Triple-A Scranton last year, accumulating 138.2 innings of action. He hosted a 4.09 ERA, 10.06 strikeouts per nine, and a 74.5% left on base rate. Even more impressive, he has a career average that hovers around 60% in the ground ball category.
Krook, a lefty pitcher, has performed well this spring, hosting a 3.60 ERA across 10 innings with 13 strikeouts. At 28 years old, this seems to be a ripe opportunity for a prospect that has spent his entire career in the minor-league system. With three minor-league options, the Bombers can easily elevate him if need be, and with the Yankees already dealing with several injuries, they may need his services early and often.
“He’s a real problem for lefties,” Boone said this week. “He’s an interesting guy, and if nothing else is a built-in problem for lefties.’’
Krook believes he is ready to make the jump, featuring plus grades on his fastball, slider, and change-up. With solid longevity to his game, given his substantial innings total from 2022, he can be a long inning relief pitcher, similar to Lucas Luetge’s role in 2022.
“I feel like I’m ready,” said Krook. “I’m super excited to contribute any way I can to be a part of this team.”
3.) Tanner Tully
Another low-key bullpen arm that has made waves this spring is Tanner Tully, a 28-year-old pitcher who enjoyed three appearances last year for the Cleveland Guardians, posting a 6.00 ERA and 79.4% left-on-base rate.
However, he enjoyed 122 innings of action in Triple-A, posting a 4.72 ERA with 7.23 strikeouts per nine and a 47.4% ground ball rate. Tully doesn’t have blazing velocity by any means but is a good locator and features a solid lefty arm.
The Yankees don’t have much diversity in their bullpen, with Wandy Peralta, the only left-handed pitcher among them. With that being said, Talley has an opportunity to crack a bullpen spot, but I don’t believe the Yankees would include both him and Krook.
This spring, Tully has pitched 5.2 innings, posting a 0.00 ERA with two strikeouts and a 1.06 WHIP. He’s been excellent so far, showcasing efficiency and productive outings, which has surely landed him on management’s radar.