It’s been two weeks since my initial “Winners & Losers” post and a lot has changed since then. Every starting pitcher slated to be in the rotation or in competition for a rotation spot has pitched at least one spring outing, every position player physically able to play right now has gotten into at least a few games, and there are a few new faces in the locker room to make up for the guys who’ve been reassigned. It’s not exactly the true midpoint of spring camp, that would have been last week, but with just two weeks left before the games start to count and a much smaller pool of players to evaluate, this seems like the perfect time to see whose stock is rising and whose is falling.
Juan Rivera– He came in looking to compete for the 4th outfielder job. When everything is said and done, he might end up being the Opening Day first baseman. Not a bad deal for Rivera, who is only in camp on a MiL deal but has gotten plenty of playing time thanks to injuries. He’s currently second on the team in total AB this spring (42), and while he hasn’t exactly made the most of them (.286/.302/.381 w/ 4 XBH) he has shown that he can still put the bat on the ball. That and his passable defense should be enough to secure a roster spot and the Yankees will hope the power comes.
Kevin Youkilis– It was a slow start for Youkilis, but he’s really turned it on lately after an early injury scare. Youkilis has seen some work at both infield corners and looked pretty good at each, but it’s his bat that’s making all the noise. He’s 8-17 in his last six games with every hit going for extra bases (4 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR) and he’s raised his spring line to .308/.345/.885. Now that he’s gotten more in-game reps with his new swing mechanics, it looks like they’re starting to return some dividends.
Brennan Boesch– From being cut by your current team because they had an outfield surplus and didn’t see any value in keeping you around to being signed to a guaranteed Major League deal by a team in great need of outfielders and rocketing to the top of the invisible competition depth chart by getting two hits in your first two games. I’d say that’s a pretty big win for Boesch, who’s looking like the favorite for Opening Day LF right now. If K-Long can work some magic with Boesch’s swing, maybe that move will prove to be a smart one by New York.
Vidal Nuno– Nuno just keeps getting it done, pitching in whatever situation the Yankees want/need him to and pitching well in every situation. He started a game for them earlier in camp, then picked up a 2-inning save last week. Overall Nuno has pitched 8.1 innings in four appearances, allowing just a single ER in those innings and striking out 12 while walking just 2. For a guy who supposedly doesn’t have the stuff to hang with the big boys, Nuno has been impressive and continues to work his way up the ladder and possibly into the Yankees’ future plans.
Jayson Nix– The opportunity will always be there when Eduardo Nunez is out in the field, but Nix has seemingly gotten lost in the shuffle this spring as the Yankees search for IF depth. Nix is just 7-37 so far with a solo XBH and his name hasn’t come up much as a possible third base candidate while guys like Dan Johnson and Ronnier Mustelier get trotted out there to audition. It could just be that the Yankees know what they’ve got in Nix and are comfortable keeping him in their back pocket, but if he doesn’t start to hit a little in these last two weeks he could lose whatever advantage he had over those other players.
Matt Diaz– He appeared on the first edition of this post, and is the only player to make a repeat performance, so that tells you everything you need to know about Diaz’s spring. He already wasn’t gaining much ground in the outfield competition and had started getting used more at DH in the last week, and that was before the Yankees added Ben Francisco and Boesch. Now Diaz has been released from the Yankees and his light-hitting spring to date (6-30, 0 XBH, 1 BB) isn’t going to have too many teams breaking his door down to offer him a deal.
Cody Eppley– Eppley was already looking at a spot as the Minors-to-Majors swingman in the bullpen rather than a guaranteed Major League job on Opening Day, and as injuries impact some of the projected Major League guys Eppley has done little to help his roster chances. In 5.0 IP over five appearances, Eppley has given up 7 hits, 3 walks, and 4 ER, and despite an unusually high 7 K for him he has had trouble locating his pitches and hitting his spots. With guys like Nuno and Preston Claiborne pitching much better, Eppley’s at risk of slipping down the MiL call-up pecking order.
Adam Warren– Things got off to a good start for Warren earlier in the camp, but he’s come crashing down to earth in the last two weeks. He got slapped around by the Marlins on March 8th, giving up 4 ER in 4.0 IP without striking out a single batter, and followed that up last Thursday with an even more awful performance against the Blue Jays (1.1 IP, 4 H, 5 BB, 8 ER). He’s sporting a ridiculous 11.32 ERA right now (SSS warning) and it’s tough to decide what’s of greater concern- his lack of strikeouts or lack of command. Warren is going back to Triple-A to start the season, his third straight year at that level, and if he gets off to another slow start there his last bit of remaining prospect shine could disappear.
(Photo courtesy of Corey Sipkin/NY Daily News)