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New York Yankees: 5 Players Turning Heads Early at Spring Training

Anthony MaimoneFeatured ColumnistMarch 7, 2014

New York Yankees: 5 Players Turning Heads Early at Spring Training

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    The New York Yankees entered the 2014 spring training schedule with several important tasks.

    First, they needed to introduce several new players to the Yankees culture.

    Helping injured players return to form and shake off some rust would also be important.

    But what is of the utmost importance is seeing which players can win the remaining position battles and which young players can earn a spot on the Opening Day roster while turning heads.

    Through a little over a week into camp, the Yankees are 5-4. Despite the average record, they have had a successful start in player development.

    Several players have overachieved early on, and many have played as expected, even if those expectations were extremely high.

    With less than a month until the start of the regular season, these are the guys that are turning heads so far.

1. Yangervis Solarte

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    The New York Yankees may have found their backup utility player this spring.

    His name is Yangervis Solarte.

    The 26-year-old has played the past two full seasons in Triple-A, and it is clear he does not feel he needs to be there for a third year.

    In seven games, Solarte is batting .692 with two home runs, six RBI and five runs scored. He has yet to strike out in 13 at-bats.

    Solarte has seen time mostly at shortstop this spring, but he has played all over the field.

    If he maintains this pace, it will be very hard for the Yankees to ignore a player who should be entering his prime.

2. Adonis Garcia

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Adonis Garcia has only one thing holding him back from making the big league club this spring: He currently plays a position in which the Yankees have the most depth.

    The 28-year-old outfielder played in 50 games at Triple-A last season with mediocre success.

    He batted .256 with only three home runs in 199 at-bats.

    So far this spring, he has it going on. Garcia has seen time in seven games, is batting .500 and has even notched a stolen base.

    It'll be hard for him to crack the big leagues, but if he can improve on his numbers in the minors from last season, he could be looking for an early season call-up.

3. Dellin Betances

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Dellin Betances came into this spring with a shot to make the bullpen.

    The former starter needed to show vast improvements over his performance this past September when he was called up and pitched to a 10.80 ERA.

    The once-touted prospect has begun to flourish in his transition to the bullpen. With his 6'8" frame and mid-90s fastball, he has a dominating presence.

    So far this spring, his performance has finally matched his presence.

    In three appearances, Betances has only allowed one hit, and batters are hitting .056 against him.

    He has also struck out four hitters in 5.1 innings pitched.

    He will get a long leash this spring and every opportunity to make the team.

4. Francisco Cervelli

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Francisco Cervelli has a lot to prove this spring—maybe more than most that are down in Tampa for camp.

    Not only does Cervelli have to move past the Biogenesis scandal that saw him get suspended for 50 games last season, but he is actually fighting for a spot on the big league club.

    The backup catcher position is up for grabs, and Cervelli is competing with his replacement from a year ago, Austin Romine, for the spot.

    Cervelli is making a case that there is no competition and the job is his.

    In four games, Cervelli is batting .556 with one home run. Meanwhile, Romine finds himself hovering below the Mendoza Line.

    Cervelli has the big league experience and a good enough bat to be the perfect backup to Brian McCann, and pending some sort of injury or drastic turnaround, the job is his to lose.

5. Masahiro Tanaka

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    All eyes have been on Masahiro Tanaka this spring, and he is yet to disappoint.

    In two appearances this spring, Tanaka has pitched five innings, allowing only one run on a solo home run in his latest appearance.

    He has posted a 0.80 WHIP, in large part because he has yet to walk a batter. 

    Tanaka has been so impressive he even has his opponents talking about him.

    After his start, the Philadelphia Phillies only had positive words to say about Tanaka's future.

    According to Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York, Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard said after the game, "His split finger is going to be a force to reckon with."

    He might be the single most important new addition to the Yankees this season, and so far, he has been everything the Yankees have hoped for.

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