It has been an extremely eventful offseason for the New York Yankees. With the four big-name players they acquired in Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, and Masahiro Tanaka, plus some other lesser name free agent signings in Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson, the team has seemingly pushed it’s way back into contention. But there are still some spots that need to be filled, such as the bullpen needing an arm or two, and the starting rotation also needing a fifth starter. Here are 10 players who will be fighting for roster spots come this spring.
10. Dellin Betances: Dellin Betances has been a prospect in the Yankees’ farm system for a while now. After he was drafted by the team in the 2006 MLB Draft, the Yankees viewed him as a part of their future starting rotation. But after undergoing surgery on his elbow in 2009, and struggling with his command for a large part of his minor league career, the Yankees announced in 2013 that Betances would be permanently shifted to the bullpen. Now, after making only two MLB appearances in his career to date, the Yankees may be counting on Betances to step up and be ready to play in the majors full time if no one else is signed. But in order to gain the Yankees’ trust, he’ll likely have to do so in training camp.
9. Preston Claiborne: After being called up in May of this past season, Claiborne became of favorite of Joe Girardi‘s out of the bullpen, pitching important innings, and putting up generally favorable numbers/results. Claiborne is very adept with his control, walking only 14 men in over 50 innings pitched. There is no doubt Claiborne has earned the right to at least be considered for a spot in the bullpen this season, but he’ll have to show the Yankees why he does deserve a spot, by letting his pitching do the talking come the spring.
8. Austin Romine: With the Yankees losing catcher Russell Martin in free agency, and losing newly appointed starting catcher Francisco Cervelli nearly the entire season with an injury and a suspension for being linked with the Biogenesis Scandal, allowed Austin Romine to see more playing time last season than he or the Yankees ever expected. While he wasn’t breathtaking offensively, he showed some promise defensively. While the Yankees have signed Brian McCann to be their starting catcher, there is still a spot for Romine as the backup catcher, that he will likely get a chance to earn this spring.
7. Francisco Cervelli: After missing out on an opportunity to be a starting catcher for the Yankees in 2013, Cervelli won’t get the chance again this year, with the Yankees’ signing of McCann. He will however, get a chance to win the job as McCann’s backup. While Cervelli may have the edge over Austin Romine overall, the job will not be simply handed over to him, as he will have to outplay Romine in spring training for it.
6. Eduardo Nunez: Eduardo Nunez has had a rocky career to say the least. Once viewed as a possible successor to shortstop Derek Jeter, those fantasies have evaporated due to Nunez’s consistent inconsistency. While Nunez has showed some promise throughout the course of his career, and while he is certainly better defensively now than he was three years ago, the fact of the matter is Nunez’s competition will likely prove too much for him to overcome. Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts (when healthy) and Brendan Ryan (defensively) are simply better. While it has been suggested that Nunez could be part of a platoon with Johnson at third, he will likely have to show the Yankees why he deserves it.
5. Vidal Nuno: Vidal Nuno was a guy who showed some promise for the Yankees last season, appearing in 5 games and starting 3, finishing with a win-loss record of 1-2 with an ERA of 2.25, before (like a lot of Yankees) suffering a season-ending injury. The Yankees have already confirmed that there will be a competition for the fifth spot in the starting rotation, and Nuno will be a part of it. However, he’ll face some stiff competition, going up against David Phelps, Adam Warren, and Michael Pineda.
4. Adam Warren: After appearing in a combined 35 games and starting 3 for the Bombers the past two seasons, and pitching to a 3-2 record and an ERA of 3.97, Adam Warren will be getting an opportunity to win that fifth spot in the Yankees’ rotation this season. He’ll have his work cut out for him though, so he’ll have to do everything in his power to make sure he becomes a starter.
3. David Phelps: David Phelps has been a very valuable piece to the Yankees the last two years, pitching over 186 innings, appearing in 55 games, starting 23, and pitching to a 10-9 record, with a 4.11 ERA. Phelps has been a reliable long relief man for the Yankees, and while he has started before, now gets his chance to have that “starter” label there for good. Anyone who has watched Phelps pitch, knows he has the stuff to be starter. The only question is will he earn it?
2. Michael Pineda: After an extremely successful rookie season with the Seattle Mariners in 2011, in which he pitched to a 9-10 record with an ERA of 3.74, was named an All-Star for the AL, and finished 5th in the AL Rookie of the Year voting, the Yankees acquired Pineda in a trade in which the Yankees sent their top prospect, catcher Jesus Montero, to the Mariners. The Yankees envisioned Pineda as their number 2 starter behind ace C.C. Sabathia. Over two years later, Pineda has yet to throw a pitch for New York. Shortly after being acquired by the Yankees, Pineda was placed on the 15-day DL with tendinitis in his right shoulder, causing him to miss the start of the 2012 season. During his rehabilitation, he suffered an anterior labral tear in his right shoulder. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on May 1, 2012 and was eliminated for the 2012 season. Pineda began the 2013 season on the 60-day DL as he was still recovering from the shoulder surgery. He was activated from the DL on July 8, 2013 and optioned to Triple-A. Pineda showed promise at Triple-A, and now is the front-runner for the fifth spot in the Yankees’ rotation. But Pineda will be facing major league hitters during spring training, not minor leaguers. This will be the ultimate test to see if Pineda is even close to what he was before the Yankees got him. It’s his job to lose.
1. Ichiro Suzuki: Believe it or not, Ichiro Suzuki will likely have to play his way onto the roster out of training camp this season. After essentially being forced out of a crowded outfield that includes Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Carlos Beltran, and Alfonso Soriano, it looks like Ichiro may have to play for his Yankee life in order to remain part of the team. After being acquired from the Mariners midway through the 2012 season, Ichiro was phenomenal for the Yankees. In 67 games with New York, he batted .322, with 5 home runs, 27 RBI, and 14 stolen bases. The Yankees rewarded him that offseason with a 2-year deal. 2013 was a different story however. While he did achieve his 4000th career hit between the Japanese league and MLB (a game I attended by the way), with all the injuries the Yankees suffered, Ichiro was relied on for more than could be expected of him. He played in 150 games, finishing with a .262 average, 7 homers, 35 RBI, and 20 stolen bases, numbers that were barley better than what he achieved in 83 less games with the Yankees the previous year. Overall, Ichiro is not the same player that he once was, and is likely just taking up space on the roster. I can’t see the Yankees just giving Ichiro a free pass just because of his name. While he could be a big help to the growth of Masahiro Tanaka, you can’t pay someone over $6 million for a little advice. So if Ichiro intends to remain a Yankee, he will likely have to play his heart out this spring, and prove why he deserves a shot to be a part of the team this year.
These are ten players that will all most likely get a shot to make the roster this season. However, only a handful will. You can comment on which ones you think will/won’t make it, or feel free to leave some feedback as well!