The future is bright…
This was a difficult week. For months if not years, I have wanted Alex Rodriguez to go away. He may have said and did the right thing after the year-long suspension, but there have been too many indiscretions and lies for me to be willing to move forward with the player. Yet, for his final game, I was sad. I was and am ready for the Yankees to turn the page, but for one night, it was good to see A-Rod smash the RBI double and to watch him play third base for one out before walking off the field to the ovation of the fans.
I do not argue that he is among the all-time greats. But I will always wonder what could have been if not for the lies and PEDs. I think he would have still been among the greats without illegal performance enhancement. But we’ll never know. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of A-Rod on the playing field, but obviously, his career in pinstripes is over.
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With A-Rod’s departure, I was very excited to see the arrival of slugging first baseman Tyler Austin and outfielder Aaron Judge. As Mark Teixeira plays his final games, it is time to look to the future. I prefer filling the first base vacancy in-house versus trade or free agency. It was tough to lose top candidate Greg Bird for the season, but Tyler Austin has emerged as a force to be reckoned with. It should be a great competition next spring between Bird and Austin. Bird probably still has the leg up but it remains to be seen how he responds as he returns from injury.
The Yankees have been fortunate to have a string of successful first basemen. From Don Mattingly to Tino Martinez to Jason Giambi to Teixeira, the Yankees have been spoiled even if there have been some down years by the latter two. But of these great players, only Mattingly was raised through the Yankees farm system. I remember in the early 80’s when Steve Balboni was the heralded first base prospect, but you kept hearing about this young kid from Evansville, Indiana that could hit. Greg Bird has received similar accolades for his hitting ability. I don’t know if Bird can ever be the player that Mattingly was but I am excited that the fight for first base is among two top Yankees prospects.
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Saturday, August 13th will be remembered as the day Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge arrived at Yankee Stadium. They became the first teammates to homer in their first major league at-bat’s when they hit back to back homers in a win over the Tampa Bay Rays. The homers were a signal that the future is bright.
Credit: John Munson, AP
Gary Sanchez has already positioned himself as the future at catcher. He continues a long lineage of great catchers (Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard, Thurman Munson, and Jorge Posada to name a few). He has yet to prove that he belongs in their company, but he does have the talent and potential to be. Sanchez’s arrival will almost certainly lead to the departure of Brian McCann. Even if they have to include cash, I still expect the Yankees to move McCann…either by the end of this month or in the off-season. Austin Romine has proven that he is a very capable backup catcher for the foreseeable future.
Aaron Judge might not be the Yankees’ top prospect, but his arrival is very exciting. There has been a vacancy in right field since Carlos Beltran was traded to the Texas Rangers. There was no doubt that right field would belong to Judge in 2017, even if he did struggle somewhat in AAA last year. But this year for the Scranton/Wilkes Barre RailRiders, Judge has been a man among boys. He gives the Yankees a legitimate power threat in right, and his mammoth home runs will ensure that he is a fan favorite. For a team that has been void of true superstars, the Yankees are starting to show the glimmer of possibilities as we move forward.
GM Brian Cashman has already said that we won’t see top prospect OF Clint Frazier, but he’ll make his first appearance in spring training. He clearly has the potential (and fire) to make Brett Gardner an ex-Yankee. Sadly, Jacoby Ellsbury is not going anywhere thanks to his excessive contract, but still, an outfield of Judge, Frazier, and Ellsbury is very exciting.
SS Gleyber Torres and SS/2B Jorge Mateo are a couple more faces that we’ll see next spring.
Credit: Tim Holle, Brevard County Manatees (via NJ.com)
If only Luis Severino, currently 1-7 (with the only win coming in a relief appearance), could deliver upon the promise that he showed last September. But soon, names like James Kaprelian, Justus Sheffield and Ian Clarkin will be making noise for big league roles.
For a team that was old with a barren farm system just a few years, the future is indeed bright.
I am very excited and anxious to see what the new generation of Yankees can do. The path to World Championship #28 seems much clearer these days…