6 Biggest Winners and Losers of New York Yankees' Spring Training

Kenny DeJohn@@kennydejohnAnalyst IIIMarch 25, 2014

6 Biggest Winners and Losers of New York Yankees' Spring Training

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Living up to its purpose, this year's spring training has answered a ton of roster-related questions for the New York Yankees.

    The Yankees had three legitimate questions to answer heading into spring camp.

    Who are the reserve middle infielders?

    Who is the No. 5 starter?

    Who is the backup catcher?

    Those questions have all been answered, and the decisions made were rather easy ones. The players that stepped up in each of those respective areas have really set themselves apart from the rest of the competition. Manager Joe Girardi should feel confident heading into the regular season with this team.

    There are always losers when other players win position battles, however. These guys simply couldn't keep up with the strong performances of their teammates.

    Here are some of the Yankees' winners and losers from the spring.

Winners: Yangervis Solarte and Dean Anna

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Brendan Ryan probably won't be ready for Opening Day, leaving the Yankees with two reserve roles to fill in the infield.

    Eduardo Nunez will likely get one of them. The Yankees continue to overlook his defensive shortcomings, but it's hard to argue with his speed and contact ability.

    The second position will be taken by either Dean Anna or Yangervis Solarte. Both infielders have put up very good numbers this spring and offer similar versatility. 

    Solarte has been stellar at the plate this spring. He's hitting .457/.513/.629 with two homers and eight RBI in 35 at-bats. He has played all over the field, making appearances at second base, shortstop and left field.

    Anna has hit .265/.375/.265 with three RBI in 34 at-bats, but the Yankees have still liked what they have seen. Anna has a sweet swing and can spray the ball to all fields. Primarily a second baseman, Anna has also seen time at shortstop.

    With Derek Jeter and Brian Roberts candidates to need days off or miss time in 2014, Solarte and Anna will both make their presences felt. For now, they're essentially competing against each other for that final spot. The injury to Ryan gave them the opportunity.

Loser: Eduardo Nunez

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Eduardo Nunez wins because he'll be on the roster when the team breaks camp.

    He loses, however, because Brendan Ryan won't be on the team. Here's why.

    When healthy, Ryan will serve as a defensive replacement and spot starter for Derek Jeter at short. Nunez would then come into games to hit in the later innings if a game is close—thus creating more opportunities for him to see the field.

    Now that Yangervis Solarte and Dean Anna are in the fold, Nunez likely won't be pinch hitting late. Both Solarte and Anna are far better at the plate then Ryan, and Joe Girardi could very well let them bat in tight situations. They're at least on par with Nunez in terms of offensive potential.

    Nunez can still see time as a pinch runner, but that's certainly not the playing time he wants to see.

Winner: Michael Pineda

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    The Yankees really only needed to see consistency from Michael Pineda this spring before deciding to insert him into the rotation as the team's No. 5 starter. He provided even more than consistency. Some would say that he has been pretty dominant.

    He has allowed just two earned runs in 15 innings (1.20 ERA), striking out 16 and walking just one. He also hit a batter.

    Pineda has put himself at the front of the race for the No. 5 starter's role. His fastball, slider and changeup have all been used effectively this spring, and he looks a lot like the pitcher who was an All-Star in 2011 with the Seattle Mariners—albeit with a little less velocity on his pitches.

    As the No. 5 in the rotation, Pineda gives the Yankees even more youth. Suddenly, the Yankees have a young core of starting pitchers. CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda are the outliers, but Masahiro Tanaka, Ivan Nova and Pineda are all young with high upside.

    If Kuroda leaves after the season, you can throw David Phelps in that "young core" as well.

    Pineda is a big winner here, but so are the Yankees.

Loser: David Phelps

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    David Phelps' spring really hasn't been that bad.

    In 19.2 innings, Phelps has allowed six men to score and two balls to leave the yard. He has only walked four and has struck out 14. That all culminates to a 1-0 record and an ERA of 2.75.

    Unfortunately for him, Michael Pineda has been noticeably better—and much less hittable. Phelps has an array of quality pitches that he can use to get hitters out. That would generally make him an ideal option for the No. 5 starter's spot. But his ceiling is not as high as Pineda's. That's where he loses out.

    Phelps will serve a multitude of roles in 2014. He can come out of the bullpen in really any situation, save to close out games, and he'll be a spot starter for the rotation when somebody needs to miss a start or two.

    Phelps has a future in this team's rotation, possibly as early as next season. But for now, he'll be in the pen.

Winner: Francisco Cervelli

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Francisco Cervelli has been absolutely raking this spring.

    He's hitting .455/.500/.909 with four home runs, seven RBI, one double and one triple in 33 at-bats. A batting average even .150 points lower probably isn't sustainable for Cervelli over a full season, but this type of production has made him the clear favorite for the reserve catcher's role behind Brian McCann.

    There were rumors floating around that opposing teams were interested in trading for Cervelli, but the Yankees likely won't part with the fan favorite. His hustle and propensity to come up with clutch hits make him pretty exciting to watch.

    Cervelli probably could have locked down this job with a much less explosive spring. Austin Romine and John Ryan Murphy provide little in terms of offense, though both are strong defensively. All Cervelli had to do was prove that he could be serviceable behind the plate while maintaining a steady .250-plus average.

    Instead, he's raked.

Losers: Austin Romine and John Ryan Murphy

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Austin Romine and John Ryan Murphy have just seven hits combined this spring. They'll be in the minors when the team breaks camp to take on the Houston Astros.

    The Yankees have a wealth of catching prospects, however, so it will be interesting to see how the organization handles their demotions. Both have the experience to warrant playing in Triple-A, but the Yankees obviously want both to start.

    The logic, then, would be to select one of them to play at Double-A. The Yankees can't do that because Gary Sanchez, the team's top offensive prospect, will likely begin the year there.

    And you just can't drop one of them all the way down to Single-A. That would be both an insult and a inhibition to that player's growth.

    The Yanks can always look to deal one, but there may not be a market for unproven backstops. This puts both Romine and Murphy in a state of flux.

    I'm extremely curious to see how this situation is resolved.