As we continue to check off the days of February, we get ever closer to seeing which of the non-roster invitees that will have a chance to make the team and take the field for the New York Yankees in 2018.
Despite the fact that Punxsutawney Phil has declared six more weeks of winter after seeing his shadow on Friday, the hearts and spirits of baseball fans everywhere are starting to reach a fever pitch. Most of the 30 clubs in Major League Baseball have cleaned out their clubhouses and are headed to their respective Spring Training destinations in anxious anticipation of the upcoming season.
According to the Yankees PR department, we now know all 60 players that are expected to be in Tampa over the next couple of weeks.
The Yankees have invited 20 players to spring training as non-roster invitees. The total number of players expected in camp is 60. pic.twitter.com/ePH507q0Wf
— Yankees PR Dept. (@YankeesPR) February 2, 2018
There are definitely some familiar names, as well as some surprising ones found on that list. After phenomenal performances in the Arizona Fall League, Yankee fans are certainly excited to see just exactly how promising the talents of outfield prospect Estevan Florial and left-handed pitching prospect Justus Sheffield can be.
As for the not-so-familiar faces, it totally caught me off guard to see nine-year MLB veteran Wade LeBlanc’s name on the list. This is the second go-around for LeBlanc in pinstripes, hoping to make more of a dent as a Yankee having tossed just one inning for New York that saw the lefty give up two runs in a 2014 outing. The crafty southpaw is looking to build off of a decent 2017 campaign; pitching to a 5-2 record with a 4.50 ERA while striking out 54 and walking just 17 in 68 innings for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Battling for infield spots on the Yankees’ 40-man roster, the names of Danny Espinosa and Jace Peterson may surprise you. But don’t get it twisted; unless these two go completely off the reservation and blow the Yanks away offensively, they are most certainly vying for backup roles or gigs as organizational depth in Triple-A.
Having parents that are Nationals’ season ticket holders, I have seen the best and the worst that Espinosa has to offer. Even my mother, upon receiving word of his signing with the Yankees, said all you need to know: “What position is he going to play? Because we all know he cannot DH.”
Oh, how right she is, as the eight-year veteran utility infielder batted just .173/.245/.278 with six home runs and 31 RBI, striking out 109 times in 93 games while splitting time between the Los Angeles Angels, Seattle Mariners and Tampa Bay Rays. In a word, yikes. Even some Yankees fans already know of Espinosa’s plate tendencies.
NYY signed Danny Espinosa? do they really not strike out enough already?
— Chandler™ (@1stros) January 30, 2018
Similarly, four-year big leaguer Jace Peterson isn’t much better with the shillelagh, slashing just .215/.318/.317 with two long balls and 17 RBI in 89 games for the Atlanta Braves a season ago.
While fans can hope that either or both of these players can turn things around and become an impactful player for the Yankees, take into consideration how well Ronald Torreyes played last year when Didi Gregorius, Starlin Castro, and Chase Headley were not on the field. The diminutive Ro-Toe played in 108 games for the Bombers in 2017; hitting to the tune of .292/.314/.375 with three home runs and 36 RBI, while striking out 43 times and walking 11. I believe these numbers are completely sufficient as hold-over numbers until Gleyber Torres‘ Kris Bryant-like service-time clock situation plays itself out.
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