Here’s an inside look at some issues facing the Yankees as the 2024 season approaches:
Best position battle
Most of the roster looks fairly set entering camp, barring injuries of course, but there should be a good competition to help figure out how the Yankees split up playing time at catcher this season.
Jose Trevino, who has declared himself healthy from the wrist surgery that ended his season last July, seems like a good bet to catch Gerrit Cole on Opening Day.
But beyond that, how big of a role can Austin Wells seize?
After getting a September call-up last year, the left-handed hitter is entering spring training with some extra confidence.
It will be an important time for him to continue building a rapport with the Yankees’ pitching staff.
Most intriguing minor leaguer
Spencer Jones is the biggest-name prospect coming to big league camp, but Will Warren and Chase Hampton are the most important to the 2024 Yankees.
With their starting pitching depth thin, the Yankees may need Warren and Hampton to step up this year, perhaps filling the roles that Jhony Brito and Randy Vasquez played last season.
Warren appears closer to The Bronx after making 19 starts at Triple-A last year and impressing with a 3.61 ERA. Hampton, who made it to Double-A last year in his first pro season, may have an even higher ceiling with strikeout stuff, though it remains to be seen how much more development he needs in the minors.
Story to watch develop
We’ve already heard about how Carlos Rodon and Nestor Cortes reported to Tampa early and are said to be looking good physically after both had their 2023 seasons derailed by injuries.
But whether they can stay healthy, and whether they can return to top form with full health, remains to be seen.
Both left-handers are critical to the Yankees’ success, especially Rodon.
He sustained a forearm muscle strain last spring and he never got back on track the rest of the year.
Now he has a chance to start off on a better foot in Year 2 to make his six-year, $162 million contract look not quite as dubious.
The Yankees surely need it, especially after an offseason in which they were unable to reel in Japanese right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto.
Manager’s toughest challenges
The Yankees added some outspoken personalities to the fold this offseason in Alex Verdugo and Marcus Stroman.
It will be up to Aaron Boone, along with the Yankees’ clubhouse leadership, to make sure the issues that have popped up with both players in past stops do not become issues with their new team.
Boone, who is once again entering the final year of his contract (the Yankees hold a club option for 2025), will have plenty on his plate.
Most intriguing newcomer
All eyes will be on Juan Soto.
Already one of the game’s best players at the age of 25, Soto will be paired with Aaron Judge to form a dynamite duo atop the Yankees lineup.
Whether he bats before or after Judge, Soto should provide a much-needed impact bat from the left-hand side for an offense that was one of the majors’ worst last season.
Acquired from the Padres for a hefty package of players in December, Soto is entering his final season before free agency, and while a $500-plus million payday could be on the horizon, he and the Yankees have a year to see whether they want to extend their partnership.
Most notable absence
A pair of Yankees staples will not be in Tampa this spring.
For the first time since 2014, they will hold a major league spring training that does not include either Luis Severino or Kyle Higashioka.
Severino will be on the opposite coast of Florida after signing a free-agent deal with the Mets while Higashioka will get his first taste of the Cactus League after being sent to the Padres as part of the package for Soto and Trent Grisham.
While Severino and Higashioka had been engrained as part of the clubhouse for years, speaking more from a 2023 performance standpoint, the Yankees will be missing Michael King, who was set to join the rotation full-time before being moved in the Soto deal.
Don’t be surprised if it becomes an issue:
The Yankees are just one injury to any of their top five starting pitchers away from the prospect of Luke Weaver or Warren beginning the season in the big league rotation.
It was only last year that Brito started the Yankees’ third game of the season after they were decimated by injuries to their rotation during camp.
Now, after Brito, King, Vasquez and Drew Thorpe were all traded to the Padres, the Yankees’ starting depth will be tested once again.
It’s possible that Warren will prove he is ready for the opportunity or Weaver will build on his short stint with the Yankees last September.
But for now, it’s a tenuous group that also includes Cody Poteet, Luis Gil, Clayton Beeter, Yoendrys Gomez and Cody Morris.
There’s the most riding on the shoulders of Rodon, to rebound both physically and performance-wise, but he’s been covered elsewhere here.
So we’ll go with Giancarlo Stanton, a frequent flier in this category.
He missed six weeks early last season with a hamstring strain and never really looked like himself upon returning.
His production fell off and watching him run the bases was painful.
He pledged to make offseason changes and the Yankees have said that means getting leaner and lighter.
Whether that turns into a bounce-back season remains to be seen.
If not, the Yankees may be forced into a decision of what to do with Stanton (under contract through 2027) since opening up the DH spot could allow them to maximize their lineup.