The Yankees left field position battle sees an interesting development
The New York Yankees’ left field position is still up for grabs. Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Cabrera, and Estefan Florial are all vying for the starting job, despite Cabrera playing several positions during spring training. The Yankees are trying to maximize his value, suggesting Cabrera play a useful role rather than take over the LF starting job full-time.
The Bombers have been getting Floreal some reps and speculators, but he sometimes seems lost. Hicks, on the other hand, enjoyed eight at-bats this spring, recording two hits and a run. He didn’t do anything too dramatic, though he hoped for noticeable changes after adjusting his hitting stance. One player under the radar, Rafael Ortega, makes a powerful push to the left position.
The Yankees were trying to get Ortega playing time this spring, and he didn’t disappoint about his small sample size.
“He’s one of those guys we want to get a look at a lot of,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone.
Yankees should consider Rafael Ortega as a legitimate LF option:
Across seven batters, Ortega recorded two hits, including a home run, a triple, three RBIs, and a run. 286 with .375 OBP at 31 years old. Ortega comes from the Chicago Cubs, and played in 118 games last season. 241 with .331 OBP, seven homers, and 35 RBI.
However, his 2021 season was stellar, as he hit . 291 with a 0.360 OBP, 11 homers, and 33 RBI with 12 stolen bases. If he can repeat those numbers, he deserves to win the left hand job, even if his defense is a regular player. Hicks is by no means an excellent defender, so Ortega could make a strong case to be the Opening Day starter.
“I feel good now in where I am because I learned a lot from those ups and downs,” Ortega said. “When you go down, you get better at something you need to get better at. It has helped me so much to be here with this new opportunity with the Yankees.”
Since the Yankees have moved Cabrera frequently over the past week, the position battle could end up down to Hicks and Ortega, which, in this case, could go either way. Yankee management is focused on giving Hicks another chance, despite him having two seasons out. If he doesn’t raise his game and show consistency as an offensive piece, the short leash should be in Ortega’s favor.
Rafael has never been known as a football player, but the short right tackle at Yankee Stadium would treat him well as a left-hander. He posted a 33.5% hit rate, 4.8% barrel rate, and 87.2 out speed average last season.
If he can increase those numbers slightly, even to a 6% per barrel rate, he can easily break double-digit home runs in 2023 and get a base with a successful clip. He walked an average of 11.9% last season, so if he can maintain that pace, he should offer the Yankees a good offensive player.
Additionally, with MLB banning this turnaround, Ortega could maximize this variable. That should boost his numbers even further, which puts a . 250 batting average with a 35% on a realistic average basis. He’s already shown his offensive qualities during spring training and a surprisingly decent athleticism, running the bases quickly in three outs on Thursday afternoon.
Ortega has put himself solidly in the mix for the left field job, so we’ll be watching his performance closely heading into the regular season.