Are the Yankees bold enough to name two rookies as members of their starting infield come Opening Day?
Audentes Fortuna iuvat.
The offseason trades of Starlin Castro to the Miami Marlins and Chase Headley back to the San Diego Padres have left two question marks on either side of shortstop Didi Gregorius. Second and third base have been left vacant, but the Yankees have a plethora of young talent headlined by Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar. If these two—highly regarded as the Yankees' best prospects—not only make a splash but a whole tsunami in their Spring Training auditions, should they be given the starting jobs at second and third base, respectively?
Why shouldn’t they be? Outside their own internal solutions, the free agent market is lackluster in a Hot Stove that has gone frozen. Sure, there’s Mike Moustakas, but a 29-year-old seeking a five-year contract worth $100 million doesn’t fit into the Yankees’ plan financially, nor do they want to block either Torres or Andujar’s impending arrival to the Bronx.
Chase Headley is gone, rightfully traded back to the Padres as a pure salary dump. Castro was exchanged for superstar slugger Giancarlo Stanton. Todd Frazier has traded Bronx pinstripes for Queens blue and orange, signing a multi-year deal with the Mets. Sure, Manny Machado’s name has been floating in the ether of trade rumors for some time, now, but will the Orioles trade their superstar to a division rival?
Wouldn’t it be best if the Yankees waited a year until Machado was a free agent and only cost them money and a draft pick, but not prospects?
Is there a risk for starting Torres and Andujar? Both are young, at 21 and 22 years old, respectively, and Torres has limited experience above Double-A. How does he respond to missing most of last year after undergoing elbow surgery? How much rust is there that needs to be knocked off? What about Andujar? Is he ready defensively to man the hot corner in the big leagues? He’s got a cannon of an arm, but his footwork is shoddy. Can he fix his defensive deficiencies so that his bat can contribute in a lineup loaded with big…BIG talent?
The AL East has become a two-team race, and many believe it is the Yankees’ division to lose. But the Red Sox have their own question marks in the infield: is Rafael Devers good enough to stick at third base, even if he has the potential to hit 30 home runs? How will they balance the first-base/designated hitter platoon with Mitch Moreland, Hanley Ramirez, and now JD Martinez?
It's worked before
So why not take a chance on Torres and Andujar? In 2016, the Chicago Cubs plugged a kid named Wilson Contreras at catcher, and he lit up the National League as Gary Sanchez did the same in the American League. Then there was Albert Almora, whose versatility in the outfield became a necessity in the later innings as the Cubs marched toward their first World Series title in a century.
High risk? Certainly. High reward? The highest.
That’s not to say this is a tested and proven formula. Baseball cannot be predicted. We like to act like prophets, reading the stars and tossing knuckle bones to see what the future will hold. Perhaps Torres or Andujar, or both, go down with injury and the Yankees are left scrambling to fill two voids in the dog days of August. Or each will hit at .270 clips, with anywhere between 20-30 home-runs. Stranger things have happened.
The Yankees are in a great spot. What was expected to be a rebuild ended up being a three-month trial run at the end of the 2016 season that led immediately to being one win away from the World Series a year later. Aaron Judge could be the next face of baseball. They have the reigning NL MVP in Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez is the best offensive catcher in the game. They boast one of the top farm systems in the game.
The youth movement isn’t over. Round two can begin with Torres and Andujar being the Opening Day second and third basemen. So, let the kids play! Let them prove their mettle with the most prestigious franchise in North America.
It worked before.