New York Yankees 2017 preview
This is the latest of our 2017 team previews. Each week during spring training, we’ll preview a division with a team each day (Monday-Friday). This week: The AL East: Boston Red Sox | Toronto Blue Jays | Baltimore Orioles. Up next: Tampa Bay Rays
84-78, fourth in AL East
Key additions: RP Aroldis Chapman (free agent from Cubs), DH/OF/1B Matt Holliday (free agent from Cardinals), 1B Chris Carter (free agent from Brewers)
Key subtractions: 1B Mark Teixeira (retired), C Brian McCann (trade to Astros), SP Nathan Eovaldi (free agent to Rays)
1. Gary Sanchez is facing unrealistic expectations. After swatting 20 homers and slugging .657 in just 201 at-bats as a rookie last season, the pressure is on for Sanchez to avoid a sophomore slump. Not only does he have to pick up much of the offensive slack – some expect 40-plus homers – with so many veterans gone (see “subtractions” above), Sanchez, who just turned 24, has to take over as the everyday starter at catcher. Will his skills behind the plate develop as quickly as his prowess beside it? Sanchez’s ability to handle a staff will be crucial because …
2. The rotation has more questions than a 4-year-old. Masahiro Tanaka came within one out of being the only Yankees starter to reach the 200-inning plateau last season, and he was an ace (14-4, 3.07 ERA, 1.08 WHIP) after offseason elbow surgery. CC Sabathia will need to duplicate the success from his bounce-back 2016 season, though a couple of peripherals bordered on worrisome (4.28 FIP, 1.32 WHIP). Michael Pineda remains an enigma, Luis Severino spent a large chunk of time in the bullpen and at Triple-A last season, and new No. 5 starter Adam Warren made one start in 58 appearances last season for the Yankees and Cubs. With Luis Cessa, Bryan Mitchell and Chad Green the only real major league-ready depth, the decision not to pursue another starter is a curious one.
3. Aroldis Chapman’s return is a game-changer. When the Yankees’ bullpen featured both Chapman and Andrew Miller last season, it posted 3.40 ERA; after both were dealt, it jumped to 4.10. Chapman’s dominance and triple-digit heat are unmatched in the majors, and his return allows Dellin Betances to transition back to the eighth inning. And although Miller isn’t back, Tyler Clippard (9.2 K/9, 2.49 ERA) was tremendous in 29 appearances after New York acquired him from Arizona. This relief corps has the potential to cover for many of the rotation’s shortcomings.
The youth movement is success, with Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Tyler Austin, Aaron Judge and Mason Williams – and possibly even Clint Frazier eventually – proving they are ready for prime time in one of the majors’ most demanding markets.
A trio of returning veterans – left fielder Brett Gardner, center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, third baseman Chase Headley – again fall flat offensively after none managed a .265 batting average, 60 RBI or a 100 OPS+ last season.
Didi Gregorius tied Starlin Castro for the team lead with 70 RBI last season – part of what was a career year for the team’s most consistent offensive force. The shortstop set career bests in doubles (32), homers (20), steals (7) and OPS (.751) and is just entering his prime.
Projected win total (via Atlantis Casino Resort): 83.5
World Series odds (via VegasInsider.com): 20/1.
TOP 5 FANTASY PLAYERS
1. Gary Sanchez, C: Sanchez obviously won’t keep up his 2016 home-run pace, but 25 dingers will be fine with us.
2. Aroldis Chapman, RP: Chapman saved 26 games with a 1.55 ERA last season, and remains fantasy’s top closer.
3. Masahiro Tanaka, SP: Tanaka overcame elbow issues to get through a full season in 2016, and though his whiff rate declined, his 3.07 ERA was pretty good.
4. Dellin Betances, RP: Even as a setup man, Betances has mixed-league fantasy value. He leads all relievers with 392 strikeouts over the past three seasons.
5. Greg Bird, 1B: If Bird gets everyday at bats, he’ll probably homer 25 times in cozy Yankee Stadium.
New York will contend for a wild card but fall just short.