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Scouting report: Sizing up the 2019 Yankees

Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka during spring training

Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka during spring training photo day on Feb. 21, 2019. Photo Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

ROTATION

The Yankees will start the season with two-fifths of their rotation — Luis Severino and CC Sabathia — on the injured list. The expectation is that Sabathia, entering the final year of his career, will return by mid-to-late April and Severino will be out a bit longer — May at the earliest, according to general manager Brian Cashman. The Yankees will look to two of these three — Luis Cessa, Domingo German and Jonathan Loaisiga — to fill in. As insurance, they added lefty Gio Gonzalez, 33, but he’ll start the season in Triple A. The Yankees are confident in the depth they have but are dipping into it more quickly than they’d like.

GRADE: B

BULLPEN

For a deeper dive into the Yankees' bullpen heading into the 2019 season, see our closer look and grade here.

CATCHING

A noticeably slimmer Gary Sanchez showed up early for spring training and declared last year as being in the past. For him, yes, but fans and media will be quick to pounce if the 26-year-old resembles his 2018 self. When he wasn’t on the disabled list with a persistent right groin strain, Sanchez struggled offensively and defensively. Though 2018 was enough for some to give up on him, the organization, led by Cashman, stayed firmly in Sanchez’s corner. We’ll assume Sanchez will rebound. Backup Austin Romine, one of the leaders in the clubhouse, probably could start for half of the teams in the majors.

GRADE: A-

CORNER INFIELDERS

The Yankees spent spring training watching Luke Voit and Greg Bird battle it out for the starting job at first. Though it made their decision that much more difficult, they were pleased to see both players perform well. Miguel Andujar hit the ball hard during most of spring training, but the questions aren’t about his bat. The offseason work he did in the field was evident at times during the exhibition season, but some things can be answered only during the regular season.

GRADE: B

MIDDLE INFIELDERS

Gleyber Torres arrived for spring training a couple of weeks early, seemingly not at all interested in resting on his laurels after a successful first year in the majors. He finished third in the American League Rookie of the Year voting behind winner Shohei Ohtani and Andujar. There’s no reason to expect much of a “sophomore slump” here. The Yankees start the season banking on the health of Troy Tulowitzki, hoping the 34-year-old can be at least a sufficient replacement for Didi Gregorius, who is progressing well in his rehab from Tommy John surgery but likely won’t be back until June at the earliest.

GRADE: B-

OUTFIELD

Everything looks pretty good here, with one caveat: Centerfielder Aaron Hicks missed significant camp time with a lower-back injury that initially didn’t seem serious. Hicks, signed to a seven-year extension before the injury, appears to be blossoming into the kind of player befitting his draft status (he was taken 14th overall by the Twins in 2008), but the switch hitter spent time on the disabled list in each of his three seasons (2016-18) with the Yankees. With Jacoby Ellsbury still apparently not close to a return and Brett Gardner at this stage of his career better suited for leftfield than centerfield, any long-term injuries to Hicks could be problematic. Gardner is solid in left and will be spelled there occasionally by Giancarlo Stanton, who also will see sporadic time in right when Aaron Judge gets a day at DH or a day off completely.

GRADE: B+

DH/BENCH

The majority of DH at-bats will be taken by Stanton, whose first season in pinstripes was better than he was given credit for — a team-best 38 homers and 100 RBIs. DJ LeMahieu is a three-time Gold Glove winner at second and also will fill in at third and perhaps first as well.

GRADE: A-

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