With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Yankees squad each day this week. Today's topic: Predicting the 25-man roster.
TAMPA, Fla. -- It is a sure bet that Yankees manager Joe Girardi will use nearly all of his available data to whittle the Opening Day roster down to 25 players, with some final decisions likely to still be up in the air when the team flies to Atlanta on March 31 for a sneak peek of the Braves' new SunTrust Park.
Considering Girardi waited until March 31 a year ago just to confirm Masahiro Tanaka as his Opening Day starter, forecasting some of the bench and bullpen jobs in camp is a tricky exercise. The skipper might not be ready to reveal much, but that doesn't mean we can't take a stab at it:
Catcher (2):Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine. Sanchez was anointed the everyday catcher even before Brian McCann was traded to the Astros in November, a move that boosted Romine's chances of sticking on the big league roster for a second consecutive season. Romine is out of Minor League options and will have to ward off Kyle Higashioka, who was added to the 40-man roster in November.
First baseman (2):Greg Bird and Chris Carter. It's likely that the Yankees will begin the year utilizing a platoon at first base, with Bird playing against most right-handers and the power-hitting Carter -- who posted a .875 OPS against lefties in 2016 -- against the southpaws. That arrangement would probably leave Tyler Austin to begin the year in Triple-A.
Second baseman (1):Starlin Castro led the Yankees in hits (156), multihit games (41) and games with at least three hits (12) last season, while tying for the team lead in RBIs (70). He hit .310 with 15 homers in 78 games at Yankee Stadium, but just .230 with six homers in 73 road games.
Third baseman (1):Chase Headley. In his second full year with the Yankees, the switch-hitting Headley batted .253 with 18 doubles and 14 homers in 140 games. After a disastrous April that saw him go without an extra-base hit, Headley batted .271 from May 9 through the end of the season.
Shortstop (1):Didi Gregorius. Taking a major step forward in his second year with New York, Gregorius set career highs in hits (155), doubles (32), homers (20), RBIs (70) and led the Yankees with 54 extra-base hits, the most by a Yankees shortstop since Derek Jeter in 2007 (55).
Utility (1): Ronald Torreyes. Torreyes proved to be a valuable spare part after winning a utility job in Spring Training, seeing time at second base, third base, shortstop and right field. Rob Refsnyder will try to get back on the radar and challenge for the job, as will Tyler Wade, who worked on his versatility in the Arizona Fall League.
Outfield (4): Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge. Gardner and Ellsbury are locks in left and center field, respectively, challenging Judge to win the right-field job. With managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner among his supporters, Judge should be able to relegate Hicks to a backup at all three positions as long as he can impact the ball with regularity. Top prospect Clint Frazier is expected to begin the year at Triple-A.
Designated hitter (1): Matt Holliday. Referred to as a "man mountain" this week by general manager Brian Cashman, Holliday is expected to be a presence in the heart of the lineup. He hit .246 (94-for-382) with 20 homers and 62 RBIs in 110 games with the Cardinals in 2016, missing 44 team games on the disabled list after fracturing his left thumb on Aug. 12. Carter could also pick up some at-bats in the DH role.
Starting pitchers (5): Tanaka, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Luis Severino, Chad Green. The first three spots are locks, and the Yankees would love to see Severino reclaim his 2015 form after telling him to skip the heavy weights and work on his flexibility over the winter. Green looked dominant at times in 12 games (eight starts), striking out 52 in 45 2/3 innings last year.