The battle in the bullpen is going to be one of the spring training competitions worth watching closely. As of now, David Robertson, Shawn Kelley and Matt Thornton are the only pitchers that we can absolutely expect to be on the Opening Day roster.
As of now, the rest of the bullpen figures to be filled by the players already slated to be in camp next weekend — meaning the Yankees are unlikely to sign any free-agents before next Friday.
According to Andrew Marchand and Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York, there is actually a small chance that Yankees’ prospect Manny Banuelos could make the big league team as a second left-hander out of the bullpen.
A source told the ESPNNewYork.com duo that “Banuelos has got that big arm. If it’s still there and the lightning still strikes, then you’re going to hear people say, ‘f–k it, bring him with us on (Opening Day)’”
Banuelos, who will turn just 23 in March and considered to be one of the Yankees’ best pitching prospects, is coming off Tommy John surgery and has missed nearly the last two seasons because of elbow problems.
Realistically, it would be a much smarter move for the Yankees to instead let him start the season in the minors and try to work his way back.
He has been projected to be a No. 2 or No. 3 starter in the rotation down the road, and putting him in the bullpen now rather than letting him try to become that solid Major League starter just doesn’t make sense.
I think that the only way the Yankees start him in the big leagues this season is if they have no other choice. Hopefully the bullpen shapes up better than it looks right now, and Cesar Cabral and Dellin Betances put together great springs to avoid this even being a topic of discussion.