Ultimately, World Series contenders are evaluated based on the roster it can field on any given night and how well said roster performs come October. New York will go nowhere if Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury fail to “set the table” or if Alex Rodriguez, Brian McCann and Mark Teixeira can’t figure out how to drive them in. Last season, it all fell apart because Tex was lost for the year, A-Rod thought it was October in September and Gardner and Ellsbury never seemed to get over injuries.
When four of the five most important hitters in the lineup stopped hitting, the Yankees’ offense became almost non-existent culminating in a shutout at home in the wildcard play-in while Masahiro Tanaka pitched a respectable game and looked on helplessly.
But you can also tell a lot about a team based on what isn’t on the field every night. Major League ready depth is an important “side dish” to a Champion “entree”. Having strong backups are important because of injury and can also be a good indicator of the future.
If the Yankees’ projected startling lineup ceased to exist, this would be the “B” lineup ready to take its place.
Projected Starting lineup in 2016:
The “B” Lineup:
C: Gary Sanchez – He’s unlikely to be MLB ready as a starter in April, but he’s likely more of an impact than Austin Romine, even present day. Sanchez is likely to take over as the everyday catcher in 2018, with an excellent shot at being the backup catcher this season.
1B: Greg Bird- While it’s unlikely Bird will be on the MLB roster out of Spring Training, he would immediately be the first in line if Teixeira went down. As proven in 2015, Bird is MLB ready with the glove and bat, but until A-Rod or Teixeira goes down, he will continue to season himself in AAA until September.
2B: Rob Refsnyder- Another one likely to be on the roster anyway, but Refsnyder would be the everyday player at second base if Castro missed extended time. The 23-year-old has already proven he has a MLB caliber bat and improving glove, but doesn’t match the upside of Castro, who was acquired earlier this winter.
3B: Dustin Ackley – He can really be plugged in to most positions as a backup but third base would be the hardest for the Yankees to plug a new player into and New York has enough outfield depth where Ackley would be more needed here. Ackley can play numerous positions, including third base and would be at a minimum, a short term fix if anything happened to Headley (excluding moving Castro to third full-time and starting Refsnyder, which would be another option).
SS: Pete Kozma – The obvious choice here is moving Castro from short to second and playing Refsnyder, but for the sake of no Yankees’ starters existing, Kozma is the only other legitimate shortstop on the MLB roster outside of Ackley, Castro and Gregorius. Ironically, the Yankees are completely loaded with shortstops in the farm system in general, but all of them are in the lower levels and an afterthought when it comes to immediately plugging in for MLB talent. Kozma played for the Cardinals from 2012-2015 and is still only 27-years-old. He does not have a consistently MLB caliber bat.
LF: Aaron Hicks- New York has five or six potential major league caliber outfielders by the end of 2016, but four of them play center field (Hicks included) and the other two, Aaron Judge and Ben Gamel, are not as MLB ready. Hicks will be on the 25-man roster on Opening Day barring injury. Though he is a center fielder, Which Ellsbury signed long-term, Hicks is likely going to play the corners in real life anyway and certainly has the athleticism to handle left field in this scenario.
CF: Lane Adams – You can argue Mason Williams, Hicks or Slade Heathcott here, but i’ll go with Adams, who is oldest of the bunch and likely has the most upside behind Hicks, who we plugged into left field already. Adams is 26 and might be the first one called up in the case of an outfield need, basically making him an honorary “26th” man for the time being. He would definitely get first shot at center.
RF: Mason Williams- Another situation where there are numerous options. You could move Adams or Hicks into right field instead (I’m keeping them in center and left respectively), you could go with Heathcott over Williams, or you can even elect to use Aaron Judge and take your chances he’s MLB ready even though he struggled in AAA last season. I’ll go with Williams, who has the defensive ability to play center and would be a plus defender in right. I like him over Heathcott because he can play everyday and I like him over Judge because I would still want to keep my top asset in his proper development.