Yankees: Roster Depth Pieces Emerging From Summer Camp Firing on All Cylinders
By Adam Weinrib
The Yankees have as complete a 30-man roster as you’ll see in MLB. 40-man roster, too. And probably a 50-man.
The New York Yankees managed a dominant 6-0 victory over the ostensibly-trying New York Mets on Sunday night, led by a power-packed, dinger-socking lineup.
That lineup was missing Mike Tauchman, Miguel Andujar, Gio Urshela, and Clint Frazier, four of the top performers in recent days for a Yankees team finally hoping to enter October as a well-rounded favorite, rather than an offensive behemoth with lingering questions.
Though one can never be too careful, the one thing that’s been most evident in New York’s summer camp play is that no MLB team has a deeper offense, and no MLB team’s offensive depth is as prepared and motivated for their personal follow-up seasons as this unit.
As the Yankees learned in 2019, depth can be thrust to the forefront in a hurry. One injury can become an avalanche. New York’s outfielders sometimes seem to have supernatural twin powers — one pulls a groin sprinting, and the other two feel the ache.
That’s why it’s of utmost importance that New York’s second unit is adequately prepared to prove that their first season in the spotlight was no fluke. If a few weeks of training and exhibitions are enough to judge, these guys kept themselves ready during their downtime, and are peaking at the ideal moment.
Gio Urshela, picked up off the scrap heap midway through the 2018 season, entered ’19 as a potential defensive replacement, and perhaps more importantly Francisco Lindor’s best friend. Now, he’s going to be looked upon to man third base full time, and prepare for second base duty, as DJ LeMahieu gets his strength up.
Urshela has been strangely maligned this offseason by statistical purists. They’ve deemed his offensive breakout the product of the juiced ball, and have cited metrics to prove his defense isn’t worth a dime, easily the most bizarre side-effect yet of statistical over-reliance. Urshela was in peak form this weekend, socking a homer, and covering the entire left side of the Citi Field infield like an overzealous tarp.
Mike Tauchman owned large stretches of 2019, and his absence from the postseason helped finally sink New York’s intricate injury web — if he’d been there to take Giancarlo Stanton’s spot in the ALCS, where would the World Series trophy reside? Instead, he was laid up after a battle with Fenway Park’s left field turf. Relegated to a secondary role by Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Aaron Hicks healing during a time warp, Tauchman seems fully prepared to embrace the weirdness of his sophomore season — he rapped three hits on Saturday, following a struggle-marred Spring Training.
Of course, that leaves the position-less wonders, Miguel Andujar and Clint Frazier, two more starting-caliber bats on nearly every big league roster.
Andujar’s age-24 season in 2019 was entirely wasted — he somehow managed to post an impossibly low -1.2 WAR in just 49 at-bats, fighting fruitlessly through a torn shoulder. Frazier’s campaign was set ablaze by both the Yankees’ attitude and his own misgivings and shortcomings. Though he was blessed with the ability to hit in the clutch (.362 with RISP), Frazier’s disappearing act with the media and defensive circus-work left him demoted rather than celebrated.
Both men appear reborn in 2020, with Frazier’s masked persona and Andujar’s carefree helicopter bat both breeding new life. Each slugger has marked the month of July with prodigious blasts — Andujar has a trio of them, and has victimized an increasingly angry Gerrit Cole twice.
Blocked by the Houston Astros from World Series appearances in both 2017 and 2019, the Yankees are attacking this shortened season with a renewed vigor, laid plain with every mammoth home run that ricochets through an empty seating bowl. That motivation applies to the team’s bench, too, stocked with four men with the necessary hunger to make a second impression.
Depth matters doubly when the roster’s full, and it’s rounding into form right on time for a rightly-crowned preseason favorite.