Who will fill the Yankees' final roster spots?A look at the 10 hopefuls left in camp who could be Yankees on April 1
General manager Brian Cashman has already made a handful of moves this spring to add more players to the competition, and should the Yankees complete the rumored trade for outfielder Vernon Wells, that will likely eliminate one competition, as Wells would be on the Major League roster for sure and likely somewhere in the starting lineup on Opening Day.
Still, with seven days to go, there are at least three and possibly up to five open positions out of 13 on the roster, with decisions now coming down to the wire. With the reassignment of Addison Maruszak, Walter Ibarra, and Jose Pirela to Minor League camp on Sunday, there are now two 40-man rosterees and eight non-roster invitees left in camp to fight for those jobs.
A look at that group – split into three categories – and their spring numbers so far is below, along with some comments on their likely chances to make the team.
IF Jayson Nix
Spring Line: .188/.259/.229, 3 RBI, 3 R, 1 SB, 3 BB/7 K in 48 AB/54 PA (18 games)
Pinstripe Probability: Nix hasn’t necessarily hit well this spring, but at this point, it would be almost shocking to many if he wasn’t on the Opening Day roster. The Yankees seemed likely to carry a second “utility” player on the bench even before Derek Jeter’s setback, and if Jeter does go to the DL to start, that means Eduardo Nunez will be the everyday shortstop early on and the team will need a true utility infielder; it was Nix who replaced Nunez in that role last year, and given both his versatility and strong splits against lefties, he’s likely to land on the roster somewhere regardless of the shuffle.
OF Juan Rivera
Spring Line: .316/.328/404, 5 RBI, 4 R, 1 BB/6K in 57 AB/58 PA (18 games)
Pinstripe Probability: Coming into camp, Rivera was one of a handful of players competing to fill the role of righty-hitting fourth outfielder; of course, circumstances have changed, and it’s very likely to almost probable that Rivera will start the season as the Opening Day first baseman. His versatility was already a leg up entering the spring, and hitting over .300 while other candidates have struggled mightily may have already sealed the deal for Rivera. He does have an opt-out clause in his contract that says he can become a free agent if he doesn’t make the team, but at this point that seems more of an anecdote than a talking point.
OF Brennan Boesch
Spring Line (DET/NYY): .179/.226/.214, 1 RBI, 3 R, 1 SB, 2 BB/6 K in 28 AB/31 PA (11 games)
Pinstripe Probability: When he was signed, Boesch’s hitter profile, split contract, and possession of all of his Major League options made him appear to be the perfect candidate to fill right field while Granderson was out and then be sent to Triple-A upon Grandy’s return; that may still be the case, although the potential acquisition of Vernon Wells – as well as the sore rib cage that cost Boesch last weekend – could go against him, and at best guess, his status is now tied directly to whether or not Wells joins the team and/or Jeter is disabled. As odd as it may sound, there are so many lineup splits still possible that Boesch’s chances to make the team truly range from 0 to 100 percent.
OF Ben Francisco
Spring Line (CLE/NYY): .326/.420/.651, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 9 R, 7 BB/9 K in 43 AB/50 PA (19 games)
Pinstripe Probability: Francisco has had a great spring in both Arizona and Florida and can play all three outfield positions, but much like Boesch, his chances to make the team seem to lie based on the Wells/Jeter resolution with a little subjective reasoning thrown in; all of that could go one of four ways, and even though Francisco is only on a Minor League deal and could be stashed in Triple-A, he still seems on the whole to be the likeliest to make the team regardless of how all of those chances play out.
3B/OF Ronnier Mustelier
Spring Line: .324/.378/.588, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 4 R, 2 SB, 2 BB/8K in 34 AB/38 PA (20 games)
Pinstripe Probability: Mustelier has raked this spring – with his walkoff homer Sunday just the latest contribution – and has shown flashes defensively at both third base and the corners, but he remains the true wildcard with a status that may solely be tied to Jeter’s. If The Captain is on the roster on April 1, Mustelier probably won’t be, but “Musty” could be there if Jeter isn’t; that scenario likely means Nunez is the everyday SS and Nix becomes the utility infielder, so Mustelier could be there to fill in the gaps based on minor injuries, off days, or lefty starters.
INF Gil Velazquez
Spring Line: .292/.393/.292, 5 R, 1 SB, 4 BB/4 K in 24 AB/28 PA (18 games)
Pinstripe Probability: Velazquez, 33, can play three positions and has had a good spring around his roughly 10-day absence while playing with Team Mexico in the WBC. As mentioned above, the Yankees were likely to carry Nix or another utility player even with Derek Jeter healthy, but now Jeter’s potential absence means Velazquez is more than just one of the final extra camp bodies; he has a real shot to make the team, especially if something happens to Nix or Nunez.
1B/3B Dan Johnson
Spring Line: .063/.286/.063, 4 R, 8 BB/8K in 32 AB/42 PA (23 games)
Pinstripe Probability: Eric Chavez recharged his career as a Yankee, and they (maybe even more so than any other team given their stadium dimension) would surely love to have a lefty-hitting corner infielder with power on the bench once again. Unfortunately, Johnson hasn’t shown he can be that this spring, as he has just two hits (both singles) and has struggled at both corners. You can’t necessarily write someone off based on 30 spring at-bats (see also Raul Ibanez in 2012), but given other options, he seems ticketed for Triple-A for sure.
OF Melky Mesa
Spring Line: .189/.246/.358, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 7 R, 3 SB, 3 BB/15 K in 53 AB/57 PA (21 games)
Pinstripe Probability: Mesa may be a future fixture in the Yankees outfield, but outside of a couple of huge hits he has by and large struggled at the plate this spring, and that will likely cost him. The Yankees need as much offense as possible early on, and with several other choices available, Mesa’s probably better served playing every day in Triple-A.
OF Thomas Neal
Spring Line: .275/.341/.425, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 6 R, 3 SB, 3 BB/5 K in 40 AB/44 PA (21 games)
Pinstripe Probability: Very quietly, Neal has put together a strong spring and has been a solid all-around player. Will that be enough to make the team? Probably not, as unfortunately for him, he’s also the least experienced and still seems to be the most expendable of the non-roster invitees left. Anything can happen, but for Neal, it seems like Triple-A is the likeliest destination, a fate that may be sealed completely if and when Wells is added.
C Bobby Wilson
Spring Line: .143/.182/.143, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB/6 K in 21 AB/22 PA (17 games)
Pinstripe Probability: Wilson is the last non-roster catcher left in camp, but that was more a function of necessity than force; barring a major injury to either Francisco Cervelli or Chris Stewart, he appears to have no realistic chance of breaking camp with the team, and will likely serve as Austin Romine’s backup at Triple-A this season.
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