It’s been quite a while since the primary source of excitement for the Yankees came from its farm system. But after shedding much of their considerable age, the Yanks will soon be led by a new generation of “Baby Bombers.” Some already have locked down spots on the big-league roster, but potential snags down the road may slow down the youth movement as skipper Joe Girardi enters the final year of his contract.
Gone are veterans Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran. The new names to know are 24-year-olds Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge and Greg Bird.
Sanchez solidified himself as New York’s newest sensation with a thrilling 2016 campaign. He hit .299 with 20 home runs and a .376 OBP in 53 games last season. A bit of regression is to be expected, given his 162-game pace for 61 homers last year. Signs of growing pains arose in September when the catcher went 23-for-103 after a fantastic start.
Judge homered in each of his first two games before struggling down the stretch. He looked solid this spring while locked in a fight with Aaron Hicks for the right field spot. However, Judge was able to overcome Hicks’ glove and experience to get the nod on Opening Day.
Returning from and injury that kept him out of the majors last year after a 2015 debut, first baseman Bird looked like a monster in spring training. His lengthy absence comes with major question marks.
The Yankees already had to patch up their infield after the team announced shortstop Didi Gregorius would miss at least the first month of the year with a strained shoulder. The team appears set to use utility man Ronald Torreyes in the interim.
A trio of high-priced veterans will keep the other Baby Bombers in a state of limbo. Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Chase Headley are expected to make a combined $46.6 million in 2017. While they provide leadership, all three will be 33 at the All-Star break.
Gardner’s production isn’t stellar, but his glove remains as asset. Headley has played some of his worst defense in pinstripes, and Ellsbury posted some of his worst numbers ever at the plate in 2016. Still, the trio is contracted for two more seasons. At 37, designated hitter Matt Holliday may prove to be the steadiest of the veterans after joining the team in the offseason.
Behind them, prospects Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier are champing at the bit. Torres may have the chance to join the main roster at shortstop if Torreyes struggles during Gregorius’ absence. Frazier will have to wait for a spot as he slugs away in Triple-A.