Predicting the winners of the in-camp competitions

So far, the New York Yankees have three major competitions going into Spring Training: they need to find a new first baseman, they need to find an everyday right fielder, and they need to fill out the starting rotation.

The Yankees have quite a few candidates vying for a role on the 25-man roster. And with 10 days to go before the competitions are underway, I’m going to make bold predictions about who will end up winning the competitions on Opening Day. I’ll probably refer to this post once Joe Girardi makes his official decision in late March and see if I predicted any of these correctly. Even if I don’t, it’s still a fun exercise.

CANDIDATES: Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks

Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks are slated to battle it out for the right field spot. Both players have their pros and their cons entering the season. Judge showed he had power, and was able to field the position. However, Judge racked up so many strikeouts that the Yankees started taking at-bats away from him. Hicks has a strong arm, probably one of the strongest arms in the game. But his bat was heavily inconsistent and he became a thorn in majority of the fandom’s side when he started taking at-bats away from Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner in the beginning of the season.

So who will win the competition in Spring Training this year?

VERDICT: I really want to say Aaron Judge, mainly because he has so much power and would be perfect for the lineup once he learns how to cut back on his strikeouts. However, my gut is telling me Aaron Hicks will win the job in Spring Training. Why? Because he has a cannon for an arm, and Girardi & Brian Cashman just love him.

CANDIDATES: Greg Bird and Tyler Austin

Tyler Austin and Greg Bird both had a taste of what it’s like to be in the Major Leagues. Austin played his way onto the roster in August and opened eyes with his clutch bat. Bird had some playing time at first base in 2015 while Mark Teixeira was on the disabled list with a right shin bone bruise. Bird looked poised to take over the first base job, until he missed the entire 2016 season after having shoulder surgery. Bird is healthy and Austin is ready to compete for his spot on the Opening Day roster. And this time there will be no Teixeira blocking either one of them.

So who will win this competition in Spring Training?

VERDICT: If Greg Bird is healthy and puts up a good spring, the first base position will be his. If Bird is the Yankees starting first baseman, it doesn’t mean Austin will automatically go to the minors. If Judge continues to strike out at a torrid pace in Spring Training and loses the right field job to Hicks, I can see Austin playing as Hick’s backup while Judge gets more reps at Triple-A.

CANDIDATES: Luis SeverinoChad GreenLuis CessaAdam Warren and Bryan Mitchell

The New York Yankees already have three rotation spots filled for the 2017 season: Yankees ace Masahiro TanakaCC Sabathia and Michael Pineda. With the departures of Ivan Nova and Nathan Eovaldi, the Yankees have two spots remaining. Severino was actually in the rotation to begin the year. However, he pitched so poorly, the Yankees ultimately sent him to Triple-A Scranton. Severino returned but he was immediately slotted into the Yankees bullpen where he became a reliable weapon.

Green made his rotation debut in August, where he gave up four runs and struck out 18 in his first 15.2 innings. However, he then gave up four home runs in his last two starts before his season was cut short with elbow pain. He showed extreme promise, and if he’s truly healthy this Spring, the Yankees could use his services in the rotation.

Cessa also made his rotation debut with the Yankees in August, but unlike Green, Cessa didn’t really ‘impress’. He ended the season with a 4.01 ERA in 51.2 innings. It also didn’t help that Cessa gave up 11 home runs during that stretch.

Warren is what I’d like to call the Yankees “secret weapon”. The team could either use him in the rotation or in the bullpen, and he would still be successful in either scenario. Sure, he didn’t have the best year last season, but he blamed it on not having a set role while with the Chicago Cubs. He was later acquired by the Yankees in a deal that sent Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs, and pitched well for the Yankees.

Last Spring, Bryan Mitchell was this close to securing a rotation spot on Opening Day. In fact, the Yankees told him he made the team shortly before camp ended. However, he suffered a freak injury in his last outing of the Spring, breaking his toe while trying to cover the first base bag. Mitchell returned from his broken toe injury in September, where he pitched to a 3.24 ERA in his last five starts.

