In a big but not necessarily unexpected decision, the New York Yankees have sent most of its top prospects down to minor league camp after the first cuts. New York decided to remove top prospects: Aaron Judge, James Kaprielian and Jorge Mateo along with arguably its top relief prospect in Jacob Lingren from major league competitions early on.
Mateo and Kaprielian were predictable. The former turned heads early on with his speed on a triple to left field and his home run the following start, but was never starting higher than AA this season and can use the regular at bats and getting acclimated as quickly as possible in the minor league complex. Kaprielian, though also making a strong impression, has no professional experience for the Yankees and will benefit from his quick exit.
Judge and Lindgren had remote chances of making noise at the major league level, but the former was 1/14 with seven strikeouts this spring and struggled down the stretch in AAA last year. Starting him in AAA at this juncture makes sense even though it would not have been surprising if he was cut towards the end of spring rather than the middle.
For Lindgren, there seemed to be a remote chance of making the team, four runs in 2.1 innings might have signaled enough for Yankees brass Lindgren would be better suited starting in AAA trying to fully recover from bone spur surgery. His exit takes the 23-years-old hat out of the ring for the final couple of bullpen spots and leaves a lot of clarity to the final competitions left in Yankees’ camp.
It’s hard to tell what the full plan is for Dustin Ackley but the Yankees’ bench spots are starting to become clearer. We know Starlin Castro will no longer be considered as a backup third baseman in games where Chase Headley needs a break and Castro doesn’t. Instead, Castro will be the primary backup to Didi Gregorius at shortstop, his former position. That means Rob Refsnyder and a few others are in competition for what is a clear backup 2B/3B bench slot. We know Refsnyder is a natural second baseman and is getting plenty of looks to play third, which would appear to make him the front runner for that spot. Ackley seems to be the backup first baseman and sporadic replacement everywhere else while Aaron Hicks is the first outfielder off the bench.
It’s pretty much down to Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine for backup catcher. Sanchez has impressed a lot of coaches with his maturity and defensive improvements but the biggest knock on Romine has been his bat and Sanchez is currently 0/10 with three walks and is considered a top three prospect. It’s likely Romine wins the job if the competition is close so the Yankees can get Sanchez full time at bats in the minors and halt his arbitration clock until it’s more beneficial to the team.
Final Bullpen Slots:
Lindgren is out and Vinnie Pestano and James Pazos have struggled. Johnny Barbato and Nick Goody seem to be getting the most looks with 4.1 innings each, but both have surrendered two earned runs so far. It would appear those two, Nick Rumbelow and Anthony Swarzek could be the finalists so far based on usage but that could also be a fluke. Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Chasen Shreve and Dellin Betances are locks. Bryan Mitchell has pitched well and was already a front-runner. It’s possible one of CC Sabathia or Ivan Nova is placed in the bullpen rather than the minors, so there is at least one spot available for someone to be determined as the competition continues.