Projecting the Yankees Opening Day 25-man roster: Position Players

As Spring Training is coming to a close, it's about that time where the Yankees initial 25-man roster begins to come into focus.  The Yankees project to go with a similar roster construction that they have the past few years, that being with 13 position players and 12 pitchers.  This format allows for a four man bench and a seven man bullpen. In my first of a two part preview piece, let's go position by position to see who we can expect to break camp with the Yankees on April 2nd when they kick off their 2017 season against the Tampa Bay Rays. 

Photo Credit: New York Yankees / yankees.com

Designated Hitter 
Brought in on a one-year, $13 million deal to be the everyday DH, Matt Holliday has looked every bit the part, hitting .308 with four home runs thus far in the spring.  The Yankees also signed 2016 National League home run champion Chris Carter just before the start of camp to inject some extra power into the Yankees lineup.  Holliday may lose some at-bats to Chris Carter every now and then, but it is expected Carter will get most of his work at first base against left-hand pitchers.  
Prediction: Matt Holliday is your every day designated hitter. 

Catcher 
In arguably the least contested position battle this spring, Gary Sanchez has locked up the starting catcher position, not that that was ever really in doubt.  Behind Sanchez, both incumbent backup Austin Romine and prospect Kyle Higashioka have seen time behind the dish as they compete for the backup catcher job.  Romine went down after taking a wild pitch off his bare hand last week, but X-Rays were negative and he returned to action on Monday.  Meanwhile, Higashioka has impressed with his bat. 
Prediction: Sanchez is the starting catcher and the Yankees keep Romine as the backup due to his strong defense and familiarity with the Yankees pitching staff. 

First Base 
The Yankees began the spring with somewhat of an open competition between Greg Bird, who was on the comeback trail after missing all of 2016 with a torn labrum in his shoulder, Tyler Austin, who supplanted Mark Teixeira at first late in the year after his August 2016 call up, and free-agent signing and Chris Carter. The job was admittedly Bird's to lose, and this was only cemented further when Tyler Austin went down with a broken foot in the first week of camp and Carter put up pedestrian numbers this spring.  
Prediction: Greg Bird is the Opening Day first baseman (as Joe Girardi already announced) and the Yankees carry Carter on their bench to spell 1B & DH. 
Photo Credit: Justin K. Aller | Getty Images

Second Base 
Although the Yankees gave ample playing time to young studs Gleyber Torres and Jorge Mateo, Starlin Castro's job was never really in doubt.  The Yankees have also given a fair amount of playing time to guys like Donovan Solano, Peter Kozma, Ronald Torreyes and Ruben Tejada, but it is expected that only one of those guys will make the roster, with Torres and Mateo already re-assigned to minor league camp.  
Prediction: Same as in 2016, Starlin Castro will be your regular second baseman with Torreyes moving over to shortstop until Didi Gregorius returns.

Shortstop 
The Yankees were hit hard earlier this week when it was reported that Didi Gregorius was on his way back to Tampa to have an MRI on his throwing shoulder, injured during World Baseball Classic play. The news wasn't ideal for New York as Gregorius was diagnosed with a strained shoulder and will be shut down for the next two weeks and will likely miss all of April recovering from the injury.  As such, the Yankees will look to Ronald Torreyes or jack-of-all-trades youngster Tyler Wade to hold down the fort until Didi returns.  The Yankees have floated the idea of shifting Castro back to short, but expect him to remain at second base.  
PredictionTorreyes starts at short on Opening Day and then resumes his utility role upon Gregorius' return.  With the extra spot on the roster available until Didi returns, look for the Yankees to carry either Rob Refsnyder, Tyler Wade, Donovan Solano or even Kyle Higashioka. This could be the break Refsnyder needs to start the season in the bigs.
Photo Credit: Chris O'Meara | AP

Third Base 
Chase Headley has quietly had a solid Spring, hitting .257 and committing just one error in the field. The Yankees gave Miguel Andujar an extended look early in the spring, but the young prospect might still be a year or two away from making a full time impact in the Bronx.  
PredictionHate him all you want, Chase Headley faces no competition at the hot corner this season and is your Opening Day third baseman. 

Outfield 
The only real competition here is between Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks for the starting spot in right field.  Brett Gardner (LF) and Jacoby Ellsbury (CF) have firm grasps on their positions and shouldn't expect any competition.  Clint Frazier has gotten plenty of playing time this spring and should soon find himself in pinstripes, but look for him to open the year at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and be first man on deck if an opening presents itself.  Blake Rutherford, Dustin Fowler and Billy McKinney still need time to develop.
Prediction: Brett Gardner starts in left, Jacoby Ellsbury starts in center and Aaron Judge starts in right, with Aaron Hicks occupying the fourth and final bench position. 
Photo Credit: Seth Wenig | AP

Article by: Andrew Natalizio 

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