Yankees: These Young Players Should Get the Most Opportunities in 2020
Expanded rosters and a hectic schedule opens a door for the New York Yankees youth.
Summer Camp has officially begun in the Bronx, and with it, the Yankees have selected a 58-man player pool for the shortened 2020 campaign. Among those at Spring Training 2.0 are Thairo Estrada, Tyler Wade, Clarke Schmidt, and Jonathan Loaisiga.
Although Major League Baseball has determined 40-man rosters will still be used, with 26 players being active at a time, the 2019 New York Yankees were living proof that a rash of injuries could force the team to reach deep into the depths of their farm system.
With the Bronx Bombers set to play 60 games in 67 days, manager Aaron Boone will have to tote the fine line of overusing his stars while fielding a competitive lineup each day. There’s no room for constant slip-ups in a 60-game season, and when your name gets called, you better have your A-game.
On July 6, it was two young Yankees studs — Schmidt and Estrada — who raised eyebrows during an intrasquad game. Schmidt, the Yankees No. 2 prospect per MLB.com, pitched impeccably, utilizing his nasty breaking pitches to completely shut down the biggest bats in the Yankees lineup.
The 16th overall selection in the 2017 draft looked MLB-ready, paving the way for Boone to put him on the active roster in about two weeks. If Schmidt can continue to pitch well during camp, there’s a high likelihood that he will find himself on the mound in the Bronx at some point during the 60-game stint.
As for Estrada, the 24-year-old, who appeared in 35 games in 2019, had the lone long ball in what was otherwise a night dominated by pitching. He will battle with Wade for reps at second with All-Star D.J. LeMahieu out following his COVID-19 diagnosis.
The Venezuela native batted .250 for the Bombers in 2019, with three home runs and 12 RBI, but spent most of the season with Scranton Wilkes-Barre in Triple-A. Scranton is where Wade has spent the majority of the past three seasons, although he has seen big-league action in each of those years.
Wade hit just .245 with two homers and 11 RBI in 43 games in 2019, but he stole seven bags, which is something the power-heavy Yankees need. With the extra-innings rule change, Wade could be the guy who gets the nod to pinch run in crucial situations. And if he can transition his top-notch defense into the minors to the MLB level, he’ll be in great position.
While those two infielders will duke it out for reps in the lineup, Loaisiga will battle with Schmidt to bolster the back end of the Yankees damaged rotation. A five-man unit that looked formidable after the addition of Gerrit Cole has now seen Luis Severino undergo Tommy John surgery and Masahiro Tanaka take a line drive off of his head.
Amazingly, it appears Tanaka will be just fine, but the reps he’ll miss in the coming days/weeks will shorten his first couple of outings, opening the long relief options for the likes of Schmidt and Loaisiga, who already has ample experience at the big-league level.
His electric fastball and devastating slider allowed him to jump from AA to the MLB in 2018, but his numbers have not been great. He’s posted a 4-2 record with a 4.79 ERA in 56.1 innings with the Yanks. Those aren’t horrific numbers by any means, but the right-hander can’t do worse than that if he wants more playing time.
The Yankees have a plethora of organizational depth, and we can expect Boone to deploy his youth at various points to maximize the energy level of the club.
Those opportunities will grace the likes of Wade, Schmidt, Estrada, and Loaisiga, with the first two of those having the best shot at playing an integral role this season.