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Everything You Need to Know (and more!) About the Yankees 25-Man Opening Day Roster

As Spring Training rapidly approaches, sixty-one Yankee have arrived at George M. Steinbrennar Field in Tampa, Florida in order to be on the powerful juggernaut looking for their 28th ring. While the Yankees mostly have their roster set for Opening Day, here is the complete coverage of who will make cut on the 2019 Bronx Bombers.

Locked in

All of these 22 players are seemingly locked in to be on the Opening Day Roster.

Infielders (5):

Luke Voit, Miguel Andujar, Gleyber Torres, Troy Tulowitski, D.J LeMaheiu.

Outfielders (4):

Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner, Giancarlo Stanton

Catchers (2):

Gary Sanchez, Austin Romine

Starting Pitchers (5);

Luis Severino, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, CC Sabathia

Relief Pitchers (6):

Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino, Chad Green, Jonathan Holder

There are a couple of key takeaways from this list. First of all, unless Voit and Tulowitski play so badly, or are profusely outperformed, they will start on Opening Day. As for the rest of the players, they will remain on the Opening Day Roster barring injury or suspension. Secondly, American League teams tend to carry 13 pitchers (five starters and eight relievers), and 12 position players. Therefore, the Yankees need two relievers, and one position player. One of the relievers will almost definitely be a swingman, as Boone would probably not want anyone on his current relief corps to pitch more than two innings at a time. In addition, a swingman is important when a team wants to pass over a starter because of injury or suspension (such as in Sabathia’s five-game suspension to begin the 2019 season), or when a starter gets in trouble, and a reliever needs to pitch a good chunk of the game. As a result, let’s look at all the candidates to fill up the remaining three roster spots.

No Chance

These players will make the 40-man roster, be sent to the minors, released, or put on waivers after spring training, but have little to no chance of making the team on Opening Day.

Catchers: Francisco Diaz, Ryan Lavarnway, Jorge Saez, Kellin Deglan

The Yankees are set with Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine behind the dish. Worst-case scenario they send up Kyle Higashioka (their third string catcher) if there is an injury. There is a slim chance that the most experienced catcher on this list (Lavarnway) could steal Higashioka’s spot as third-string catcher, and gest the call to the big leagues because of injury by Romine or Sanchez. However, that is a lot of factors to happen by Opening Day. Thus, the Yankees will probably not have these catchers at the highest level once the season begins.

Too Early to Promote: Estevan Floriel, Trey Amburgey, Thairo Estrada, Kyle Holder, Trevor Stephan, Albert Abreu, Domingo Acevedo, Joe Harvey

Floriel, Amburgey, Holder, Abreu, Harvey, and Stephan all have not made it past Double-A respectively, while Estrada and Acevedo have very small sample sizes in Triple-A. That’s not to say that Double-A, or barely Triple-A players can’t make it to straight to the big leagues (looking at you Jonathan Loiasiga aka Jonny Lasagna), but they need to have overwhelming potential, or at least seem ready to handle their own at the major league level. As a result, all of these players can use more time in the minors before being put on the 25-man roster.

Underperformance: Matt Lipka, Brady Lail, Cale Coshow

Lipka has not been in Triple-A since 2017, and spent all of last year in AA. As for Lail, in his several stints of AAA he had an ERA north of 5. Lastly, while Coshow has had previous success in AAA, his walk rate is still way too high. Even if his walk rate lowers in Spring Training, he will probably spend some more time in the minors so that the Yankees can see it is not a fluke. Thus, there are more capable, MLB ready options than these three Spring Training invitees.

Not Likely

These players will make the cut either from injury, or a truly remarkable Spring Training.

Injury: Kyle Higashioka

Even with Gary Sanchez’s poor performance last year, he will still of course be the Yankees starting catcher. Meanwhile, Romine had a career year in the backup catcher role, so there is no way that Higashioka will take his place based on their Spring Training performances. However, since Higashioka is the last catcher on the Yankees 40-man roster, he is the first catcher to get the call to the big leagues if Sanchez or Romine get injured.

