Yankees: 2017 Fantasy Baseball Preview

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The Yankees have made some interesting moves over the last year. It leaves the team with a lot of question marks. How will they fair for fantasy owners?

This post begins a series in which I preview all 30 teams as we prepare for the 2017 season. I will be going over each roster from a fantasy perspective. I’m not talking about contracts or if players get along. This will be strictly about which players on what teams are in good situations to help you win a fantasy baseball championship.

First up, the New York Yankees.

The Yankees 2017 roster is going to look very different for longtime fans. Even new fans are going to question who some of these players are. Regardless, these young players will provide you with a lot of fantasy value this season.

The front office did something we haven’t seen in a while. The Yankees were sellers at the trade deadline. They traded Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, and Carlos Beltran at the deadline and traded Brian McCann just a couple of months ago.

They got a lot back in return (including a closer in the offseason) and went from having one of the worst farm systems to one of the best. The players they received will be making their debuts sooner rather than later.

Even with the moves, the starting rotation is arguably one of the worst in the league. If the three mainstays perform like stars, then there isn’t a lot to worry about. However, their 2016 performances leave a lot to be desired.

The team made a couple of important signings but will rely heavily on rookies to carry this offense. I wouldn’t be surprised if one or two of the veterans get traded before the deadline again.

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The Yankees have not succeeded in recent years, mostly because of their poor starting rotation. The offense can only do so much to help the team win. The rotation had some bright spots, but nothing worth bragging about heading into this season.

Five of the six starting pitchers to make at least 11 starts finished with a 3.91 ERA or higher. Only one had more than 10 wins. No pitcher had 200 innings or 175 strikeouts.

As of now, the starting rotation is Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Luis Severino and Luis Cessa. If Severino goes to the bullpen, Chad Green will slot in at the No. 5 spot. Looking at these names, Tanaka is the only one worth drafting.

He had a 3.07 ERA, 1.077 WHIP, 7.4 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9. He also finished with a 14-4 record in 31 starts. Tanaka may opt out of his contract at the end of this season. If he wants to get a big contract, then he will have to perform this season.

Despite the power performances in the American League East, Tanaka shows he can stifle the big bats.

Outside of Tanaka, Pineda and Sabathia are deep-league options. I don’t trust either week-to-week, but they could be good as a streaming pick.

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The Yankees bullpen will feature two relief pitchers worth drafting, Chapman and Dellin Betances.

Chapman signed with the Yankees in the offseason after winning the World Series with the Chicago Cubs, the team he was traded to last year. He had a 2.01 ERA, 0.894 WHIP and 20 saves in 31.1 innings.

Regardless of where he signed, Chapman is a top-five closer. He constantly throws over 100 MPH and seems to have worked in a breaking ball to confuse batters even more.

Chapman’s setup man will be Betances. I wrote about Betances being a winner and a loser after the Winter Meetings. He loses some value by not getting as many save opportunities as he did in the second half of last season. However, he pitched poorly in the ninth inning.

Now, he will pitch in the seventh or eighth inning, a spot he is more comfortable in. Betances struck out 126 batters in 73 innings. No owner is going to want to pass that up, even without the saves.

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The Yankees infield will look similar to last season, but there is one position that will have a new face. With the retirement of Mark Teixeira, first base will be open to competition. Roster Resource lists Greg Bird as the starting first baseman, but Tyler Austin will have something to say about that.

Bird missed the entire 2016 season after undergoing surgery for a torn labrum. He returned to play in the Arizona Fall League. If he has a successful spring, then he’s one of my sleeper picks for this season.

He hit 11 home runs, 31 RBI and .261 in 46 games in 2015. If you project that out over a 162-game season, that equates to 39 homers and 109 RBI. Yankees and fantasy owners would be more than happy with that.

Starlin Castro will be at second base, Didi Gregorius at shortstop, Chase Headley (for now) will play third and rookie Gary Sanchez is slotted behind the plate.

Last season, Castro, Gregorius, Headley and Sanchez combined for 75 home runs. Three of those four hitters are 26 or younger, so this core will be around for a while.

I will gladly draft Castro, Gregorius and Sanchez. The latter may be overrated in most drafts, though. Headley is a shell of his former self and Bird is a big question mark. The hitters aren’t the problem with this team because there is value to be had.

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The outfielders are a bigger question mark than the infield. Currently, Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Aaron Judge are listed as the starting outfielders.

I know I said I wasn’t going to talk about contracts, but it is important here. Both Gardner and Ellsbury are 33 years old. And, because of their big contracts, the front office may look to move one or both of them.

In addition to their age and contract, they didn’t perform well. They combined for 16 home runs and 97 RBI in 148 games each. Gardner and Ellsbury were known as speed guys on the base paths, but haven’t done much recently.

Gardner had 16 steals in 2016. He had 20, 21 and 24 in the previous three seasons. Ellsbury had 20, 21, 39 and 52 in the same span.

I’m also going to include the designated hitter in this category because I have nowhere else to put them. The Yankees replaced Beltran with Matt Holliday. Despite being 36 years old, he hit 20 home runs and 62 RBI in his final 110 games with the St. Louis Cardinals.

I’m not a fan of any of the Yankees outfielders now. If they can improve in the spring, then that might change. I do like Holliday as a late-round power bat in all leagues.

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The Yankees have more fantasy options on offense than pitchers. However, none of them rank inside my top-50 overall. Chapman could, but I don’t like ranking closers that high. Their infield has promise and if Tanaka has another season like he did last year, he will be a top-20 pitcher.

I think the Yankees would have better options in 2018 compared to this year. They have a lot of prospects waiting for their opportunity.

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