When Aaron Judge surveys the collection of players surrounding him in the Yankees clubhouse, the slugger hardly seems able to contain his excitement. This was a roster that produced 100 wins last season while weathering several significant injuries, including his own seven-week absence. Given that fact, he loves the promise that 2019 will deliver to The Bronx.
"Any time you don't win a World Series, you always want to be that last one standing," Judge said. "That will be our goal again this year. We added quite a few new arms, we added a couple of new position players that are really going to beef up this lineup. We already look pretty good."
As the Yankees continue to train under the Florida sunshine, here are MLB.com's updated predictions for their Opening Day roster:
Sanchez has resumed playing in games following the surgical procedure that the 26-year-old catcher had on his left shoulder in November, and his early batting practice sessions produced loud contact. The 30-year-old Romine remains favored to grab the backup spot, with Kyle Higashioka likely ticketed to begin the season in Triple-A.
First base (1): Luke Voit
Greg Bird has made this an entertaining competition so far, taking on the challenge after general manager Brian Cashman and manager Aaron Boone both proclaimed that Voit had "a leg up" by virtue of his late-season production. Though Boone said he can see a scenario where Bird and Voit both crack the roster, we're still betting that Bird begins the year in Triple-A. Bird and Voit both have Minor League options, and Boone said on Thursday that it would be difficult to envision carrying two first basemen.
Second base (1): Gleyber Torres
The Yankees plan to have Torres spend the majority of his time at second base, though Boone has said that his working plan is to have the 22-year-old slide over to shortstop about twice a week when the regular season begins.
Third base (1): Miguel Andújar
Since our first roster predictions in February, the runner-up in last year's American League Rookie of the Year Award voting became more entrenched as the Yankees' third baseman of the present and future, thanks to the mega-deals signed by Manny Machado (Padres) and Nolan Arenado (Rockies).
Shortstop (1): Troy Tulowitzki
Boone and his coaches have been impressed by how well the 34-year-old is moving, commenting on several occasions that he finally looks like himself again. Tulowitzki homered in his first spring at-bat and has made several sharp defensive plays, showing a bounce in his step after the ankle and foot injuries that have kept him out of big league games since July 2017.
Jacoby Ellsbury's continued injury woes (plantar fasciitis) have removed him from consideration for the Opening Day roster, though he is projected as a reserve even if healthy. The outfield alignment remains Gardner in left field, Hicks in center field and Judge in right field, with Stanton serving as the primary designated hitter. Clint Frazier appears to be on the outside looking in, as the Yankees want him to accumulate playing time after being limited by post-concussion issues last season. Ellsbury will report to camp in about 10 days, but he will not have enough time to get ready for Opening Day.
Boone plans to use LeMahieu as a super sub, seeing most of his time at second base and third base, though the Yankees also will work him out at first base. Ellsbury's absence has opened the door for Wade to make the club, as the 24-year-old offers versatility in the infield and outfield as well as a left-handed bat.
The Yankees' depth will be tested early, as Luis Severino was scratched from his spring debut with right rotator cuff inflammation, requiring two weeks without throwing. As such, the Opening Day honors will likely go to Tanaka. CC Sabathia is also expected to be unavailable in early April as he comes off of an angioplasty and right knee surgery, and the Yankees are leaning heavily toward handing the final rotation spots to German and Loaisiga.
Six bullpen spots are locks (Betances, Britton, Chapman, Green, Holder, Ottavino), which leaves two up for grabs. Cessa and Kahnle are both out of Minor League options, and Boone said that Cessa has "a really good opportunity" to make the club as a long reliever and spot starter. Stephen Tarpley is also in consideration. A trimmer Kahnle has impressed by once again touching 97 mph after averaging 95.1 mph last year.
"We like our club," Cashman said. "We've got a special group of people. We're one of the teams that I think has a legitimate shot to do something like being the last team standing and celebrating. There's a long way to go from that comment to it actually happening, but on this date we have a legitimate shot to do that because of who we have and the players we've assembled."
Aroldis Chapman (Closer)
Didi Gregorius, SS
Ben Heller, RHP
Jordan Montgomery, LHP