The Yankees came away with a win in their matchup with the Nationals, as we got to see the debuts of Anthony Rizzo, Giancarlo Stanton, and DJ LeMahieu in this afternoon’s matchup. Domingo German got the bump in his first outing of the spring, and he showed that he isn’t very keen on just handing Clarke Schmidt the 5th starter spot. While wins in Spring Training don’t mean much, there were plenty of extremely encouraging signs on both from the offense and the pitching staff.
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Yankees Hitting the Ball Hard
The Yankees saw DJ LeMahieu absolutely scorch a line drive off of the left field wall for a single, registering his highest Max Exit Velocity (107.4 MPH) since his toe injury. It was going to be interesting to see how LeMahieu’s power would look following his injury, but he’s showing early on that he’s still got it. Giancarlo Stanton also debuted today, and while he failed to reach base, he hit a rocket 112.8 MPH liner and hit another ball over 100 MPH that just fell short of clearing the fence in right-center. Anthony Rizzo added a line-drive single, giving us a pretty encouraging debut for three position players who the Yankees will rely upon heavily this year.
Harrison Bader drilled a triple into the gap in right-center, showing off not just his power by registering a 104.2 MPH exit velocity but also his speed to get to third base. Bader also made a spectacular grab in centerfield to start the first inning, which helped Domingo German get out of the first inning unscathed. Bader’s had a pretty solid spring in the stat sheet, but more importantly, he’s been hitting the baseball hard and moving extremely well. He’s not too far removed from a 2021 campaign where he hit 16 HRs and a 110 wRC+, and if he can provide that for the Yankees, he’ll be a weapon for this lineup.
The Yankees also saw Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Cabrera lace singles over 100 MPH, and for Aaron Hicks specifically, this is super encouraging. Hicks struggled to generate power from the left-handed side, and in an interview with Chris Kirschner of The Athletic prior to the start of Spring Training, Hicks discussed a change he was going to make in his hand placement. He identified the struggles he had with pitches up in the strike zone and decided to elevate his hands to where they were in 2018, which could unlock some power and help him bounce back after a tough 2022 season.
Prospect Carlos Narvaez continues to impress in Spring, as while he won’t be making the MLB roster, he’s clubbed 2 HRs in 5 ABs with a walk. Assuming his defensive abilities can continue to progress, 2023 could be a year for him to put his name on the map. He only posted a 98 wRC+ in High-A last year in his age-23 season, but if the HR power is legit, perhaps he could get himself to Double-A by year’s end. While Spring Training stats aren’t very relevant, the power he’s displayed has been rather impressive.
There aren’t many conclusions to draw in Spring Training, but the early showings of power and good swing decisions do bode well for some of the veterans on the squad. They have plenty of guys with chips on their shoulders and things to prove this season.
Pitching and Defense Continue to Impress Early On
Domingo German was brilliant in his debut outing, striking out three batters and allowing just one hit and one run in 2.1 IP. There’s a big 5th starter battle between German and Clarke Schmidt, and while German was the perceived favorite, Schmidt’s new cutter and five strikeout performance placed plenty of pressure on the veteran RHP. He flashed some higher velocity as well, sitting at ~94 MPH on his four-seam fastball and 83 MPH on his curveball, nearly two ticks above his season marks in 2022. While there’s plenty of Spring action remaining, the Yankees are looking at what could be a very tough decision, which is a great thing for this team.
German’s got the veteran edge over Schmidt, but Schmidt does possess better stuff that allows him to project for a higher upside than German.
Greg Weissert tossed a scoreless 0.2 IP generating a groundball and strikeout, and he also saw a slight uptick in velocity. Weissert’s stuff looks as nasty as it did in 2022, and if his command can slightly improve, we could be looking at the next star-level reliever from their farm system. He hasn’t added any new pitches or changed much in terms of pitch shape, but that’s perfectly fine, considering his stuff isn’t the issue here. A strong camp from Weissert could get him on the Opening Day roster, but even if he starts out in Triple-A, I imagine we’ll see him in 2023 with the Major League roster at some point.
Jonathan Loaisiga debuted today, and he showed off his bowling ball sinker in a scoreless outing where he generated plenty of groundballs. The velocity, movement, and command all looked like how he did at the end of the season last year, where he quickly became their best reliever in the postseason. The Yankees are certainly going to bank on the Nicaraguan Nightmare to be a huge part of that bullpen, and it’s great to see him back in action.
The standout on the pitching side of the ball was #11 prospect Yoendrys Gomez, who tossed three innings of 1 run ball with a mid-90s fastball and quality-breaking pitches. His command wasn’t always there, but that’s fine, considering it was his first outing of the Spring. He has a lower slot release that creates more deception for a fastball that has plenty of life at over 2,500 RPMs of spin. He’s already on the Yankees’ 40-Man Roster, and after posting a 2.49 ERA in 15 starts last year between High-A and Double-A, there’s a shot we see him in Triple-A at some point in 2023.
He could be a bullpen weapon late in the season, but there’s still hope he can be a starter. One of the brilliant plays made behind him was by Anthony Volpe, who had a quiet day at the plate going 0-2 but a great day with the glove. After an impressive transition to nab the runner at 2nd, Volpe converted a heads-up double play to get Gomez out of a 2nd and 3rd jam.
The Yankees are seeing the baseball IQ that gets raved about for Volpe early on in Spring, and while the bat might not be MLB-ready, his glove certainly is. He’s making a lot of people who had questions about his defensive abilities look foolish, and while Boone and the Yankees love Peraza’s defense, they aren’t ruling out the possibility of Volpe being a shortstop. Today was another exciting day of Yankees’ baseball, and each game creates a heightened anticipation for Opening Day against the Giants in a few short weeks.