The Yankees will have little to offer the 60 some players they will invite to Spring Training this year regarding finding a spot on the active roster. But a battle is budding between two players competing for a position in the infield. Only one is likely to head North with the team. Which one will it be?
Despite everything, the Yankees will claim when Spring Training opens in a few weeks, that no one’s job is safe, reality intervenes and declares otherwise. Still, the preseason will be highlighted by a daily show-and-tell exhibition between Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar that will largely determine who gets the Opening Day nod from Aaron Boone when the team heads North.
Last year, Yankees fans will recall how Jordan Montgomery caught the eye of the manager, Joe Girardi, early in Spring Training, letting it spring forward directly into a spot in the Yankees rotation. And it’s not impossible to think a Justus Sheffield, Chance Adams, Billy McKinney, or Estevan Florial could do the same this year. But none of these players are positioned where the Yankees need someone to fill holes at second and third base.
The team is fortunate to have super-sub, Ronald Torreyes, armed and ready to step in as he did at the beginning of 2017 when Didi Gregorius went down with an injury during the World Baseball Classic. And because Boone might think twice about having two rookies in his infield to start the season, Torreyes could get the nod regardless of how well Torres and Andujar do this spring.
Two days ago, Bryan Hoch, who writes for MLB.com released this Tweet:
Brian Cashman told @BruceBeck4NY that service time will not be in play when they consider Gleyber Torres for the Opening Day roster, but it is "more likely" Torres will need extra time in the Minors.
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) January 15, 2018
Which, on the surface, might raise some questions about whether or not the upcoming competition will be fairly conducted between the two players. But if anything is true about baseball, it’s that production on the field trumps everything. If Torres excels, the Yankees will find a place for him in their lineup.
Both Andujar and Torres will have a full month and roughly 30 games to display their talent. In the field, the Yankees will expect only that they make all of the plays a major league ballplayer is expected to make. At the plate and with their supposed place in the eight or nine hole in the lineup, the team will be looking for consistency, patience, and the ability to turn the lineup over to keep a rally going. Power, if it comes, is welcome but not required.
At the outset of the upcoming competition, Torres gets the nod as the fan favorite. But as Brian Cashman has proved time and time again, he will not be swayed by fan pressure when it comes to Torres. In fact, some will say Cashman has gone out of his way to suppress Torres, making him earn everything he has gotten from the Yankees.
An external explosion in this narrative could occur if the Yankees were to re-sign Todd Frazier to a deal. And beyond even that, there’s Brendan Kuty from NJ.com suggesting the logic of an agreement between the Yankees and the Giants swapping Jacoby Ellsbury for their out of favor second baseman, Ian Desmond.
These rumors will go on forever, but the only constant remains the Yankees will have two players showing up for Spring Training with the intention of winning a job in the Yankees infield from day one.
As we move forward, the media crush will center around Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton when both appear on a field together wearing the pinstripes. That’ll be fun, but Yankees fans will want to drill a bit deeper when the boxscores of games start appearing, with particular notice of what Torres and Andujar are doing on a day-to-day basis.
We’ll want to look closer at those boxscores to pick up things like chances fielded, errors, hitting with runners in scoring position, RBI’s with two-out, etc. Because we can be sure, Aaron Boone and the Yankees brain trust will be doing the same.
One of these two players will begin the season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Of the two, Torres is most likely to get another life with the Yankees if he fails this spring. But for Andujar, it’s a pretty much a show me now or never scenario as it’s likely he’ll be packaged in a deal at the deadline when Cashman goes into a full playoff charging mode.
My prediction? Andujar wins the immediate battle but loses the war. Torres gets sent down for what the Yankees will say is “more seasoning” and to further test his mended shoulder. Andujar proves he’s not the player the Yankees thought he was. Torres gets called up in May, and everybody lives happily ever after.
What say you?