The long, cold winter without Yankee baseball takes a significant step towards it’s end as pitchers and catchers will officially report to Tampa to begin MLB Spring Training Wednesday morning. At this moment, the Yankees are set to have 59 players in camp, with 38 of them being either a pitcher or catcher.
At this point, there have been numerous players trickling into the Yankees minor league complex in Tampa to get early work in before the official reporting dates (position players do not report until Feb. 17). We’ve yet to have our first Yankees “best shape of their life” story just yet, but the time will come.
Anyway, Yankee-land has been fairly quiet since the news of James Paxton‘s injury. Here are a few little notes:
Andújar Begins Work in Outfield
The last time we saw Miguel Andújar, he was in the midst of a failed attempt to return from what became a season-ending labrum tear in his right shoulder. The much awaited follow up to a second place finish in the AL Rookie of the Year contest a year prior (.297/.328/.527, 130 wRC+) flopped to the tune of a .128/.143/.128 (-36 wRC+) campaign in just 12 games.
In his absence, Gio Urshela posted a breakout season at the plate and solidified the defensive position where Andújar bottomed out at -25 defensive runs saved in 2018. The 24-year-old survived the off-season despite whispers of his inclusion in possible trades as many questioned his fit on the 2020 team.
The Yankees are hoping that fit will include newfound defense of versatility with Andújar beginning to take fly balls in left field. The team is also planning to trade him out across from his natural position at the hot corner by getting him familiar with first base.
“He’s getting work everywhere,” Yankees bench coach Carlos Mendoza told the NY Post. “From third base to first base to the outfield. Third base is the priority, and every other day he’s alternating positions.”
Andújar struggled mostly with lateral range at third base, and sometimes had difficulty mastering the footwork necessary with the quick reaction times of the position. Adding in his 77th percentile sprint speed (per Statcast) and extra reaction time in the outfield may help take advantage of his athleticism. Moving Andújar to first base would remove significant amounts of throwing from his defensive responsibilities, but would flip the perspective of the game around from the lifetime third baseman.
“He looks a lot better than the first few weeks he was there,’’ Mendoza said, again via the NY Post. “It’s a lot for him right now. He’s working his tail off, not only at all three positions, but taking care of his arm. That’s part of the rehab. Even though he’s fully recovered, it needs maintenance, so he does shoulder exercises.”
Domínguez Likely Will Debut in Dominican Summer League
Despite the incessant fanfare and massive $5.1 million signing bonus, the Yankees are not letting the hype get in the way of their development plan for 17-year-old phenom outfielder Jasson Domínguez.
A viral video of a massive home run hit during Dominican Instructional League play stoked conversation about where Domínguez would begin his first full professional season after signing with the Yankees in 2019. It appears the answer to that question will be where most 17-year-olds from Latin America begin their Yankee careers: the Dominican Summer League.
“He’ll be no different than other first-rounders or high-profile Latin players,’’ general manager Brian Cashman said, via the NY Post. “The numbers might be different and there might be more spotlight on him, but it’s the same process. We’re excited to have him. Now it’s time to allow his development to take place. He’s just starting his journey.’’
The Post also says a promotion to the Gulf Coast League (US-based Rookie ball) “isn’t out of the question,” though such a promotion would obviously be performance-based. The Yankees have had a knack for aggressively placing top prospects in advanced leagues, but there is no recent precedent for a 17-year-old international signing starting their career stateside.
Badler: Yankees “Frontrunners” to Sign Top International Catchers
The Yankees recent history in the international market is dominated by how the team dedicated a vast percentage of their allotted pool to one player in Domínguez. Their 2020-21 class, eligible to sign July 2, 2020, has added significant talent by becoming the “frontrunners” to sign Samuel Basallo and Jesus Galiz.
Basallo will join the Yankees organization from the same trainer, Iván Noboa, who helped Domínguez grow into the sensation he is today. Galiz trained in Venezuela with Emiro Barboza, who called the 16-year-old catcher the “top prospect” of his program.
Here’s how Baseball America‘s Ben Badler views Basallo:
“Basallo is a physical 6-foot-3 catcher with good agility behind the plate for his size to go with a plus arm and the ability to drive the ball with impact from the left side.”— Ben Badler, Baseball America
Badler commented similarly regarding Galiz:
“…the Yankees are also expected to sign Galiz, a righthanded-hitting catcher who trains with Emiro Barboza. Galiz is an athletic catcher who is flexible behind the plate with soft hands, good catch-and-throw skills and a high baseball IQ.”— Ben Badler, Baseball America
Those catchers represent two of the three players we know the Yankees are committed to so far in the 2020-21 class. Baseball America also reports the Yankees have an agreement with shortstop Hans Montero.
A brief report on Montero:
“Jaime Ramos’ program has several prominent players in the 2020 class, including Montero, a 15-year-old shortstop with a relatively balanced skill set across the board. He’s an above-average runner who projects to stick at shortstop, where he has soft hands and a strong arm. He has a sound swing from the right side, hitting hard line drives with gap power that should tick up with strength gains. He’s expected to sign with the Yankees.”— Ben Badler, Baseball America