Restoring the rosters: No. 5 – New York Yankees

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This is part of a series of articles examining what every team’s roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I’m compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1.
No. 30 – Cincinnati
No. 29 – Kansas City
No. 28 – San Diego
No. 27 – Milwaukee
No. 26 – Baltimore
No. 25 – Chicago (AL)
No. 24 – Chicago (NL)
No. 23 – Pittsburgh
No. 22 – Detroit
No. 21 – Tampa Bay
No. 20 – New York (NL)
No. 19 – Houston
No. 18 – Oakland
No. 17 – St. Louis
No. 16 – Florida
No. 15 – San Francisco
No. 14 – Texas
No. 13 – Cleveland
No. 12 – Minnesota
No. 11 – Arizona
No. 10 – Los Angeles (AL)
No. 9 – Toronto
No. 8 – Boston
No. 7 – Colorado
No. 6 – Montreal/Washington
Things couldn’t have gone any differently for the franchises over the last 15 years, but in these rankings, the Yankees follow the Nationals and come in at No. 5.
Rotation
Andy Pettitte
Joba Chamberlain
Phil Hughes
Chien-Ming Wang
Jose Contreras
Bullpen
Mariano Rivera
Russ Springer
Phil Coke
Tyler Clippard
Manny Acosta
David Robertson
Jeff Karstens
The staff definitely lacks depth, but there’s a reliable veteran to top the rotation, three very good arms behind him and then the greatest closer ever to finish it all off.
Of course, I am giving Chamberlain, Hughes and Wang quite a bit of credit here. Chamberlain and Hughes still haven’t proven much at all as starters, and Wang hasn’t resembled a major league pitcher since the first half of 2008. I’m pretty much rating them all as No. 3 starters for my purposes. Perhaps it’s a bit of reach, but the talent is obviously there for the youngsters to go beyond that and Wang may yet get back to that level.
If he doesn’t, well, there’s always Kei Igawa.
Lineup
SS Derek Jeter
1B Nick Johnson
C Jorge Posada
DH Hideki Matsui
LF Alfonso Soriano
2B Robinson Cano
RF Juan Rivera
3B Mike Lowell
CF Melky Cabrera
Bench
INF Cristian Guzman
OF Brett Gardner
OF Marcus Thames
C Dioner Navarro
Now that’s a whole lot better. It’s still not quite as potent as the current Yankee lineup, but it ranks right up there with the top lineups in these rankings. There are plenty of lineup options with such a group, but I’ve chosen to concentrate the OBP at the top of the order and the run producers at the bottom. Soriano is the wild card. Fifth would seem to be the right spot for him if he rebounded to his 2008 performance. With the way he’s played this year, he belongs in the eighth or ninth spot.
Summary
The Yankees’ lofty rating could be considered a testament to an organization that has had one top-20 draft pick since 1993 (C.J. Henry, No. 17 in 2005), but there’s also a lot that needs to be owed to luck. The 39-year-old Rivera, the 35-year-old Jeter and the 38-year-old Posada are freaks. They’re as good or better now than they were 10 years ago, and that simply wasn’t supposed to happen. With Lowell, Matsui and even Springer also playing key roles, the Yankees are getting more value here from old players than any other team.
In this case, that’s enough to overcome the team’s late-90s, early-2000s dry spell as far as producing talent, particularly through the draft. Recent years have seen the farm system become more productive, and the team currently boasts one of the game’s very best prospects in Jesus Montero.

Aledmys Diaz is trying to improve his defense with strobe glasses

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MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been sporting a new look around Busch Stadium with a pair of “strobe glasses,” technology-enhanced specs designed to help athletes focus on the ball. Like a strobe light, the lenses of these glasses affect a player’s vision by rapidly changing opacity, giving its wearers the illusion that the objects they see are moving more slowly than normal. Once a player adjusts to the new speed of play, they gain a greater sense of control and are able to time their actions with more precision.

Diaz isn’t the first MLB player to utilize the technology, just the first Cardinals’ player to do so. It’s been tested by Bryce Harper, Corey Brown, Tommy Joseph, Austin Hedges and Joe Mauer, among others around the league, and has been used for everything from refining a catcher’s reflexes behind the plate to tweaking a hitter’s ability to track a pitch. Per Langosch, Diaz has been using the glasses to hone in on the ball during pregame drills, increasing both his confidence and response time on the field and improving his defense at short.

The shortstop has been the focus of some concern this season after seeing a sizable dip in his production at the plate, and his five fielding errors, 0.6 UZR and 0.6 fWAR haven’t helped matters, either. He sustained a minor thumb injury during an at-bat on Friday night, and was left off of the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Saturday, though manager Mike Matheny didn’t rule out his ability to pinch-hit during the series. While the strobe glasses are a good start, Diaz will need more than a pair of specs to match the spotlight-worthy performance he turned out during his rookie season in 2016.

Eduardo Rodriguez could rejoin the Red Sox rotation in July

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Red Sox’ left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez may finally get a chance at cracking the rotation again, assuming all goes well in Double-A Portland first. Rodriguez took the field prior to the club’s afternoon session with the Angels, firing 68 pitches in a simulated game as he prepared for an upcoming rehab assignment in Portland on Thursday.

The 24-year-old southpaw suffered a right knee subluxation during pregame warmups on June 1, and it’s been a slow path to recovery ever since. It’s not the first time Rodriguez has had issues with his right knee — he sustained a similar injury during spring training last year — and this time around, the Red Sox weren’t about to gamble with their starter’s health. Ian Browne of MLB.com reports that Rodriguez was put in a knee brace and underwent exercises designed to help him regain some mobility and stability while he worked back up to full strength on the mound.

He’ll still need to prove he can throw a 75- to 80-pitch outing in Double-A, and barring any significant setbacks, will likely rejoin the Red Sox’ pitching staff when they visit the Rangers next month. In the meantime, the club will continue to cycle starters through the No. 5 spot, which has seen no fewer than three different pitchers since Rodriguez hit the disabled list. The lefty is 4-2 in 10 starts this season after logging a 3.54 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and career-high 9.6 SO/9 through his first 61 innings.