So who will win this competition in Spring Training?

VERDICT: My gut feeling tells me Luis Severino and Bryan Mitchell will take the final two spots in the rotation. However, I also think Warren, Cessa and Green will find themselves in the bullpen to begin the season, barring one of them doesn’t get hurt during Spring Training.

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23 Responses to Predicting the winners of the in-camp competitions

  1. Jerry says:

    I hope you're wrong about Hicks. Put Judge there and leave him there. A hell of a lot more upside and hopefully they give Judge a legitimate shot , I am not a fan of Hicks. And seriously if Judge doesn't get the job, I would take Austin instead of Hicks by a lot. … Bird has to win the job at First, he looks like a 30 home run guy. That nice lefty swing. That's a no brainer. I like Severino and Mitchell making the rotation, but also taking a long look at Adams. ….. Just say no to Hicks ko

    • John Miller says:

      Move Hicks to left dump Gardner. Need more power in outfield. Let Judge prove he doesn't belong.

      • sanitycheck says:

        What is it with people who want to dump Gardner? He's only the current gold glove left fielder with one of the highest OBPs on the team. If you're going to dump someone, dump Hicks.

  2. I expect Judge to win the right field job. I think Hicks will actually fight Gardner and Ellsbury for playing time while Judge and Austin share time in right. For Judge to stay in the minors, he'd have to look very lost in spring training. There are just too many outfielders in the system right now that there isn't room for him in AAA anymore.

  3. Terry says:

    I would agree, Judge in RF and being a huge Bird fan, Bird at 1B. The rotation is tricky. I think Severino and Mitchell would be the favorites but pretty much all those guys could be on inning limits. Which, if we are in a playoff race in September, may become a challenge. I liked Green after he settled in but the last two starts you could see the elbows effect on location. Is he healthy?? Would it be better for us to bring him along slower? Remember Nate had arm trouble to end '15 and blew it out in'16. With overall numbers here and no dominant force, we could be more cautious with injuries. I can't wait to see all these young starters in ST. Can someone put a rush on the calendar please

  4. Olie says:

    I also agree on Judge in right and Bird at 1st with possible platoon with Austin. I would also expect Severino and Mitchell to claim starting jobs. I also like the arms on Green and Cessa. I think Warren has to much value in the pen to have him start! I would also like to see Hicks get plenty of at bats!

  5. OutofTownDave says:

    I'm not convinced that Bret Gardner will be with the club. Good chance some other team loses an outfielder and trades for him. That puts Hicks in left (or center) and Judge in right. Bird will be the starter at 1st but Austin will play against tough lefties (nice opposite field pop). Severino and Mitchell get the rotation spots. Warren and Green go to the bullpen and Cessa starts at AAA.

    • Delia Enriquez says:

      Brian Cashman already said Gardner is staying with the club on Opening Day. Hicks is just going to have to compete for right field.

  6. BALT YANK says:

    It's funny that this article says Hicks has a "cannon for an arm" and one of the best in the MLB. I can't recall seeing anything like that. I mean, Dave Winfield and Paul O'Neil had good right field arms. I've seen outfielders throw strikes to home plate and said, WOW. Hicks, I can't recall anything, except that he seems lazy in running to fly balls. Hicks sucks.

    • Olie says:

      Go on youtube and type in Hicks throws out Valancia. Hicks does have a good arm! Not sure if Winfield good but still good.

    • Delia Enriquez says:

      According to Statcast, one of Hicks’ throw to home plate was 105 MPH. That’s a cannon to me. I don’t particularly see Hicks as a starter either, but you have to give him credit when it’s due. He has an excellent arm.

      • Not only the best outfield arm on the team, but one of the best in all of MLB. Might make you want to reconsider your other statements on the guy if you were so off on that one.

