While the Yankees can’t expand the number of players on their roster, its depth can be stretched by rewarding versatility. So, expect these cuts soon.
The Yankees enjoyed a stellar season turned in by DJ LeMahieu last year. A .327 batting average propped up with 26 home runs, 109 runs scored, and 102 driven home had MVP written all over it.
But in a season riddled with injuries, the Yankees and especially Aaron Boone were able to fill in the blanks more quickly due to LeMahieu’s versatility.
Afforded the luxury, Boone was able to pen LeMahieu’s name in the lineup for 75 games at second base, 52 at third base, and another 40 games at first base.
More and more, versatility trumps everything when it comes to evaluating and deciding who stays and who goes when roster adjustments are needed.
Yankees: Who’s The Fairest Of Them All
Soon, the Yankees will begin the process of paring down their roster to the 26 players who will travel north to open the season in Baltimore on March 26.
With the Yankees already dropping like flies in Spring Training, Boone might need to keep a player or two who, without the injuries, would start the season in the minors.
But to accent the point about the value of versatility, let’s assume that all position players, except for Aaron Hicks, are ready on Opening Day.
To illustrate, let’s look at five position players, all of whom are “on the bubble” and may or may not make the team.
The players I’ve selected are Mike Tauchman, Tyler Wade, Miguel Andujar, Estevan Florial, and Clint Frazier. Who’s the fairest of them all?
And The Winner Is – Yikes – Tyler Wade
Well, you can bet the farm that of them all Aaron Boone will find a way to ensure that Tyler Wade (today’s featured image) makes the cut. Surprised?
Maybe, but remember, we’re looking at this not from a fan’s eye but a manager’s perspective.
Tyler Wade played every position except for catcher and first base for Boone last year. What Wade lacks offensively compared to the others (.245, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 70 K’s, with only 20 BB’s previous year), he more than makes up for it with his versatility.
The Yankees can have the best of both worlds if Miguel Andujar continues to respond to the Yankees push to make him a left fielder and first baseman, in addition to his usual position at third base.
So far so good, and for that reason, Andujar places at number two on Boone’s options list.
Similarly, having played all three outfield positions, Mike Tauchman should quickly get the nod over Clint Frazier.
Offensively, both players are about the same. But Frazier’s lack of fielding instincts will probably keep him relegated to Triple-A forever, or until he is traded.
At only 22, Estevan Florial is one of the Yankees’ top prospects. Prone to injury, he’s been held back in his march through the minors. Primarily a center fielder, Florial has played in both left and right fields.
If both Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge can’t answer the bell on Opening Day, Florial can sneak in there. Still, the Yankees probably would rather see him play a full season (uninjured) with Triple-A Scranton.
Want A Job For Life?
Versatility trumps almost everything in baseball today. Players like Ben Zobrist and Marwin Gonzalez will each make $12 million this year as utility players.
Others like Eduardo Nunez (Mets), Chris Taylor (Dodgers), and Eduardo Escobar (Diamondbacks) continue to hold jobs in the major leagues, primarily due to their versatility.
For the Yankees, it’s already looking like Aaron Boone will be looking under his hat again, hoping to find a player (or players) healthy enough to play today.
And chances are he’d sleep a lot better if he had a couple more like DJ LeMahieu and Tyler Wade to call on to take a position on the field where he needs them – because they understand it’s part of their job – and they get it.
Yankees Farmhands – Listen Up
The message should be clear for those down below in the Yankees organization. Do you want to be power-hitting Clint Frazier with only one tool on your belt and no job?
Or would you rather be weak-hitting but highly mobile and versatile Tyler Wade with a job for life, if not with the Yankees then elsewhere?
One-tool players are fast becoming a dime a dozen. You want speed – there’s Byron Buxton and Billy Hamilton but not much else. Want power? Who better than Joey Gallo?
Aaron Boone can only dream of having a Yankees lineup that looked like this back in 1961 (accent games played):
Versatility back then wasn’t needed – because the players paid to play – performed!
Alas, the Yankees are at least willing to adapt to what they’re working with now. Depth and maneuverability with players throughout a season are imperative.
Hello, Tyler Wade. Goodbye, Clint Frazier.
Update – 3/2/2020 10:30 AM EST
A new name has popped up and is getting noticed due to his versatility.
Non-roster invitee Rosell Herrera got signed out of his native Dominican Republic as a shortstop, but now plays six positions. He is also a switch hitter, which is even more valuable on a team with a heavily right-handed lineup.
Sunday, Herrera went 3-for-3 with a double and two RBI in the Yankees’ 10-4 to the Tigers at Publix-Marchant Stadium.
“Three more again from both sides of the plate,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Got to see him move around a little bit in the outfield today, which is good. But, yeah, he continues to do a really, really nice job.” (New York Daily News)