Here is a list and a brief synopsis on the players the Yankees are inviting to spring training camp.
Remember that 40-man roster players automatically are invited to camp. If you are wondering where a top prospect like Deivi Garcia is, he is on the 40-man roster so he doesn’t get this kind of “invite”.
The odds are against any of these players making the big-league roster out of camp as the Yankees’ roster is full and doesn’t feature anyone they are likely looking to cut. Injuries can change things. That is especially true if Gary Sanchez or Kyle Higashioka can’t make it out of camp. Let us hope that is not the case.
RHP Domingo Acevedo – Once one of the Yankees’ most intriguing pitching prospects, Acevedo slipped off the 40-man roster last August, only to be re-signed to a minor league contract. There is no pressure on Acevedo at this point – if he can regain his lost velocity and take a step forward with his breaking pitch, maybe he can resurrect his career. As is, he will provide some depth in Triple-A.
OF Trey Amburgey – The right-handed hitting Amburgey (drafted by the Yankees in 2015) can play all three outfield positions (though you probably want to limit his center field exposure). He has increased his home run output in each of the last four years, going from two to 14 to 16 to 22. He doesn’t walk much and his strikeouts are on the high side – but the power may be real and he could fill in a backup OF role if needed.
LHP Luis Avilan – The veteran has pitched in 444 major league games with the type of mixed results you would expect from pitchers of his ilk. The three-batter rule will affect his ability to stick in MLB, though we have to remember that the rule only applies within the current inning. Avilan will also be hurt by MLB restricting September rosters. Left-handed specialists also appear on rosters come September. Now, those slots will be less available.
C Kellin Deglan – When spring training begins, there are always going to be a lot of catchers hanging around. The 27-year old Deglan has been in the system for the past two years, playing games for all full-season leagues. Last season, he was exclusive to Trenton and Scranton, hitting .257/.329/.426 in 277 plate appearances.
1B Chris Gittens – Have power, will travel. The reigning Eastern League MVP cranked 23 home runs in 115 games in 2019, playing for a team (Trenton) that has a ballpark that is very tough on power hitters. He may have hit 30 if he was playing in Triple-A. Gittens is cheap power with plate discipline mixed in. It will be hard to crack the Yankees’ first base/DH rotation, but he will be a phone call away if injuries pop up again.
OF Zack Granite – If the “Flintstones” is the first thing you think of when you see this name, you aren’t the first one. The Flintstones were known for their “stone age” versions of MLB heroes. Anyway, Granite has 40 games of MLB experience (Twins, 2017). In those 40 games, he did walk (12) more times than he struck out (9).
RHP David Hale – The Yankees experimented with Hale in 2019, trying to use analytics to improve his performance. He pitched well for the Yankees as a middle reliever and will be in the mix again to earn some MLB time during the season. The ultimate shuttle reliever who has shown the ability to get MLB hitters out. The fact that the Yankees keep asking him back also makes me wonder if they see a future coach or scout in him.
UTIL Rosell Herrera – Herrera brings 149 games of MLB experience to camp, compiling a .225/.286/.316 batting line over 421 plate appearances. He has played all over the field in those games – the only positions he has not played are catcher, first base, and pitcher.
SS Kyle Holder – I list him as a shortstop because he has an all-world glove at shortstop and his value diminishes if you take him off the position. That said, Holder can also play anywhere on the infield and catch anything that is in his vicinity. The once-controversial first-round pick has shown some signs with his bat, making him a player you can see filling a utility role in MLB. Brendan Ryan could be a decent comparison if the bat can stay steady (Ryan was not a good MLB hitter – but he was still just good enough to last a long time)
C Chris Iannetta – The biggest competition to Kyle Higashioka‘s job (though I don’t expect him to win it), Iannetta has plenty of big-league experience, compiling 4,253 plate appearances over a career that spans 14 seasons. He has reached double digits in home runs in seven of those seasons and can also draw some walks. The downside? He is getting older and his last two offensive seasons have been dreary.
C Erik Kratz – A fan-favorite wherever he goes, Kratz is hoping to never make it back to MLB with the Yankees because he is 2-for-2 in his career for the Bombers. I am kidding, but Kratz is going to be invaluable for all the young pitchers both in camp and in Scranton during the 2020 season.
LHP Tyler Lyons – Not only did Lyons pitch in 11 regular-season games for the Yankees, but he was also on the postseason roster against the Twins and Astros. In 1.2 scoreless postseason innings, he struck out four batters. He did his job and that was enough for the Yankees to invite him back.
OF Thomas Milone – The 25-year old outfielder has some speed to burn and can play center field. He has not made it past Double-A yet (and only has 28 games of experience there). He was signed out of the Tampa Bay organization, where he was drafted in the 3rd round back in 2013. Good depth piece to have around due to his center field experience.
RHP Dan Otero – Otero doesn’t fit the typical Yankees’ bullpen profile, as this is not a pitcher who is coming at you with 99 MPH heat. He was at his best as a member of the 2016/2017 Indians, where he compiled a 2.14 ERA (2.93 FIP) in 114 games with strong ground-ball and walk rates. The numbers haven’t been as pretty since, though he still maintains his ability to throw strikes.
C Wynston Sawyer – You never heard of him? Join the club. He has been around since 2010, playing in the Orioles, Dodgers, and Twins organizations. He is the ultimate spring training depth piece who can help rove around the minor leagues.
RHP Clarke Schmidt – Schmidt’s stock has risen at a rate comparable to Tesla’s, as fans have started to flock towards his potential. I am one of those fans, and I think Schmidt has a good chance to debut in 2020 (the 40-man roster thing will make that more difficult, but sometimes talent forces decisions). Schmidt was drafted by the Yankees in the first round despite needing surgery. That strategy didn’t work with Andrew Brackman, but Schmidt held his own and then some in his first full professional season in 2019.
C Josh Thole – Famous for handling R.A. Dickey‘s knuckleball, Thole hasn’t played in an MLB game since 2016. The Yankees don’t have any knuckleballers for him to work with, so 2020 may not be much different for his MLB prospects. Thole was a decent enough offensive performer for the Mets between 2009-2011 but he is here because the Yankees need bodies.
RHP Nick Tropeano – Tropeano may intrigue because he can start. 39 of his 42 MLB appearances have been as a starter, and he pitched well for the Angels back in 2016. After missing all of 2017 due to Tommy John Surgery, Tropeano has not been effective upon his return. We see these types of veterans in the system every year – you don’t want to see them on the rubber in an MLB game, but there is always that chance that an emergency will arise.
RHP Alexander Vizcaino – Vizcaino EARNED this opportunity. Heading into 2019, he had exactly one game of full-season level experience (Charleston, where he only threw four innings). He started to make some waves in 2019, compiling a 4.38 ERA in 115 innings with a rather impressive 128/38 K/BB ratio while pitching for Charleston and Tampa. His strikeout rate spiked and his changeup has developed into an elite pitch that can probably play right now in the big leagues. As is, he gets to soak in the experience of spring training camp before getting ready to develop his skills further down in the minors. I assume he is going to Trenton.