With under a month to go before pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training, the Yankees have established themselves as prime World Series contenders for 2018. They got to within one win of the World Series last year, and since have added reigning NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton to their already lethal lineup. However, that move meant the loss of Starlin Castro, and coupled with their second biggest move of the winter thus far, trading Chase Headley to the Padres, a void has been created at second and third base for the upcoming season. While there are rumblings about the team making a flashy move a la Manny Machado or Mike Moustakas, there are five likely candidates to fill those vacant positions.
2017 stats (MLB): 108 G, .292 BA, 3 HR, 36 RBI, .990 FLD % (2B) and .980 FLD% (3B)
Torreyes has been somewhat of a revelation for the Yankees, after bouncing around between teams earlier in his career, perhaps due to his diminutive stature. He is a player who has provided solid defense, and plus speed as well. He filled in nicely as the starting shortstop while Didi Gregorious was sidelined with a shoulder injury for the first month of the 2017 season, hitting .308 with a .739 OPS during that time. On paper, he would seem to be the leading candidate to start at second base, however, it appears as if the team sees more value in him playing the utility role, being able to fill in anywhere in the infield and being a strong presence off the bench.
2017 stats (MLB): 30 G, .155 BA, 0 HR, 2 RBI, .974 FLD % (2B)
2017 stats (AAA): 85 G, .310 BA, 7 HR, 31 RBI, .986 FLD % (2B)
Wade is one of many promising Yankee prospects, and he was able to break into the majors in 2017. Even though his short-stint in the big leagues didn’t fare too well, many within the organization still view him as one of the team’s top young players. One just has to look at Aaron Judge’s first stint in the Bronx to see that those first impressions aren’t always indicative of a player’s future success. He is also a very good defender, having received a 60 on the scale of 80 given to prospects, and received a similar grade for his base running abilities. He, like Torreyes, is more of a contact hitter, and will likely be given a chance to compete for the second base job in Spring Training.
2017 stats (AA): 32 G, .273 BA, 5 HR, 18 RBI, 1.000 FLD % (2B)
2017 stats (AAA): 23 G, .309 BA, 2 HR, 16 RBI, .938 FLD % (2B)
Torres was on the fast-track to the Bronx in 2017, before his season ended in mid-June due to an elbow injury on his non-throwing arm that required Tommy John Surgery. In fact, after hitting ___ in Spring Training, there were some in the organization who were pushing GM Brian Cashman to have Torres break camp with the Yankees.
However, Cashman preached patience with the current number two overall prospect as ranked by MLB.com, and now many believe the infielder is ready for his shot. A couple of years ago, scouts did not view Torres’ defense very highly, although that perception has changed over time, and he is now viewed as adequate defender. Of course, he is more known for his bat, having exceptionally quick hands and projected to be annual 20 home run threat while also hitting for average.
It is no secret that fans are excited for the emergence of Gleyber Torres; however, Cashman and the Yankees likely may decide to hold him in Triple-A to begin the season for a couple of reasons. One is so that he can get more time to acclimate himself after his surgery, and two, and perhaps more likely the reason, is that the team can have an extra year of control of him. MLB’s Collective Bargaining Agreement states that if a player spends 11 days in the minors to start the season, the team then gains an additional season of control. Thus, instead of becoming a free-agent for the first time after the 2023 season, if the Yankees hold him down in Triple-A until the twelfth day of the season, he will become a free-agent for the first time after the 2024 season. Either way, expect to see Torres in the Bronx in April 2018, likely starting at second base.
2017 stats (MLB): 5 G, .571 BA (4/7), 0 HR, 4 RBI, 1.000 FLD % (3B)
2017 stats (AAA): 58 G, .317 BA, 9 HR, 30 RBI, .943 FLD % (3B)
2017 stats (AA): 67 G, .312 BA, 7 HR, 52 RBI, .917 FLD % (3B)
Moving on to the candidates for third base, Andujar is a strong one. The 22-year-old has earned rave reviews about his arm strength, getting an excellent 70/80 from scouts. However, the overall sentiment about his defensive abilities is not too great, mainly relating to his throwing accuracy from across the diamond. Yet the impact he makes with his bat makes him, in some’s eyes, one of the most valuable pieces the Yankees have, so much so that they refused to include him in a potential Gerrit Cole deal with the Pirates. He has great raw power, and is capable of being a 20+ home run player year-in and year-out. He made an immediate impact during his short stay in the majors in 2017, going 4-for-7 with two doubles and four runs batted in, showcasing his potential and making him most likely to be the leading candidate from within the organization to start at third.
2017 stats (MLB w/ CHW & NYY): 147 G, .213 BA, 27 HR, 76 RBI, .960 FLD % (3B)
While Andujar may be the leading in-house candidate for third base, Frazier made a very compelling case to return during his half season with the Yankees. The current free-agent hit 11 home runs in 66 games with the team following being traded from the White Sox, and he played very solid defensively.
There is obviously mutual interest in a return, with Frazier being a New Jersey native and the Yankees inclined to have a more experience player fill the hot corner void. But with the potential of being able to land a 26-year old Manny Machado next offseason or wanting to give playing time to Andujar, the question now is what terms the Yankees would be comfortable dishing out to the 31-year-old.
Furthermore, they want to reset their luxury tax, which they can do by staying under the $197 million threshold. They are estimated to currently be approximately $20 million under that taking into account all possible salaries, and would like to save some room for any in-season trades. It is believed that Frazier will get $12-13 million average annual value, but the real question is how long the Yankees would be willing to commit to him. He is said to be seeking a three-year deal, but as aforementioned, the Yankees want to get Andujar as many reps as possible while still leaving the door open to get Manny Machado next winter. Thus, they would like to get Frazier on a one- or maybe two-year deal maximum, which is causing somewhat of a standstill. Obviously the Yankees do not need any more power with Stanton joining the likes of Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, and Didi Gregorious, but Frazier brings stability defensively at third base. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, he is a great clubhouse guy, fueling the “thumbs-down” initiative that rallied the team down the stretch in 2017. Perhaps the team does not come back from an 0-2 series deficit against the Indians in the ALDS if not for the great chemistry and comradery that group had, and Frazier was certainly in the middle of it. If he will be in the middle of it again in 2018 remains to be seen.
All stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com and all scouting grades courtesy of MLB.com.