Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Examining where players without guaranteed spots on the Yankees' Opening Day roster stand in their quest to make the team after one week of Spring Training. Hat tip to our SBN sister site, Talking Chop, for the inspiration.
After a week of Spring Training games and the first round of cuts, here is a look at where the offensive players vying for a spot on the Yankees' Opening Day roster stand in their chances of achieving that goal. A lot of the roster is already pretty locked in, but a couple bench spots, a possible DH platoon partner, a utility guy, and Curtis Granderson's temporary replacement can all potentially be won by someone with a strong showing in the next few weeks. It will be a little difficult for someone like Corban Joseph to wrestle away the utility infielder spot from Eduardo Nunez or Jayson Nix, but certainly not impossible. Zoilo Almonte, Melky Mesa, or Ronnier Mustelier could fill in in left field until Granderson returns despite lacking the veteran presence of Juan Rivera or Matt Diaz if they manage to impress Girardi and Co. enough before the team heads back up north.
These rankings represent the last week of games and the general feelings surrounding the players mentioned. Between now and next week's edition, a player could become more or less likely to make the team based on any number of circumstances. Injuries happen, as we know already, and someone who looked like they were destined for a trip to Triple-A can find themselves with a golden opportunity to seize an opening at a moment's notice. Before Granderson's injury, all of the aforementioned prospect outfielders were extreme longshots to make the team at all and really had no chance of being more than a bench player if they somehow beat the odds. Now, one of them could very well be the starting left fielder for the first month of the season.
Please note that these are the definition of small sample sizes and that even a player who does extremely well might not actually have a shot at being on the Opening Day roster. Gary Sanchez could tear the cover off the ball every day for the next month and he still almost certainly wouldn't be making the team. That being said, here's the legend to the chances meter:
Red: Based on performance or situation, this player has a slim to no chance of making the team.
Yellow: Player theoretically could make the team with an overwhelming performance or unexpected development.
Chartreuse : Player has a decent chance of making the team if they can beat out their immediate competition.
Green: Player is in a very favorable situation for making the team. Likely seen as the favorite for an open job.
The competition for the left field spot seems to be between Juan Rivera, Matt Diaz, and a trio of prospects in Zoilo Almonte, Ronnier Mustelier, and Melky Mesa. With the exception of Diaz, all of the options have had pretty good results so far. Almonte and Mesa have the advantage of already being on the 40-man roster, potentially giving them an edge. The Yankees would lose Rivera and Diaz before Opening Day if they don't make the team, and if you combine the team's reluctancy to part with players with their added veteran presents, it's possible that the kids have a steep hill to climb to beat them out. I imagine that at least two of these five will be on the team Opening Day. Hopefully that will include at least one of the kids who presents upside that Rivera and Diaz don't have.
Corban Joseph has been getting time at third base instead of his usual position at second, which may indicate that the Yankees are willing to see if he can make the team in the utility role along side or instead of Eduardo Nunez or Jayson Nix. CoJo's defense has been a bit shaky, which is to be expected when asking a kid to play a position he isn't readily comfortable with. He'd need to really turn heads to make the team out of camp, but it doesn't seem impossible. If he was only getting playing time at second base, his chances would be much lower than they are with the third base experimentation.
The catching competition that wasn't seems to be down to whether Francisco Cervelli or Chris Stewart will be the starter. Austin Romine may have been part of the competition in name only, but Cashman has repeated that he favors the guys who don't have options and Romine isn't one of those guys. Poor guy can hit as well as he wants to and he's still going to probably be in Triple-A to start the year.
Tyler Austin and Slade Heathcott haven't been eliminated from contention for an outfield spot, but it seems like disaster would have to strike for that to actually happen. Maybe if they both batted 1.000 for the rest of Spring Training and everyone else competing for that spot was abducted by aliens they would be able to make the team. As it stands, it's pretty unlikely. Not impossible, but no one should hold their breath.
We'll see how things look a week from now in comparison. Maybe someone will actually assert themselves as a front runner for one of the open positions between now and then. Right now, it seems wide open, especially in the outfield. Knowing Girardi, it might come down to whose name is most compatible with his insistence on adding a Y to the end as a nickname. Would that mean Zoilo is out of the running?
Check out Jason's post today at 3 p.m. for the Making the Team Meter: Pitchers Edition.