  7. buckeyeballs says:

    also youtube Hicks throwing out Vernon Wells on the Yanks-one of the best throws ever

  8. Balt Yank says:

    I stand corrected. He's got an arm. That being said, in the Vernon Wells you tube video the double is hit past him and he jobs to it. I wouldn't see Ellsbury / Gardner run as slow as that. Hicks sucks, nice arm though.

  9. Balt Yank says:

    jogs to it (typo)

  10. tom says:

    I don't remember Mitchell was about to win 5th starting spot. He won the final pitching spot, which was in bullpen, right before the game where he misstepped 1st base.

    RF job: How could we decide if Judge has improved his plate discipline during ST that will translate into regular season as he will always strike out a ton. Hicks will be our RF by a default unless he can't do any jack in ST.

    On the Devil's side, Dustin Fowler could win CF job as Gardner moves to RF; Ellsbury moving to LF. Power will come from C, 1B and DH.

    Rotation spots: I still think Cessa should be there. He has pitching ability and is strong enough to reach 7th inning whilst Mitchell and Severino can past 6th as long as their stuffs are working. Inconsistent stuffs will remove Mitchell and Severino from a game sooner than 5th since they don't have Eovaldi's arm caliber.

    Tyler Austin has 4 chances to make it on the roster. 1B, DH, RF and BU. Wow, that is plenty.

  11. Jerry says:

    I think what we,( the Yankees) need to do is look at Hicks as a pitcher, be it bullpen or starter and maybe in a pinch when noone else is available let him pinch hit or play some outfield. Once again if the Yankees play him I'll root for him, but I don't have to like him. His dubious routes to the ball, non hitting ability, I don't know if he's a threat on the bases because he's rarely on, remember Mark Wohlers, he threw 103 mph and guess what, he……….. Wasn't very good. I'm guessing most of us here on this site watch about 100 games every year and we don't always see eye to eye, but I have seen nothing from Hicks.

    • Way to late for that. You can do that with minor leaguers with good arms, but at this point Hicks would have to start all over, go back to Single-A and work his way up. That takes probably 2-3 years at best. For what? He certainly wouldn't be a starter as it would take him even longer to learn multiple effective pitches. Best case scenario would be a middle reliever in the year 2020. What's the point? There are other relievers available.

  12. sanitycheck says:

    1B is Bird's to lose, and I think he won't even be platooning with Austin. I think he's going to show that he can hit lefties and righties and that he knows how to use the entire field, contrary to what the other teams have been defending with their shifts.

    RF is Judge's to lose. The big question is this: will Judge continue to work to cut down on his strikeouts? He showed signs of that in September. If he does, he'll reach much closer to his ceiling.

    People say that the Yanks starting rotation is full of question marks. That's what happens when you have so many young arms. I see it as full of possibilities for an exciting year. I'm especially interested to see how Chance Adams does in Spring Training. It's not likely, but I wouldn't be surprised if he sneaked onto the ML roster as the 5th starter.

  13. Balt Yank says:

    I have to second Cessa for the rotation. I really want Severino in the bullpen, and considering the price of relievers now, why would the Yankees consider it a waste? That leaves Mitchell, Warren, and a wild card for the fifth slot. That's not a bad place to be really. I have included "Chad Green" in the anonymous wild card pool because he really needs to advance to be a legitimate starting pitcher and, who knows, maybe he has / will…? If CC can have another bounce back year and Pineda have a good first half with Tanaka, it's not so bad, with Chapman, Killer B, Severino, and Clippard heading up the bullpen. Green is a good RF bullpen piece I bet. Warren has a head on him and could be a good Fourth Starter.

  14. Balt Yank says:

    Also, Severino has a better arm the "flat E" Evoaldi. That E throws a straight fastball. He's like the Archie Bunker of pitchers: stupid obvious. Severino has movement and speed 97+.

  15. Balt Yank says:

    OK, Severino is 95-97.

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