The Thursday Thoughts segment is back this week. If there are topics you would like me to discuss in this segment, please tweet ideas and questions @ThomasStHilaire.
1. Clint Frazier
Clint Frazier’s long-term future with the team is uncertain. Even when Frazier returns to full health, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge are the corner-outfielders for the foreseeable future. Centerfield will be occupied by a combination of Aaron Hicks, Jacoby Ellsbury, and perhaps even players like Estevan Florial and Brett Gardner. These options provide barriers for Clint Frazier. He does not currently possess the attributes to play centerfield, and he is blocked in the corners.
With that being said, there are two possibilities for Frazier going forward. The first option is that the Yankees let Gardner walk after this year. Frazier could replace Gardner as the third corner outfielder who can DH play the field on other days to give players rest. The second option is that the Yankees trade Frazier. He is a player that may possess more value to other teams. He could also bring young pitching to the team. I like Clint Frazier as much as anyone, but it seems that his options with the Yankees are limited.
2. Neil Walker
The Yankees replaced the older, more expensive, and less versatile Chase Headley/Todd Frazier combination with the younger, less expensive, and arguably more productive Brandon Drury/Neil Walker combination. While I have already discussed the upside and excitement about Drury in previous posts, I am just as excited about the Walker signing.
First and foremost, the Yankees are paying him a fraction of what he is actually worth. You cannot resist one year and $4 million. He switch hits, he gets on base, and he limits strikeouts. His contact abilities will balance a lineup that is bound to strike out a good bit this season. Additionally, ZiPS projects Walker for a .262/.338/.456 (112 OPS+) batting line. Not bad for a player who can play multiple positions, especially on a one year contract.
This move also does not block Miguel Andujar or Gleyber Torres in the long term. Andujar has only played 58 games at Triple-A, and this signing allows the Yankees to bring Andujar and Torres up slowly, without forcing them into an MLB role if they are not ready. When the players are ready, they will sort it out later. The versatility of Drury and Walker make that possible.
I cannot remember a time when the Yankees had this much depth. In the outfield, the Yankees have six legitimate starting outfielders. In the infield, the Yankees have two top prospects at Triple-A, along with players like Drury, Walker, and Wade at the MLB level. The Yankees have the best bullpen in all of baseball, with interesting arms in the minors. The Yankees also have more starting pitching depth than you would expect. Chance Adams, who has emerged as a fan favorite, pitched to a 2.88 ERA at Triple-A last year. Domingo German, Luis Cessa, and even Adam Warren present depth that other teams lack. If the Yankees were to suffer an injury at any position this year, I have confidence in their replacement. This puts them in a strong position to win the division.
Opening Day is exactly two weeks away. In the meantime, there is more spring training to enjoy this weekend. The Yankees play the Astros on Friday, the Tigers on Saturday, and the Marlins on Sunday. The Saturday game will air on the MLB Network at 1:05 PM, and Masahiro Tanaka will be taking the mound.