Saturday, March 25, 2023

And the Winner Is...


Anthony Volpe (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Anthony Volpe is the fan favorite for starting shortstop…

As Spring Training winds down, there is one thing that is quite clear. Anthony Volpe has made the Opening Day roster, or the New York Yankees have set up its fans for a huge letdown. No question Volpe has done everything possible to win a spot despite his age (21) and limited experience at the Triple-A level.

Volpe, who turns 22 in late April, continues to make a difference when he plays which seems lately to be nearly every day. I checked today’s lineup against the Philadelphia Phillies at BayCare Ballpark in Clearwater, FL, and sure enough, Volpe is the starting shortstop, atop the batting order. In sixteen Spring games, he is hitting .277/.393/.574 (.967 OPS). His home run during yesterday’s game against the Minnesota Twins was his third of the exhibition schedule. Oswaldo Cabrera and Andres Chaparro may have stronger Spring hitting statistics, but Volpe’s maturity beyond his years, the ability to adjust, and making consistent plays with his glove have set him apart in the shortstop race. Most importantly, he has proven he belongs in the Major Leagues. Some players have ‘baseball smarts’ and young Volpe is that guy. 

The Yankees have a difficult decision ahead. The glut of infielders remains an obstacle unless there is a trade. The more likely scenario, unfortunately, is the potential reassignment of expected starter Oswald Peraza to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to clear space on the Opening Day roster. I feel bad for Peraza. He has nothing left to prove in Triple-A, and he is the stronger defender at short. No question that Volpe has outplayed Peraza at the plate and has done more to shine in the field over the past few weeks. Regardless, Peraza is Major League-ready, and his further development needs to happen at the game’s highest level.  I am convinced he will hit if given the opportunity.

Oswald Peraza (Photo Credit: AP)

If Volpe has won the shortstop job, I am beginning to wonder if Peraza’s time as a Yankee may be ending. Gleyber Torres is the most frequently mentioned name in trade rumors, yet Peraza has value and could help bring in an experienced starting pitcher for depth purposes. I thought we would have seen a trade or two this week as teams begin to make decisions about their rosters. The days ahead could prove to be active. If Volpe makes the Opening Day roster, the Yankees must make room on the 40-man roster. It will not be hard with the pitchers who will be moved to the 60-day Injured List (Scott Effross, Luis Gil, and Frankie Montas). Once the Yankees commit a 40-man spot to Volpe, it will be his for years to come.

I do not sense the Yankees will trade Torres over the coming days. DJ LeMahieu most likely will be the Opening Day second baseman with Torres perhaps serving as the designated hitter and Giancarlo Stanton playing the field. But Torres will be the team’s regular second baseman until proven otherwise. The cost of Torre and Volpe on the Opening Day roster is apparently Peraza so I expect the minor league reassignment instead of a trade.

Injuries can change things in a hurry so Peraza, if he is demoted, should stay positive and be ready for the inevitable call-up. He will be on the Yankees’ active roster before we get too deep into the 162-game schedule. Unfortunately, there must be a winner and a loser in the Volpe/Peraza battle for shortstop and the Opening Day roster. The Yankees would be better to have both yet there is simply no room, especially if they legitimately believe Josh Donaldson has rediscovered the ability to hit and Isiah Kiner-Falefa can be their Six-Million-Dollar man in an infield utility role. 

Regardless of how things develop between now and Opening Day, there will be disappointment among the excitement for those who make the team versus those who do not. I am ready for the regular season. Spring Training games have run their course. The Yankees played split games yesterday, jumping out to leads in both games, only to lose in the late innings. I do not like to lose, even with meaningless exhibition games, yet the only thought yesterday was can these exhibition games just end so that we can get to games that matter? I am so done with exhibition games.

Are the Catchers Ready?

Kyle Higashioka has returned to the Yankees from the World Baseball Classic (WBC) after Team Japan’s thrilling championship victory over Team USA. The concern, for me, is whether he is behind schedule in his preparation for the season. Despite making the Team USA roster, Higgy only appeared in three games and never saw the plate except behind it with his glove. I understood why Higgy did not play; he backed up elite catchers JT Realmuto and Will Smith, yet it did not get him prepared for the grind of the long season ahead. Hopefully, he will get up to speed quickly now that he has rejoined the Yankees.

