How the Yankees Can Adjust With Harrison Bader Injured for the Start of the Season

Unfortunately for the New York Yankees, the injury list keeps on growing. On the heels of New York’s brass confirming that three notable arms will not be ready for Opening Day, an oblique strain is set to keep center outfielder Harrison Bader out. It’s not ideal, but New York does have a number of options to handle Bader’s absence.

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A Look at Bader

Acquired at the Trade Deadline from St. Louis in exchange for Jordan Montgomery, Bronx native and Yankees outfielder Harrison Bader proved to be quite the sparkplug after he stepped into pinstripes for the first time. Bader’s premier assets have always been his speed and fielding ability, and those were on full display in September. Even though he logged just 14 games as a Yankees in 2022, Bader did record a +2 Outs Above Average (OAA) in that timespan.

Bader helped solidify the Yankees outfield from a defensive standpoint heading into the playoffs. And at the plate, the former University of Florida star can certainly take advantage of mistakes made by opposing pitchers. Granted, he can get a little aggressive at times. But, he does own good pop and bat-to-ball skills that has allowed him to crack double digits in home runs three times in his six-year career thus far.

The oblique injury serves as a double-whammy to both Bader and the Yankees. Bader is set to hit the free agent market after the 2023 campaign. While this injury doesn’t particularly hurt Bader’s chances at cashing in, durability concerns do have to be taken into consideration by the Yankees or any team looking to sign Bader in the near future. This oblique injury virtually assures that Bader will be on the IL for the third consecutive season. The 28-year-old sustained plantar fasciitis last season that kept him from making his Yankee debut until September, and he also had multiple IL stints in 2021.

For the Yankees, this adds yet another notable character to what is already set to be a lengthy IL list come Opening Day. Just yesterday, manager Aaron Boone confirmed that relievers Lou Trivino and Tommy Kahnle, as well as star left-hander Carlos Rodón, will join Frankie Montas on the injured list.

What it Means

Aside from Aaron Judge — who may see time now in both left and center field — it would make sense for the Yankees to shift Aaron Hicks back to being the regular center fielder. While Hicks is better suited for a corner outfield spot, the 33-year-old does has logged over 600 games at the position, including 81 in 2022. And when asked, Hicks has not been terrible in totality at the position over the past two season. Per Baseball Savant, Hicks owned a flat 0 Outs Above Average over the last two seasons.

The injury to Bader also opens up a spot on the roster for Rafael Ortega. Ortega spent the last two seasons with the Cubs and put up pretty solid results. The 31-year-old turned heads after he hit .291/.360/.463 with 11 home runs and 27 extra base hits in 2021. While he didn’t up as strong figures in 2022, he does own good pop and does have the ability to play all three outfield positions. One could expect Ortega to slot in every now and then early in the season, while Oswaldo Cabrera may be poised to be the regular left fielder to start the 2023 campaign.

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