With just under four months to go until Opening Day, let’s take a much-too-early look at the Yankees 2020 infield depth and see who’s in and out.
The Yankees have a lot of names to fill a few positions in the infield heading into 2020, but who will be left off the Opening Day roster?
We take a look at the Yankees early 2020 infield depth:
First Base – Luke Voit, Mike Ford
For the second straight year, the Yankees first base job is Luke Voit’s to lose. Voit had a solid 2019, despite second-half struggles that were likely a result of an abdominal injury he sustained in the London series. When healthy, he is an on-base machine with a ton of power; his OPS of .901 was second on the team only to Judge’s before the injury. Look for more of that in 2020 if he can fully recover this offseason.
Mike Ford, pinch-hitter extraordinaire, was one of several pleasant surprises for Yankees fans in 2019. Ford is Luke Voit lite – another patient power hitter and below average defender. Although Ford provides a much-needed lefty bat in a predominantly right-handed lineup, he has actually hit left-handed pitchers better than righties, albeit in small sample sizes. Because he does not provide any significant advantages over Voit, Cashman and Co. could continue to roll with LeMahieu as the back-up first baseman and carry an extra middle infielder instead of Ford. That being said, I’m sure Ford will play a role for the 2020 Yanks at some point.
Middle Infield – Gleyber Torres, DJ LeMahieu, and…Tyler Wade?
Alas, the Didi Gregorius era appears to be coming to a close in New York. We’ll always have this, Sir Didi.
If the Knight ends up signing elsewhere, not only will we be deprived of his victory tweets, but perhaps more importantly, major infield depth. As of now, Tyler Wade lines up as the backup middle infielder. Now, before you burn your season tickets, let me remind you that Wade hit a career-high 2 (!!) homeruns last season. But in all seriousness, Wade displayed some real potential at the plate in the final two months of the season, posting a slash line of .296/.366/.486 in his last 18 games. If he can continue his progression and manage to bat even .270, he could become a huge asset with his speed and defensive versatility.
Torres and LaMahieu have the potential to be one of the best duos up the middle in the league, both offensively and defensively. In fact, both received MVP votes last season, and DJ was a legitimate candidate in fourth place. Gleyber’s defense has been the subject of scrutiny over the first two years of his career, but there is reason to believe it will improve. Critically, he is significantly better at shortstop than at second base, and he projects to play primarily at short in 2020. Given his age and the flashes of brilliance we’ve seen, it’s safe to say Gleyber could turn into an elite defender in the coming years.
Third Base – Gio Urshela, Miguel Andujar
No one was a happier fella than Gio Urshela in 2019. The Yanks bought—sorry, I should say stole—Gio from the Blue Jays for $25,000 in August of 2018, and in less than a year he became their starting third baseman. How bad are the Blue Jays at evaluating talent? Worse than the Yankees, that’s for sure. Gio slashed .314/.355/.534 and played a stellar defense in place of 2018 Rookie of the Year runner-up Miguel Andujar.
Andujar is coming off a lost season after suffering a labrum tear that limited him to 12 games. It’s hard to say what role he’ll play this year, but I believe he will back up Urshela at third and could serve as the Yankees primary DH. I could also see him spending some time in the minors. His bat alone is good enough to keep him in the majors, but his value would skyrocket if he could improve his atrocious defense. Spending some time in the minors would allow him to work on his defense in live game situations every day without adversely affecting a major league team looking to contend for a title.
Honorable Mention – Thairo Estrada
As a 23-year-old in 2019, Estrada displayed flashes of brilliance in the field and at the plate. If his progression continues, he should turn out to be a solid depth piece for the Yankees.