John Sterling and Michael Kay reunited for this afternoon’s broadcast on YES for the first time in two decades. A little bit of nostalgia was heartwarming on this freezing day in New York, no?
If you missed the duo’s reunion, you’ll have another chance to catch them together on March 22nd. That one’s a 6:30pm ballgame, so work may not interfere for some of you like it may have this afternoon.
Sterling and Kay got to call a 4-2 win over the Phillies. Domingo Germán was sharp again, which I’ll expand upon in a moment. Giancarlo Stanton had another nice game too. He tallied two hits, both absolutely crushed (110 and 120 MPH exit velos), and drove in two runs. Gary Sánchez and Rob Brantly pitched in a couple of RBI singles as well. Not that Grapefruit League records mean anything, but this win was the team’s sixth straight, moving the Yanks to 10-4. Now, onto the big story.
The Yankees topped Philadelphia 6-1 in Clearwater earlier today. Aaron Hicks homered, Gerrit Cole was dealing, and everyone’s favorite non-roster invitee Lucas Luetge did his thing again. Here’s Hicks’s excuse-me-wind-aided dinger:
More on the game in a bit, but first, some important rehab news.
The Big Story: Luis Severino
As anticipated, Luis Severino threw off a mound this week. It’s the first time he’s been on the bump since he underwent Tommy John surgery last February. This session happened Tuesday, though it wasn’t public knowledge until today.
“It was a lot of fun for me to get over there on Tuesday morning to be there to see that first one and just to see how he’s moving around,” Boone said before Thursday’s exhibition against Philadelphia in Clearwater.
“There’s just a confidence in that he’s kind of exuding in his health, just watching him play catch, the way his body is, the kind of shape he’s in and the free and easy way in which he’s throwing,” Boone said. “He was really efficient the other day — it really kind of throwing it exactly where he wanted. He was coming out hot. We almost said, ‘Hey, back off a little bit. It’s coming out a little too well.’ And he wasn’t working for it necessarily. So really encouraged about where he’s at to this point.”
Obviously, it’s great to hear that Severino looked great and came away from this step healthy. If all goes well, Sevy will be a huge boost to the Yankees’ rotation in the second half of the season. And I know, I know: you’re not going to like hearing Brian Cashman say that he’s the best acquisition the team could make when the trade deadline comes around. But honestly, will he really be wrong about that?
There’s still a long way for Severino to go, of course. He needs to start mixing in breaking balls, face hitters, build up arm strength, etc. But every step he takes without an issue is a big plus.
Last week, we found out that Alternate Sites are returning as a result of the delayed start to the Triple-A season. The Athletic’s Lindsey Adler has all the details regarding the rules and regulations for the Alternate Site. I have a couple of thoughts on roster implications as a result of the Alternate Site’s return, along with a closing note on a surprising non-roster invitee in camp. Let’s dive in.
The Yankees will probably use the Alternate Site to protect Deivi García’s workload. Like it or not, it’s been pretty clear that the fifth starter’s job is Domingo Germán’s to lose. Not that he needed any more help, but the delay to the Triple-A season might give him a further boost. The Yankees could use the Alternate Site as a way to limit innings for certain pitchers who Germán is in competition with and the organization want to protect, namely García.
There should be no qualms about Deivi’s candidacy for the fifth spot, and in fact, I’d argue he’s the best option. Yet, he’s also never thrown more than 111.2 innings in a season (2019) and is still just 21 years old. I’d wager that the Yankees will be careful to not significantly overstep the young righty’s previous high water mark in 2021. It’s not like the organization needs him to bear a significant anyway. The team has very good starting depth.
So, optioning García to the Alternate Site to start the year would make it easier to manage his 2021 workload. He could pitch in a few exhibition games in April, but wouldn’t need to pitch him every fifth day. Alternatively, there would be no need for him to go five or six frames each time out either. Of course, this could also just be used as a front for service time shenanigans, but there are certainly legitimate health considerations.
This would have applied to Clarke Schmidt too, especially if he stayed healthy and pitched as well as he did last March. But now, his common extensor strain will make his time at the Alternate Site more like spring training all over again anyway.
Now, with Deivi in particular, this scenario only works as long as everyone else stays healthy this month. For instance, I can’t imagine running out Jhoulys Chacín every fifth day in the name of limiting Deivi’s innings. In that case, García should be in the rotation and the Yankees could kick can down the road on workload concerns.
With spring training now in full swing and a new season upon us, it’s time to bring back our season preview series. This year, we’re doing things a little bit differently. Instead of writing up each and every individual player, we’re doing top-to-bottom organizational previews by position. Not only will this provide a set up for the 2021 MLB season’s storylines, but it’ll also give us a look at what’s in store with the minor leagues returning this summer. Lastly, at the bottom of each post, we will have a depth chart by playing level.
Today, we start at catcher. A fitting place to begin given that catchers have been in camp for a few days already now. Let’s dive in.
Pressure on Gary Sánchez
Gary Sánchez, much to many fans’ chagrin, is the incumbent starting catcher. We’ve gotten a reprieve from the Sánchez discourse for the past few months, but things have kicked back into gear now that spring training has begun. And understandably so given how 2020 ended for the 28 year-old backstop.
2021 feels like a make-or-break season for Sánchez. He’s two years from free agency and has been on a roller coaster since 2018. A hot start would do wonders, wouldn’t it? Sure, there’s always a magnifying glass on his performance, but never quite like this. After all, last year was pretty embarrassing for Sánchez. He didn’t hit during the regular season (.147/.253/.365, 68 wRC+) and was a mess defensively. By season’s end, he was no longer paired with team ace Gerrit Cole and started just two of the team’s seven postseason games. So yeah, a torrid start to 2021 would go a long way for Gary.
The wait is over. And no, I’m not talking about pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training today. Rather, the Yankees finally announced the club’s non-roster invitees to big league camp this morning.
The vast majority of these players are no surprise given the trickle of minor league deals during the offseason. However, there are a few players who popped up out of nowhere. For instance, there was no word of Derek Dietrich or Nick Goody joining the Bombers until the team pushed out this announcement. Then there are a couple of prospects, namely last year’s first rounder Austin Wells, who are aboard.
Ample catching is always a requirement early in camp, and the Yankees will have seven more backstops in tow alongside Gary Sánchez and Kyle Higashioka.
Of this subgroup of NRIs, Robinson Chirinos is the only player likely to see any time in New York. Now, don’t expect him to unseat Sánchez or Higashioka out of camp, but Chirinos is the break glass in case of [injury] option. Chirinos, 36, is a lifetime .231/.325/.431 (102 wRC+) hitter in 2,125 big league plate appearances. He’s not much of a defender, but the bat is useful.
Rob Brantly is the other catcher with major league experience here, but the vast majority of that was way back in 2012 and 2013. He’s really just another body in camp. Kellin Deglan and Max McDowell represent the other two minor league depth backstops in camp.
Now, for the fun part. The Yankees invited three noteworthy prospects: Austin Wells, Anthony Siegler, and Josh Breaux. Wells, last year’s first round draft choice, has yet to see any professional action. Siegler (2018 first round) and Breaux (2018 second round) certainly could use the reps after no game action last year too. We’ve yet to see Seigler do much in the minors, but he’s also had a hard time staying healthy. Meanwhile, Breaux broke out in 2019 in Charleston when he posted a 141 wRC+ and 13 homers in just 216 plate appearances.