The other day I ran a post on 10 problems the Yankees might have this season and some people wondered why I didn’t mention the fifth starter battle. Well, because having two great young pitchers battling over the final spot in the rotation isn’t a problem, it’s a luxury.
But it did make me realize that I should do another post summarizing which roster spots are up for grabs this spring. Unlike a lot of teams around the majors, there aren’t many question marks on the Yankees roster, but there are still a couple of battles to be fought.
Here are five to watch out for this spring:
- Battle for the fifth spot in the rotation—Joe Girardi has said that this battle includes Sergio Mitre, Chad Gaudin, and Alfredo Aceves, but we know the truth—it’s a fight between Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes. I’ve maintained that Joba has a slight edge just because he’s been building up to this for two seasons, but both Girardi and Brian Cashman maintain that Hughes is just as likely to win the job as Joba. The “loser” of this battle will go to the bullpen, but would likely be the first one plugged into the rotation if an injury were to occur.
- Battle for the starting left fielder—Right now, this seems like Brett Gardner’s job to lose, but he could certainly lose it. Randy Winn is the man whom Gardner would most likely lose the job to, but the Yankees really like Gardner’s defense and he would probably have to have a pretty poor spring to lose the job. Winn is probably more suited for the backup role anyways as he has a lot more experience in all three outfield positions.
- Battle for the final bench spot—This is a fight between Jaime Hoffmann and Marcus Thames. The catch with this fight is that the loser is probably out of the organization. Hoffmann would go if he doesn’t make the roster because he is a Rule 5 draftee. Thames would go if he doesn’t make the team because he has an opt-out clause in his contract if the Yankees try to send him to the minor leagues. Thames isn’t the best player ever, but he would probably exercise his opt-out if that’s the case. Hoffmann might be the slight favorite if he shows the Yankees that he is ready for the big leagues because of his strong defense and speed. Thames has a lot of power, but isn’t the best hitter for average and doesn’t offer the Yankees much in the way of defense.
- Battle for the final bullpen spot—With Chan Ho Park in the mix, the Yankees have six bullpen spots locked down, assuming Mariano Rivera, Damaso Marte, David Robertson, and Alfredo Aceves are all healthy (the “loser of the fifth starter job, Hughes or Joba, would make six). That would leave Gaudin and Mitre to battle Boone Logan and possibly some other dark-horse candidate for the final spot.
- Battle for the utility infielder position—Most believe that Ramiro Pena will eventually win this job, but with so many infielders on the 40-man roster this certainly is a position up for grabs. Reegie Corona, Eduardo Nunez, and Kevin Russo might not be as strong defensively as Pena, but they aren’t slouches either, and Pena’s bat might be the weakest out of the group.
Thoughts: Considering the problems other teams have and that these are the only holes the Yankees have, I’d say they are entering the 2010 season sitting pretty. I mean, the Mets don’t even know who their first baseman is and if Ramiro Pena has a strong offensive season, he could potentially be as good as the Red Sox starting shortstop Marco Scutaro. The biggest problem the Yankees could run in to are injuries though, but there isn’t a team in baseball that is injury proof.
- Jan. 31, 2010—Joba Has Company For 5th Starter Competition (7)
- Feb. 20, 2010—The 2009 Bullpen in Historical and Statistical Perspective (2)
- Feb. 28, 2010—10 Problems the 2010 Yankees Could Face (2)
- Feb. 20, 2010—Some Thoughts on the Fifth Starter Competition (10)