Sorting through the 45 players the Yankees still have on their Spring Training roster

Mitchell. (Presswire)
Mitchell. (Presswire)

Two weeks from today, the Yankees will open the 2016 regular season at home against the Astros. There are a 14 exhibition games to be played between now and then, and several roster decisions have to be made as well. The Yankees have made two rounds of roster cuts so far, paring the number of players in big league camp from 70 down to 45. Another 20 still must go.

It goes without saying some of those 45 players have a much better chance to make the Opening Day roster than others. You’d be surprised to see how few have close to no chance to make the team though. The Yankees have only a few open roster spots but an awful lot of candidates to fill them. Let’s look over the 45 players still in big league camp and figure out where they fit going forward.

Definitely Making The Team (20)

These are the easiest calls, so we might as well start here. These 20 players will definitely be on the Opening Day roster:

Coming into the spring I would not have considered Shreve a lock for the bullpen, but it’s pretty safe to say he’s in right now. He’s been phenomenal in camp, he was awesome most of last year, and Joe Girardi is talking about him like one of his regular relievers. Shreve’s going to break camp with the Yankees.

The Yankees insist they are having a true competition for the fifth starter’s spot, though sending Sabathia to the bullpen so Nova can start is one of those “I’ll believe it when I see it” things. Maybe the Yankees will figure out a way to stick Sabathia on the DL rather than send him to the bullpen, though that would surprise me. I’m sticking with what I said last week: I don’t believe Sabathia is truly competing for a rotation spot. He’s in.

Very Likely To Make The Team (2)

In Bryan Mitchell and Rob Refsnyder, the Yankees have two young players who are forcing the issue with their Spring Training performances. Both saw time in the show last year and both came to camp on the roster bubble. Mitchell keeps throwing fire and getting outs while Refsnyder has shown he can actually handle third base, a position he never played prior to this spring.

“(Refsnyder at third base) been better than I expected, to be honest. He’s never been over to that side of the infield. His reactions are really good. His arm’s good,” said Brian Cashman to Meredith Marakovits recently (video link). The Yankees need a backup third baseman now that Castro will stick to second, and Refsnyder has taken to the position quickly. He hit in his limited time last year and he adds some balance as a righty hitter.

As for Mitchell, the Yankees do have three open bullpens, and none of the shuttle relievers have impressed this spring. He’s been by far the best of the team’s bullpen candidates, and Girardi has mentioned him as a potential Adam Warren replacement, meaning a multi-inning reliever. Mitchell pitched pretty well in relief last year before taking that line drive to the nose. I wouldn’t call him or Refsnyder locks for the Opening Day roster, but they sure look like strong candidates right now.

Hurt Or Suspended (3)

Three of the 45 players still in camp will not be on the active 25-man roster when the season begins. Aroldis Chapman has to serve his 30-game suspension, and both Greg Bird and Mason Williams will start the season on the DL following shoulder surgery. Bird’s going to be out for the year. We know that already. Williams is doing pretty much everything — throwing, hitting, etc. — but still needs more time to finish up his rehab.

There are some 40-man roster implications here. Chapman will be on the restricted list and will not count towards the 40-man roster while suspended. Bird can also be placed on the 60-day DL whenever a 40-man spot is needed. The 60-day DL is kinda weird though. Teams can only use it when they need it, meaning another player has to placed on the 40-man right away. Bird will likely start the season on the 15-day DL, then be transferred over whenever a 40-man spot is inevitably needed.

Pazos. (Presswire)
Pazos. (Presswire)

In The Mix For A Roster Spot (7)

This might as well be the shuttle reliever category. Johnny Barbato, Nick Goody, James Pazos, Branden Pinder, and Nick Rumbelow are all still in camp and they’re all on the 40-man roster. All but Barbato pitched in the big leagues last year too. Barbato has pitched the best during Grapefruit League play so far, which won’t hurt his case for the Opening Day roster. Then again, none of these guys have thrown more than seven innings this spring.

Based on everything I have above, five of the seven bullpen spots are claimed: Miller, Betances, Shreve, Mitchell, and Nova (or Sabathia). I honestly have no idea how those last two spots will shake out. I don’t even have an inkling which way the Yankees are leaning. Barbato has pitched well so far, though that doesn’t mean much. He’s got two weeks to make some mistakes. At the same time, the other guys have a chance to step up their game. The best way to describe the bullpen situation right now is: developing.

Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez are also in the mix for a roster spot. They’re competing for the backup catcher’s job, and right now I’d say it’s advantage Romine. Sanchez has not had a good spring (1-for-17) and over the weekend Girardi said he seems to be pressing. There’s also the service time issue (35 days in the minors delays Sanchez’s free agency a year) and the fact that Sanchez probably could use some more Triple-A time to work on his defense.

