Yankees have 3 players that need to prove 2019 was no fluke
Between Domingo German, Gio Urshela and Mike Tauchman, the Yankees featured three crucial breakout players last season. However, with depth at each position, these players will be hard-pressed to exceed expectations in 2020.
Looking at a potential 25-man roster for the 2020 New York Yankees, it would appear there are very few holes if any.
Knowing what we do about the current state of the club’s payroll currently sitting at $240 million — and the organization’s desire to decrease that number by potentially trading away J.A. Happ’s $17 million contract (plus a vesting option in 2021 for the same amount), aside from a blockbuster trade for Brewers closer Josh Hader — all is quiet on the rumor front.
Naturally, dealing for Hader would require significant pieces, likely resulting in major league positional depth plus a prospect or two heading to Milwaukee.
However, should general manager Brian Cashman decide to stand pat, either before or after shedding Happ’s contract, the Yankees’ main concern should be getting the same, if not better production out of three players; pitcher Domingo German, third baseman Gio Urshela and outfielder Mike Tauchman.
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Unfortunately, German’s situation is complicated, as he’s been on administrative leave since late September after it was reported to MLB that German was seen striking the mother of his children.
Bob Klapisch recently tweeted that “nothing is imminent regarding discipline.”
"#Yankees will have to wait a little longer for clarity on Domingo German situation. Told “nothing imminent” regarding discipline. “The idea is to get (German) better first” says industry source, which raises possibility hurler is/has been in rehab or therapy."
With a possible lengthy suspension looming, German could lose the No. 5 starting rotation spot to either Jordan Montgomery, Jonathan Loaisiga or even No. 1 prospect Deivi Garcia.
And what if Happ isn’t dealt? The veteran lefty would undoubtedly be in the conversation to anchor the rotation despite an up and down ’19.
Surely, the Yankees would love to place their winningest pitcher from last season (18-4) at the backend of its rotation, but that won’t be possible until MLB finally hands down their ruling on German.
Entering his age-28 season, German would have had the upper-hand to winning a starting job, considering his 4.03 ERA, 1.147 WHIP and 153:39 K:BB ratio across a career-high 143 innings last season.
However, his suspension put the Yankees in a bind come the postseason, as manager Aaron Boone was forced to use an opener in Game 4 of the ALCS. Depending on the outcome of MLB’s investigation, you have to wonder what German’s teammate’s reaction will be upon reinstatement — let alone the ferocious fanbase.
At the very least, German could be placed in the bullpen as a long reliever until injury or inconsistency offers the opportunity to reclaim his slot in the rotation.
Gio Urshela was once a highly-touted prospect in the Indians organization that was known for all glove and little stick. However, the 28-year-old put it all together following Miguel Andujar’s season-ending shoulder surgery.
Having not gotten close to playing in a career-high 81 games since 2015, Urshela hit .314/.355/.534 with 34 doubles, 21 home runs and 74 RBIs across 442 at-bats in ’19. However, the question remains, will Gio duplicate his 2019 offensive output? It’s only natural to wonder if last season was an offensive career year.
While Urshela certainly has the glovework to stay in the Yankee lineup even if his bat were to be less potent, Andujar’s presence will pressurize the situation — and I believe that’s for the best.
Andujar’s offense helped carry the 2018 Yankees — so I’m not prepared to give that ability away so easily. I certainly realize you have to trade something to get something, but maybe the safer play is to deal Urshela, who was acquired from the Blue Jays for a suspected $25K — and keep the 2018 AL Rookie of the Year Runner-Up.
Yes, it’s a complicated situation, so unless Hader is a realistic possibility, I prefer to keep both third basemen and let them battle it out in spring training. Besides, Andujar still has minor league options remaining — so why not let him get back into the swing of things gradually while allowing Urshela to either own the position permeate or give it away.
And lastly, there’s the career minor leaguer acquired from the Rockies at the tail end of last year’s spring training, Mike Tauchman. Though he didn’t catch lightning in a bottle, Tauchman slowly made a name for himself with the ’19 team — and indeed became invaluable when Aaron Judge missed extended time due to a severely strained oblique.
Never receiving more than 32 at-bats in the majors (2018), Tauchman slashed .277/.361/.504 with 18 doubles, 13 homers and 47 RBIs across 296 plate appearances. While his 71:34 K:BB ratio could use some work, Tauchman’s .994 fielding percentage in 694.1 innings at all three outfield positions further outweighs his strikeout totals.
Much like Urshela, the possibility remains that the 29-year-old Tauchman comes back down to Earth in 2020. Although, as we’ve seen throughout the years, give a talented, albeit unproven player a chance to wear pinstripes, and often, he’ll raise his game.
With Giancarlo Stanton expected to get the bulk of DH duties, and Brett Gardner returning to fill the gap left by Aaron Hicks’ recovery from Tommy John surgery, Tauchman is liked by many as the Yanks’ best bet to man left field.
But as I wrote the other day, Clint Frazier is still a Yankee and if he isn’t traded between now and opening day — needs to play in order to prove his worth. The former No. 2 Yankees prospect can only get better in the Bronx. Acting as bench depth or worse, back in the minors will do little to boost his confidence.
Yet I’m not naive to think Tauchman won’t be given first crack as the club’s left fielder — and if it weren’t for calf strain that robbed him of the entire postseason, the Yanks might already know The Sock Man’s fate.
Now it’s up to the Yankee decision-makers to do just that before opening day in Baltimore on March 26. As the old saying goes, you can never have too much pitching. But what about too much lineup depth?
Because as we saw with 30 players sent to the IL in ’19, anything can happen and the Yanks need to be prepared once again.