The New York Yankees shelled out nearly $300 million this winter to procure the talent, leadership and production of Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. After scoring just 650 runs in 2013—the franchise's lowest output since 1990—reinforcements were needed.
With over four weeks until Opening Day, the trio of McCann, Ellsbury and Beltran have plenty of time to work their way into game shape. That process began with the spring training debut of each in a Grapefruit League game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
How did they fare? Here are updates and takeaways from the debuts of the Yankees' new faces.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi put together a lineup that profiles as a go-to order during the heart of the regular season.
The full lineup, per Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York, featured all three of New York's impact acquisitions near the top of the order.
As expected, Ellsbury hit in the leadoff spot, Carlos Beltran batted third and Brian McCann was featured in the clean-up spot.
#Yankees lineup vs Pirates: Ellsbury CF, Solarte SS, Beltran RF, McCann C, Flores LF, Wheeler 3B, Anna 2B, Joseph 1B, Murphy DH, Nova P— New York Yankees (@Yankees) February 26, 2014
Until the Yankees have their full squad in a game, the projected lineup could fluctuate. Yet, expect to see Ellsbury atop the order throughout the season.
When Derek Jeter arrives into the exhibition slate, his customary No. 2 spot in the order will be filled.
Beltran and first baseman Mark Teixeira—both switch-hitters with power from each side of the plate—would fit perfectly in the No. 3 and No. 5 holes, respectively, protecting the left-handed McCann from late-inning switches by opposing managers.
In 2013, Yankees leadoff hitters posted a cumulative .339 on-base percentage, per ESPN. While that was above average, Ellsbury's arrival was designed to give the top of the lineup a spark. Through the first seven seasons of Ellsbury's career, the 30-year-old owns a .350 OBP.
If the opening game of the exhibition season is any indication, that on-base ability will be a boost to New York's offensive attack.
Jacoby Ellsbury walks his second time up, too. This guy is an on-base machine.— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) February 26, 2014
Ellsbury walked in each of his first two plate appearances, including a seven-pitch battle to start the game. Both walks turned into runs scored on the scoreboard for Girardi's lineup.
New York's new center fielder was pleased with his approach and results, per Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York.
"Typically for the most part I like to see as many pitches as I can in spring training but you still want to be aggressive in the zone, so there’s that fine line," Ellsbury said. "I think it worked out great. Getting on base, and having these type of hitters hitting behind you, that’s one big reason to sign over here."
Ellsbury's final stat line against Pittsburgh: 1-1, 2 runs, 2 BBs
Beltran, the senior member of New York's offensive additions, has 16 major league seasons of experience to lean on when discussing the small-sample size of spring training at-bats and results.
Over the course of the next month, timing and health will be far more important to the Yankees than any production Beltran provides in the Grapefruit League.
During his first two at-bats against the Pirates, Beltran didn't put the ball in play. First, the 36-year-old switch hitter popped out to the catcher, former Yankee Russell Martin. In his second at-bat, Beltran struck out.
Carlos Beltran strikes out in 2nd #Yankees at-bat.— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) February 26, 2014
Beltran's final stat line against Pittsburgh: 0-3, K
When the Yankees signed Brian McCann in free agency, visions of a run-producing middle-of-the-order bat danced through the heads of fans in New York.
So far, so good.
Brian McCann laces a single to center, scoring Jacoby Ellsbury. The plan is working to perfection.— Mark Feinsand (@FeinsandNYDN) February 26, 2014
In McCann's first official exhibition at-bat with the Yankees, McCann singled up the middle, driving in fellow arrival Jacoby Ellsbury. During McCann's run as a starter in Atlanta—2006-2013—the backstop averaged 80 RBI per season.
1st inning RBI single by McCann drives in Ellsbury. Repeat often, is probably what Joe Girardi prefers this year.— Sweeny Murti (@YankeesWFAN) February 26, 2014
The 30-year-old struck out in his second at-bat.
Of course, McCann wasn't just signed for his bat. The projected full-time catcher brings defense and game-calling ability to the table along with a big stick. Yankees starter Ivan Nova was impressed, per Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York.
"He's a great catcher, man," Nova said. "He gave me a good low target, I like that. I saw him block a couple of pitches. He hit a line drive that I was surprised. He got a really good bat. I really like him."
McCann's final stat line against Pittsburgh: 1-2, RBI
It's early, Yankees fans.
As expected, all three of the new stars departed the first exhibition game early. The idea of overextending or playing full games this early in spring is foolish, regardless of age, injury history or pedigree.
It's still 4-2 Yankees, Beltran, Ellsbury and McCann are done for the day and this game is running slower than molasses.— Delia Enriquez (@dfiregirl4) February 26, 2014
Early on, focus on positives more than negatives. Beltran's inability to get the ball out of the infield isn't the story. Instead, Ellsbury's comfort atop a new order and McCann's run-producing bat should be highlighted.
The Yankees didn't overhaul their lineup and future payroll structure for the first game of the exhibition season, but health, comfort and production this early in spring are excellent signs for a team that needs an offensive boost to return to the postseason in October.
What were your impressions of the first Grapefruit League game?
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Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted. All contract figures courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.