Miles Mikolas and Kyle Higashioka (Photo Credit: Mark J Repilas/USA TODAY Sports)

The Yankees signed another catcher for minor league depth this week when they inked José Godoy to a minor league contract. Godoy, 28, has yet to make his mark in the Major Leagues. He has played in the Mariners, Twins, and Pirates organizations, but has only appeared in twenty-six Major League games since making his debut on May 21, 2021. A noteworthy stat is he became MLB’s 20,000th player when he made his debut. Most recently, he was in camp with the Los Angeles Angels on a non-roster invite until he received his release. I am not expecting much, if anything, with this signing but Godoy does provide needed depth in the farm system. 

Probably my only reason for mentioning Godoy is how close he could be to the Major League roster should anything happen to either Higashioka or Jose Trevino. The moral of the story is that Higgy and Trevi must stay healthy. Until Ben Rortvedt is healthy and ready to play, the Yankees are dangerously thin at the position. Rortvedt has started throwing and expects to ramp up baseball activities within the next couple of weeks.

Speaking of players away for the WBC, I feel bad for the Philadelphia Phillies and their first baseman Rhys Hoskins. Hoskins, returning from his time with Team USA, tore the ACL in his left knee in his first exhibition game back with the Phillies this week. He is expected to miss most, if not all, of the season. Hoskins is the latest reminder of how injuries can change plans in a hurry. Although I thought the WBC was a strong event, the knock is the timing of the competition during Spring Training. Players either had to play at a high level in a hurry like Hoskins…or do nothing like Higashioka.  Either way, it disrupted player preparedness for the upcoming regular season.    

Battle of Relievers

Last March, the Yankees made the memorable trade with the Texas Rangers for catcher Jose Trevino for reliever Albert Abreu and minor leaguer Robby Ahlstrom. Abreu was subsequently designated for assignment by the Rangers and then waived by the Kansas City Royals before finding his way back to Pinstripes. The Yankees obviously like him or they would not have brought him back. However, I think it is time to part ways.

Although one game should not be held against anybody, yesterday’s Twins game was a microcosm of the problem. Abreu was on the mound when Minnesota scored four runs in the ninth for their come-from-behind win over the Yankees. He gave up five runs in 1 1/3 innings of work. The Twins had four hits against him, including two home runs. Abreu also walked a batter. By comparison, Jimmy Cordero, earlier in the same game, pitched 1 2/3 innings, allowing no hits or walks, and struck out three batters.


Jimmy Cordero (Photo Credit: Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

Cordero has done enough to show me he should make the Yankees’ bullpen over Abreu. Or maybe Abreu has just shown me enough that he should not be given a spot in the bullpen. Out of options, Abreu will be traded or released soon unless the Yankees remain infatuated with him for whatever reasons.

Estevan Florial lives another day

I thought Estevan Florial’s time as a Yankee was coming to an end, but most likely, with Harrison Bader starting the season on the Injured List, he has kicked the can down the road. Once Bader returns, Florial’s roster status will become questionable, and I foresee his designation for assignment unless he somehow has an epiphany to become a legitimate Major League hitter (unlikely, in my opinion). 

To start the season, Florial should serve as the team’s fourth outfielder although I would expect Oswaldo Cabrera to see more time in left supplanting my not-so-favorite Yankee Aaron Hicks. I thought the Yankees might go with Willie Calhoun or Rafael Ortega for the reserve outfield role, but in the final days of training camp, Florial’s spot on the 40-man roster gives him the leg up on the competition. He can serve as a speedy pinch runner and is a good defensive replacement.

I was hoping for more Yankees news this week to give us something to talk about. There are five days until Opening Day. Although the Yankees’ transaction wire has been quiet since the start of camp (outside of minor league activity), there should be some turbulence in the next 72 to 96 hours. 

Get ready, Gerrit Cole will soon get the ball. Looking forward to seeing who joins him and Aaron Judge in the Bronx for the season opener against the San Francisco Giants. 

As always, Go Yankees!

1 comment:

Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)