These aren’t exactly decisions, but they’re things to keep an eye on throughout spring training. The next month and a half is about more than putting the roster together, it’s about evaluating and — as name suggests — training. For individual players it means working on specific pitches and getting mechanics in order. For the organization, it means developing some first impressions and figuring out what exactly they have in the system.
Develop an early pecking order
You’ve heard it a hundred times: The Yankees have a lot of upper-level pitching talent. Given the current rotation options, though, it’s unlikely any of those pitchers will break camp on the big league roster. Big league camp, though, is a chance to determine who’s best prepared to play some sort of early role if necessary. As the season progresses, different options might emerge, but right now the Yankees need to get an early look and make some early evaluations. How close is Manny Banuelos? Has Dellin Betances taken a step forward? Is Adam Warren ahead of David Phelps? Is D.J. Mitchell ahead of Adam Warren? Is David Phelps ahead of D.J. Mitchell? Same goes for some of the Triple-A outfielders and infielders. Who’s ready to step in if someone goes down early?
Explore options for those players out of options
At this point, it’s not clear whether the Yankees will have a spot for either Chris Dickserson or Justin Maxwell, much less a spot for both of them. That said, both Dickerson and Maxwell seem to have value as legitimate fourth or fifth outfielder for someone. If the Yankees can’t find a spot for them on the big league roster, the trade market might provide a chance to get something of value in return. There’s not guarantee that either one would clear waivers. Dickerson seems especially unlikely to get through without being claimed.
Keep an eye on Romine
In theory, Austin Romine is competing for a spot on the big league bench. In reality, he might have a predetermined spot in Triple-A so that he can get his first extended look at the highest level of the minors. He’s no longer overshadowed by Jesus Montero, and he’s gotten his feet wet at the big league level. Last spring, he seemed to struggle under the pressure to play for a spot on the roster. This spring, the Yankees have to hope for a different response.
Feed the curiosity
Some part of spring training is simply taking a look. Last year there was a natural curiosity with Banuelos, and even the Yankees coaching staff seemed to enjoy watching a kid they knew would never make their roster. This year, it’s worth seeing the raw power of Jorge Vazquez and Russell Branyan. It’s worth taking a look at the two Rule 5 picks, especially the lefty Cesar Cabral. It’s worth seeing whether David Adams — after missing most of two years because of an ankle injury – is close to helping at the Major League level. Does Adam Miller have anything left in that once golden arm? How does Eduardo Nunez look in the outfield, how far does Gary Sanchez have to go behind the plate and can any of the non-roster relievers become this year’s Luis Ayala?
Set a timetable on Joba
Whether they announce it or not doesn’t really matter, but Joba Chamberlain is at a point in his rehab that the Yankees can probably get a rough idea of just how soon he’ll be able to pitch at the big league level. If this were the middle of the season, Chamberlains rehab work would probably happen far away from the big league coaching staff. Instead, he’ll be going through some of the final stages under the direct observation of Larry Rothschild and Joe Girardi. There shouldn’t be much mystery about where he stands when the Yankees break camp.
Speaking of Joba…
Just don’t get hurt. Easier said that done, but for a lot of guys, simply getting through spring training ready to play is the most important thing.
Associated Press photos