TAMPA, Fla. — Brian Cashman has been at it too long.
Too long to be fooled by spring training. Too long to use strong March performances as predictors for the regular season.
Still, many of the young players the Yankees have been pushing and publicizing since last year’s trade deadline are off to good starts, and that, Cashman said, does beat the alternative.
“It’s been a great camp,” Cashman said Monday, an off day for the Yankees, who are 13-4 at the midway point of the Grapefruit League. “It’s been a chance to have our major-league staff get exposure to a lot of guys they’ve heard about and read about but not seen as much of. So it’s been as good a camp as you can expect. Overall as a club, we’re healthy so far. We’ve had good weather and good performance.”
Now, of course, the caveat. Many a team has been tantalized — and tricked — by games played at this time of year under the Florida or Arizona sun.
“I’m happy about it, but again, you have to keep it all in perspective,” Cashman said. “March is March. There’s a lot of volatility to March.”
But when it comes to the young players in camp performing well, “you’d rather it be that way than any other way,” he added.
Just about all of the hyped prospects — infielders Gleyber Torres, Jorge Mateo, Miguel Andujar and Tyler Wade, outfielders Dustin Fowler and Clint Frazier and pitchers Justus Sheffield and Chance Adams, to name a handful — have had their moments, some more than others.
The 20-year-old Torres, among the top prospects in the sport, was the centerpiece of the Aroldis Chapman trade with the Cubs. He has a .421/.429/.842 slash line in 12 games and is scheduled to start the year with Double-A Trenton. “He’ll be there [in the big leagues],” an opposing team talent evaluator said, “sooner than expected.”
It also has been a solid camp for young players who already have gotten a taste of the majors.
Greg Bird made a few baserunning blunders early on but has been terrific at the plate — a .400/.483/.920 slash line with three homers in 11 games — and sound in the field.
While rehabbing in the Arizona Fall League, Bird, 24, served as the DH and struggled with a .215/.346/.354 slash line and one homer.
“It’s nice that he’s doing what he’s doing, because if you saw him in the Fall League, he was healthy but not productive,” Cashman said. “Now he’s healthy and productive.”
Aaron Judge came in hoping to beat out Aaron Hicks for the starting job in rightfield amid concerns in the organization about Judge’s strikeout totals last year (42 in 82-bats). Judge, 24, has enjoyed a good spring training with a slash line of .310/.394/.586 and seven strikeouts in 29 at-bats. Cashman said that race remains a dead heat.
“He came in competing with Hicks and they’ve both played well,” he said. “May the best man win.”
There is no such uncertainty regarding catcher, a position Gary Sanchez entered camp entrenched in, though he’s approached it otherwise. “The mentality I have right now is to work as if I’m not the regular catcher,” said Sanchez, 24.
He has handled the pitching staff well and had scouts buzzing about his arm (he’s thrown out five runners) and bat (.346/.370/.769, three homers).
“He’s not taking anything for granted,” Cashman said. “He’s so talented, and he really wants to be a difference-maker. Those words kind of illuminate that fact.”