<
>

5 things we've learned so far about Yankees

Michael Pineda, Carlos Beltran and Masahiro Tanaka are healthy -- for now. The Yankees need them to stay that way if they're going to contend this year. AP Photo, USA TODAY Sports, Getty Images

TAMPA, Fla. -- It is not yet the Ides of March, and there are no guarantees in spring training, but there are observations to make about what we have seen to date in Yankees camp. So here is a non-A-Rod edition of "What we have learned so far."

1. Beltran looks healthy: If there is one batter who needs to stay healthy this season for the Yankees to be successful, it is Carlos Beltran. Not only do they need him in the order every day, but they need his right elbow to hold up so he can play right field regularly.

"No problems," Beltran said Friday afternoon about his condition.

If Beltran can play right most days, it would leave the DH spot open for either Alex Rodriguez to claim or for manager Joe Girardi to use in a platoon. With the Yankees' offense likely to be an issue, they need to squeeze every run out of it. That starts with Beltran returning to an .830 OPS guy (like he was in 2013) instead of a .703 OPS hitter (as he was in 2014).

2. Tanaka and Pineda could lead: Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda both have looked sharp. If you want to forecast this Yankees team to contend, this duo must be great. If -- and, yes, this is a very big if -- they both can stay healthy, there is reason to believe the Yankees could win around two-thirds of those games. That's 40 percent of the season's action at a .600-plus winning percentage. That would lighten the load on the rest of the Yankees' fragile staff.

3. The rest of the rotation could be a headache: While there are no guarantees on Tanaka's or Pineda's health, the rest of the staff is even more worrisome. Slated fifth starter Chris Capuano, who might be serviceable but is far from sensational, is already out for the first month of the regular season (quad strain). Capuano's role was to fill the gap until Ivan Nova returned from Tommy John surgery in June. Now, Capuano is out.

CC Sabathia says he is doing well, but it is a wait-and-see on the big lefty because he has not pitched well in two years and is coming off knee surgery. Nathan Eovaldi may be long on potential, but is short on major league results, having given up the most hits in the NL last year.

With Capuano out, the fifth spot, barring a trade, will probably be won by Adam Warren, Esmil Rogers, Chase Whitley or Bryan Mitchell. Top starting prospect Luis Severino is not ready yet. It is hard to go in with a lot of confidence in this group.

4. Second base is settled ... sort of: Girardi officially named Stephen Drew his starting second baseman, but Drew is not on scholarship. Drew will have to hit to keep the position. Jose Pirela and Rob Refsnyder are both hitting in the spring. There are scouts who think Pirela might be exposed with extended playing time because of holes in his swing, but we haven't seen it yet. He has a chance to start the year as the utility guy, depending on Brendan Ryan's health and the roster composition. Refsnyder still needs to work on his footwork at second, but, if he can get that down, he can keep pushing toward the majors. Dellin Betances said the other day that when he faced Refsnyder, he noticed how professional his bat was.

In other words, fans calling for Pirela or Refsnyder to start Opening Day won't get their wish, barring injury, but they could eventually see them regularly.

5. The Kids are in town: You have heard the raves about Aaron Judge, Greg Bird and Severino, but what sticks out about them -- besides their potential -- is that all three of them seem to have really good heads on their shoulders. When you talk to them, they are very respectful and seem to be more focused on team than individual. That is worth something, if they develop properly.