5 Players to Watch For the Yankees in Spring Training

With spring training right around the corner, we’re taking a look at some players to watch when camps open. Here, in no special order, are a few New York Yankees we might want to keep an eye on.

Luis Severino

He turns 22 this month, has had success at every minor-league stop over four seasons, and pitched well in eleven games last season for the big club. The Yankees’ rotation is mostly comprised of string, ice packs, and much finger-crossing, so Severino’s ascension would be a huge boost for the team. He pitched 161 total innings last season at three different levels, and with arm injuries now so common among younger pitchers, the Yankees would be wise to push him slowly.

Nathan Eovaldi

The other promising young pitcher in the team’s rotation (Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda no longer really count), Eovaldi has long shown much promise but has yet to put it all together. He’s still only 25 and is a hard thrower with four full seasons under his belt, but this could be a make-or-break year for him. He’s only 29-38 for his career (and that’s after going 14-3 last season). Wins don’t really mean so much, so let’s look at his career ERA. It’s 4.10. Okay, still not so good. Hmm, how about WHIP? It’s  1.40 for his career. Yeah, he’s really got to fulfill that promise soon.

Alex Rodriguez/Mark Teixeira

They are together here because they are really two sides of one aging and oft-injured coin. Neither was expected to deliver much last season – A-Rod for being a 40-year-old coming off a one-year unpaid vacation with surgically repaired hips, and Teixeira for aging and being nearly as injury-prone as the great Carl Pavano – but both surprised greatly.

Rodriguez managed to hit 33 home runs and drive in 86 runs, well above what most projections had for him. However, he faded badly as the year progressed and batted just .216 in the second half. He still has two more years left on that ridiculous contract that Hank Steinbrenner gave him, so he’ll be out there. The question is how much he can still contribute.

Teixeira will be in his age-36 season and his body is probably much older than that by now. This walking medical encyclopedia had a terrific bounce-back season with 31 homers until a shin fracture ended his campaign in early September. All eyes will be on him to see what he’s got left. With young first baseman Greg Bird now out for the season, it’s imperative for the Yankees that Teixeira comes up big this year. The team’s trainer will undoubtedly be watching him closely.

Brett Gardner

The Yankee with the longest continuous service to the team, Gardner will be 32 this season, a perilous age for an outfielder with good speed and sporadic power. There were rumors the Yankees were trying to trade him over the offseason, but he’ll be staying out in left field. Last season he played much better at home than on the road. After a scorching June, he batted .247 in July, .208 in August and .198 in September. These issues could be signs of decline or they could be flukes, but either way, Gardner bears some watching in spring training.

Aaron Hicks

Hicks had somewhat of a breakout season with the Minnesota Twins last season and on paper is a terrific addition to this team. At 26 years old he has some pop, some speed, is a great defensive player, and can play all three outfield positions. That’s important on a team with a starting outfield of Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury (32 years old, coming off another injury, and carrying two straight years of offensive declines) and Carlos Beltran, who is coming off a pretty good year but can’t change the fact that he’s entering his age-39 season and has a lot of mileage on his legs. Hicks could be a key for this team in filling in gaps if (when?) one of the starters goes down, and he’ll be watched early to make sure his 2015 season is his new normal.

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