3 Yankees prospects who could steal roster spots at spring training
By Adam Weinrib
The New York Yankees are going to have some roster spots up for grabs this spring — and, if things don’t reverse course quickly, that number could climb into the double digits.
Kidding. Being facetious. We think.
As of this moment, the Yanks have vacancies at short, center, first (?), on the bench, in the rotation, and in the bullpen. Many of those will be filled by trades and signings once activity is again sanctioned post-lockout. As of now, all of that activity has been shut down (unless you’re the Astros trying to sign Justin Verlander pretty please).
But for the middle portions of the ‘pen, back of the rotation, and utility roles? We’ve got our eyes firmly trained on internal options, considering the Yankees went out of their way to focus our attention there a few weeks back when they scrambled to protect several players from the Rule 5 Draft that never happened.
If you can recall back to a time when maneuvers were legal, the Yankees DFA’d Clint Frazier, Rougned Odor and Tyler Wade while also trading Nick Nelson and Donny Sands to clear out five extra roster spots. Most of the players added feel like genuine threats to swipe playing time in 2022.
And, remember, there’s one other way that players who are not on the 40-man can find their way to MLB and break camp with the team. If a player hits the 60-Day IL (and, believe us, it will happen), their roster spot is up for grabs, and the Yankees can select anyone they’d like to the 40-man (and then the active roster). For example, Zack Britton will be hitting the long-term Injured List, clearing a path for someone to travel north with the team.
Well, travel to … Dallas, TX for Opening Day, actually. Dallas! Classic Opening Day location. It’s like MLB knew Corey Seager and Marcus Semien were heading there.
When the Yankees and Rangers face off, don’t be stunned if these three players are in attendance — including one wild card, Lucas Luetge style.
3 unexpected prospects who could make Yankees’ Opening Day roster.
3. JP Sears, LHP
Though his 40-man protection likely shocked you, it’s clear the Yankees believe 25-year-old left-hander JP Sears has a chance to stick on an MLB roster for the entire 2022 season.
All that being said … he’s almost un-Googleable. You ask for the pitcher, you get a “right-wing American YouTuber”? Uh … don’t check for yourself. Clearly, the lefty Sears’ relevance better get a significant upgrade — and fast — and breaking camp with the Yanks will be an easy way to make that happen.
Following in Luetge’s footsteps, the 25-year-old Mariners draftee wowed with soft stuff that ticks up last season, posting a 10-2 record with a 3.46 ERA in 25 games (18 starts) last season. Across Double-A and Triple-A (and he was better in Scranton), Sears whiffed 136 men in 104 innings pitched.
There’s a lot to like here.
Sears will have the simplest path to a big-league opportunity this spring of anyone listed. Without Britton, this bullpen already needs to go one man deeper than it did last year. If New York’s looking for a cut-and-dried left-handed replacement, it might just be their 40-man’s newest member. It’s all about impressing when the spotlight is on you, just like Luetge did, but Sears has an obvious chance to make the leap.