Yankees: Who should start at second base and third base?
Pitchers and catchers report in a month, and the Yankees second-base and third-base positions are still up for grabs. We know management is committed to keeping payroll below $197M, so which in-house options need to start in 2018?
Before we can answer this trending question, we need to establish what the Yankees should be looking for. Although they are a World Series favorite, every team has a weakness.
All-Star sluggers Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez, lead a potent lineup. Switch hitter Aaron Hicks and lefties Brett Gardner, Greg Bird and Didi Gregorius have 20-plus homer potential, so muscle isn’t required.
In my opinion, the Yankees need speedsters who get on base, steal bags and field their position well. Defense, especially, appears to be a priority for GM Brian Cashman.
Former Yankee All-Star second baseman Starlin Castro‘s contract and questionable fielding made him a trade chip in the Stanton deal. And the hitting abilities of prospect third baseman Miguel Andujar have been praised, but his fielding has held him back.
So what two players in the organization can be table setters for the offense while not being liabilities on defense?
A table setter with a solid glove sounds like a simple scouting report describing top prospect 2B/3B/SS Gleyber Torres. But Torres will likely start the season in the minors to continue rehabbing his left elbow from Tommy John surgery.
"Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Monday that while service-time considerations won’t be a factor in Torres(elbow) potentially breaking spring camp with the big club, it’s “more likely” the 21-year-old will require additional time in the minors, Bryan Hoch of MLB.com reports."
Should veterans or baby bombers start?
Youngsters Andujar and Torres may be the favorite options, but are the Yankees really going to start two rookie infielders?
Well, they may have to.
Utility men Ronald Torreyes and Jace Peterson have major league experience under their belts. However, the issue with both of them is they aren’t exceptionally good hitters or fielders, and they don’t run!
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While Torreyes was a pleasant surprise last season batting .292, his .314 OBP show he’s a fugazi (fake) offensive contributor. Also, he doesn’t steal bases despite all the singles he slaps.
As for Jace Peterson, 2017 was a major setback compared to 2016 when he posted a respectable .350 OBP. Last year, Peterson batted an abysmal .215 with a .318 OBP, and he stole only three bags.
According to the sabermetrics of both Peterson and Torreyes, they are average fielders at best.
In 2017, Torreyes had a below average DRS of negative two at third base and an average DRS of zero at second base. Peterson had a below average DRS of negative three at second base and an average DRS of one at third base.
So the Yankees could plug in two spot fillers at second base and third base with Peterson and Torreyes. But since winning a title is the goal, why not bet on the talented ready-to-go prospects?
And by the way, I haven’t even mentioned Tyler Wade.
The Dark Horse, Tyler Wade
Wade has more experience in the majors than Andujar and Torres, but not by much. He’s also a utility fielder, with good speed and a more disciplined approach at the plate than Torreyes.
Sure, Wade didn’t contribute much in the majors during his 58 at-bats in 2017. However, it would be foolish to look over his successful minor league season at Triple-A with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders.
In 388 plate appearances at Triple-A, Wade hit .310 with a .382 OBP and 26 SB. According to the Fangraphs scouting report, he’s expected to be an average fielder, with above average speed.
For what the Yankees need right now, Wade could be the guy. If he gets on base, he’s a threat to run, and he’s not a liability as a fielder.
I don’t expect Wade to steal headlines anytime soon, but I want a kid like him in the lineup. In my opinion, a young utility man with speed and plate discipline would be valuable to any team.
He’s overlooked for a reason, and that’s because he doesn’t have the power stroke. Well, he’s a lefty with speed like a young Brett Gardner, and Gardy found his power swing only recently.
Also, at the age of 24, Gardner hit zero home runs and batted .228hishist first 141 plate appearances. Wade just turned 23 in November and made it to the majors at the age of 22.
Give the kid a break.
Start The Kids
Last year was unexpectedly successful because of the emergence of the Yankees’ talented youth. Brace yourselves Major League Baseball fans, because more are coming.
The Yankees shouldn’t stop trusting their talented youth. With that said, I believe Torres should start the majority of games at second base, Andujar should start a majority of games at third base, and Wade should share some time with both of them.
Mixing talented and hungry youth within a competitive team filled with stars seems to be a recipe for success. It worked for the Houston Astros last year and the Chicago Cubs the year before.
Hopefully, new manager Aaron Boone can start one of these exciting young players in 2018 at one of the vacant positions. But the offseason is not over, and the Yankees could acquire another player via trade or free agent signing.
Next: Joel Sherman's Ellsbury for Desmond deal
As long as they don’t lose Andujar, Wade or Torres, I’m okay with it. I’d prefer Cashman and Boone to take the risk and start the youngsters.