TAMPA, Fla. -- New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi has noticed the young talent this spring has jumped from low tide to high tide. And he has put everyone on notice.
"In a sense, everyone’s job in here is in jeopardy in a year, two years," he said. "That is the quality of player that we have in camp. People are starting to pass people up."
Who is most likely to swipe jobs, and who is most likely to lose them? It might not happen this season or at all, but Girardi doesn’t make a statement like that unless he means it. If young players continue to perform and old ones don't, there could be changes.
For now, we're not including youngsters Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird and Aaron Judge. Sanchez, barring an injury, will be the starting catcher, and Bird and Judge have the inside track to break camp as starters as well, at first base and right field, respectively. In our minds, they're already in.
Here are five potential Yankees stars of the future, and whom they could replace.
On the way up: Gleyber Torres, SS, 2B
The bottom line: Of all the players GM Brian Cashman acquired in the Purge of 2016, many feel that Torres is the closest to being a can't-miss prospect. After winning the Arizona Fall League MVP, Torres, 20, has not slowed down in his first Yankees camp.
His personality and makeup seem to match his ability. He started playing when he was 4 years old, as a center fielder, then moved to shortstop as a 7-year-old, and he has been there ever since.
Still, the Yankees are working him at both shortstop and second base this spring. He is expected to start at Double-A Trenton. If he dominates there and then at Triple-A, it wouldn't be a shock to see him with the big club at some point this year. A native of Venezuela, Torres grew up rooting for Omar Vizquel. At 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, he projects to hit for more power.
Although the Yankees liked what Castro brought last year, there are questions about his ability to get on base and make the right baseball decisions. Gregorius would seem safer, at the moment, because he could keep improving and become an All-Star. If not, Torres is waiting.
On the way up: Jorge Mateo, SS, 2B, CF
Job in jeopardy: Castro, Gregorius, Jacoby Ellsbury
Bottom line: A year ago, Mateo was the Yankees' next big shortstop. However, he was suspended two weeks last season for still unspecified reasons, though a source said it was nothing illegal. Bottom line: The Yankees didn't like how he was going about his business and wanted to correct it early.
This spring, Mateo is paying attention to the details, according to Tim Naehring, the Yankees' vice president of baseball operations. If he continues down that path, Mateo could be back on the fast track. He's still just 21, and the Yankees have him playing three positions.
Something to keep in mind: With all of the Yankees' options, it's an advantage to be able to freely move around the infield. The Yankees have added center field to Mateo’s résumé, too, which could make him another contender to replace Ellsbury -- relatively soon.
“He’s probably the best athlete in our organization,” Naehring said.
No doubt, Mateo has improved his stock this camp.
On the way up: Clint Frazier, OF
Job in jeopardy: Ellsbury, Judge, Brett Gardner
Bottom line: The Yankees are probably hoping for another Gary Sanchez-like experience with Frazier. It seems almost unfathomable that a year ago, Sanchez was nearly handed the backup catcher job but was so poor in camp that he lost it to Austin Romine.
The vibe around Frazier is only so-so, with his attitude and his sideshow quality. Veteran Matt Holliday has been advising Frazier, who recently cut his red hair to remove one potential distraction. Frazier, just 22, has not totally shown the “legendary bat speed” hyped by Cashman after he made the trade.
Frazier said he is learning. “I think a lot of things. How to be a better teammate, how to be a better Christian man, how to fit in with guys, how to talk to them," he said. "A lot of guys have taken me under their wing. It has benefited me in a lot of different ways in my life, not just on the field but off the field. Guys have been good father figures to me while I’m at my home away from home."
Frazier is expected to begin at Triple-A, which means that if he gets off to a hot start, he could take MLB starts away from Judge, Ellsbury and/or Gardner rather quickly.
On the way up: Justus Sheffield, LHP
Job in jeopardy: The starting rotation
Bottom line: Sheffield is unlikely to make the majors this year, but Cashman is quick to point out that he and Frazier were the must-haves in the Andrew Miller trade. Sheffield grew up in Tennessee, and his favorite pitcher was Vanderbilt’s David Price. Sheffield can mimic Price’s motion to the plate.
Although a lefty, Sheffield is different than Price, who is 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, whereas Sheffield is just 5-10, 195 pounds. Sheffield was only at Class A last year, but the buzz around him is loud, and the Yankees think they might have a future standout.
“Wherever I start, that is where I will start, but the goal obviously at the end of the year is to be up higher than the level I was at,” Sheffield said. “The overall goal is to make it to the big leagues.”
On the way up: Tyler Wade, SS, 2B, 3B, 1B, OF
Job in jeopardy: The bench guys
Bottom line: Naerhing compared Wade to Ben Zobrist. Wade added 10 to 15 pounds this year and is playing all over the diamond. For another franchise, Wade might be the future shortstop, but for the Yankees, he could be a super-utility player in the mold of Zobrist or Tony Phillips.
As a kid, he looked up to Derek Jeter and has been thrilled to meet him a couple of times. Wade made it to Double-A last year, so a ticket to the majors is a possibility this season. He could be a very useful bench player in the future, as the Yankees try to become younger.
Best of the rest: This is why the Yankees’ future looks really good. You could easily keep going and going with this list, even if you leave first-rounder Blake Rutherford off the board because he isn't in big league camp yet. Here are five more names to keep in mind:
Billy McKinney, a 22-year-old left-handed-hitting outfielder, has drawn raves from Girardi. He was once a top prospect but was included in the Aroldis Chapman trade. McKinney was the 24th overall pick in the 2013 draft. ... Miguel Andujar, another 22-year-old, has a chance to arrive in The Show if he excels and/or Chase Headley is hurt or struggles. Alex Rodriguez praised Andujar during his stay in camp. ... Three pitchers to watch are righties Chance Adams and James Kaprielian and lefty Jordan Montgomery. All three could be in the majors this year, though Kaprielian, coming off a flexor tendon injury, must prove he can stay healthy. If he can, scouts believe he could be at least a mid-rotation guy.