Out of these seven players, all but Romine will go to Triple-A if they don’t make the team. Romine’s out of options, so if he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, he’ll go on waivers. And even if he clears, he can elect free agency. The Yankees can’t expect to keep him based on those conditions. That’s probably another reason Romine seems to be the favorite to back up McCann right now.

Oh Gosh, They Might Actually Make The Team (5)

Remember Chris Martin? He was that random offseason pickup no one really paid attention to last year, then bam, he was on the Opening Day roster. The five guys in this group are candidates to be this year’s Chris Martin. Here’s how they can make the team out of camp:

  • Chris Denorfia: Unlike most of the team’s depth outfielders, Denorfia hits right-handed and he has a lot of MLB experience. He strikes me as the top bench candidate should Ellsbury’s wrist injury linger.
  • Pete Kozma: What if the Yankees want to give Refsnyder some more Triple-A time to continue working at third? Kozma, a veteran utility man, is the annoyingly obvious alternative.
  • Tyler Olson: Having a very good spring and could fill one of the open bullpen spots. Olson is a true lefty specialist and Girardi sure does love his matchups.
  • Anthony Swarzak: Swarzak has been solid overall, and he’s another guy with MLB experience. The fact he can throw multiple innings may land him in the bullpen.
  • Kirby Yates: Quietly shoving this spring (4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K) and he has big league time under his belt. With none of the shuttle guys standing put, Yates could grab a bullpen spot.

Yeah, you don’t have to try real hard to see one or two (or three) of these guys making the team, do you? It’s surprisingly easy, in fact. I swear, these guys just sneak up on you. You overlook them as cast-offs when they’re acquired, and before you know, they’re standing on the foul line and being introduced on Opening Day. Baseball, man.

Long Shots To Make The Team (8)

Never say never, but I am comfortable saying these last eight players are very unlikely to make the Opening Day roster. Catchers Carlos Corporan and Eddy Rodriguez remain in camp, though Girardi has dismissed them as backup catcher candidates. They’re still around so McCann, Romine, and Sanchez don’t have to catch every inning of every spring game. That’s all.

Chris Parmelee was signed to replace Bird as the Triple-A first baseman, so he’s going to Triple-A. The only way he makes the Opening Day roster is if Teixeira gets hurt. (I don’t think he’d make it if A-Rod got hurt. They’d use Beltran at DH in that case.) Ronald Torreyes had gotten a look at third base this spring and he’s been fine overall. At this point I think he’s behind Refsnyder and Kozma on the backup infield depth chart.

Kristen Orfia. (Presswire)
Kristen Orfia. (Presswire)

In addition to Denorfia, Slade Heathcott and Cesar Puello are the last remaining spare outfielders in camp. Heathcott has been brutal during Grapefruit League play (1-for-22!), and while that isn’t everything, I think it puts him behind Denorfia on the depth chart should Ellsbury stay hurt. Puello’s been great in camp, but this is a guy who played one game last season due to a back injury. I can’t see him sticking even if Ellsbury’s wrist problem lingers.

The last two arms in camp are Diego Moreno and Luis Cessa. The Yankees really like Cessa — Cashman in particular has talked him up — and he’s looked pretty good in his limited action. Those are the key words there, limited action. He’s appeared in only three Spring Training games, and if the Yankees were seriously considering Cessa for the roster, he’d get more looks. Pitching two innings once a week suggests he’s on the outside looking in. That’s fine. He could use more Triple-A time anyway.

The Yankees seem to like Moreno more than we realize — he’s been mentioned as a call-up candidate for two or three years now — and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him again this summer. He is not on the 40-man roster right now, and he hasn’t pitched well in camp (six runs in 5.1 innings), so it seems safe to say Diego is way down on the Opening Day bullpen depth chart at the moment. The Yankees have too many other candidates.

* * *

With Opening Day two weeks away, it appears the Yankees have 22 of their 25 roster spots figured out. They need to pick a backup catcher and decide who will hold down the last two bullpen spots on a temporary basis. I assume those will be shuttle spots, with new guys cycling in and out as necessary, especially early in the season. The next round of roster cuts should be coming next weekend, and that may lend some clarity to the bullpen situation.

Open Thread: March 20th Camp Notes

The Yankees beat the Twins earlier today — some things never change, eh? — by the score of 6-4. Ivan Nova had a rocky outing, allowing four runs on five hits and three walks in 4.1 innings. He struck out two. Nova told Bryan Hoch he threw some cutters, a pitch he hasn’t used since before his Tommy John surgery. Bryan Mitchell came out of the bullpen and retired all eight men he faced.

