Thursday, February 16, 2017

Judge and Austin Will Have to Earn Spots in 2017


The New York Yankees have made it their mission to stockpile their farm system with usable, and potentially tradeable, talent for a couple of seasons now and the team will finally see the fruits of their labor as soon as the 2017 season. While the Yankees are still the Yankees, and Brian Cashman’s decision making is still as questionable as ever when you look at the Chris Carter signing for example, the team is finally turning the corner in the prospects department. New York has traded away Brian McCann to give the everyday catching duties to Gary Sanchez and the team has also plugged in young guys like Greg Bird at first base with the retirement of Mark Teixeira but there are two names that are seemingly going to have to fight for their spots. Those two men are right fielder Aaron Judge and infielder/outfielder Tyler Austin.  

Just six months ago both Judge and Austin made their MLB debuts and just six months ago both players went back-to-back in their MLB debuts hitting home runs in their first MLB at bats. Now both men find themselves facing a numbers game at the MLB level that is not helped by the fact that both players have minor league options remaining.  

Judge fought an oblique strain at the end of last season that ended his Yankees-trial just 27 games into it. Judge showed promise at the plate in the power department but much like he had in the minor leagues the right-hander struggled laying off breaking balls off the plate resulting in too many strikeouts to be comfortable with. Well, I guess that’s not really a thing anymore with sabermetrics where strikeouts count the same as hitting a 400 foot fly out to dead center field inside Yankee Stadium but I can see where some fans are concerned regardless. Especially when you consider the Yankees just signed Chris Carter who strikes out 200+ times a season but I digress. New York seems comfortable handing the reigns to the right field job to Aaron Hicks, a switch hitter, on a daily basis which may be trouble for Judge. This will be a spring training competition to watch although the Yankees organization is saying all the right things with Judge which can only help. 

Austin on the other hand seems like he may be the odd man out. After the signings of Carter, a first baseman and DH only at this point in his career, and Matt Holliday, a first baseman, DH and occasional outfielder if needed, the Yankees may simply not have enough room to carry Austin as well. Austin has spent time in the minor leagues playing first base, third base and the outfield and would be the perfect fit for the Yankees bench but the problem is the team can only bring 25 players, period. Austin may lose the numbers game despite being the best man for the job. 

Both players were not required to show up to Yankees camp until Saturday yet both men showed up early to take batting practice off Adam Warren and Luis Cessa this week. Both men are facing an uphill battle and both men seem ready to fight for the job and that is what the Yankees need more than anything at this point. They need that fire and that will to fight and these two men have it. This is going to be one of the more interesting spring trainings we’ve seen down at George M. Steinbrenner Field in a long, long time. Stay tuned.


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