Spring training is in the books and opening day is just days away. The slate has been wiped clean and all camp performances, good or bad, get a reset. By now, we all know better than to make strong declarations based on Grapefruit League statistics. It sure is fun to do, though. And hey, what’s my risk of interpreting how certain players performed? I can live with looking silly.
A handful of Yankees had intriguing numbers over the last month or so. We won’t know how significant those until later in the regular season, but I think we can make meaningful observations from some of the results.
Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton will strike out less
Both Judge and Stanton struck out about 30 percent of the time last season. If Grapefruit League play is any indicator, the duo will put the ball in play more often this year. Stanton fanned in 22.9 percent of plate appearances while Judge went down on strikes 26.7 percent of the time. Of course, neither accrued more than 48 plate appearances, so make of it what you will.
Despite the small sample, we do know that Judge has been trying to cut down on whiffs in camp. With two strikes, he’s eschewed his leg kick for a subtle toe tap. It’s seemingly worked out well thus far. Why can’t it continue to work in the regular season?
As for Stanton, there isn’t a discernible adjustment. At least, not one that I’m aware of. Nonetheless, he is just a season removed from the 23.6 percent rate he posted in his final season with Miami. Last year could have been a blip. As his spring training performance shows, this is who he is at his best.
Clint Frazier has some rust to shake off
This statement isn’t out on a limb, unlike the strikeout talk from the prior section. Frazier hit .149/.228/.245 in 57 plate appearances. He had the most opportunities out of anyone in camp, and understandably so. With much of last season lost due concussion recovery, it’s been a long time since Clint has been at full strength. Now that he’s finally cleared, there are some cobwebs for him to shake off.
It’s tough luck that Frazier still needs more time to get on track. Obviously, his health problems were the biggest misfortune of all. Pretty scary, in particular. But also, he’s missing an opportunity to grab a job from the outset of the season because Aaron Hicks is down for the count. He should still get an opportunity later this year, but he’ll have to wait.
Greg Bird is (finally) healthy
Fool me once, fool me twice, fool me…thrice? To be honest, I’m not sure how many times I have gotten excited about Bird at this point, only to be inevitably let down. Nonetheless, it’s hard not to read into his spring training numbers and not think he’s healthy. The Yankees gave him 54 trips to the plate in camp and he capitalized with a 1.091 OPS. Can’t I get a little excited?
Oh, but that elbow of his. He was hit there by a pitch last week. Here we go again, right? Well, it seems like he’s going to be fine, for now. I get the skepticism with Bird, but I’m ready to dive back in and believe. I think it’s easier this time because he’s the underdog to Luke Voit, and if Bird does indeed flame out again, the Yankees should be fine at the position anyway.
Tommy Kahnle is back
It’s always good to draw conclusions from seven and a third innings pitched. In that workload, Kahnle struck out nine and allowed only one earned run. His velocity appears to be back and not only is he healthy, but he’s also in far better shape than before. The way he took care of his body before this season was…something.
It’s going to be a huge plus to have a revitalized Kahnle with Dellin Betances on the shelf to start the year. It looks Kahnle’s 2017-self, minus all of the caffeine and junk food, is back and here to stay.
Stephen Tarpley is for real
The 26-year-old southpaw was named the team’s best rookie in camp, and deservedly so. He allowed no runs, one walk, and six hits in just over 11 innings of work this spring (before last night), which earned him a spot on the opening day roster. Tarpley already began to emerge as an intriguing relief prospect last season and did a nice job in a late summer cameo with the Bombers.
Tarpley is in line to be this year’s Jonathan Holder. He may ride the Scranton shuttle a couple of times early on, but more likely than not, he’s ready to carve out a role in the big leagues for good. His spring training was just a confirmation of his capabilities.