FIFTY THOUSAND MOONS

Thursday, March 10, 2016

That outfield firewall in Scranton is suddenly looking thin

It's March, early March, too soon to see omens, and - besides, you can't predict baseball, right? Nevertheless, a Rubio-like deathwatch shadow has crept over what should be one of the 2016 Yankee strengths: that seemingly inexhaustible outfield depth, which suddenly looks as thin as a coat of Windex.

For starters, Brett Gardner still hasn't taken one pitch, due to a "bone bruise" inflicted last October, back when the idea of Donald Trump winning the GOP nomination was a late night punch line. In Gardy's rare 100 percent healthy moments, we love the man. But don't we fear the banjo-hitting mediocrity he becomes at 75 percent? Add the universal certainty that Jacoby Ellsbury is a break, a strain, a tweak or a tear waiting to flare up - and that leaves Carlos Beltran patrolling RF with less mobility than the statue of George Steinbrenner - and thus, the need for OF depth has never cried more loudly.

So... let's listen together... shhhh...

Right now, Aaron Hicks - "the Small Aaron" - is the Yankee OF firewall. Yesterday, he went 1-3 with a double. He switch hits and plays CF. Last year - his third shot at the Twins - Hicks seemed to finally figure out MLB pitching: He hit .256 with 11 HR. Cashman traded for him, and - thus, the franchise is invested in him. Let's hope.

Behind Hicks, it's been ugly. Slade Heathcott is having a terrible spring. He is 0-10 with six strikeouts. His lone positive molecule of play came in Game 2, when he drew a walk. Heathcott is one of the most intriguing Yankees, with a rare unknown ceiling. But unless he breaks out, he's ticketed for Year II in Scranton, at age 25. Last year, he hit .267 with 2 HRs down there. Time is running out.

Joining him in Scranton will be Mason Williams, the roller coaster ride who is still healing from a shoulder injury from last year - so he's out - and Ben Gamel, another Scrantonian who hit his way onto the Yankee roster. Gamel, thus far, is 2-7 on the spring, both singles.

Of course, the guy we all wanted to tear up Tampa is "the Big Aaron" - Aaron Judge, who hit a three-run HR last week to win a game. Unfortunately, he is now 1-10 with six strikeouts. Let's face it: His Scranton ticket is punched. The Yankees viewed him as a player who needs to play every day. One for 10 means he's done.

There are others - most notably a 26-year-old scrap heap acquisition named Lane Adams, who is 3-7 with 2 RBIs and a stolen base. He bats RH, which gives him a better shot. But hey - if we're down to Adams, it means injuries have reduced us to stems and seeds, and that was not supposed to be the case - at least not this early.

Of course, that's the good part: It is this early. We're in the phase of spring training when Zolio Almonte used to turn heads. If Heathcott goes 3-3 tomorrow, who cares about his first few games? On the 10th of March, Julius Caesar was still kicking, and so is Heathcott. Just don't say the omens were not there.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

PLEASE LORD, PLEASE DON'T LET US GET THAT SINKING FEELING THAT JUDGE WON'T BE ABLE TO CUT IT.....PLEASE!.........AND C'MON SANCHEZ!.....DO SOMETHING!!!!! .......NONE OF OUR PROSPECTS EVER GRAB THE BULL BY THE BALLS IN SPRING TRAINING, AND EVEN IF THEY DO, WE SHIP 'EM OFF TO SCRANTON ANYWAY......... OH..WHAT'S THE USE?!!