2017 NEW YORK YANKEES PREVIEW
MANAGER: Joe Girardi
2016 RECORD: 84-78
FIVE YEAR WINNING TREND:
LHP Aroldis Chapman
OF/DH Matt Holliday
1B Mark Teixeira
RHP Nathan Eovaldi
C Brain McCann
DH Billy Butler
DH Alex Rodriguez
2016 BY THE NUMBERS:
TOTAL BASES: 2,212
OPP BA: .248
DOUBLE PLAYS: 116
It has been four seasons since the New York Yankees have won the playoff game. All of the icons are gone, and the young players from the farm system are coming. Right now, this is the team in transition, trying to stay competitive in the short-term while preparing for the long-term.
Big spending has been relatively restrained while the organization is emphasizing on player development. The Yankees are probably not a playoff team in 2017 unless the young hitters in the middle of the order and the young pitching staff can produce at the back of the rotation.
ROTATION: Masahiro Tanaka had a good 2016 campaign finishing with a career-high 199.2 innings and was third in the American League in ERA. Tanaka, if healthy, has solidified himself as they legitimate number one starter. The remainder of the Yankees staff is in question. CC Sabathia is coming off a comeback season in which he went 9 – 12 with an ERA of 3.91. He will turn 37 in July and is still pitching with a bad knee. Michael Pineda is apparently healthy, but he is 4.82 ERA was one of the worst in the majors in 2016. Nathan Eovaldi was lost to Tommy John surgery, leaving Sabathia and Pineda as number two and number three respectively in the rotation. The remainder of the rotation will be decided in spring training with at least a half a dozen candidates, including former top pitching prospect Luis Severino. Severino looked dominant at times in 2015 but didn’t win a single start last season. The Yankees say his future may be in the bullpen but are committed to giving him one more opportunity as a starter.
BULLPEN: The Yankees traded relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman for several prospects. Just five months later, they brought him back as a free agent on a five-year, $86 million contract. With Chapman back as the closer, Delin Betances will now be the set-up man that made him an All-Star in each of his first three major league seasons. Tyler Clippard returns as a third late inning option, making New York’s bullpen a strength even without Andrew Miller. The Yankees have been impressed by left-handed specialist Tommy Layne, but the rest of the left side of the bullpen is a weakness. They will continue to count on a series of young relievers to plug the holes in the bullpen. Jonathan Holder was a late-season call up and could get an opportunity in the spring.
MIDDLE INFIELD: Both Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro were acquired last season, and tied for the team lead was 70 RBI each. Gregorius has emerged as a good two-way shortstop who has made significant offense of improvements against left-handed pitching. Castro was inconsistent in his first year with New York, but hit a career-high 21 home runs while getting used to playing second base. New York’s minor league system has considerable middle infield depth, but most of that talent is a year or two from making it to the big-league club.
CORNERS: Greg Bird was expected to be the Yankees every day first baseman last season, but suffered a shoulder injury that required surgery. The 24-year-old left-handed hitter made a strong first impression in 2015 and is hoping to return healthy in spring training. He and right-handed Tyler Austin are the leading candidates to replace the retired Mark Teixeira. Bird and Austin have only 16 career home runs between them and the Yankees will need them to provide more pop in the middle of their lineup. Chase Headley is penciled in at third base for now.
OUTFIELD: Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury hasn’t performed up to expectations after signing a two-year, $153 million deal. He has been outperformed by Brett Gardner, who just won his first Gold Glove in left field. Ellsbury and Gardner are expected to be at the top of the Yankees order, though another round of inconsistency could force Yankees management to reconsider. The biggest question for New York is what to do in right field. Aaron Judge made a first impression with a long home run in his first big-league at-bat, but hit just .179 with too many strikeouts the rest of the way. Aaron Hicks was a disappointment hitting only .217 in 123 games. Highly touted prospect Clint Frazier could be ready to take over by midseason.
CATCHING: Gary Sanchez took over the catching duties after just two months in the majors. Sanchez gave the Yankees the opportunity to trade Brian McCann in the off-season. Sanchez hit 20 homeruns in just 53 games and will most certainly get third or fourth in the Yankees lineup. He is only 24, and the lineup now revolves around him.
DH/BENCH: the Yankees needed to improve against left-handed pitching so be signed former Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday to a one-year, $13 million deal. You’ll be the every-day DH and perhaps a backup option at first base. Holliday had a down year in 2016, but his OPS of .782 would have been second-best in the Yankees lineup last season. New York will count on backup catcher Austin Romine along with infielder Ronald Torreyes to return to their bench rules from last season. Mason Williams provides a speedy alternative to the Yankees outfield. Tyler Wade and Kyle Higashioka will be waiting for call up opportunities this season.
WHAT THE SCOUTS ARE SAYING: Gary Sanchez is the real deal, but the other young players have a long way to go. Aaron Judge has too many holes in his swing, and needs to do a better job of recognizing off-speed pitching. Tyler Austin must learn to make adjustments as well. Greg Bird appears to have a better chance of making this team then Judge or Austin. The Yankees must figure out where they’ll put Luis Severino in the rotation. They will feel more comfortable if he is a #2 or #3. The rotation is full of questions and that will put more pressure on the Yankees bullpen. Michael Pineda has to be more consistent. A lot will have to happen for the Yankees to be a playoff contender, but they do have a bright future.