The New York Yankees had to rely on their depth to win in 2019.
Stars like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Luis Severino, Miguel Andujar and others all spent extensive time on the injured list, forcing unheralded players like Gio Urshela and Luke Voit to take on key roles.
New York's collective will paid off in 2019, with the Yankees winning 103 games and reaching the American League Championship Series. However, it seems likely manager Aaron Boone would prefer less lineup juggling and more continuity going forward.
Things certainly did not begin that way this spring. Severino and left-hander James Paxton both hit the shelf. It only got worse for the Bronx Bombers when it was revealed Judge had been harboring a rib injury. Had the season started on time, the Yankees would not have been at full strength.
But the delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic have allowed many of New York's wounded to recover.
Jim Bowden of The Athletic reported the Yankees expect Judge to be ready for "a late July Opening Day." Bowden also noted New York feels outfielder Aaron Hicks—who underwent Tommy John surgery in October—will be ready, something Hicks echoed to George A. King III of the New York Post.
According to ESPN's Jeff Passan, the Major League Baseball Players Association is expected to vote yes to essentially lock in a 60-game season starting July 24, which bodes well for Judge and the Yankees.
The 28-year-old's recovery has been kept pretty quiet. As Lindsey Adler of The Athletic noted, there has not been a solid update on Judge in the past month. But it would seem he has been making strides, otherwise a setback might have led to surgery.
DJ LeMahieu might have been the Yankees' most valuable player last season, but Judge is the team's best all-around star.
Judge hit 27 homers and posted a .921 OPS in 102 games last season. He ranked 13th among qualified outfielders in terms of outs above average (OAA), per Baseball Savant. Judge also ranked fifth in defensive runs saved (DRS) and third in ultimate zone rating (UZR), per FanGraphs.
The Yankees know what Judge can do on the diamond. But can he stay healthy?
Joey Bart Not Expected to Make Opening Day Roster
For years, the San Francisco Giants have had a staple behind the dish in Buster Posey. But as the team gears up for a retool, fans hope top prospect Joey Bart can have a similar impact.
Bart was with the Giants during spring training, putting together a strong camp. The 23-year-old slashed .438/.526/.875 with two homers in nine games.
But Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic reported that, while Bart will be in camp again, he is "likely not a candidate for opening day."
The Giants likely want the former No. 2 overall pick to get just a little more seasoning before getting the call to The Show. Bart performed well at Double-A Richmond, slashing .316/.368/.544 with four homers. However, he also played just 22 games at that level.
It should not be long before Bart gets the call. But it is unlikely he will be the Giants' starting catcher on Opening Day 2020.
Sandoval Cleared For Corner Infield Work
Baggarly also reported veteran infielder Pablo Sandoval has been cleared to play either first or third base ahead of the season. The Venezuelan had been used as a designated hitter in spring training, but can now put in work at wither of the corner spots.
Sandoval underwent Tommy John surgery last August, but his throwing elbow appears to have received the green light if he is also going to play the hot corner. Given past durability issues, however, it would hardly be a surprise if the Giants split more time at first between Brandon Belt, Posey and Sandoval.
The 33-year-old experienced something of a renaissance in 2019. Sandoval slashed .268/.313/.507, hitting 14 homers and 23 doubles in under 300 plate appearances while also posting a 114 OPS+.
Sandoval was a key figure for a Giants franchise that won three World Series titles between 2010 and 2014, winning World Series MVP in 2012.
While he might be one of the old heads on the team, Sandoval is still a fan favorite in the Bay Area.
All stats obtained via Baseball Reference, unless otherwise noted.