NEW YORK -- The Yankees’ Opening Day roster is set, with manager Aaron Boone saying that he believes the squad is “raring to go” for Thursday’s scheduled contest against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium.
“There's a hunger with these guys,” Boone said. “I’m really comfortable and excited about where they are in their mental frame of mind to put together a great season. We're playing for a lot, but also underneath all that, I think it's really important that our guys make sure they're having fun playing this game.”
Boone and general manager Brian Cashman had all but one of their decisions made before the team traveled to New York following the final game of Spring Training. Boone finalized the roster before Wednesday’s workout day at Yankee Stadium.
Using the same format as our weekly roster predictions during camp, here are the 26 names that will be active for Thursday’s opener:
Catcher (2): Gary Sánchez, Kyle Higashioka
The Yankees will open the season with Sánchez as their starting catcher, despite a frustrating 2020 in which he batted just .147. Sánchez has vowed that he’ll be a different player in '21, having re-tooled his swing to be shorter to the ball and keep more weight on his right leg at the plate. Higashioka started five of the club’s seven postseason games, and he would be ready to step in if needed.
First base (1): Jay Bruce
With Luke Voit set to miss at least the first month of the regular season following surgery to address a torn meniscus in his left knee, Bruce will serve as the starting first baseman. A three-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger, Bruce hit .198/.252/.469 (90 OPS+) with six homers and 14 RBIs in 32 games for the Phillies last season. In 2019 he batted .216/.261/.523 (101 OPS+) with 26 homers and 59 RBIs in 98 games for the Mariners and Phillies.
Second base (1): DJ LeMahieu
The Bombers’ most valuable player two years running, LeMahieu signed a six-year, $90 million deal with New York in January. He is coming off a season in which he led the American League with a .364 batting average, a .421 on-base percentage and a 1.011 OPS, also pacing the circuit with a 177 OPS+.
Third base (1): Gio Urshela
Urshela completed his second year in New York as a Gold Glove Award candidate, supplementing his stellar defense at the hot corner by slashing .298/.368/.490 with six homers and 30 RBIs in 43 games (136 OPS+). Urshela underwent surgery in October to remove a bone spur from his right elbow, but he is playing in games and will be ready for Opening Day.
Shortstop (1): Gleyber Torres
An All-Star in each of his first two seasons, Torres took a step back in 2020, struggling to make the most of an opportunity to play shortstop full-time. Torres’ nine regular-season errors were the most in the Majors, coming as he batted .243/.356/.368 with three homers and 16 RBIs in 42 games. The Yanks have been encouraged by his physical fitness and work on both sides of the ball in camp.
Outfield (5): Clint Frazier, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner, Mike Tauchman
The outfield projects to feature Frazier, Hicks and Judge from left to right, with Gardner and Tauchman in line as reserves. Frazier was one of the team’s bright spots in 2020, posting a .905 OPS (149 OPS+) in 39 games while earning recognition as a Gold Glove finalist in right field. Tauchman can play all three outfield spots and appears healthier than he did last year, when an injured right shoulder sapped his power.
Designated hitter (1): Giancarlo Stanton
With Stanton coming off an impressive postseason performance, the Yankees are prepared to enter 2021 with him as a full-time DH. Cashman said that would be the “safe bet,” considering Stanton’s numerous injuries over the past two years. Stanton recently said that he expects to play some outfield this season, but it did not happen during Spring Training.
Utility (1): Tyler Wade
Wade made the roster as a jack of all trades, boasting the best speed on the club as well as having the ability to play most positions. His ability to serve as a backup shortstop is a valuable asset, and Boone said that Wade’s defense at second base is “elite.” Wade has appeared at every position but catcher, first base and pitcher in his big league career.
Starting pitchers (5): Gerrit Cole, Corey Kluber, Domingo Germán, Jordan Montgomery, Jameson Taillon
With Germán having outpitched Deivi García for a rotation slot, Boone set his rotation through the first six games of the regular season. Cole, Kluber and Germán will face the Blue Jays in the season-opening series, with Montgomery, Cole and Taillon then lined up against the Orioles, taking advantage of an off-day and allowing the club to slow-play Taillon coming off Tommy John surgery.
Relievers (8): Aroldis Chapman, Chad Green, Darren O'Day, Luis Cessa, Jonathan Loaisiga, Michael King, Nick Nelson, Lucas Luetge
With Zack Britton and Justin Wilson on the injured list to begin the year, there are some relatively new faces in the bullpen. Nelson boasts a four-pitch mix that the Yankees see helping them either as a starter or reliever, and he was one of the most talked about arms in camp. Luetge hasn’t pitched in the Majors since 2015, but the Yanks found it difficult to argue with his excellent spring stats. Green and O’Day are likely to pick up important assignments in innings six through eight.