Chase Headley was the only regular with a hit, though the Yankees didn’t send many big names to Fort Myers. Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks each drew a walks. Hicks also threw a runner out at third. Kinda weird to see a Yankees outfielder who can throw, isn’t it? Ronald Torreyes had two hits and Cesar Puello whacked a home run off the bench. Here is the box score, here are the video highlights, and here is the latest news from Tampa:

  • Jacoby Ellsbury‘s wrist is still sore, unsurprisingly. He got hit “in a bad spot” and it will take a few days for the inflammation to go away. Joe Girardi said it’s unlikely Ellsbury plays before Thursday given the upcoming schedule (off-day and some road trips). [Mark Feinsand, David Lennon]
  • Early in camp, Carlos Beltran sat down with Luis Severino to give him some guidance about dealing with the pressure of being a highly touted young player at the MLB level. Pretty awesome. Remember, Beltran requested to be locker neighbors with Aaron Judge so he could mentor him this spring. [Kevin Kernan]
  • Girardi acknowledged Gary Sanchez may be pressing a bit this spring as he attempts to win the backup catcher’s job. “The first time you have an opportunity to make a club, I am sure there is a lot of excitement in that young man. We really believe he is going to be a really good player,” said the skipper. [George King, Fred Kerber]
  • The Yankees have an off-day tomorrow and it’s a complete off-day. No workouts or anything. They return to action with a night game against the Mets on Tuesday. Severino is scheduled to start. Right now there is no broadcast scheduled. We’ll see if YES or SNY pick it up. [Ryan Hatch]

This is tonight’s open thread. MLB Network is showing the Royals and Cubs live right now, then they’ll show games on tape delay all throughout the night. The Knicks and Devils are both playing later, and of course you have all the March Madness action. Talk about those games or anything else right here. Don’t be a jerk.

Spring Training Game Thread: Fifth Starter Competition Continues

(Leon Halip/Getty)
(Leon Halip/Getty)

The fifth starter competition continues this afternoon, assuming there actually is a fifth starter competition. Ivan Nova is making his fourth Grapefruit League start, and he is likely scheduled for something like five innings or 75 pitches today. Ivan has pitched well this spring and that’s pretty much all he can do if he wants to force the Yankees to make a tough decision. I have a hard time believing they’d go with Nova over CC Sabathia, but we’ll see.

The Yankees are on the road in Fort Myers to play the Twins this afternoon. It’s a two-hour ride, so most of the regulars are back at home in Tampa. Here is the Twins’ lineup — former Yankee/serial killer John Ryan Murphy is starting and batting eighth — and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. C Brian McCann
  4. 3B Chase Headley
  5. 1B Dustin Ackley
  6. DH Chris Denorfia
  7. SS Pete Kozma
  8. 2B Ronald Torreyes
  9. RF Ben Gamel
    RHP Ivan Nova

Available Pitchers: RHP Bryan Mitchell is scheduled to follow Nova, according to Fred Kerber and George King. He and Nova might be the only pitchers used today since they’re both pretty stretched out. RHP Anthony Swarzak is on the trip as well, says Rhett Bollinger.

Available Position Players: Bollinger says Chris Parmelee and Deibinson Romero made the trip as well. Not sure who else is there.

It is pretty cloudy in Fort Myers and there’s some rain in the forecast this afternoon, though not a ton. Today’s game will begin at 1:05pm ET and there is no YES or MLB Network broadcast. If you’re in the Twins’ home market, you can watch on FOX Sports North. Otherwise MLB.tv is your only option. Enjoy the game, folks.

Update: X-rays negative after Jacoby Ellsbury takes pitch to the right wrist

5:49pm ET: X-rays and a CT scan on Ellsbury’s wrist were negative, the Yankees announced. Negative is good! Ellsbury has two weeks and one day to get over any lingering soreness before the start of the regular season.

4:13pm ET: The Yankees say Ellsbury was hit in the wrist and he is heading for x-rays.

3:59pm ET: Jacoby Ellsbury left today’s game after being hit by a pitch in his right hand or wrist in the fifth inning. It might have even hit his forearm. It was in that general area. Here’s the pitch:

Ellsbury was in obvious pain and Joe Girardi pointed him right to the clubhouse, which was no surprise. They’re always going to play it safe with something like in Spring Training. No sense in lobbying to stay in.

The Yankees have not yet released an update on Ellsbury but we’ll get one soon enough. I’m sure he’s headed for x-rays and all that. Those pitches to the hand/wrist area are always scary. So many tiny little easy to break bones in there.

Should Ellsbury miss time, the Yankees have plenty of outfield depth to cover for the injury, plus they have a ready made leadoff hitter replacement in Brett Gardner. Ben Gamel, Slade Heathcott, and Chris Denorfia would all be candidates to land on the roster. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that.

