Sure, the New York Yankees won’t have ace Gerrit Cole at the start of their season. Yeah, star Aaron Judge has been dealing with an abdomen issue that has at least called into question his availability for Opening Day.

But the Yankees weren’t going to go anywhere this season if several, if not all, of the veterans that disappointed last year didn’t step it up in a major way.

Let’s check in on where they stand as spring training draws toward its end.

TAMPA, FLORIDA - MARCH 06: Carlos Rodon #55 of the New York Yankees delivers a pitch to the Tampa Bay Rays in the first inning during a 2024 Grapefruit League Spring Training game at George M. Steinbrenner Field on March 06, 2024 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Carlos Rodón

Rodón has had an uneven camp. Results shouldn’t matter for a nine-year veteran and a two-time top-five Cy Young Award finisher. But it feels like the Yankees are pining to see him blow away hitters and look like the $ 162 million pitcher they signed before last season.

In his third and most recent start, he went four innings, striking out three and walking none while surrendering just a run against a weak, spring training-style Boston Red Sox lineup. But his fastball averaged 94.6 mph and it topped out at 97.3 mph — signs that he seems to be heading in the right direction compared to his prior outing when his velocity had been down.

That the Yankees aren’t tapping him to start Opening Day with Gerrit Cole down is interesting. It would be bad optics for the guy who had one of the worst starts statistically in MLB history in the final regular season game of last year to be this year’s Opening Day starter. But if he were shoving, maybe the Yankees would have considered it.

Should the Yankees be encouraged? A cautious yes.

Giancarlo Stanton

Stanton showed up slimmer — appearing to lose significant mass in his thighs — in an attempt to stay healthy. So far, so good on that front. He also talked about making swing changes, but for the most part, he appears the same mechanically — maybe his hands are set a bit higher than they had been.

But this spring, it’s been more of the same for Stanton. Some hard-hit balls. Not too many strikeouts. He’s played some outfield, and he’s looked at least capable. Has he looked better than the 87 OPS+ that he put up last year? The 116-mph, 425-foot home run he hit Saturday — his first blast of the spring — didn’t hurt. No reason to complain just yet for the Yankees.

Should the Yankees be encouraged? Sure, but with some trepidation.

DJ LeMahieu and Anthony Rizzo during a spring training game against the Atlanta Braves. (Kim Klement Neitzel / USA Today)

Anthony Rizzo

Of all the bounce-back candidates, Rizzo has performed the best, and he’s probably looked the best, too. His timing has been on point. He’s got a hop in his step. He doesn’t at all resemble the player who dealt with post-concussion symptoms that tanked his season last year.

He’s said that he feels great, and it’s hard to doubt him. His presence hitting fourth behind Juan Soto and Judge could be huge. Don’t forget: Rizzo is in the final guaranteed year of his Yankees contract. He’s going to push to make the Yankees want to pick up his $17 million option for next year.

Should the Yankees be encouraged? An emphatic yes.

DJ LeMahieu

Boone made it a point early in spring to emphasize how “explosive” LeMahieu was looking going into camp. The 34-year-old, who will be a regular third baseman for the first time in his career, didn’t take much time off this offseason and arrived at the team’s player development complex in early January to work with team trainers.

Has it paid off? Well, LeMahieu does seem healthy. He’s said he feels good. His exit velocities have been around his career mark of 90.6 mph. Defensively, he’s said third base is the position he has to work the hardest at, but he’s graded out well there in the past. LeMahieu fouled a ball off his left foot during Saturday’s game, and while X-rays didn’t show any damage, he needed treatment Sunday.

Should the Yankees be encouraged? The jury is still out.

Nestor Cortes

The numbers for Cortes (three starts, 8.10 ERA) haven’t been good. But that’s not so much of the Yankees’ concern. They want to see that the left shoulder that landed him on the injured list for two long stints last year has healed.

It seems like Cortes’ velocity, with his fastball topping out at 94.2, is about where it should be. He was among the large group of Yankees big leaguers who started their spring workouts early in Tampa, and he was named the Opening Day starter by Boone on Friday.