By Sweeny Murti
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (WFAN) — Even with the successes of Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino, and Greg Bird, you keep hearing the Yankees have even more coming up through the minors ready to break through. They will likely get their chance to make the jump next spring.
Trading Starlin Castro to Miami and Chase Headley to San Diego opened up two infield spots, and with Todd Frazier a free agent, the Yankees have nothing but youngsters currently in the mix for those two positions.
The Yankees could attempt to re-sign Frazier, who they appreciated immensely in the second half of 2017. But it’s unlikely they would be willing to go too deep on a multi-year deal. So the door is open for 22-year-old Miguel Andujar. He made only a cameo appearance last season, going 4-for-7. But Andujar batted a combined .279 with 28 home runs the last two seasons across three levels in the minors. His bat was always ahead of his glove coming up, but Andujar made great improvements and at season’s end was still working with the big league staff on his footwork to improve his throwing accuracy.
Tyler Wade is 23 and versatile enough to get some time at third or second, and despite hitting only .155 (9-for-58) in his major league time, he led the International League in hitting (.310) and is still considered one of the Yankees top prospects.
Thairo Estrada is only 21, can play shortstop and second, and is a career .290 hitter in five minor league seasons. Estrada is still getting better and, while some scouts believe his upside is only as a part-time player, he will get some at-bats in the spring to see what he can do.
And of course there is Gleyber Torres, who turns 21 on Wednesday. While the arm injury that cost him the second half of last season is fully healed (Torres wanted to play Winter Ball but was denied by the Yankees), perhaps Torres needs a little bit more minor league time to “finish off his development,” as the Yankees front office might say. However, if Torres lights up the Grapefruit League there may be little anyone can do to keep him from winning a spot as the Opening Day second or third baseman.
I would still think it’s unlikely the Yankees roll the dice with unproven rookies at both second and third base, no matter how much upside they see. So a veteran stopgap at one of those positions, if not both, would certainly seem realistic.
Last spring training was all about seeing Judge’s power turn from potential to legitimate. The same opportunity will be there next spring for Torres and his numerous skills on the diamond. And there could be room for others, too.
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