Things could get interesting if Aaron Judge’s injury turns out to be more serious, but this post is operating under the assumption Judge breaks camp as the starting right fielder and Stanton breaks camp as the everyday DH.
This leaves Mike Tauchman, Brett Gardner, Clint Frazier and Tyler Wade (yes, the infielder) as the four men fighting for a starting job in left field and center field and a Major League job as the fourth outfielder.
Keep in mind, teams will be handling their benches a little differently this season with a 26th roster spot and a limit on how many pitchers can be active. Essentially, the Yankees will have four bench players this season. Reserve one for a backup catcher, one for Urshela/Andujar and one for a backup first baseman; that leaves one spot for Frazier, Tauchman, Gardner, and Wade to fight over after the center field and left field jobs are won.
FanGraphs.com projects Wade as the fourth outfielder in this situation and it makes sense. He can play multiple infield positions as well as the outfield so his versatility will really be huge throughout the season. Also, he would be one of four left-handed hitters on the MLB squad along with Gardner, Tauchman and Mike Ford.
Wade played 18 games in the outfield for the Yankees last season and has played a total of 32 games out there since 2017. He is not very familiar with the position professionally, but he has not made an error in the outfield since making two errors in 22 innings in 2017.
The bigger issue for Wade is that he is a light-hitting player so his value will almost entirely come from fielding, and if he is playing in the outfield, his maximum potential will most likely not be reached.
The Clint Frazier experiment has not panned out for the Yankees, but he has not been traded yet. That makes it seem the Yankees at least have faith in the 25-year-old. While he has been an above-average hitter in his last two seasons in the majors, he has yet to make a lasting impact.
His issue is defense more than a stable offense. Yankees fans know what he can do in the box. He has been a real liability and sometimes a meme in the outfield. In a lineup chock-full of huge bats, his offensive abilities are not as groundbreaking when a Wade or Tauchman can go run them down in the outfield.
For Frazier to win a bench role, he will have to tighten up the defense just a little bit (think how Andujar just has to be serviceable at third because of his bat) and force Aaron Boone’s hand by being great at the plate in Spring Training.
Gardner is the only one of the four that without a doubt, WILL be on the Opening Day roster in Baltimore. The only question is if he will be starting or on the bench. For him to be on the bench, it is going to have to be Frazier who forces the coaches hand, not Gardner losing the job.
Gardner just signed a new contract with the Yankees and he is the veteran leadership for this team, especially with CC Sabathia retiring this offseason. Gardner had his best full season by wRC+ at 115 and also cashed in 28 home runs in 2019.
His speed and left-handed bat are very unique in this Yankee lineup and especially based on his new contract, you should expect good things from Gardy.
One of the only guys faster than Gardner on this team, Tauchman came out of nowhere last season to really impress.
His high socks and 128 wRC+ quickly became a fan favorite and he is an above-average defender. As a left-handed batter, I imagine the outfield roster battle is between him and Frazier. However, his handiness does give him an advantage especially when he hits for a higher OPS against lefties but hit a majority of his home runs against righties.
Wade may have the bench role locked up due to his defensive versatility. Based on last year, it is Tauchman’s job to lose to Frazier…and Frazier, as mentioned earlier, will really have to impress to get a plane ticket to Baltimore.
My prediction is pretty chalk, but I see Tauchman, Gardy, Judge, left to right, with Wade on the bench and Frazier as trade bait or waiting until the inevitable wave of injuries begin as Yankee fans have unfortunately become accustomed to.
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