Low on the Depth Chart: Chance Adams, Nestor Cortes, Raynel Espinal, Mike Ford, David Hale

Former top-100 prospect Chance Adams is the most likely to be promoted on the list, but struggled in Triple-A last season, and had a brief, cup of coffee call up in September. Since Adams struggled in Triple-A, even with a strong spring, the Yankees will probably want him to prove himself there. As for the rest of the players on the list, while all have had decent success in Triple-A, there are many more qualified candidates in “The Field” (see below) in terms of relievers (Espinal, Cortes, and Hale) and first baseman (Ford) on the depth chart.

Years of Control: Michael King, Phillip Diehl

King might be the best pitcher in the Yankees farm system and is only in Single-A. In addition, King is on the Yankees 40-man roster, so they think very highly of him. Does anyone else remind you of a pitcher in a similar position last year? That’s right, Jonny Lasagna strikes again (except for the fact that he was in Double-A and King is in Single-A). While there is a good chance King will be on 2019 Yankees at some point this year, he is currently out for three weeks because of right elbow pain. In addition, the Yankees will want to keep him down at least a month for an extra year of team control, King is unlikely to make the Opening Day Roster. Diehl is in a slightly similar predicament as had great success in Triple-A last year, but because the Yankees can keep him under control for the next year, he will probably not get the call.

Dark Horses

These players are essentially Quadruple-A players (in between AAA and MLB) ready to show that they are in fact ready to handle their own in The Show. A great spring training performance, and a few plausible scenarios, gives these players an outside shot at cracking the Yankees 25-man roster.

Infielders: Tyler Wade, Giovanny Urshela

Wade has an inside track at claiming a roster spot. Wade was the Yankees 2018 second baseman on Opening Day. In addition, the speedy-utility man has played every position except for first base, catcher, and pitcher on a professional level, despite being most comfortable playing middle-infield. While Wade has solid speed, and good defense, he does not offer much in terms of power, or having a good eye. Also, he has not proven himself offensively at the highest level. His path to a roster spot would take a great spring training performance, as well as an underwhelming spring performance by Troy Tulowitski. As for Urshela, the lights-out defender is capable of playing third base, and shortstop, where both could use some defensive assistance. Think of Urshela as a slightly worse defender and hitter than Adeiny Hechavarria. Urshela’s expected performance in Spring Training paired with a poor spring by Tulowitski, could net him a roster spot.

Outfielders: Billy Burns

Odds are the Yankees will carry someone who can play outfield as their last position player, as they already have five infielders that will in all likelihood make the 25-man roster. The Yankees have more of a need for an outfielder because of Gardner’s declining offensive skills, and Stanton being mostly a DH. If Ellsbury is not healthy by Opening Day (as he is now recovering from Plantar fasciitis and won’t return until around mid-March), and Frazier struggles in camp, Burns has a shot at the Opening Day roster.

Relievers: Ben Heller

At times, a forgotten piece of Andrew Miller trade, Ben Heller has consistently proven himself at Triple-A. However, with a plethora of strong relievers, Heller might be the odd man out. Still, an impressive spring could remind the Yankees why they have previously put him on the Major League roster.

The Field

These are the players that in all likelihood, three of them will make the Yankees 25-man. At the end of each list, there will be a prediction given as to who will make the cut.

Swingman: Jonathan Loaisiga, Domingo German, Luis Cessa, Drew Hutchinson

The two rookies Loaisiga and German impressed last year, despite having high ERAs. They both have three plus pitches, and have a very good time of accumulating more service time this year. Boone has already mentioned that he wants Loaisiga to start, which hints that Loaisiga will getting regular starting opportunities in AAA, rather than be a reliever at the highest level.

As for German, he also spent time as a reliever last year, and his high-octane fastball may be too good to keep off the roster, if he has a good Spring Training. Meanwhile, Luis Cessa has been the Yankees swingman at various times the last three seasons and has been ineffective (for the most part) in all of them. Now out of options, the Yankees will have to decide whether to release him, or keep him. A bad Spring Training could very possibly net his release, or be put on waivers, but a solid performance could allow him to get one more shot. That leaves Drew Hutchinson, the most accomplished pitcher out of this group. The former-full time starter for the Blue Jays has had a tough couple of years, bounding between four different teams in the process (TOR, PIT, PHI, TEX). Still, with two young starters with high potential (German and Loaisiga) that could use slightly more seasoning in the Minors, as well as the fact that he can replace an ineffective swingman (Cessa), could be the perfect reason to add him to the Opening Day Roster.

Bold Prediction: Drew Hutchinson makes the 25-man roster, while Cessa is claimed off waivers by another team.

