When the off-season began there were questions about whether or not the New York Yankees would truly enter the season with rookies at two key infield positions. Ideas and rumors would speculate about a return to the Bronx for the kid from Tom’s River New Jersey Todd Frazier. However, as the off-season progressed it seemed less and less likely that a reunion could be mutually agreed upon. Ultimately Frazier signed with the cross town rival New York Mets.
Then as spring training rolled around “the kids” were given their chance. An opportunity was had to prove they were ready to man the positions of second and third base at the Major League level. Gleyber Torres the Yankees top prospect and Miguel Andujar the Yankees number six prospect, were and still are considered the second and third basemen of the future. But they were given a chance to prove that their time is now. That they not only can produce offensively on the MLB level but also be a viable Major League caliber defender at those positions. This Spring the competition for the openings at second and third base have been intense a 6 man competition that has been discussed a few times on this site including yesterday’s piece about Tyler Wade another man in the competition.
However, the Yankees made news yesterday as they signed free agent Neil Walker to a $5 million dollar one year deal. This move along with the trade for Brandon Drury (just before Spring Training) almost solidify that Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar will begin the season in the minors. This move provides the Yankees with even more depth and versatility, having several players on the roster and in the minors that can “plug and play” as Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman like to say.
Walker split time between the New York Mets and the Milwaukee Brewers while also spending time on the disabled list. Walker amassed 14 homeruns and 49 rbi’s to go along with a .265/.362/.439 and an OPS+ of 111 (league average is 100) across 111 games. The signing of Walker gives the Yankees the ability to allow their young players more time to mature. And once the young players have established that they are ready Walker can easily transition to a backup role. Neil has played some first and third base but is primarily a second baseman. His versatility will serve him and the Yankees well.
This move has and will cost the other players that were apart of the initial competitions at second and third base the potential starting jobs. Danny Espinosa was released and Kyle Holder was reassigned to minor league camp, and these will not be the last “cuts” made now that Neil Walker is on board the Yankee roster. Walker should be a nice addition for the New York Yankees, his presence in the bottom half of the Yankees lineup should help the lineup to be able to turn over and continually have pressure on opposing pitchers. And with Walker being a switch hitter and there being a short porch in right field a 20 homerun campaign for Walker is not out of the realm of possibility. Look for Walker to hit 8th or 9th in the order and provide some veteran at bats. This signing just shows that the Yankees General Manager has a plan for this team. This signing still leaves a lot of room for the Yankees under the luxury tax threshold. So should another need arise look for Cashman to have another value move up his sleeves.