After the turbulent first few months of the 2016 season, the New York Yankees had decisions to make. Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman: see you later. The two met again, in a rare occurrence, while playing for the World Series. After their departure came the retirement of Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. The second half of the season last year was an arrival party for the likes of Tyler Austin, Aaron Judge, Luis Cessa, and, of course, Gary Sanchez. It left Yankee fans wanting more, and now that time has come. An exciting new era in the Bronx kicks off in just under a month. Here is the New York Yankees 2017 season preview.
New York Yankees 2017 Season Preview
Development of Youth
The biggest reason for optimism with the Yankees is the talented youth. GM Brian Cashman was able to obtain 10 prospects in deals for Miller, Chapman, and Brian McCann. The farm system is littered with potential, and this could be the youngest Yankees lineup in a decade. Five Yankees in their twenties will likely start on Opening Day (Sanchez, Bird, Castro, Gregorius, Judge/Hicks.)
A lineup full of 20-somethings is not the norm for the Yankees. What comes with being young? Struggles at the plate, losing, and the growing pains of young players adjusting to 162 games in 180 days. This crop of young prospects is reminiscent of the early 1990’s. This may not be the dawning of the next dynasty, but the organization seems to have rebuilt the farm system into one of the league’s best.
Greg Bird hit 11 home runs in 46 games when he broke out in late August 2015. Sanchez then hit 20 home runs in 53 games last season. He was the Player and Rookie of the Month for August in the American League. What begins in a few weeks is a first for both of these players: Opening Day of a 162 game season.
Who fills out the rotation?
This has been a consistent question for the Yankees going into camp the past few years. Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, and Michael Pineda, when healthy, will be the top three. Luis Severino, Cessa, Bryan Mitchell, Chad Green, and Adam Warren remain. There will be plenty of competition throughout the spring.
Severino is the early odds-on favorite for one of the spots. The 23-year-old Dominican won a spot last season out of camp. He then struggled in his 11 starts. After being sent down, Severino tore up the minors and returned later in the year as a bullpen option for the big club.
Mitchell pitched well enough last spring to earn one of the final rotation spots. Unfortunately, he broke a toe running to cover first in a Spring Training game. He started five games last season. Five pitchers competing for two spots will make a lot of Spring Training games meaningful.
The two 33-year-olds that man center and left field are eerily similar. Last season, each played 148 games. Ellsbury finished with two more hits and two percentage points better in average. Outside of that, both set career lows in stolen bases. The two combined for 36 steals. Ellsbury stole 39 his first year with the Yankees.
Running threats allow the meat of the order to see better pitches. If these two continue to be the top two in the Yankee batting order, fans will have to hope last year wasn’t age catching up to them. The ability to turn a walk into a double is something the Yankees lacked last season. Playing at Yankee Stadium, home runs are inevitable. It’s the other runs that win ball games. Gardener and Ellsbury have to create runs with their legs this season.
Unless one of the two is traded during the season, Joe Girardi doesn’t have much of a choice but to play them. Clint Frazier, Blake Rutherford, and even Aaron Hicks may challenge Brett and Jacoby for playing time if they struggle.