Feel free to mix in a timely hit…

Have bat, will travel…

The Yankees have two players in camp that were part of the Chicago Cubs’ magical 98-win season that ended thanks to the Yanks’ cross-town rival, and it is hopeful that Starlin Castro and Chris Denorfia can bring some of that magic to the Bronx.  Castro, of course, is a shoo-in for a roster spot given that he’s ticketed to be the Yankees’ starting second baseman.  For Denorfia, it is a much more difficult road.  If he makes the team, it will be as its fifth outfielder.  But with a starting trio of Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Brett Gardner, it is a certainty that the backup outfielders will play.  The edge that Denorfia brings is a right handed bat which is a positive when there is a surplus of lefties.

Over the past few years, I have missed the clutch hits that we grew accustomed to with guys like Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon.  Denorfia delivered a huge clutch hit last September when his pinch hit home run in the 11th inning defeated the Kansas City Royals 1-0.  It was the Cubs’ first pinch hit home run to break a scoreless tie since the great Joe Pepitone hit one off Mudcat Grant in June 1971.


Brian Cassella/The Chicago Tribune

I like the above picture because it’s not only celebratory of Denorfia’s hit, but you can see a very excited Castro.  The goal this season is to keep that smile on Starlin’s face!

I don’t know if Denorfia will make the final roster.  He is 35 so father time is starting to work against him.  The Yankees have a much younger right-handed outfield candidate in Lane Adams, and all things considered, I’d probably prefer to see Adams win the job (if the Yankees choose righty over lefty).  Slade Heathcott certainly deserves to be on the team, but he is one of the many lefties.  While I may prefer Heathcott or Adams, I wouldn’t be disappointed if Denorfia shows enough this spring to warrant a big league job.

Enjoy the Bronx while it lasts…

I almost feel badly for Didi Gregorius.  He did a terrific job replacing a legend at shortstop.  He started slowly in April, but for the remainder of the season, he was very capable with both bat and glove.  He showed that GM Brian Cashman made a terrific decision to acquire Gregorius from the Arizona Diamondbacks, sending starting pitcher Shane Greene to the Detroit Tigers as part of a three-way trade.


New York Daily News

Yet, as good as Gregorius was, his time in New York could be short.  The Yankees’ top prospect, SS Jorge Mateo, is blazing through the minors.  Although he’ll most like start the season in High A ball this year, he has opened eyes this spring to show why he is the organization’s top talent.  No offense to Aaron Judge or Gary Sanchez, but Mateo is the most exciting player to rise through the system in a very long time.  Mateo’s continued progression could eventually make Gregorius obsolete.

If at second…

I thought it was really weird when I heard talk of Starlin Castro playing some third base this spring to be the potential backup for Chase Headley in addition to his duties as the regular second baseman.  Given that he only played 38 games at the position last season after the Cubs removed him as the starting shortstop, it was apparent to me that Castro needed to focus on the nuances of second base and not try to tackle learning another new position simultaneously.


So, now I read that Manager Joe Girardi has rescinded the plan for Castro to play third so that he can focus on second.  Duh…

Learning to play third base, however, is a great opportunity for Rob Refsnyder.  I would really like to see the Yankees break camp with Refsnyder on the roster as the backup second baseman and now potentially backup third baseman.  Castro can slide to short when necessary, which would open a spot for Refsnyder on occasion.  I do wish the Yankees had stronger bench support for the corner infield spots as Dustin Ackley is playing out of position too in backing up Mark Teixeira even if he did play there in college.  The Baltimore Orioles made a good spring signing with Pedro Alvarez, one guy that I thought might be a good fit for the Yankees.  It is possible the backup 1B/3B is not yet on the roster, but if it comes down to Refsnyder and Ackley, the Yankees could certainly do worse.

The Future of the Rotation…

I know that he is only 21 and not ready for the major leagues, but James Kaprielian has a great presence about him and his attitude, along with his physical talents, sets him up for a very bright future.  There was always something special about Andy Pettitte, and Kaprielian seems to have that same “it” factor.  Andy was never truly the ace of the rotation, but he was the guy you wanted to have the ball in October.  Kaprielian can be that same type of player.

James Kaprielian

New York Yankees first round pick, 16th overall, James Kaprielian fires a pitch to the plate. (Robert M Pimpsner/Pinstriped Prospects)

Robert M Pimpsner

The Rehearsal before the Big Show…

I wasn’t trying to diss Aaron Judge above in talking about Jorge Mateo.  Judge is the future of right field.  More than likely, he’ll be in pinstripes for good by September.  Next year, right field will be his.  But he still has to go out and show the World that he is ready.  He underwhelmed last year the Triple A level so this will be the year he needs to show he is ready for the main stage.  I have no doubt he was the talent to succeed, and it will be great watching him hit home runs for the home team.  This is a big year for Judge, but everything is up to him.  The job is his for the taking.  Not many young players get such a huge opening for opportunity.


Corey Sipkin/New York Daily News


This is a tough one.  I believe in Gary Sanchez and feel that he is the future, but I am not ready to say goodbye to Austin Romine.  If Sanchez makes the team as backup to Brian McCann, Romine’s long association with the Yankees will inevitably be over.  I like the tandem of Sanchez and Romine, but the Yankees are not going to carry three catchers and McCann is not going anywhere.


Robert Murray/The Star Ledger

I probably want Sanchez on the roster, but there is a part of me rooting for Romine.  Sanchez’s day will come.  I’d prefer to see Romine establish himself as a big league catcher with the Yankees, and not become yet another former Yankees catcher in, say, Pittsburgh.

The decisions of Spring.  The job is never easy for Cashman and Girardi…



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  1. Pingback: Discover: Monday Around the Horn « MLB.com Blogs

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