The New York Yankees are putting together a lineup filled with established stars and talented youngsters. With the focus of the fanbase solely on adding big names to the roster, here are a few players who can have productive years while flying under the radar.
Tyler Wade came into 2018 Spring Training as one of the favorites to hold down second base until Gleyber Torres was ready to make the jump to the major leagues. He struggled mightily in his short time in the big leagues, averaging .167 with a .487 OPS. Eventually, Wade was sent back down to Triple-A where he put up decent offensive numbers, although nothing to show that he would be a successful major league hitter.
The value in Wade is his speed and his defense. He’s a natural middle infielder with the tools to provide solid defense in any position besides first. His speed and decision making on the bases is top-notch.
Wade’s combination of reliable defensive versatility and blazing speed could land him an important role in the later innings of ball games, especially due to the absence of Didi Gregorius for a huge chunk of the season.
Wade will also benefit from the absence of Ronald Torreyes, a fan favorite who could provide the same kind of defense but with the ability to hit for contact at the dish. If Wade can manage hit .250 he’ll be a valuable contributor at the major league level.
Jonathan Loaisiga surprised a lot of people when called up to the Yankees directly from Double-A. At first, thought to be a temporary solution to a rash of starter injuries, he proved that he could hurl it at the major league level and get outs. He has a plus fastball and most importantly, he misses barrels. That means that even when hitters do make contact, they generally aren’t hitting the ball very hard.
With Brian Cashman’s desire to strengthen the starting rotation, the front office may not intend for Loaisiga to receive many runs as a starter. Unfortunately, the current rotation does contain question marks regarding health, particularly with CC Sabathia following heart surgery and heading into his final season. Loaisiga will likely get the chance to make a few spot-starts here and there and may even earn himself a role as a long man out of the bullpen.
If Loaisiga manages to improve his control, he can be a very effective starting pitcher. For 2018, however, he projects to be a valuable insurance policy for the starting rotation.
When it comes to Clint Frazier I can not say this enough, he is destined to be a very good baseball player. If he can stay healthy and get a regular opportunity, he’s going to produce. He’s too talented not to. He has all the tools you want out of an everyday outfielder and he’s athletic enough.
Red Thunder is going to get his shot this year. With Brett Gardner clearly transitioning into a platoon role, Frazier will have his chance to show he can be a valuable contributor on a championship caliber team.
If he doesn’t produce, he’ll be traded. There’s nothing left for Clint in Triple-A and a rebuilding team will see him as a talented corner outfielder with great pop off the bat. I’d prefer to see him succeed in New York, but if he isn’t receiving a real opportunity he could become part of a deal that brings a big name starter to the Bronx at the trade deadline.
Austin Romine played an enormous role for the Yankees in 2018 due to Gary Sanchez’s struggles and inability to stay on the field. He was also chosen by the dumb Twitter people to be Sonny Gray’s personal catcher as if that was the solution to Gray’s struggles.
When forced to start for long stretches, Romine was not good. He simply isn’t talented or durable enough to play every day. He was an effective backup catcher before Sanchez’s health failed because that’s what he is, a backup catcher.
With Romine returning to his appropriate role as Gary’s understudy, he should return to producing quality at-bats in limited opportunities as well as late defense should Sanchez continue to struggle in that realm.
I don’t know what to say about Jonathan Holder really. Early last season I was so strongly against his presence on the big league roster that it didn’t even compute in my head when he started flat out hurling. He ended the season with 3.14 ERA over 66 innings along with a WHIP of only 1.091. He went from a triple-A fill-in to one of Aaron Boone’s most trusted assets in the middle innings.
Maybe he’s found something with his slightly above average stuff. Perhaps 2018 was just a flash in the pan. If he continues to produce he’ll be easily overshadowed by the star-studded New York Yankees bullpen while filling an important role as the bridge from a short start to the lockdown arms.