The Yankees have their first full-squad workout of the spring on Tuesday. In honor of the entire team practicing at once (albeit at two different facilities), here are some of the non-roster invitees you should keep an eye on this spring.
The upside with Derek Dietrich in a Yankees uniform is going to be on manager Aaron Boone’s mind all spring long. The eight-year veteran is versatile with the glove (playing three infield positions with the ability to fill in the corner outfield spots as well) and a slugger from the left side of the plate with a swing that’s tailor-made for the short porch at Yankee Stadium.
Dietrich’s numbers last year were some of the worst of his career—and he hit a career-worst .187 the year before that in Cincinnati—but the power numbers are what catches your attention. He hit 19 homers with the Reds in 2019 in only 113 games. The year before that, in his final season with the Marlins, the 31-year-old crushed 16 big flies.
Aaron Boone was asked at the very beginning of Yankees camp what he thinks about the fifth spot in New York’s rotation. The third contender that Boone mentioned for the job was Jhoulys Chacín.
The right-hander has pitched in the big leagues since 2009. Sure, Chacín is a 33-year-old that pitched in only two games last year, but he has an immense amount of starting experience. Before last year, Chacín had made double digit starts in nine of the last 10 seasons. In 2018, with Milwaukee, the right-hander made a league-high 35 starts, won 15 games and was an integral contributor to the Brewers’ postseason run.
Similar to Dietrich, thinking about Jay Bruce facing righties at Yankee Stadium is quite tempting. Bruce’s defense is more of a limitation, as he can only be used in the corner outfield positions or at first base, but his bat in a righty-heavy lineup could be valuable.
The odds of Bruce (and Dietrich for that matter) making the Opening Day roster took a bit of a hit when New York re-signed Brett Gardner this week, but you know how this team often gets when it comes to injuries. Bruce has 13 years in the Majors under his belt, he’s got postseason experience and if he’s swinging a hot bat, he can be a threat to go yard and provide some pop to the bottom of the order.
Wells was picked 28th overall by the Yankees in last year’s MLB draft but didn’t get to play a Minor League season due to the pandemic.
In just a few days at Yankees camp so far, his first invitation to Spring Training, he’s already turning heads. Wells is projected to be at least a few years away from making his big-league debut, but Yankees manager Aaron Boone has been very impressed with his hitting so far.
“He can hit,” Boone said over the weekend. “We really like his swing and I think one of the things that stands out to me that I didn’t necessarily know is how strong he is. He’s as strong as anyone in camp.”
Not too long ago, Kyle Barraclough was a big-league closer. With the Marlins, back in 2018, the right-hander saved 10 games. In June of that season, Barraclough was a perfect seven-for-seven on save opportunities in the month, posting a 0.00 ERA over 12 innings pitched with only one hit allowed. He won National League Reliever of the Month thanks to that performance.
Since that season, he hasn’t been able to earn any consistent playing time. He’s bounced around after playing the first four years of his career in Miami and didn’t pitch this past season. Perhaps he can recapture some of that dominance in the Yankees system and eat up some innings later on this year.
- Robinson Chirinos spent two seasons as Gerrit Cole’s teammate in Houston and the ace pitched really well with Chirinos behind the plate. The backstop is projected to be New York’s third catcher (behind Gary Sánchez and Kyle Higashioka), but could very well have an impact on this big-league roster. No matter what his role is, Chirinos said on Tuesday that he chose the Yankees because now he has an opportunity to win a World Series and that’s what he wants to do as a player.
- Asher Wojciechowski is a long shot to contend for a rotation spot, but when it comes to AL East experience, he’s got plenty. Wojciechowski has been with the Baltimore Orioles for the last two seasons and although the right-hander’s numbers aren’t tremendous, he’s pitched in the five AL East ballparks a total of 25 times. That’s almost half of the 57 appearances he’s made in his entire four-year career.
- Nestor Cortes Jr. is back in pinstripes. Remember, the only lefties in the Yankees’ bullpen at this point are Aroldis Chapman and Zack Britton. That’s expected to change when New York makes the signing of Justin Wilson official but it doesn’t hurt to have more lefties available. Maybe Cortes could get to the Majors at some point in a role similar to what left-hander Luis Avilán had last season.
- Addison Russ was acquired by New York in the David Hale trade last season. Looking at his numbers in the Philadelphia Phillies’ system, this right-hander has some serious potential to get outs at the big-league level. The 26-year-old isn’t quite there yet—he’s never pitched above Double-A—but this season could be a stepping stone for him.