Doesn’t it feel good to have baseball back? As of today, all MLB players should be in their respective Spring Training camps. With everyone in camp, the next thing to look forward to will be the start of the actual games. Those will start up on Wednesday, with the Arizona Diamondbacks being the first team to start the fun.
But we are not here to talk about the D’Backs. Instead, we are here to talk about the New York Yankees. The Yanks will get their first game action of 2017 in this Friday, February 24th in a home game against the Philadelphia Phillies at George M. Steinbrenner Field at 1:00 EST.
So with game action only a few days away, it is time to delve into the what makes Spring Training so fun! That would be players to watch and storylines to follow. For the Yankees, there are plenty of those this Spring. There will be plenty of eyes on Gary Sanchez as he looks to replicate his insanely good 2016. Fans of the Bronx Bombers will surely be interested in seeing how the new guys look in pinstripes. Masahiro Tanaka will always be a focus as well.
But what about the storylines worth following? Well have no fear, we have you covered. Below are three of the top storylines fans should be following throughout Yankees camp as they gear up for the 2017 season.
Who will step up and win the fourth and fifth starting pitching spots?
When it comes to the Yankees, the biggest question mark comes in the form of their starting rotation. We know Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia are pretty safe bets to make the starting five. But after those three, it is anyone’s guess.
The final two rotation slots are likely to be up for grabs for the majority of camp. There are at least six guys set to go up against one another for a chance to win those roles. The list of competitors includes: Luis Severino, Adam Warren, Bryan Mitchell, Luis Cessa, Chad Green and the recently signed (to a Minor League deal) Jon Niese.
Niese represents a veteran presence amongst a bunch of young guys. There are no favorites at this point, with Spring results being of the utmost importance. Who will emerge? Only time will tell, and Yankees fans will surely be watching this one closely every time one of these guys takes the mound in March.
You can check out my projected 2017 rotation for the Yankees here, which was written before the Niese deal.
How will Greg Bird and Chris Carter have their at-bats split up?
For almost the entire Winter, Greg Bird was expected to be the Yankees primary first baseman. There was no one else on the roster who really seemed to pose much of a threat to the 24-year-old. Tyler Austin did not show enough last season to give fans hope he could be an everyday guy to start off 2017.
But Bird brought about his own share of questions. The power hitting first baseman missed the entire 2016 thanks to a shoulder injury suffered before Spring Training really got going in 2016. Before that, the only glimpse of Bird we have seen was during a 46 game run in 2015. While he showed some promise during that run, it was such a small sample that Bird was far from a given.
Then the Yankees went out and signed Chris Carter, who led the NL in home runs with 41 a year ago while with the Milwaukee Brewers. With Carter now in the fold, many began to ask the question, who will start at first? With Carter being a righty and Bird being a lefty with the bat, some quickly jumped at the thought of a platoon.
But with Carter’s primary asset being his power paired with the fact that he launched 29 of his long balls off right-handers, it just does not seem like he would be benched for Bird for every game they face a righty. Spring Training will give us our first glimpse on how Joe Girardi will handle the duo. Will he split at-bats virtually 50/50? Will he give Carter more at-bats because of his proven power? Be sure to follow along this Spring to get a feel.
Does Matt Holliday look like a 30 home run type of guy?
One of the biggest moves the Bronx Bombers made this offseason was the signing of free agent Matt Holliday. Holliday will be 37 this season and health has always been a concern for the power hitter. With the Yankees, it is expected that he will be the primary DH. This should help in keeping his legs healthier, thus leading to overall better results with the bat.
Last season, Holliday played in 110 games and was able to hit 20 homers. Another year older, his underlying power is not going to go up. But with that extra rest of not having to play defense paired with the hitter-friendly environment of Yankee Stadium has fans dreaming of a 30 homer season.
The first clue as to whether Holliday will be up to the challenge will come over the course of the next month. If his swing looks slow and he looks his age, then 30 may be a pipedream. But if he looks fresh and healthy, fans can continue to dream. If you attend a Yankees game this Spring, or happen to watch one on tv, be sure to take a close look at the team’s new DH. He is expected to be a core part of their lineup in 2017, so he better look sharp this Spring if the team wants to have a shot at being competetive.
So there you have it. What are the biggest storylines you will be following this Spring when it comes to the New York Yankees? Tell us in the comments!