Scott Thompson, SNY.tv | Twitter |
There has been no update from MLB since they released their latest mandate of banning organized workouts at spring camps, as social distancing and even self-quarantining has been the norm for not just players but everyone in the country.
But when things do return to normal and MLB is allowed to kick off their 2020 season -- whatever that may look like -- the Yankees will have a few roster decisions to make before baseball resumes.
So while his players are working in any way they can during these tough times, manager Aaron Boone will have to think about issues with his roster and lineup such as...
This isn't an issue in the slightest for Boone. He'd obviously love to see his starters back, but we put this one first because there are trickle down effects for each player that does return.
At the moment, Giancarlo Stanton is the closest one to being healthy. He suffered a Grade 1 calf strain that he says will be fully healed by the time the season starts. He's been in Tampa taking hacks and prepping with his teammates that are still at the facility as well.
Aaron Judge and James Paxton are the next two on the list. Judge suffered a stress fracture in his rib, and he revealed that he actually had a partially collapsed lung that has since healed as well. Because of the hiatus, Judge said he doesn't need surgery on his rib, but instead will let it heal on its own. So he might be available, too.
And finally, Paxton was shooting for a mid-May return with June being the safe bet for him to return to the rubber. Well, now it looks like he could be right in the rotation as the Yankees' No. 2 behind Gerrit Cole when everything begins.
Also worth noting: Aaron Hicks was supposed to return around the All-Star break from Tommy John surgery. If the season is that far pushed back, he could be another option. So, with that in mind, Boone must now think about this...
2) What is Miguel Andujar's role?
Andujar's potential role was a mystery, and for good reason: he really didn't have a solidified spot on the field. That's why the Yankees were testing him in left field and first base was also an option. But he didn't have enough of a chance to show the Yankees that he could play a serviceable outfield or first base to go along with an improved third base.
And now Boone must only go with what he saw. Andujar did show that his bat is still just as potent as it was when he was healthy in 2018, so getting that in the lineup will be a priority. Can Boone trust him to play left field? Or is he going to have to worry about him holding his breath every time a ball is hit his way?
If Andujar can prove that to be the case, then the next question Boone faces will be answered...
3) Should Giancarlo Stanton be a full-time DH?
It's great to hear that Stanton is already working his way back to full health soon. But how long is that going to last?
After a 2019 season riddled with injuries, it's hard for the Yankees to bank on Stanton being healthy for a full season -- even if it is shortened like it will be in 2020. And with the money he's getting over the next nine seasons (about $200 million), the Yankees would obviously love to get him out on the field over that span.
So the option of a full-time DH is always on the table whenever Stanton is brought into the conversation. It only increases if Andujar can take some, if not most, of the strain off Stanton's legs by playing left field. Of course, Stanton will still get some time out there, but having him just focus on being a scary presence in the batter's box like he normally is would help in the short- and long-term for the pinstripes.
4) Who is the fifth starter?
The answer is very simple if Paxton is back in the rotation: Jordan Montgomery gets the last starter role to make up for Luis Severino's absence due to Tommy John surgery.
However, if Paxton isn't back in time, Boone has some thinking to do. Cole, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, and Montgomery are the first four. But there was a big battle going on in camp before it was suspended to see who rounded it out by Opening Day.
Deivi Garcia, who shot up the ranks last season in the Yanks' minor league system, was getting starts the in spring rotation. So one would think he was high up on the list and the Yankees wanted him to get the most reps to prepare for the role. Clarke Schmidt, another rising star in the farm system, was also performing well in Tampa.
But then there's Jonathan Loaisiga and Luis Cessa, who have both shown success in replacement starts in the past. And there's also the chance Boone likes the opener situation with Chad Green -- a role he did well in when called upon last season.
Also, Domingo German was supposed to serve the rest of his 81-game suspension from last season at the beginning of the year and return for the Yanks. Now, depending on how many games can be played, Boone might not get him until really late in the season.
5) Who is the backup catcher?
This is one of the easier roster decisions to make, but still one worth contemplating.
Kyle Higashioka is the leader here after having a solid spring, and taking over for Gary Sanchez most of the time when he was ready to exit games. But Chris Iannetta, the veteran backstop the Yankees brought in on a minor league deal this offseason, had a great camp as well.
Does Boone want to give the younger Higashioka the role to take over for Austin Romine, and potentially have him build into a great backup like Romine was? Or will he go with the veteran that has been around the league and caught some of the better pitchers in the game over the past 14 years?