The Yankees have one of the best minor-league systems in all of baseball. The number of top prospects in the organization betters most other teams.
Beyond that, the depth of talent on the farm in the most impressive collection of young players the Yankees have had since 1993-95. As we see what they are doing in spring training, let’s look at this depth, position by position. We will examine the organization from top to bottom, focusing on each player’s primary position:
Over the last several years, the Yankees have used the position of designated hitter to give some of their aging veterans a half day off. This allows them to stay fresher and more productive for the long season while still getting their bats into the lineup.
Last year, the team had high expectations for Alex Rodriguez, who was coming off a renaissance season the year before. However, inconsistent playing time led to diminished results which resulted in him being ushered into retirement in August. After that, the position provided a spot where some of the young prospects could audition for the 2017 season.
During the offseason, the Yankees made their first major free-agent move in almost two years when they signed the now 37-year old Matt Holiday. He signed a one-year deal for $13 million to be the everyday DH. He has been injured for parts of the last two seasons. Fully healthy, the seven-time all-star figures to be a major force in the middle of the lineup, protecting younger stars such as Greg Bird, Gary Sanchez, and Aaron Judge with his career .303/.382/.515.
Sanchez figures to catch most the time. However, Yankees manager Joe Girardi will likely give him an occasional half-day off, having him serve as the designated hitter while Austin Romine is behind the plate. The Yankees will need to give Holiday some days off to get him through the entire season.
The Yankees have also signed Chris Carter as a free agent. The 30-year-old played last year with the Milwaukee Brewers, leading the National League in both home runs and strikeouts, with 41 and 206, respectively. He is not known for his defensive prowess at first base. This means, most his playing time will come as the DH or as a pinch hitter. It is unclear if some sort of platoon situation will develop.
For the most part, the designated hitter position is used to get nine bats into eight positions in the minors. This allows teams to get a look at other batters. There are some exclusive bat-only players in the minors. The Yankees system’s minor -league websites list some of players, so they will be included:
Matt Snyder is a 26-year old that only played eight games last year, split between Tampa and Trenton. He is a career .290 hitter.
18-year old Ysaac Pena split time between designated hitter and catcher last year in the Dominican Summer League. He put together a .292/.331/.391 season.
As a 17-year old, Roberto Espinosa mirrored Pena in the DSL. He put up a .242/.304/.323 season.
The designated hitter spot in the Yankees lineup should provide the team with a lot more offense than it did last year. That should be the difference between a fourth-place finish in the American League East last year and be competing for a playoff spot this year.