TAMPA, Fla. -- The winter months provided the Yankees with a chance to lick their wounds from an earlier than expected end to the 2020 season, revamping their workout programs for another push toward a 28th World Series championship -- one that begins now.
“Now we get to come together as a team and start trying to lay what we hope is that championship foundation,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Hopefully this is the year we get to the top of that mountain. We certainly feel like we have a club that's in that mix.”
As position players report to Tampa in advance of Tuesday’s first full-squad workout at George M. Steinbrenner Field, here is a glimpse at how the Yankees’ 26-man Opening Day roster could look:
Catcher (2): Gary Sánchez, Kyle Higashioka
The Yankees intend to open the season with Sánchez as their starting catcher, despite a frustrating 2020 in which Sánchez batted just .147. Sánchez has vowed that he’ll be a different player in 2021, 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): Luke Voit
Voit has firmly staked his claim to the starting job at first base, taking his game to another level in 2020 as he led the Majors with 22 homers while posting a .948 OPS and a 156 OPS+. Emerging as one of the club’s leaders in ’20, Voit has become a fan favorite while providing a boisterous, blue-collar presence to the roster.
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, .421 on-base percentage and 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 batting .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 expected to 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 are encouraged that he looked more like himself in the postseason.
Outfield (4): Clint Frazier, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner
With Boone stating that he envisions Frazier as the regular left fielder, the outfield projects to feature Frazier, Hicks and Judge from left to right. Gardner would thus be in line as a reserve. 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.
Designated hitter (1): Giancarlo Stanton
Coming off an impressive postseason performance, the Yankees are prepared to enter 2021 with Stanton as a full-time DH. Cashman said that would be the “safe bet,” considering Stanton’s numerous injuries over the last two years, though he added that the club still believes Stanton could physically handle regular outfield duty.
Utility (2): Derek Dietrich, Tyler Wade
Wade has a good shot to make the Yanks’ roster as a jack-of-all-trades, boasting the best speed on the roster as well as the ability to play most positions on the field. Though the club also signed veteran Jay Bruce to a Minor League deal, we’ll give an early nod to Dietrich, an eight-year veteran who can play three infield positions and the outfield corners.
Starting pitchers (5): Gerrit Cole, Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon, Jordan Montgomery, Deivi García
The Yanks remodeled their rotation for ’21, bringing on Kluber and Taillon -- a tandem that offers a pair of high-ceiling talents, yet combined for only one inning last season. Montgomery figures to slot into the back end, and García got his feet wet with six regular-season starts last year. That likely gives them an advantage over Germán, who hasn’t pitched in a professional game since September 2019.
Relievers (7): Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Chad Green, Darren O'Day, Justin Wilson, Luis Cessa, Jonathan Loaisiga, Albert Abreu
The first order of offseason business was to pick up Britton’s $14 million option for 2022, thus keeping the late-inning lefty tandem of Britton and Chapman intact. The Yankees expect the bullpen to be more of a strength than it was in ’20; their move to jettison Adam Ottavino to the Red Sox effectively allowed them to sign O’Day and Wilson, a pair of veterans who will offer new looks.