The New York Yankees will enter 2020 with championship aspirations, thanks to a loaded roster that features above average players at nearly every single position on the 25 man roster.
LeMahieu came to the Bronx as a super utility player and finished as arguably the team’s most valuable player. The lifetime Colorado Rockie adjusted to life outside of Coors Field just fine, posting a triple slash of .327/.375/.518 with 26 home runs, 102 RBI, an OPS+ of 136 and an fWAR of 5.4, resulting in LeMahieu’s third All-Star appearance, first Silver Slugger award and first top-five MVP finish, all the while bouncing around the infield, filling in wherever needed.
Then there’s Torres, who has gone from top five prospect in all of baseball to being on the cusp of MLB stardom. He posted an .871 OPS through 144 games while showcasing a power game that he had yet to establish before last season, belting 38 home runs 546 at-bats. Torres’ BABIP was an impressive .296 while his wRC+ climbed to 125. Like LeMahieu, Torres was also an All-Star, his second nod in as many big league seasons. A shortstop by trade, Torres filled in for the injured Didi Gregorius until his return, then moved back to second base, a position the Yankees slotted him in to fast track him to the Bronx.
With Gregorius now in Philadelphia, Torres will take over full time duties at shortstop. Because of this move, LeMahieu will now be tasked with being the Yankees’ primary second baseman, his natural position.
But what about the depth?
Therein lies the question – arguably the biggest one the Yankees have to face this coming Spring Training.
The odds-on favorite for the job is Tyler Wade, the one-time top-15 organizational prospect who, up until the second half of last season, has failed to make much of an impact at the big league level.
His defense and speed alone makes Wade an asset to the Yankees. Despite being a natural second baseman, the 25-year-old has spent time at shortstop, third base and all three outfield positions. Wade also went seven for seven in stolen base attempts in 2019 and has amassed 119 over the course of his minor league career. His ability to be a late inning defensive replacement and pinch runner is invaluable to a team with championship aspirations.
Fortunately for the organization, his bat has finally come along at the major league level, too.
The potential was always there. In Wade’s first full season in Triple-A, he hit .310 with a .382 on base percentage to go along with 22 doubles, four triples and a career-high seven home runs. But his bat never translated to the Bronx, as he hit just .161 in 133 plate appearances between 2017 and 2018.
That theme seemed to be continuing when Wade slashed just .204/.316/.204 in 20 games in the first half of 2019. But when he was recalled in late August, he finally seemed comfortable, hitting .289 with an .880 OPS that included three doubles, two home runs and a triple in 49 plate appearances.
A confident Wade can be a serious boost, especially for a team that’s desperate for left-handed hitters.
And when it comes to organizational depth, Wade isn’t the only in-house option to help up the middle.
Thairo Estrada was a hot name on Yankees prospect rankings over the last number of years, but an unfortunate injury via gun violence resulted in a delayed start to his 2018 season, one that ultimately ended for good in June after just 18 games when he suffered a back injury.
Estrada recovered in time for Spring Training the following season and made his Yankees debut on April 21. The Venezuelan native didn’t provide much in terms of offense, but like Wade, played multiple positions. Now over a year removed from his injury issues, the hope is Estrada can showcase that potential he displayed in 2017, where he hit .301 with a .353 on-base percentage while striking out just 56 times in 495 at-bats.
As the roster currently stands, it’s expected both Wade and Estrada will see their fair share of playing time with the Yankees this upcoming season.
But just because there is help from within doesn’t mean Brian Cashman can’t find help on the free agent market.
Scooter Gennett is one of the most intriguing candidates still available. An injury-riddled 2019 relegated the former Cincinnati Red to just 42 games in which he had an OPS of just .568. His last fully healthy season came in 2018, when he slashed .310/.357/.490 and belted 23, en route to his lone All-Star appearance. Primed for a comeback season, the natural second baseman and his left-handed bat could be the perfect complement to this star-driven ball club.
Brock Holt would be a strong fit for this team, thanks in part to his familiarity with the American League East, his flexibility on the defensive side of the ball and his ability to both get on base and hit for average. Wilmer Flores is coming off a season where he got on base over 36% of the time while hitting .317, and his past success in New York is only a plus. Jason Kipnis and Brian Dozier could also be veterans of interest.
A theme of Cashman’s in recent years has been to use from within until absolutely necessary. Look no further than this year’s deadline, when names like Zack Greinke and Trevor Bauer and Marcus Stroman and Tanner Roark all moved, all while the Yankees need help in their rotation.
If Wade and Estrada struggle or get injured during Spring Training and someone like Gennett or Holt are still out there, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if a signing takes place. But as it stands, the money is on the Baby Bombers to back up the Bronx Bombers.
Therein likely lies your answer.
Dan Federico is a co-founder of Bronx to Bushville.