As the New York Yankees Spring Training gets underway, the dawn of a new season approaches. Once again, they hope to move on from the downfalls of the previous season. Still, the 2021 season will emanate themes of 2020 for all of MLB.
Covid protocols continue to engulf daily life for ball clubs. Additionally, Zoom press conferences ensure social distancing for players and media members.
While this has become the norm for MLB operations, manager Aaron Boone’s excitement for a new season also remained a fixture Wednesday as he addressed the media.
After losing to the eventual AL champion every year he has been at the helm, Boone talked Wednesday about the margin being “razor thin.” Following an offseason of acquisitions, both major and minor, he hopes the depth the organization has built ultimately gets them over the hump.
“I really like the winter that we had with some of the additions we’ve made that I think are going to be impactful,” Boone said.
In expressing his excitement, he reiterated that talk is cheap, but he proclaimed that the 2021 Yankees are in that group of teams that can reach the top of the mountain.
Even leading in to Spring Training, they continue to add depth at all positions.
The biggest factor in the Yankees’ 2021 success will be their pitching staff. There is no shortage of options to backup Gerrit Cole after general manager Brian Cashman added Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon, but also Jhoulys Chacin on a minor league contract. These moves add a mix of experience and high-end upside to a group of youthful and inexperienced starting pitchers.
As MLB shifts back from 60 games to 162, and workloads increase, an abundance of options is imperative.
“Depth is obviously going to be important,” Boone said. “We think we have 10, 11, 12 pitchers that aren’t just capable of going out there, but are capable of going out there and thriving.”
He does not let the concerns of the rotation – youth, inexperience, and injury histories – go unacknowledged. He has his concerns about the question marks – on both sides of the ball. Still, he loves the upside that this pitching group brings and where they are entering Spring Training.
In an ideal situation, the Yankees will get significantly more innings than the one that Kluber and Taillon combined for in 2020. It’s Boone’s hope that the depth of the group will allow everyone to stay healthy by protecting one another. That will stem from how group is utilized and how the rotation is made up, which remains a fluid situation.
With that, Kluber and Taillon are still being closely monitored. They, with the rest of the staff, continue to have as much information collected on them as possible. This ranges from pitch data to how they recover from certain workouts. Coming off the shortened season, they are mindful of everyone although there will be no set numbers implemented specifically for their two new arms.
While the emphasis has been on the pitching, the Yankees made other, smaller, acquisitions. Jay Bruce, Robinson Chirinos, and Derek Dietrich all inked minor league deals since Saturday.
“These guys are still proven big league ballplayers,” Boone said.
The acquisition of Chirinos drew speculation. He is a veteran catcher with a proven track record and success catching Cole with the Houston Astros. They played together during his Cy Young-Award-runner-up finish in 2019, when he struck out 326 batters.
Gary Sanchez struggled in 2020 and Cole performed better with Kyle Higashioka, but the plan right now is not to have personal catchers.
The signing was an attempt to add another quality veteran to the system on a minor league contract.
“It was more a really good player falling in our lap, late in the game, and Cash jumped on it,” Boone said.
One final depth piece the Yankees will need to figure out is Miguel Andujar. The former Rookie of the Year runner-up is entering his prime. Yet, he has played in 33 games since totaling 302 bases in 149 in 2018.
The offensive talent is apparent with Andujar, but now he is blocked on the depth chart at several positions. The plan is for him to get time at third base, first base, and in the outfield. His career not on the same trajectory as in 2018. Now he serves as another layer of reassurance for the team.
As the New York Yankees’ Spring Training gets underway, questions still exist. Ideally, the accumulated organizational depth will mitigate some of those questions for the 2021 Yankees.
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