Leading up to the start of the 2017 Regular Season, Diamond Hoggers will preview each of baseball’s 30 teams . Today’s preview features the New York Yankees. Stay tuned until Opening Day as Diamond Hoggers previews every team one by one until the beginning of the 2017 season.
Baseball is better when the Yankees are good. Love them or hate them, it’s fun to watch postseason baseball in October live from that dark navy park.
The Yankees were indeed relevant last season until almost the bitter end – posting an 84-78 record and staying alive until the final weeks of the season in the Wildcard race. This was in large part because of the performance they got down the stretch from one Gary Sanchez, the new crown jewell of the Yankees for the time being.
The Yankees are in a weird stage where they have some veteran contracts still on the books along with a mix of interesting youngsters. They’re not really in or out in terms of contending, but it makes for a fine product that should be interesting to watch on the field.
The biggest storylines entering this season are of course the continued develop of Sanchez and to a lesser degree; Greg Bird. Then there’s the larger storyline looming: after the completion of the 2018 season when these veteran contracts are all off the books; are they going to go get Bryce Harper or Manny Machado or just bring both aboard. Something big is brewing in the Bronx.
Major Off-season Moves:
Projected Starting Lineup:
Brett Gardner has entered that point of his career where he’s pretty pedestrian. He’s going to be 33, and he’s coming off a .261/.351/.362 slash line season. He stole 13 bases and showed the ability that he can still get on base. That’s all the Yankees are asking him to do at this point; just stay healthy, get on base a little bit and fulfill the remainder of his contract.
Jacoby Elsbury is really the same thing – he’ll be 33 and stole 20 bags last year but despite appearing in 148 games – he didn’t really do much. He’s just a footnote in the game of baseball anymore. Very fine career, but it’s winding down.
The emergence of Gary Sanchez took the baseball world by storm. Sanchez hit 20 home runs in 53 games and ended up with a .299 batting average and ridiculous 1.032 OPS. Sanchez was so good; most are willing to overlook the small sample size and have crowned him the new king of New York. That’s fine by us. He’s very interesting and we can’t wait to see what he’s up to in 2017.
The Yankees went out and got the perfect hitter to hit behind Sanchez and rear him along as a big leaguer. Matt Holliday will be 37 and serve as the Designated Hitter. Holliday can still hit a little. He had a .782 OPS last season but that has a tendency to rise due to the ballpark and he can just DH rather than play in the field.
Starlin Castro is no scrub at second base, coming off a 21 homer season of his own, and he’ll be just 27. Castro has never become the mega-star some assumed but he’s a fine every day player.
Didi Gregorius finally showed last season that he had the pop in his bat we always believed. He has a swing that’s perfect for his home park and responded with 20 home runs from the shorstop position.
Chase Headley, Aaron Hicks and Greg Bird round out the bottom of the order. Bird is the most interesting of the three, and he was injured all of last season. He’s got a little pop, and he will need to hit to keep big Chris Carter on the bench more often than not. Headley is playing out the string, and Aaron Hicks is never really going to hit much.
Watch out for the emergence of Gleyber Torres, a prospect acquired last year around the trade deadline. People are very excited about him and say he could join baseball’s elite class of shorstops very soon as the next young great one at the position.
Projected Pitching Staff:
Masahiro Tanaka was awesome last season, going 14-4 with a 3.07 ERA. He’s a true staff ace with some arm questions but when he’s on the mound, he’s pretty tough.
Michael Pineda has the stuff to take the mound and strikeout 15 hitters on any given day, but most of the time it just doesn’t go that way. At some point you have to realize that a guy just is a big body with a big arm and all the talent in the world but the light never comes on. He’s a better two starter than about half the teams in baseball have, but not better than that of the elite teams.
From the three to five spots in the rotation; you’ve got CC Sabathia, Chad Green, and Luis Severino rounding out the rotation. Severino is probably the most intriguing of those three – and he struggled with injury problems last season but seems to have avoided going under the knife for major surgery. He could be a real arm to watch this season and a sleeper in fantasy leagues.
The Yankees return Aroldis Chapman in a very interesting move. He and Dellin Betances are as good of an 8th and 9th inning combination as a team could run out there. It’s interesting that the Yankees brought back Chapman with this current group; unless they see him as major drawing-card or figure that having such a great back end of the bullpen will allow them to be competitive with just a B-minus at best rotation.
Fangraphs has them as an 81-81 team on the nose. It’s really hard to say but we tend to agree that they’re somewhere between 80 and 85 wins. It will be tough to ever say at any point in the season that the Yankees are outright bad. They’ll appear relevant and in the mix at some points and at others they’ll lull and seem average; but never bad.
The Yankees have done an excellent job of ‘bridging’ so to speak. They have enough pieces on the field to create a diversion and appear interesting. The real story here is what they’re going to do after 2018, to where they could build a Murderer’s Row with the farm system they have going, Sanchez, Torres, and Bird; along with Bryce Harper for sure coming aboard.
The thing about the Yankees is they might just appear the be the Yankees of old if they are in any race come August and go out and get a piece. One of the Steinbrenner’s may get papa’s old itch to do such a thing.