TAMPA, Fla. -- The decisions are always entrusted to the front office, as the construction of the Yankees’ 26-man Opening Day roster will ultimately rest in the hands of general manager Brian Cashman, manager Aaron Boone and his coaching staff, plus an assortment of behind-the-scenes analysts and scouts.
But players can spot talent when they see it, especially those who have been around the league a time or two. With less than three weeks remaining in Spring Training, it can be an enlightening exercise to survey the veterans in the clubhouse with one simple question: “Which teammate has impressed you the most this spring?”
Gerrit Cole, RHP
The ace signed a record-setting nine-year, $324 million contract with the Yankees in December, coming off a season in which he went 20-5 with an American League-best 2.50 ERA, setting career highs in wins, innings pitched (212 1/3) and strikeouts (326). Cole has pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings this spring.
Quote: “A lot of times, pitchers just want to talk to pitchers or position players want to talk to position players. Outside of his work ethic and his focus, I like his ability to interact with everybody and talk with pitchers and hitters alike. He's a guy who I've really enjoyed talking to and getting to know. Obviously, we're all happy and thrilled to have him here on our side and leading our rotation, but I also think that behind the scenes and the way that he works and carries himself is a good example for a lot of the younger guys we have in the room.” -- Brett Gardner
Clint Frazier, OF
Injuries to Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton have Frazier pegged to begin the season in the Yankees’ outfield, coming off a campaign in which he hit .267 with 12 homers and 38 RBIs in 69 games over two stints in New York. He is batting .300 (3-for-10) with two doubles, a homer and two RBIs through six spring games.
Quote: "I think Frazier looks really good. He looks focused. He comes in and you can tell he wants to learn. He was like that last year, but I feel like it's a little bit different focus. This spring, he looks really good." -- DJ LeMahieu
Jonathan Loaisiga, RHP
Loaisiga is in the mix for the fifth rotation spot or a multi-inning bullpen role, coming off a season in which he posted a 4.55 ERA and 37 strikeouts over 31 2/3 big league innings, making 15 appearances and four starts. In five scoreless spring innings, Loaisiga has not permitted a hit or walk, with nine strikeouts.
Quote: "I think Lo, the first time I saw him pitch, I was like, 'Dang!' He's got some good stuff. For his first couple of outings here, to harness it and be in the zone all the time, that's pretty much all he has to do, because he's got swing-and-miss stuff on three pitches. Not a lot of guys have that. In the bullpen, guys don't have that at all. He can definitely handle it and be a big weapon out of the 'pen. He's been fun to watch." -- Chad Green
Nick Nelson, RHP
A fourth-round selection in the 2016 MLB Draft, Nelson spent most of 2019 with Double-A Trenton, where he was 7-2 with a 2.35 ERA in 13 games (12 starts). The 24-year-old also made four starts at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he projects to open 2020, and was added to the Yanks’ 40-man roster in November.
Quote: “I caught him last year a little bit, but he's come back and has a really insane live fastball and great changeup that he had last year. It's pretty impressive that he's feeling comfortable enough to do it against big league hitters." -- Kyle Higashioka
Clarke Schmidt, RHP
A first-round selection (16th overall) in the 2017 MLB Draft, Schmidt combined to go 6-5 with a 3.47 ERA across 19 games (18 starts) for the GCL Yankees East, Class A Advanced Tampa and Double-A Trenton, striking out 102 against 28 walks while permitting 79 hits in 90 2/3 innings. He is in the mix for the fifth rotation spot, but could begin the season in the high Minors.
Quote: “My brother [Buck] manages in Double-A with the Orioles and he told me about him, like, 'Hey, the Yankees have got this guy down here that's going to be special.' This guy's pretty much ready to go in the big leagues, from a stuff standpoint. Everyone here throws hard, the young guys, but it's more the execution of the offspeed pitches. Being able to command those in any count, and then his poise out there for a guy in his first Major League camp -- to watch him go about his business and picking guys' brains and learning is refreshing.” -- Zack Britton