Among AL Contenders, Yankees Among the Healthiest Out of Spring Training

Spring training statistics are so irrelevant that it is counterproductive to even look at them most of the time. Even doing so with full knowledge of their irrelevance threatens confirmation bias. Spring training is about trying new things, getting into playing shape, and tightening screws. With a few exceptions, the only thing that I really deep down care about is the answer to one simple question: Are the players healthy?

For the most part, the Yankees are as healthy as can. Brendan Ryan is sidelined with a minor injury. He’ll miss some time. Mark Teixeira is still working through a healing wrist, but has so far suffered no serious setbacks. Jacoby Ellsbury has been dinged up, but won’t miss any time.

Most of the other top AL teams, on the other hand, are somewhere between banged up and crippled right now. A quick roundup:

  • Oakland: Jarrod Parker went down with Tommy John #2. AJ Griffin has been struggling with elbow issues that originated late last season.
  • Texas: The Rangers’ rotation is in shambles right now. Yu Darvish is working his way back from the DL. Derek Holland is coming off knee surgery and won’t be available until mid-season. Matt Harrison has struggled with back issues. Jurickson Profar will miss most of the season. Geovany Soto will miss 3 months. Elvis Andrus has had elbow and shoulder issues.
  • Boston: Shane Victorino just underwent an MRI with a hamstring strain, a bad sign for a player who relies on his legs. Jake Peavy is still building arm strength, but shouldn’t miss starts.
  • Detroit: Jose Iglesias will miss the whole season. Andy Dirks will miss 12 weeks. Anibal Sanchez has been dealing with shoulder issues. Middle reliever Bruce Rondon will likely miss the full season.
  • Tampa: Alex Colome was suspended for violating MLB’s drug policy. Jeremy Hellickson is out until late May.
  • Baltimore: Manny Machado is still rehabbing from knee surgery, and will start the season on the DL. Nolan Reimold is on the DL. Nelson Cruz is dealing with some minor issues.
  • Cleveland: Pretty much healthy
  • Los Angeles: Pretty much healthy

Cleveland and Anaheim are in pretty decent shape. Even if Victorino misses time, Boston is doing okay. Tampa has plenty of depth to replace its losses. Baltimore is on track to be healthy by the end of April. But Oakland, Texas, and Detroit have suffered major blows. Take a look at the Texas rotation right now, and tell me if you think they can contend.

Pick the five healthiest teams each season, and there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve picked most of the playoff teams. Although we talk about it all the time, I believe health is still an underrated factor in the game. I’m ready to write Texas off at this point, and Detroit went from juggernaut to mere favorite.

The Yankees are about as healthy as they can be right now. That’s a good sign. It could be meaningless the next time a Yankee decides to throw out his back stepping out of the shower or pull a hamstring running out a ground ball. But for now, their health is a major asset.

Six weeks ago, I’d probably have said the Yankees were definitely a worse team than Texas and Oakland. That has changed. They are definitely better than Texas, and are probably better than the Athletics. Detroit also looks a lot more mortal.

Five teams are going to make it to the playoffs next year. Assuming that there are nine contenders (Personally, I put the Angels, Orioles, and Indians in the not contenders category, so there could be fewer) for playoff spots including the Yankees, in theory the subtraction of two contenders means the Yankees only have to have to do better than 50% of the remaining contenders in order to secure some kind of playoff spot.

E.J. Fagan been blogging about Yankee baseball since 2006. He lives and works in Washington, DC.

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