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The Yankees’ future is so bright … but Sir Didi had to bring shade – Yankees Blog


TAMPA, Fla. — The 2017 Yankees aren’t the 1996 Yankees or, for that matter, the 2019 Yankees, who could be something special. This year’s club is probably right in the middle, just another team that could have a good season if they catch some breaks — or an ugly one if they don’t.

Nearly every day this spring training, you can see the future and feel the giddiness emanating from Yankees officials about what might be. Even manager Joe Girardi has gotten into the act, comparing this developing group of Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres, Greg Bird and Justus Sheffield favorably with the talent level of the early ’90s development of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada.

“I look at where we are now as an organization and, obviously, I wasn’t here when the Bernies and the Jorges were [first] here, [but] this is a pretty impressive group and I [wonder], ‘Could this group be better than that group?'” Girardi said last week. “I don’t know. There are some really talented players. That group has got Hall of Famers everywhere and if they are not Hall of Famers, then they are right next to a Hall of Famer.”

The 2017 Yankees don’t have a lot of Hall of Famers. In fact, at present, no one is going to Cooperstown. That is why this is a bridge season. It is also why the crack in the middle of the foundation is so significant. The ’17 Yankees need some breaks.

Instead, starting shortstop Didi Gregorius is expected to miss a quarter of the season, give or take a few weeks. Even though the Yankees have the deepest group of shortstops in the game, they do not have tremendous options for this season. Their standout shortstops have one thing in common — they have never played above Double-A. This is the group, and where each player is likely to start 2017:

  1. Gleyber Torres (Double-A)

  2. Jorge Mateo (Single-A)

  3. Tyler Wade (Triple-A)

  4. Wilkerman Garcia (Single-A)

  5. Hoy Jun Park (Single-A)

  6. Kyle Holder (Single-A)

Wade is the only one in contention to replace Sir Didi and would have to be pushed to the big leagues without ever fielding a Triple-A grounder. The Yankees like Wade a lot, but, because of their depth at shortstop, they’re trying to transform him into a Ben Zobrist-type. It is not a given that Wade can hit major league pitching, though his defense is probably ready for The Show.

This new crack in the Yankees’ core is why Girardi looked so pained Tuesday afternoon, talking about another World Baseball Classic injury. The WBC will crown another champion soon, but the definite losers of the last two events have been the Yankees.

In 2013, Mark Teixeira hurt his wrist swinging off a tee at the preseason tournament. This year it was Gregorius straining a shoulder muscle. Teixeira’s injury hamstrung the Yankees for two years. Both may have happened anyway, but the two players upping their training to play in competitive games cannot be ruled out as a factor.

The Yankees couldn’t afford to lose Gregorius, who if he had improved as much as last year and hadn’t gotten hurt, might have been an All-Star in 2017. If the Yankees are going to be a playoff team this season, they needed Gregorius to progress. Now, they will have to hope for others to step forward. But, who?

The starting pitching is Masahiro Tanaka and a bunch of questions. Michael Pineda has endless potential but has never put a full season together. CC Sabathia will see if he can make his conversion into a modern-day Andy Pettitte a full-time thing.

The last two spots? Who knows? From the group that includes Luis Severino, Bryan Mitchell, Luis Cessa, Adam Warren and Chad Green, not one guy has taken control of the fourth or fifth spot. Though the bullpen with Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances figures to be pretty good, it is wait-and-see how many leads they will be handed.

If you take Gregorius out of the lineup and put, let’s say Wade or Ronald Torreyes in, this is what Girardi could trot out in Tampa against Chris Archer on April 2.

  1. Brett Gardner, LF

  2. Sanchez, C

  3. Bird, 1B

  4. Matt Holliday, DH

  5. Starlin Castro, 2B

  6. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF

  7. Chase Headley, 3B

  8. Aaron Judge, RF

  9. Torres/Wade, SS

It is not a great lineup, even with Gregorius in it. Without him, it is worse, and the five-tool replacements aren’t ready yet. There are probably brighter days in the future, though the Yankees still have to live in the present.

It is a whole lot harder with Gregorius scheduled to miss about a quarter of the season. Maybe it won’t cost them a spot in the playoffs, but, to borrow one of the manager’s pet phrases, it’s not what you want.

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