With the lockout entering its third month and with no end in sight, baseball writers have used this period bereft of news to journey down some fun rabbit holes on Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, and Statcast to see what interesting tidbits they can find. Earlier this week, Grant Brisbee of The Athletic followed up Keith Law’s Top 100 Prospects list by posing the question, “When was the last time a team turned a prospect they drafted or signed as an amateur into an All-Star?”
It was a fun little exercise that brought readers a trip down memory lane. Filled to the brim with funny memories (the “Albert Pujols, left fielder” experiment in 2002-03), memories that were pleasant or tragic depending on your point of view (Seattle’s inability to win with a young Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr. in the late-1990s and early-2000s), and some that made you go, “huh, that’s neat” (the Yankees have not developed a homegrown All-Star third baseman since Gil McDougald in 1959 or a first baseman since Don Mattingly). Since the Yankees are last alphabetically, their list ended the piece, and this factoid allowed Brisbee to end on the joke, “Note that the Yankees prefer to take their All-Stars from the mewling hands of the franchises that are less fortunate, thank you very much.”
And that got me thinking — at first glance, Brisbee is correct, at least when it comes to the corner infield spots: Tino Martinez, Jason Giambi, Mark Teixeira, and Luke Voit all made their MLB debuts in other uniforms, while a trio of trade acquisitions (Alex Rodriguez, Chase Headley, Gio Urshela) have manned the hot corner most of the time in the 21st century. And that led me to my next question, “How do the Yankees fill out their starting lineup?”
To answer this prompt, I went back through Baseball Reference’s archives since the start of the 2001 season and have listed, position by position, every player who the Yankees intended to start the season with at every position. While this eliminates players such as Yangervis Solarte in 2014, Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andújar in 2018, and Gio Urshela in 2019, the logic is that at Opening Day, they were not in the Yankees’ immediate plans.
Of the Yankees’ last 21 seasons, 16 have seen a homegrown catcher behind the plate, with Jorge Posada manning the position for a decade in that time, Francisco Cervelli technically starting the 2013 season as the primary backstop before hitting the injured list (and then getting suspended), and the polarizing Gary Sánchez filling the role since August 2016. Bridging the gaps were a pair of free agent acquisitions, Russell Martin and Brian McCann; the former was a “buy low candidate” who had been non-tendered by the Dodgers, the latter a high-profile signing after the 2013 season.