We all know that the New York Yankees have gone through a couple of years of far too many injuries affecting regular players playing time. Although the health situation going into spring training, which starts in just a few days if much rosier than last year, it is not reasonable to assume it will remain that way. The simple fact is that injuries are a permanent part of the game that can’t be avoided team-wide. These injuries lead to the use of backup pitchers and backup players that sit on the bench or have to be called up from the minor league to be used short term or even long term.
The backup players will take on an even more important role that could be the difference in success or the season’s failure. The big problem for manager Aaron Boone this season will be dealing with using players efficiently but at the same time saving them for a postseason run. That is something that is always dealt with, but this season is unique. Pitchers and the lineup will play 162 games after only playing 60 games last season. No matter how much a player works out in the offseason or pushes himself in spring training, moving to play nearly three times as many games this season will be a strain on all involved.
In part one of this article, we dealt with the pitching and the depth of both starters and the bullpen. Now we look at the Yankee depth on the bench and how they can be used.
There are several pluses when it comes to Mike Ford. Ford is an adequate fill-in for Luke Voit at first base. He is a lefty bat when they need it and frequently hits for power. Ford, like many players, had a sub-par season last year. He hit just .135 with two homers over 74 plate appearances. But in 2019, he was an important part of the bench hitting .259 with twelve home runs. The New York Yankees need him to return to form as he will be needed off the bench.
Mike Tauchman is another important piece off the bench. Tauchman can replace any of the oft-injured outfielders at any position. Clint Frazier has earned the permanent place in left field and is seldom injured, so Tauchman would likely only be used to replace Hicks or Judge. Coming off the bench, he could be used as a lefty bat when needed. Tauchman, like Ford, had a poor 2020 season. But he, when on, can hit for power too.
Andujar spent most of his time last season on the Scranton shuttle. The New York Yankees tried to adapt him to first base and the outfield, neither turned out all that well, and he got little playing time. But Andujar could still be an important factor for the Yankees. There is no question that he can hit home runs as well as hit for contact. During 2018 before his shoulder injury, he hit .297 with 27 home runs. In the Dominican Republic, he adjusted his swing a bit over the offseason, and scouts say he looks great. The only problem for the Yankees is where he will play to get in some playing time.
Bruce is an unknown quantity to Yankee fans. Bruce, by trade, is a right fielder. He, like many players, had a down season in 2020 with the Phillies. But he could be a help to the Yankees should Aaron Judge be injured. Bruce, although not a great hitter, he does hit for power. He has hit 30 or more home runs in four seasons. However, if Judge stays healthy, he won’t see much playing time.
Greg Allen is another option for the Yankees in the outfield. His big plus is that he can be used as a pinch hitter as he hits from both sides of the plate. However, don’t expect him to be hitting any home runs. He has only had 8 long balls in his four-year career.
Kyle, will of course, be on the bench, although he will seldom be used for pinch-hitting except in the late innings. He will likely be ace Gerrit Cole’s private pitcher most of the time and fill in for Gary Sanchez should he become injured. The Yankees have still not addressed a back up for Higashioka. As it stands now, they will have to bring someone up from the minors since Erik Kratz has retired. If Gary Sanchez does not improve from last season, look for Kyle to get more playing time again.
Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada:
The New York Yankees have plenty of back up in the outfield to handle almost any situation; the infield is an entirely different story. Should any one of the infield regular players become injured, the picture gets pretty shaky. Last season neither Tyler Wade nor Thairo Estrada was particularly effective. There is also Estevan Florial, but he is not much of an upgrade and normally plays in centerfield. All three of these players need to prove their worth this season, or it might be bye-bye.
Right now, the big question is will the Yankees work out a deal with Brett Gardner to keep him in pinstripes. Gardner is also a lefty and the best consistent hitter of the bunch off the bench. He can fill in more than adequately in the left or center field. Even if the Yankees take him back, he will not see as much playing time as he has in the past, with Clint Frazier basically taking his place in the lineup.
The Yankees made one big mistake when they didn’t tender Rosell Hererra during the offseason. Hererra was an amazing standout in the 2020 spring training. They didn’t use him last season and he became a free agent and is now playing in China for the Wei Chuan Dragons. Hererra could have been a big star with the Yankees.
The Yankees are in pretty good shape. According to reports, they have about $10 million left in the bank without going over the luxury tax threshold. How they will spend that, if they spend that, is anyone’s guess, but to round things out, they could bring Gardner back, pick up another arm in the bullpen and strengthen the infield with another backup player.