After an offseason that started off with a bang for the Yankees, the team entered into the long slog the rest of the league is entwined in as clubs wait for free agent prices to drop. For the Yankees, the slowdown has not impeded the construction of the roster - though they could still make additions - nor has it slowed down expectations that began once they were knocked out of the 2017 postseason in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series.
As pitchers and catchers officially report to camp Tuesday, let's take a look at some of the major storylines - in no particular order - set to develop through the next six-plus weeks.
What is Aaron Boone all about?
As I wrote last week in an expectations piece about Boone, the jury is out on exactly how he will handle managing on the field and in the clubhouse. Spring training will be the first time we get to hear from Boone on a daily basis via the Yankees' media contingent, and once games commence in a couple of weeks, we will begin to learn of his tendencies as a manager.
Boone has one key coach to lean on -- pitching coach Larry Rothschild -- while the rest of his staff is generally inexperienced as well. Maybe more importantly, the coaches have never worked together, creating an interesting dynamic.
Six weeks is not a long time to get fully acclimated with each other, so expect there to be some growing pains all the way around for the Yankees, where it concerns the coaching staff's relationship amongst themselves and the players.
Top rookies vie for starting infield roles
On the field, the open infield positions highlighting Gleyber Torres at second base and Miguel Andujar at third base will dominate most of the daily intrigue.
Torres, the team's top prospect, was having a fantastic 2017 season (.861 combined OPS between Double and Triple-A) until he suffered an elbow injury on his non-throwing arm, which required Tommy John surgery. Any question of rust should be answered quickly for Torres.
Andujar, an offensive powerhouse with improved, yet questionable defense, will strive to prove he is ready to lock down the hot corner for the Yanks.
As of now, the Yankees have Ronald Torreyes and Tyler Wade set to fight for either of the two positions with Torres and Andujar. Torreyes successfully stayed on the roster as the utility infielder for the second straight season in 2017. While Wade was a disappointment on the major league roster (likely due to minimal use over an extended period), he performed quite well in Triple-A (.842 OPS in 386 plate appearances).
Service time might play a part in the Yankees' decision making process early on, but if Torres and Andujar do not look overmatched by the opposition and their teammates, expect them to be contributors to the club this season and as early as Opening Day.
Fitting five outfielders into four spots
An abundance of strong outfielders would not seem to be an issue, but the Yankees will need to utilize spring training to determine the best way to rotate five players with four full-time spots available (including designated hitter).
The odd man out seems to be Jacoby Ellsbury assuming Aaron Hicks performs ilke the player he was in the first part of 2017. that said, Ellsbury is going to make over $21 million this season, so if he is playing measurably better than Hicks in the spring, he could regain his role in center field.
The bigger question is going to be how Boone will juggle Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton - both very strong fielders - in right field. Will one emerge as the everyday starter, or will Boone need to create a rotation of sorts between the field and designated hitter for the power-hitting duo?
There has also been talk of Judge and Stanton getting some work in left field, which then brings questions about left fielder Brett Gardner - does he move to center field when Judge or Stanton takes over, or does he DH or shift to the bench? Will individuals acquiesce to their manager and be "team players," or will the movement back and forth be met with pushback?
Having a loaded outfield is nothing to be upset about, but if all parties are healthy, it will take some clever maneuvering from Boone, and he'll have to massage any egos as he works to put the best lineup on the field on a daily basis.
Sanchez behind the plate
Right or wrong, Gary Sanchez has endured criticism for his work behind the plate. Sanchez was valuable defensively during his cameo in 2016, and while he still threw out runners at a clip well above league average in 2017, he allowed the most passed balls in the game last season.
At times, it seemed Sanchez was simply not reacting quickly to balls in the dirt. In an effort to alleviate that, he has reportedly slimmed down, which could aid his move from the crouch to the knees (along with shifting side to side) to block balls.
The Yankees staff is filled with pitchers, who in order to be successful, need to live low in the zone by attempting to force hitters to chase junk in the dirt. This makes Sanchez's ability to improve and maintain consistency in blocking balls a genuine concern.
Last minute moves
Off the field, the Yankees may not be finished creating their 2018 roster. They are said to be willing to spend another $15 million before the season begins. This could be used for an extra starting pitcher and/or veteran infielder.
As prices have seemingly fallen, the Yankees may be able to add a starter like Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn, or they may seek a lower cost mound option, so that they can add a veteran infielder presence as insurance for either Torres or Andujar (think Eduardo Nunez or Neil Walker if either is willing to take a one-year deal).
The Yankees do not need to make anymore moves in order to be contenders, however a deal or two before Opening Day is not out of the question.