Get excited Yankees fans, Spring Training is right around the corner. Despite a busy off-season, the Yankees still have some roster spots to fill.
While the outfield is pretty full, questions remain regarding the infield, back-end of the starting rotation and middle of the bullpen. Along with the 40-man roster, the team announced some additional non-roster invitees earlier this week.
There are a lot of candidates for just a few spots and Spring Training can change a lot. But as the calendar turns to February and pitchers and catchers report in about two weeks, it’s worth taking an early look at some candidates who have a legitimate chance of making the 25-man roster at the start of the season. This list won’t include lesser-known new additions who are basic shoe-ins for spots such as Kelly Johnson and Matt Thornton, but digs a bit deeper for who could round out the end of the roster.
1. Scott Sizemore (3B)
Sizemore is the latest of nine players agreeing to minor league contracts with the Yankees. The 29-year-old is a former top prospect for the Detroit Tigers who never quite developed and has dealt with injuries. He showed some signs in his first season with the Oakland Athletics in 2011 when he had 11 home runs, 52 RBI with a .345 OBP in 92 games, but then had the first of two ACL surgeries on his left knee in March of 2012. He’s been limited to six at-bats in the last two seasons. The Yankees have two infield positions to fill in second and third, and among the candidates at third are Kelly Johnson and Brendan Ryan. Johnson will likely have to play plenty of second with Brian Roberts no longer an every day player, and the team could still use Ryan, a natural shortstop, to spell the aging captain Derek Jeter. So there still could be room for Sizemore even if Johnson, Ryan and Roberts all make the team.
2. Robert Coello (RP)
Another 29-year-old to sign a minor league deal, Coello will get a shot this spring. He saw some time with the Los Angeles Angels last season and in 17 innings recorded an excellent 2.52 FIP (fielding independent of pitching, which measures what a pitcher’s ERA would look like assuming performance on balls in play was league average). Coello has recorded impressive strikeout numbers with a 12.18 K/9 (strikeouts per nine) ratio in 29 career major league innings. He also features an intriguing pitch which he calls a forkball that at times looks like a knuckleball. If the righty can miss bats this spring, he has a shot of making this bullpen.
3. Michael Pineda (SP)
The big haul in the now infamous Jesus Montero trade, the Yankees have yet to get one major league inning from Pineda. He had a very impressive rookie year with the Seattle Mariners in 2011, but has had nearly two years of rehab following shoulder surgery. Pineda is still just 25 and two seasons removed from being touted as the second ace in Seattle behind Felix Hernandez. The latest news on Pineda is that there is no news on Pineda. That seems to mean he is healthy, for now, and he is probably the front runner to join CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Masahiro Tanaka and Ivan Nova in the rotation.