Open Thread: March 19th Camp Notes

The Yankees won for the fourth time in five games earlier today, beating the Braves 3-2. Michael Pineda started and allowed one run on four hits in four innings. He struck out four and did get some help from his defense for sure. Aroldis Chapman allowed a run on two hits in his inning, and Chasen Shreve retired all three men he faced. Shreve’s line this spring: 6.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K. That’ll do.

Starlin Castro went 2-for-3 and was the offensive star by default. Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, and Chase Headley each had one hit as well. Jacoby Ellsbury made a great diving catch in the outfield and Chris Denorfia threw a runner out at the plate, both to the benefit of Big Mike. Here’s the box score, here are the video highlights, and here’s the latest from Tampa:

  • In case you missed it earlier, Ellsbury left today’s game after taking a pitch to the right wrist. The Yankees have not yet released an update other than to say he is going for x-rays. Fingers crossed.
  • Tyler Cloyd, Richard Bleier, Mark Montgomery, and Vinnie Pestano no longer have nameplates on their lockers. Pretty good indication they’ve been sent to minor league camp. The Yankees haven’t announced anything yet though. [Brendan Kuty]
  • Update: The Yankees optioned Ben Gamel to Triple-A Scranton and reassigned Cloyd, Bleier, Montgomery, Vinnie Pestano, Jonathan Diaz, and Donovan Solano to minor league camp, the team announced. There are still 45 players in big league camp by my unofficial count.
  • Once again, Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi said the fifth starter’s spot will go to the best man for the job. “It’s open competition. Everybody knows that. Let’s see where it takes us,” said the GM. We’ll see. [Jack Curry]
  • Ivan Nova will be on the mound tomorrow as he continues to make his case for the rotation. The Yankees will be on the road to play the Twins. There will be an MLB.tv broadcast for that one.
  • And finally, the Yankees had a special visitor in camp today. Some guy who used to wear No. 42.

This is tonight’s open thread. This afternoon’s game will replayed on YES after tonight’s Nets game, so figure it’ll start around 10-10:30pm ET or so. MLB Network is showing the Dodgers and White Sox right now, then they’ll show other games on tape delay through the night. The (hockey) Rangers are playing right now and the other local hockey and basketball teams are all playing tonight. And there’s all the March Madness action. Talk about all of that right here.

Spring Training Game Thread: Rain Rain Go Away

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

First, the good news: this afternoon’s game was not on the YES Network’s original Spring Training broadcast schedule, but they picked it up at some point, so we’ll be able to watch. Hooray for that.

Now, the bad news: it’s raining in Tampa. The weather forecast doesn’t look particularly promising either. The internet tells me it’s going to continue raining pretty heavily until about 5pm ET. This is only a Spring Training game, so they’re not going to wait out a rain storm. They’ll cancel the game sooner rather than later and let the players do their work inside.

The Braves made the 70-mile trip down from Disney for this afternoon’s game. Hopefully the weather clears up and they can play a few innings. I could really use some baseball today. Here is the Braves’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. SS Didi Gregorius
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. RF Carlos Beltran
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. 2B Starlin Castro
  8. C Carlos Corporan
  9. LF Chris Denorfia
    RHP Michael Pineda

Available Pitchers & Position Players: Not sure, sorry. Probably not going to matter anyway with the rain.

This afternoon’s game is scheduled to begin a bit after 1pm ET. If they do manage to play at some point, you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and MLB.tv everywhere. This is no MLB Network broadcast. Not even on tape delay. Enjoy hoping it doesn’t rain.

Update (12:54pm ET): The Yankees say the game will begin at 1:30pm ET.

Update (1:28pm ET): The start time is now 2:10pm ET.

Spring Training Game Thread: Refsnyder at Third, Again

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

For the seventh time in his 12 Grapefruit League games, Rob Refsnyder is playing third base tonight. He’s played more innings at third (29) than second (22) so far, and everything seems to be going well. About as well as the Yankees could have hoped, really. Things can change in an instant, but right now Refsnyder seems like a safe bet for a bench spot.

In other news, both Aaron Hicks (stye) and Brett Gardner (wrist) are back in the lineup tonight, so they’re doing well. CC Sabathia is also on the mound looking to shake off the rough outing he had last time out. His first two spring starts were fine though. The Orioles made the trip up from Sarasota for tonight’s game. Here is the O’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. C Brian McCann
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. DH Alex Rodriguez
  6. 2B Dustin Ackley
  7. RF Aaron Hicks
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 3B Rob Refsnyder
    LHP CC Sabathia

Available Pitchers & Position Players: Not sure, sorry. Seems like Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances are lined up to pitch tonight though.

It is cloudy in Tampa tonight, but there’s no rain in the forecast, so that’s good. Tonight’s game will begin a bit after 6:30pm ET. You can watch on YES locally and MLB.tv anywhere. MLB Network will show the game on tape delay beginning at 7pm ET. Enjoy the game, y’all.