The Yankees are a team that should benefit greatly from the start of the regular season being delayed. Many of their injured players now have more time to get back to full strength. However, for some of their healthy players, the season not beginning on time could really impact them negatively.
The Yankees were supposed to be playing in Tampa against the Rays today but because of the coronavirus, there’s no telling when we might see them or the rest of MLB back in action.
Given the circumstances, it would be inappropriate to call this extra time off a blessing in disguise for guys rehabbing their way back from injuries like Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, and James Paxton. That being said now they should have plenty of time to get themselves healthy for whenever the season finally begins.
That also includes Giancarlo Stanton who reportedly has recovered fully from the Grade 1 calf strain he suffered back on February 26th. However for the players that were in a position to fill in for these injured Yankees to start the season this delay couldn’t have come at a worse possible time.
After basically spending the entire second half of last season stuck at Triple-A Scranton Clint Frazier entered spring training still near the bottom of the outfield depth chart. However, that quickly changed once Judge and Stanton went down early on in camp. Before play was suspended Frazier looked like a lock to make the Opening Day roster and likely would have been the Yankees starting right fielder as well.
Now by the time the season starts, Frazier might be back to where he started which is on the outside looking in for a spot on the 26-man roster. We know Stanton is healthy and should be ready to go once play resumes and by the time this all ends it looks like there’s a good chance Judge will be too.
Assuming that’s the case there won’t be a spot on the team for Frazier to earn consistent playing time. Even if Hicks isn’t ready to return by than the Yanks still have Brett Gardner to fill in at center field. They also have Miguel Andujar who has shown he is capable of playing the outfield and there’s no doubt he’ll be on the Opening Day roster, regardless of his role.
Tauchman is kind of on the same boat as Frazier although I’d give him a better shot of making the team out of camp even if Stanton and Judge are back in the mix. That’s because he’s an elite defender compared to Frazier and he can play all three outfield positions. The Yankees are going to need him on the roster for his defense and to split some of the reps with Gardner in center before Hicks comes back.
I’m assuming Hicks will not be ready to play in a major league game by Opening Day, but he should be close to 100% by then so it shouldn’t take him too long to get himself into game shape. He’ll probably need a couple of weeks of rehab games, but once he’s ready he’s going to be the starting centerfielder. If everyone else in the outfield is healthy when he returns Tauchman’s role will be diminished greatly.
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Before MLB suspended operations on March 12th Loaisiga sure looked like the heavy favorite to win the final spot in the Yankees starting rotation. There were still two weeks to go but compared to the other candidates he was running away with the job after posting a 2.70 ERA with 14 K’s in ten innings of work.
When spring training picks back up he’ll still have a great chance at making the Yankees 26-man roster but it probably won’t be as a member of the starting rotation with Paxton back in the fold. He has the stuff to make a huge impact as a multi-inning reliever, but I’m sure he’d much rather be a starter after coming up through the minor leagues as one.
If someone in the rotation gets hurt he’ll be one of the first in line to fill in, but he won’t be the only option. If he’s already on the team in the bullpen the Yankees might be more inclined to call up a starter from Triple-A who’s built up like one of their top prospects Clarke Schmidt or Deivi Garcia.
The delayed start might not have as much of a negative impact on Loaisiga as it could for Frazier and Tauchman but this could end up robbing him of one his last opportunities to pitch exclusively as a starter.