Relievers: Tommy Kahnle, Stephan Tarpley, Rex Brothers, Danny Coloumbe, Danny Farquhar

First, let’s take a look at the intriguing lefties of the group. Although the Yankees already have the token two lefties in the bullpen (Chapman and Britton), any time that a solid lefty option could be added to the bullpen is a tough opportunity to pass up on. Thus, if any three of these respected lefties make the team, they have a great chance to improve an already strong bullpen. Tarpley, the youngest of the group, had such a solid end of the year performance for the Yankees that Boone added him to the postseason roster. He only pitched nine innings during the 2018 regular season! If anything were to show about Boone’s willingness to have an extra lefty in the pen, it’s Stephan Tarpley. However, being the least experienced of the group, it would not hurt for him to start the season in Triple-A, or be part of a bullpen’s revolving door (in and out of Triple-A). The other two lefties of the group are veterans, with Brothers having the most major league experience. The former Rockies closer recently had a couple of forgettable two seasons with the Braves, and is hoping show some life, despite being on the wrong side of thirty. Then there is Danny Coulombe, who has always been about an average to below average reliever with the Dodgers and A’s. Still, if the Yankees want another lefty in the ‘pen, with a good Spring Training any of these three relievers can claim a spot.

Another reliever on this list, Danny Farquhar, is the feel good story of the group. Coming off a near-death experience with a brain hemorrhage, Farquhar is amazing back on the mound. Before the scare, he was a solid reliever for the White Sox. Even a slightly successful spring training performance, paired with his remarkable story and publicity, could very well land him on the Yankee 25-man roster. However, there is one candidate that stands in the way of all of these players, and that man is Tommy Kahnle. If you told any Yankee fan, personnel, player, etc. in 2017 that Kahnle would have to fight for a roster spot, no one would believe you. One of the best, underrated relievers in 2017, and the steal of the David Robertson trade, spent most of last season in Triple-A because of decreased velocity. In turn, he was not able to replicate the success he had years prior. Despite last season’s poor performance, Kanhle is surprisingly out of options, and his track record is too impressive to keep of the roster.

Prediction: Tommy Kahnle wins a bullpen spot.


Position Players: Jacoby Ellsbury, Greg Bird, Clint Frazier

Jacoby Ellsbury missed all of last season with a concussion and a right oblique strain. Surprise, surprise, Ellsbury is once again injured this time with Plantar Fasciitis—an injury that causes the pain to the bottom of the foot and heel. He is not expected to come back until mid-March. While the Yankees could have him on the Opening Day roster and slowly increase his playing time, he is better off in Triple-A to get regular at bats. The Yankees could release Ellsbury, but having outfield depth is important because even the incumbent Jacoby Ellsbury is still a better option than someone like Shane Robinson. Thus, this bench spot should really be a two-man race between Bird and Frazier.

Once considered the bright light at first base as Teixeira’s career was dwindling, saying Bird has been disappointing since than is an understatement. Bird missed all of 2016, and the last two years has hit below the Mendoza line. Although Bird has gone through a slew of injuries, and may have needed a long time to recover, a strong Spring Training gives him a shot at the Opening Day Roster. However, even if he does make the team, he most likely won’t start at the beginning of the season. Luke Voit stands in his way, and rightly so. The powerful first baseman was arguably the Yankees best hitter since he arrived with the team. His memorable 3-Run Homer to distance the Yankees from the A’s in the Wild Card game will forever be apart of the Yankees 2018 season lore. Plus, who does not want love the new Yankee slugger after showing off his insane workout routines, and having a little jump/hop towards first base every time he hits a homer. In addition, the Yankees want LeMaheiu to spend some time at first base, and while he is not as much of a defender as Bird, he is consistent with his bat. That leaves Clint Frazier, the prized slugger of the Andrew Miller trade. The man nicknamed “Red Thunder” has everything going for him; Ellsbury’s injury, the Yankees infield roster essentially set, Bird’s inconsistency, Gardner’s offensive decline, and most importantly tearing up Triple-A pitching. As a result, it’s time the Yankees start prepping Frazier as their left fielder of the future, and they can do so by having him on the 25-man roster.

Bold(ish) Prediction: Clint Frazier takes up the last bench spot.


Note: This article was written on 2/22/19



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