Starter: Chase Headley
Third base will be Headley’s job in 2015 and the three seasons thereafter. Acquired from San Diego in late July of last year, Headley delivered a sound performance on the field, and by all accounts, enjoyed his stint in New York. For that, he was rewarded with a four-year, $52M contract this offseason. ZiPS says that Headley will be the Yankees’ best player this year in terms of WAR (3.9) and OPS+ (111). On an individual level, that’s a very good forecast for the 30 year-old Headley. From a team perspective, offensively in particular, it’s worrisome that 111 is the highest OPS+ projected on the team — but that’s a story for another day.
Backup: Alex Rodriguez
Usually, a $52M contract makes one the highest paid player at his position on any given team. That’s not the case for the Yankees, where A-Rod is set to receive $61M through 2017. Assuming good health, Rodriguez won’t necessarily be riding the pine, though. Rodriguez will play the field sparingly, and should get the majority of his at-bats as a designated hitter, perhaps in a platoon with Garrett Jones. At this point of his career, his contract is a sunk cost. So the amount of trips to the plate he receives should correlate to his performance without consideration of salary. When A-Rod last played in 2013, he posted a .342 wOBA (113 wRC+) in 181 plate appearances. For this season, ZiPS foresees a .314 wOBA (15 homers in 407 PA, too), which is a tick better than the league average mark in 2014 (.310). It’s hard to formulate any expectations for Rodriguez, so I think the Yankees would take the ZiPS estimate in a heartbeat.
On the fringe: Dante Bichette Jr., Jonathan Galvez, Rob Segedin
Baseball is in Bichette’s blood, but it doesn’t look like his career will follow the path of his father’s. Dante Jr. cracked Double-A after spending most of 2014 with High-A Tampa, so he’ll probably return to Trenton to open this year. His power is intriguing, but his swing is a bit wild per Kiley McDaniel. Moreover, he might not be able to stick at third defensively. McDaniel places a 40 on his future value, which is about as fringy as it gets. KATOH is not a fan, estimating 1.6 WAR through age 28 (Bichette’s 22). Balancing KATOH and McDaniel’s future value forecast, Chris ranked Bichette the team’s 29th best prospect.
The other two in this group, Galvez and Segedin, are 66th and 86th respectively on our top 100. Galvez was signed to a minor-league deal this offseason. Galvez, 24, sits 66th on the list because he’s already in Triple-A (109 wRC+ last year) and has a 3.6 WAR KATOH projection through age 28. He primarily played the hot corner last season, but has experience at second base and the outfield. Don’t expect him to be one of the first infielders up in case of injury at the major league level, but he’ll be on the radar.
Segedin, the Yankees’ third-round selection in 2010, is already 26 but has hit well in the minors when healthy. Rob had a cup of tea in Triple-A last year after mashing to a 135 wRC+ with Double-A Trenton, but KATOH is bearish, predicting 0.7 WAR through age 28. That’s mostly because he was so old for Double-A last season. He’s worth keeping tabs on because he was previously a high draft pick, but there are a number of infield-types slated for Triple-A that will probably get a call-up before him, including Galvez.
The future: Eric Jagielo
Truthfully, there isn’t a great choice for this category. Headley just signed a deal that should keep him as the team’s third baseman through 2018, which would be Jagielo’s age 26 season. A lot can happen between now and 2018, but it’d be silly to confidently state that a prospect with Jagielo’s profile could push Headley aside. One might think that’s plausible for a former first round pick, but McDaniel’s report on Jagielo isn’t overwhelming (45+ FV). Yes, he was good with High-A Tampa (132 wRC+) in 85 games, but the 22 year-old has some traits that might hold him back. The one obvious positive is his plus power, but McDaniel notes that his hit tool and defense is fringy. The glovework might force him to first base, which would damage his prospect status.
Farther away: Miguel Andujar, Dermis Garcia, Nelson Gomez
Andujar, Garcia, and Gomez are ranked 11th, 36th, and 41st respectively on our top 100 Yankees’ prospects list. All three are years away from sniffing the majors, with Andujar the closest, playing at Single-A Charleston in 2014. Garcia and Gomez were recent international signees who’ve yet to play stateside.
Because Andujar is the only one with minor league experience, he’s the only guy with a KATOH projection. Miguel will be 20 in March, and might will get a bump to High-A to begin the year after holding his own with Charleston last season. He wasn’t overly impresssive (99 wRC+), but because he was just 19, KATOH is a slightly bigger fan than you might expect: 4 WAR through age 28. McDaniel slots him at 45 FV for the time being, but notes that he has plus bat speed and an above average arm.
I don’t really have anything to add on Garcia or Gomez because we really haven’t seen anything from them yet. McDaniel is most informed on the two, and he indicates that Garcia could top 30 home runs given his plus-plus raw power, while Gomez is a “hit over power” prospect. Of the two, it sounds like Gomez has a better chance at sticking at the hot corner. Both are pegged for 40 FV, although it’s still very early in the development process.