2017 Yankees: My Favorite Stories from the Year that Was
January is upon us and I have a recurring problem every New Year’s Day: I cannot remember what year it is. Normally I would not care until the season starts but my editor insists I write a synopsis of my favorite Yankees stories from this year.
So, taking my best guess, here is a review of my favorite stories from the 2017 Yankees year that was!
Number Four: Clint Frazier makes an Early Arrival.
It was no surprise that Yankees number two prospect, Clint Frazier, made his debut in 2017. That he played well, even spectacularly, at times was also no shock. And while getting a chance to see all five tools displayed by this smaller, hyper-competitive Mike Trout (I know, you have heard the comparison 1,000 times this year) was exciting, it can hardly be called shocking.
What was a shock was how quickly he forced the Yankees to move him up to the big club. Ostensibly he became the fourth outfielder, but the other three might not see it that way. To be sure there were times when Frazier needed a few days off, mostly when his aggression became a detriment. But since his arrival before the end of June, he forced his way into the line-up almost every day.
And it was his aggressive style of defense that showed how special he really is. We could all see him pressing at the plate, especially when he first arrived. But his energy and game-changing plays in the outfield never wavered. The Yankees wanted his intensity on the field every day and so did we. Before long his bat took off and Frazier had truly arrived.
Clint Frazier has proved to be the kind of player and person every team needs. I loved what he did in 2017 and cannot wait to see his follow-up in 2018.
Number Three: Yankees Trade Key Farm Hands for Dallas Keuchel.
Perhaps no topic since Joba Chamberlain has generated as much interest as what the Yankees should do with their embarrassment of riches down on the farm. Some fans wanted the Yankees to keep every single prospect. That is a parent falling in love with his own kids, not a pragmatic way to run a team.
Some fans wanted the Yankees to trade all their best players for Mike Trout. But the Angels have had Trout for years and have won exactly nada. No matter how good one player is, you do not trade 3 hitters for a single middle-of-the-order bat. Besides, that trade could still happen. Trout is still an Angel and the Yankees still have top prospects.
No, the Yankees realized they need to predict well and sell high. The goal is to keep the best players and trade the ones who will begin to fade as soon as the trade is completed. We will not know how they did with the predicting part for a few years, but we can now see their thoughts. They might have been reticent, but the trade in July for Dallas Keuchel proved too enticing.
I still Love Miguel Andujar
There were two fascinating parts to the story. The first was that Keuchel was available. Houston finished third two years ago and tried to improve. They added Brian McCann, Josh Reddick and Carlos Beltran in the 2016 offseason. But by August of 2017, it was clear things had not worked.
The Astros suffered for not bringing in any more starting pitching. Yes, Keuchel returned to his 2015 form. He pitched to a 2.87 ERA with over 125 strikeouts by July 25th. But his dominance could not save the rest of the staff. Even if it had, the offense just never coalesced. Reddick was too oft-injured, as usual, and McCann was good but needed to be dominant.
By July it all added up to selling at the trade deadline. That is when the Yankees decided to reach into their vaunted farm system and trade the future for the present. But it is who they traded that became the other part of the story.
The Yankees thought enough of Keuchel to give up their top two pitching prospects: Justus Sheffield and Domingo Acevedo. They also gave up Dustin Fowler, at a time when many fans were hoping he would play in the Bronx in 2017. What was most interesting is that the Astros insisted on Acevedo over James Kaprelian and Fowler over Miguel Andujar.
I am thrilled they got Keuchel. He added to their success in 2017. But I cannot help but wonder who is better at telling fortunes. Yankees fans were happy with Keuchel but they will be watching the progress of Sheffield and Fowler for years to come.
Number Two: The Return of the Bronx Bombers.
In 2015 we got a glimpse of Greg Bird and wondered what he might do with a full season. It was Gary Sanchez’ turn in 2016 to tantalize us and again make us wonder what he might do with a full season. And we had no idea what to expect when last off-season the Yankees signed Matt Holliday instead of Carlos Beltran.
We don’t have to wonder anymore. 3-4-5 in the batting order went Holliday-Sanchez-Bird and that trio flat out delivered. You know the plan worked well when two of them hit over thirty homers and all three hit over 25. And it did not matter if the number 6 hitter was Judge, Frazier or even Castro. Great hitters protect themselves and all three did just that.
But as much as I love the power of the baby Yankees, most of the credit goes to Holliday. He not only added a veteran presence in the locker room, as Bird has often cited, but also his OPB was a source of stability. Holliday had a career year in 2017, slashing .305 /.400/.505. The key, however, was that middle number. He seemed to be on base every time either Sanchez or Bird was at bat. He gave them the opportunities and they took advantage.
At this time I still do not know if Holliday will be back. The Yankees have other players coming and might not have room. But we still have one more year before the big free agent class. My hope for 2018 is that the Yankees spend one more year on Holliday.
And my number one favorite story from 2017: September Call-ups.
I still remember the first four months of 2016. So, I have no complaints about the first five months of 2017. The Yankees played great and surprised a lot of people. But they were not a super team. In September, however, we got a glimpse of a possible super team coming soon.
Gleyber Torres was called up. So was Jorge Mateo. And Miguel Andujar. Yep, even everyone’s favorite teammate Tyler Wade moved to the Bronx. It would have been nice if Blake Rutherford would have been invited, but making it from Single-A to Triple-A in one year is accomplishment enough.
Still, what a sight it was. Frazier had been up for some time and this was the end of the first full year for both Bird and Sanchez. Kaprelian had been pitching meaningful games since July. That made September the first time they had all played together since the spring, only these games counted.
There were times when showing up to batting practice was more exciting than the game. The speed, power, and youthful enthusiasm were always on display and always infectious. Fans were left to dream about how much fun and how very dominant this future team might be. And there were also times after a Yankees loss that fans could not help thinking they might have won if more of the Baby Bombers had played that night.
On to 201…On to Next Year!
That wraps up the year the was. Spring training starts a bit later this year (2016 was a World Baseball Classic year, so SP started early) and I could not be more excited for the 2018 season. I can hardly wait to see who starts in the Bronx; I get the feeling we will have plenty to cheer about!
Want your voice heard? Join the Yanks Go Yard team!
Many of you might have thought my top stories would include either the Yankees Postseason success or that the Red Sox had to forfeit the season due to team-wide chronic conjunctivitis. But those seemed too obvious and I am sure other writers will choose those stories. For me, these were the most interesting stories from 2017. Now on to 2018…or is it 2019?
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