Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but injuries are complicating the Yankees’ plans. Luis Severino is down for the next year and then some thanks to Tommy John Surgery. James Paxton had back surgery and won’t be ready for months. Giancarlo Stanton is probably a no-go for Opening Day and the news on Aaron Judge from yesterday wasn’t encouraging. Even if Boone thinks Judge’ll be ready by Opening Day, it’s hard to be optimistic about a situation that’s seemingly gotten worse, not better.
Given how things went last year and given how poor the Yankees have been at communicating injuries, it’s reasonable to assume the worst with Judge. There’s not much of a bright side here…unless you’re a player whose spot on the roster or role on the roster isn’t fully cemented. Enter Mike Tauchmann, Miguel Andujar, and Clint Frazier.
While the former two are more or less on the roster, their roles are as yet unspecified. Even with the injuries, Tauchmann is likely to be the fourth outfielder, but if both Stanton and Judge are down, that leaves him a lane to start more often than anticipated. He would add a little balance to the lineup as a lefty hitter and he plays good defense pretty much no matter where he is. He’ll never be the offensive equivalent of Stanton or Judge, but he can make up the ground in defense.
Andujar is essentially the opposite. No matter where he plays, his defense will be a question mark. But, no matter where he plays, his bat will likely be more than worth putting in the lineup.
Frazier fits somewhere in the middle. His glove isn’t as good as Tauchman’s but he’s probably a better OF than Andujar, having done it for, well, his whole career as opposed to a few innings in Spring Training. Frazier has plenty of potential left in his bat, too, but it’s likely not as good as Miggy’s. Still, the injuries to Judge and Stanton, as well as a 26th roster spot, bode well for Frazier, whose future with the team was murky even just a month ago.
If both Judge and Stanton are out and on the DL when the season starts, it’s easy to see all three of these players starting. Frazier and Tauchman will occupy one each of left and right with Andujar at DH. This also opens a bench spot, giving someone like Thairo Estrada to make the bench along with Kyle Higashioka, Mike Ford, and (presumably) Tyler Wade.
If only Stanton is out and Judge is ready to go, it’s likely he’ll need plenty of DH time as not to wear him down right away. This opens up at bats for all three players as things move around, especially given the Yankees’ penchant for depth and mixing things up when necessary.
Perhaps the Yankees could’ve gone with more depth in the outfield, given that every starter was a health concern or question mark. Cameron Maybin would make a lot of sense right now. However, they still have some firepower in the reserve tank and it comes with upside. It’s not hard to see Miguel Andujar hitting like it’s 2018 again. It’s not hard to see Clint Frazier putting it all together. It’s not hard to see Mike Tauchman stealing the show defensively.
While it would be better to have both Stanton and Judge healthy, that may not be the case. Luckily, the Yankees are talented enough to keep afloat at the least and still be excellent at best.