Yankees Spring Training: 3 Things To Watch Out For

Yankees Spring Training: 3 Things To Watch Out For
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The 2023 MLB season is around the corner. Pitchers and catchers are reporting and spring training is here. For the New York Yankees, they enter this season with high expectations, simply, it’s a World Series title or bust. The Yankees’ spring training is where this championship season begins and a lot of focus will be on the players returning and some new faces that were brought in over the offseason.

Spring training is typically uneventful, even for a headline team like the Yankees. Players warm up, pitchers toss a few innings, and the stars either sit out or partake in a few plate appearances before checking out. That said, there are some interesting storylines to follow. Specifically, the Yankees have a few roster questions heading into the season and a few players that will be intriguing to watch in the coming weeks.

Spring Training & the World Baseball Classic

One of the questions surrounding a lot of rosters this year is who will be playing in the World Baseball Classic and how will it affect each team heading into the season. The competition in March may allow players to kick off the season running. Likewise, games with a lot on the line could result in injuries, especially to pitchers who aren’t prepared to throw multiple innings but are suddenly doing so on an international stage. The Yankees are one of those teams with a handful of significant players participating.

The Yankees playing in the competition are Jonathan Loaisiga, Gleyber Torres, and Kyle Higashioka. While three players don’t appear like a lot, their departure remains significant. Torres in particular is a second baseman that will be fighting for playing time this year in the infield and the back half of the lineup. If he gets hurt, the Yankees will not only have to replace him but possibly be looking at a future without him.

There’s also the significance of players that inevitably will miss time to injury. Starting pitcher Nestor Cortes has already been removed from the competition with a hamstring injury. Now, his return when the season begins is in question and it’s unclear what his season will look like after an interrupted spring training. Cortes allowed only 44 runs in 158 1/3 innings pitched last year, making him an essential part of the rotation. The team will have to figure out the pitching staff without him early on.

Which Young Yankees Make Their Mark in Spring Training?

This is the time of the year when managers get the best look at their top prospects. Aaron Boone will get to see many of the younger players in significant roles and possibly find someone who can make an impact on opening day.

Anthony Volpe is the Yankees’ top prospect. He’s projected to start the season in the minor leagues but with the shortstop position up for grabs, he can slide in and take on the starting role. Volpe is still a work in progress but the spring is when he can impress, especially with a good showing at the plate. Jasson Dominguez is a high-ceiling prospect but would have to leap past AAA ball to make the team. Ultimately, the Yankees prospects will get the chance to make the roster and possibly give the team a youthful edge for the 162-game season.

Yankees Left Field Options

Harrison Bader took over the center field position once he became a regular in the lineup. Reigning American League MVP Aaron Judge will play right field and occasionally move to designated hitter. However, the Yankees haven’t addressed the void in left field. Yes, Giancarlo Stanton could play the position when he plays in the field but all signs are pointing to Aaron Hicks in left field otherwise.

Hicks has been underwhelming for the Yankees, to put it mildly. In seven seasons, his slash line is .233/.340/.403 and his WAR is only 11.3 with most of his value coming in the field. Hicks could be a reliable fielder but with declining power, he’d be a liability at the plate. That said, at the moment, he looks like the best option in the outfield.

This spring training is where we can see the Yankees’ plan for the left-field position. Hicks might be the starter but will Boone platoon his outfielders? Will the Yankees eventually make a move to fill that void in the outfield? After Andrew Benintendi signed with the Chicago White Sox, the Yankees suddenly had a glaring need for the position. The upcoming weeks are pivotal for the team to figure out the plan to round out the roster.

Other Yankees Notes

The Yankees rotation will be a question mark throughout the spring. In the offseason, it looked like it would be one of the best in baseball. With Gerrit Cole leading the staff, it still can be. However, how will free-agent addition Carlos Rodon look in the rotation? Cortes was the best pitcher on the staff last year but his hamstring injury will be one to monitor.

There’s also the question about what the backend of the rotation will look like. Luis Severino has a history of injuries but looks poised for a big year. Frankie Montas is already starting the season out with a shoulder injury and will likely be out of the rotation until mid-season. The rotation was a strength, especially in the second half of last season but it’s unclear if it will be this year.

On the theme of pitching, it’s a curious case as to how the bullpen will look this year. Last year, it was assembled over the course of a 162-game season but without a defined closer until Clay Holmes stepped up. Aroldis Chapman, who was the closer for the past six years is no longer on the team. Suddenly, the Yankees have plenty of good arms in the bullpen but nobody in defined roles, for better or worse.

The last note to consider is how the front office will feel in spring training. Will they be content with the roster they’ve assembled over the winter? The front office tends to stay back and not make aggressive moves but this year could be different.

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Mike Fink

Mike Fink

Mike Fink joined Sport Relay in December 2022 and covers the New York Yankees. In addition to covering the Yankees, Fink has also covered the New York Islanders since 2020 for The Hockey Writers and has been writing about sports at large. Mike also likes to travel but has found Baltimore and Chicago are the only two cities that come close to New York City.

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