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Spring Fever: Yankees infield competition heating up as Neil Walker joins camp

 

The Yankees announced on Monday they have agreed to terms with veteran infielder Neil Walker, making their second and third base competitions all the more intriguing as Spring Training continues to unfold. Walker’s one-year, $4 million deal allows the Yankees to remain flexible and continue to see what their other options bring to the table as Opening Day approaches. With Ronald Torreyes set to return as the team’s utility man, let’s take a quick look at how the potential starters have fared thus far:

Miguel Andujar

The 23-year-old is perhaps the most intriguing name on this list for several reasons. Andujar continues to crush baseballs in Spring Training, belting four home runs to go along with a .281 batting average and 1.075 OPS. The questions remain about his defense, although there have been no egregious errors in the field so far. If Andujar continues to rake and shows he can be consistent at third base, there is a possibility he will start the season with the club.

Most Likely Scenario: Adujar starts the season in the Minors and gets his shot to come off the bench and spot-start at third come June.

Gleyber Torres

The drama surrounding the next potential Yankee great is less intense because of his status with the team. If the club keeps him in the Minors at the start of the season for about a month they gain the ability to push back his free agency a full year. This is compounded by a subpar spring thus far, as well as coming off Tommy John surgery to repair his elbow. Not a good outlook for him to make the Opening Day squad. Never say never though, an unforeseen rash of injuries could force the Yankees to keep their budding superstar around, but it’s very unlikely.

Most Likely Scenario: Torres gets his number called in mid-May and serves as a spark plug — previewing his future greatness.

Tyler Wade

Wade is sneaky good. The versatile infielder is batting .292 this spring in 24 at-bats and backs that up with a .357 OBP and a steal thrown in as well. Wade is the type of player every championship team has: all the fundamentals, reliable glove, solid at-bats and can even run into a home run every so often. The problem is that Wade is surrounded by great players everywhere he looks and is perhaps the odd man out for serious playing time at second base. Don’t be surprised though if he wills his way into some games and makes an impact in 2018.

Most Likely Scenario: Wade makes the Major League roster and serves as backup at three infield positions. He shines during the dog days of summer when regular starters need a blow.

Brandon Drury

The acquisition of Drury seemingly came out of nowhere. Management until that point seemed content riding the waves of young players starting at the Major League level and banking on the likes of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton picking up the slack. In his two seasons in which he saw significant action with Arizona, he averaged 15 home runs and 55 RBIs in addition to playing a solid third base. Drury’s stock has continued to rise since coming to New York, as he currently holds a .304 batting average this Spring, and at 25-years-old appears to be strongly in the mix for a permanent position in the Yankee infield.

Most Likely Scenario: Drury is your 2018 Opening Day starting third baseman. Based on his success or failure, the Yankees will have a very tough decision to make next year if Miguel Andujar also posts big numbers.

Neil Walker

Walker to the Yankees was rumored earlier this spring, but talks died down after Drury was acquired. Brian Cashman stayed vigilant though and landed Walker at that near-luxury number of $4 million (compared to his previous number of $17 million). Walker is a professional in every sense of the word, his only bugaboo has been staying consistently healthy. The Yankees seemed to have abandoned ship on their youth movement and Walker is a great option to fill the gap until Torres is ready.

Most Likely Scenario: Walker starts in 2018, his lone Yankee campaign, providing veteran leadership and steady production.

 

You can find Chris on Twitter @CThomasRadio

 

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