When we think of a club's overall success, it typically and rightfully relies upon the performance of the starters. However, the production from the bench players is of great importance understanding there will be injuries and performance issues along the way.
The Yankees have a couple of players considered locks to make the Opening Day roster as bench options, a handful of potential choices for the final spot on the bench and a long shot to be among the reserves late in the season.
Romine enters his fourth straight season as the Yankees backup catcher. In 2018, Romine turned in one of his best offensive seasons as he hammered 10 home runs and delivered some clutch hits along the way. Romine did a commendable job as the starting catcher while Gary Sanchez was sidelined and maintained the consistency required of a backup when he returned to the bench. As with many backup catchers, when provided more playing time than normal, Romine's deficiencies begin to be exposed, making Sanchez's health crucial.
We covered LeMahieu extensively here because the Yankees have stressed he will play much more than a normal bench player. LeMahieu, a natural second baseman, will be asked to cover the keystone along with third and first base throughout the season. LeMahieu is considered an athletic player, although he's played primarily second base his entire career, meaning there will be a learning curve fielding the corner infield positions. LeMahieu will also have to get used to finding offensive consistency without playing on a daily basis making his signing one that might be criticized often in 2019.
Potential final roster spot options
With Luke Voit doing nothing to suggest he will lose the first baseman job, it looks as though Bird will find himself at Triple-A to start the season. However, there is a chance that Bird sees MLB action if there are injuries or if the Yankees feel there is a stretch of games in which they want a left-handed bat in its right-handed leaning lineup.
Remember him? Ellsbury is reportedly set to make his first appearance in spring camp this weekend. After missing all of 2017 with an assortment of injuries, Ellsbury is recovering from hip surgery performed in the offseason and plantar fasciitis that cropped up during his rehabilitation. Ellsbury is due $21.14 million in 2019, meaning the Yankees will want to utilize him when they can, but no one is suggesting that they are relying on the 35-year-old.
With Ellsbury nowhere near the capacity to make the roster out of camp, Frazier looked to have a leg up on others to grab a bench role. However, Frazier is struggling (5-for-30 this spring with a .250 on-base percentage) and Yankees manager Aaron Boone recently suggested that Frazier would be best off receiving daily at-bats in Triple-A after missing a large chunk of the 2018 season due to concussion related symptoms. If Frazier finds his groove, however, and the Yankees offense needs a shot in the arm, Frazier could be the first outfielder brought back to New York.
Due to Ellsbury's slow return and Frazier's slow start, the 24-year-old Wade has a very good chance of breaking camp with the big league club. Wade has become more versatile in the field (he's capable of playing all infield positions except first base and the corner outfield spots), plus he is hitting .310 this spring with a .961 OPS. Wade has received multiple chances the last couple of seasons, but has not been able to translate success at Triple-A into the big leagues. Wade, who possesses plus-speed, could be a late-game pinch-runner and a left-handed option off the bench.
The late season long shot
Florial has not played a regular season inning above High-A ball, yet he is still in Yankees camp with less than two weeks until the regular season. Florial entered Friday hitting .345 (10-for-25) with a .923 OPS this spring and has begun to re-shine the dulling luster that came over his prospect status last season. It would take a good deal of injuries along the way, but if Florial steamrolls the minor leagues, he could get a shot. At the least, with good performance, Florial could be a September call-up when rosters expand.