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Tiers 3.0:| | | | | | |
Looks like this one’s headed to overtime.
If the Yankees first base job was a true competition entering the spring, Luke Voit and Greg Bird have played each other to a draw. Voit, the presumptive favorite after pacing the Yankees lineup down the stretch last year, has done more of the same this spring:
Bird, meanwhile, showed up with a clean bill of health for the first time in a couple years and has looked like the player the Yankees long envisioned him being, ranking second among all hitters with .479 on-base percentage after going 1 for 3 with a homer Tuesday.
“I don’t think anything could change my mind about how I feel about where both of them are right now,” manager Aaron Boone recently told the Bergen Record. “We’re looking at two impact players.”
Though Bird bats left-handed and Voit right-handed, the Yankees had room for only one on the roster, leaving the other to bide his time at Triple-A, but the Aaron Hicks‘ back injury has unexpectedly created an opportunity for both — and not just on the roster, but in the lineup.
How would it work? Well, left fielder Brett Gardner would slide over to center field to take Hicks’ place, and presumptive DH Giancarlo Stanton would take over in left field. Bird, then, being the better defender of the two, would step in at first base with Voit at DH.
It’s an elegant solution for now, but I wouldn’t take it as a positive development for Voit. For as well as Bird has performed this spring, it’s only spring. Now he’ll get a chance to show it during the regular season, and if he does, you could argue he’s the better fit of the two given how stocked the Yankees already are in right-handed sluggers, not to mention the defensive advantage.
But perhaps the Yankees will ultimately decide their future isn’t with Gardner and relegate him to the bench when Hicks returns. Hard to say, and of course. It would require them to be more creative with their bench, but to keep Voit in the lineup, it may be worth it. As things stand now, though, I’m a little more comfortable drafting the other upside first baseman in New York, Pete Alonso, than Voit because at least we can feel confident he’s who his team ultimately wants in the role.
Cessa or desist?
Another hot performer who the Yankees seem reluctant to commit to is Luis Cessa, who lowered his spring ERA to 0.53 with four shutout innings Tuesday (two hits, no walks, five strikeouts). WIth Luis Severino and CC Sabathia destined for the IL, Cessa is expected to be part of the team’s starting five going into the season (though Gio Gonzalez’s minor-league deal could complicate things). But being a 26-year-old with a career 4.71 ERA to his name, he’s not considered a pitcher with impact potential, and no one has cited any changes this spring that might suggest otherwise.
“He looks great,” Boone recently told the New York Post. “Starting with how he got his body prepared and came in really good shape. There has been a growth, there has been a purpose and an understanding of who he is as a pitcher.”
See what I mean? Pretty vague.
From Cessa himself: “The last couple of years I put too much pressure on myself.”
OK, maybe there’s something to that, but for me to side with a tiny, diluted sample over years of data between both the minors and majors, I need something I can sink my teeth into. Self-confidence isn’t it.
Another discouraging sign: Those four innings Cessa threw Tuesday came in relief, which isn’t so rare in spring training, but it was specifically with the idea of trying Chad Green out as an opener. Teams don’t normally use openers with their good starting pitchers.
Marq of a winner
It goes without saying saying spring training stats don’t really matter, and yet there are occasions on both ends of the spectrum when they become impossible to ignore.
A line as abysmal as the one Marquez put up Tuesday at the Angels, for instance, might make you think twice about drafting him.
Don’t even go there. He had earned rave reviews so far, dominating in his previous two outings. Most recently in the Cactus League, he struck out nine over three innings March 9, and in the minor-league start that followed, he struck out 10 over six.
Pitchers are working on things in spring training. They’re fleshing out their arsenals. They’re getting their deliveries in sync. They’re fine-tuning their location. As long as their abilities aren’t being called into question — like a drop in velocity, for instance — it’s really nothing to worry about.
With the way Marquez was missing bats prior to this start, his abilities seem intact.
No low-balling Lowe
He has been their best hitter this spring, though, batting .359 (14 for 39) with two homers and seven doubles, this after a minor-league season in which he hit .297 with 22 homers and a .949 OPS in 380 at-bats. He showed promise in the majors as well, overcoming an 0-for-19 start to hit .273 with six homers and an .884 OPS in his final 110 at-bats. He has a patient approach and power to all fields, so it’s surprising how little attention he has gotten. The Rays seem to agree.
“We believe Brandon has the potential to make a longstanding impact at the Major League level,” Rays GM Erik Neander said. “He’s shown both an advanced feel for hitting and the ability to drive the ball to all fields, and he’s quickly becoming a versatile defender who can help us in many ways.”
This deal confirms he’s a big part of their 2019 plans as well. Between second base, first base and the outfield, he may come close to getting everyday at-bats, and right now his ADP on FantasyPros is so low that it doesn’t even register. He’s a deep sleeper who probably shouldn’t have the “deep” attached.
The Braves closer situation hasn’t exactly been under the microscope this spring, our only guidepost being manager Brian Snitker’s suggestion that he might play matchups between the right-handed Arodys VIzcaino and the left-handed A.J. MInter.
Now, though, it looks like Vizcaino has a chance to gain a stranglehold on the job. Not only is Minter ticketed for the IL with a sore shoulder, but Vizcaino himself is looking healthy after battling his own shoulder woes down the stretch last season. He struck out two over a perfect inning Monday, his fourth perfect appearance in five.
He has experience in the role and has been a perfectly serviceable reliever over the past four seasons, compiling a 2.79 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings. Durability has always been a concern, but he’s not alone there as far as closer candidates across the league go. He probably deserves to be drafted ahead of the Matt Barnes/Archie Bradley class of relievers given the lack of alternatives in the Braves bullpen.