Yankees fans should be incredibly excited, yet patient, with the Major League club over the next two seasons. The roster will not include the big names such as Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano or Andy Pettitte that fans are accustomed to watching on a nightly basis.
With Hal Steinbrenner’s goal of trimming payroll underneath the luxury tax in reach, look for the Yankees to use the next two years to decipher who will be the next core group of players that will return the franchise to October glory.
If you haven’t heard by now, the Yankees feature a slew of promising young talent in their farm system. It is widely regarded as the best minor league system in all of baseball. Brian Cashman began the first stage of the Yankees rebuild at last year’s trading deadline, and the time has now come for phase two.
Phase two includes finding out the answer to these important questions: Is Greg Bird the first basemen of the future? Will Aaron Judge make an adjustment and stick in right field? Are Clint Frazier, Gleyber Torres and Jorge Mateo everyday players on a championship caliber club? Can James Kaprielian and Chance Adams stick in a Major League rotation? Is Luis Severino a starter? Are Tyler Wade, Cito Culver, Dustin Fowler, and Kyle Higashioka good enough to be options for Joe Girardi off the bench?
The answer to all of these questions can only be obtained by continuing to give the “baby bombers” a chance to prove themselves at the Major League level.
This is why former first round draft pick and defensive wizard Cito Culver needs a shot on the roster over Ronald Torreyes, Donovan Solano and Rob Refsnyder. No matter who makes the roster, all four of the aforementioned players will be used in a utility role and brought in as defensive replacements throughout the course of the year. With a pitching staff that is mostly comprised of young hurlers, has many question marks, and puts an emphasis on getting ground-ball outs, defense needs to be the priority. Culver is by far the superior defender of the group. It also helps that Cito is coming off of his best offensive season to date. He hit .254/.315/.349 with the Trenton Thunder (Double-A) and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (Triple A) in 2016.
Mason Williams, Tyler Austin and Dustin Fowler also need to get at-bats over Aaron Hicks. Williams is a superior defender than Hicks and contains a greater speed tool, thus providing a solid option off the bench as a pinch runner and defensive replacement. Mason can play all three outfield positions just like Hicks can, but projects to perform slightly better at the plate if given the at bats.
Austin burst onto the scene by homering in his first Major League at-bat, but is still a bit of an unknown due to his lack of Major League experience. Tyler did perform better at the plate during his big league stay (.241/.300/.458) than Hicks (.217/.281/.336), and has a greater power tool. However, Austin features less speed, is worse defensively and is best suited as a corner outfielder/first basemen.
Fowler who has yet to make his major league debut, features the most upside of the group. A recent article by Pinstripe Alley tabbed him as possibly the most underrated player in the entire Yankees farm system. As quoted from the article “he had a .281/.311/.458 slash line, with 12 home runs and 15 triples. He also stole 25 bases and drew praise for his defense in center field.” Only time will tell if his exciting skill set and impressive numbers can translate into success in the Bronx.
With the best free agent class in Major League Baseball history coming up in 2019, it is vital for the organization to figure out these questions by the end of next season. The team just cannot afford to miss out on the incredible and fortunate situation that they are in. Nobody else in baseball will have the promising young talent coupled with the financial resources to sign multiple players of Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Clayton Kershaw’s caliber in one off-season.
These types of signings should be enough to bring another world championship back to the Bronx as early as 2019, only if a core group of players is already in place when these stars arrive.
In today’s age, it is almost impossible to win a championship without the presence of homegrown talent on the roster. All you have to do is look at the San Francisco Giants, Kansas City Royals, Boston Red Sox, and Chicago Cubs. Each of these organizations grew the majority of their rosters from within and then sprinkled a few additions in the mix to make them a contender.
These next two seasons for the Yankees are the most important ones in recent memory. It has the potential to make or break the organization’s success for the next decade. I am excited, are you?