4 surprise players who could steal a roster spot with 2023 Yankees

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Rafael Ortega, OF

We'll keep banging this drum until it actually comes to fruition (or doesn't, at which point we'll be waiting for Ortega to make some Triple-A noise before getting loud again).

The Yankees need a left fielder. They need a productive left fielder. They need a left-handed bat with some pop built for the short porch. Ortega was all of these things in 2021, when he burst onto the scene as a 30-year-old with the Cubs and posted a 121 OPS+ and .823 OPS, launching 11 blasts from the left side of the plate.

His 2022 follow-up didn't go quite as well, but even in a down year, Ortega was still good for a 95 OPS+ and 90th-percentile walk rate/82nd percentile whiff percentage. Hicks? His OPS+ was just 86 last year, and Ortega can nearly match Hicks' primary strength. The incumbent's walk rate is in the 95th percentile, but his whiffs fall in the 41st.

Sometimes, it's about more than on-field performance, too. The Yankees could use a narrative adjustment in left field after Hicks essentially opted out of chasing a fair ball last September and earned himself a temporary benching for all home games. Add in the wrist injury that might've forever altered his batted-ball profile and sapped his strength (we have very little evidence to the contrary), and Ortega could be a welcome breath of fresh air ... as long as he opens eyes in spring training action.