Yankees already facing outfield problems ahead of Opening Day

harrison bader, yankees
Feb 23, 2023; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Harrison Bader (22) fields a ball during spring training practice at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida. Mandatory Credit: Dave Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees are already dealing with a number of significant injuries, notably in the starting rotation. Frankie Montas and Carlos Rodon have already gone down, but losing Harrison Bader in centerfield is just another problem manager Aaron Boone has to deal with.

Bader is known to be injury prone, playing just 86 games last year due to plantar fasciitis. He played 103 in 2021 and hasn’t played over 120 games since 2019.

Harrison‘s latest injury is an oblique strain that will keep him out for a minimum of six weeks. Losing his athleticism in centerfield and offensive qualities is certainly a significant blow to the Bombers, but at the very least, they know he’ll be back at sometime in April.

Bader hit .250 with a .294 OBP last season, including five homers and 30 RBIs. However, he showcased elite qualities during the postseason, hitting .333 with a .429 OBP, five homers, and six RBIs across just nine playoff games.

Luckily, Boone is confident that Bader will make a full recovery and return to the team, but they are taking a cautious approach with his oblique issue.

“Hopefully [Bader] can beat [the six-week target],” Boone said. “I think they’re a little surprised at what he’s able to do already and how he feels already. But obliques obviously are about as tricky as they come. We’ll kind of have a better idea a couple weeks from now how he’s doing, what he’s ready to start and things like that.”

Who will the Yankees replace Harrison Bader with any outfield?

There are two obvious choices for the Bombers to supplement the loss of Bader: Aaron Judge and Oswaldo Cabrera stand out as potential solutions. I imagine the Yankees would prefer to move Judge to centerfield and Cabrera to right field, a position he dominated last year when he was originally called up.

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The left field position battle is still underway, and while the team is confident Aaron Hicks can still carry his weight, the Yankees may end up moving on and starting a player like Rafael Ortega. Ortega has been fantastic this spring, showcasing his offensive qualities and decent athleticism. Hicks had a disappointing performance on Sunday, striking out twice and letting a fair ball drop into play as he lost it in the sun.

One way or another, the outfield is gearing up for some big changes, especially if Jasson Dominguez continues to perform the way he has during spring training. Dominguez could get the call to Triple-A immediately after playing in just five games with Double-A Somerset last year. If Dominguez starts the 2023 season with Scranton, he may expedite his process to the majors, meaning he could help the team down the stretch later on this season.