The New York Yankees have transformed into a bustling franchise with the integration of youth from its farm system. They are no longer an aging roster that produces minimal results and absorbs a humongous chunk of the salary cap. We have left the A-Rod drama era, during which the media focused more on his personal life than his career. His $21 million contract, alongside the outlandish contracts of Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann, deteriorated the team.
New York Yankees Playoff Outlook
None of these stars hit above .245 in their final years, which was concerning for an organization that paid them $55+ million combined. Manager Joe Girardi was forced to play them in the lineupm despite their weekly performances, because of the hope that they would live up to their contracts. This limited the development of younger players, such as rising stars Gary Sanchez and Aaron Hicks. However, this year, a resurrection has occurred with the rise of these young Yankees players.
Young, Flourishing Talent
One marquee player that has been a lightning spark for the Yankees is 6’7″, 282-pound rookie phenom Aaron Judge. Four days ago, he was crowned the 2017 MLB Home Run Derby champion after beating out three fellow sluggers. He is an unbelievable talent at the plate and currently leads the majors in home runs, with 30. Judge is also ranked fifth in the league in batting average, at .329. He’s been essential for the Yankees, as they currently hold the first AL Wild Card spot, with a record of 45-41. They only sit 3.5 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East.
Sanchez is also playing at an elite level, and also participated in the Home Run Derby. He has been a steady and effective hitter in the cleanup spot; his .360 OBP is second to Judge. His magnificent plate approach is efficient and powerful, focusing specifically on creating separation between his lower and upper halves. This, in turn, allows the barrel of the bat to move in an optimal path and gain energy through the zone.
The Yankees can breathe some fresh air, as Sanchez has nearly surpassed the output of McCann. McCann was nothing but a tumor for the Yankees with his five-year, $85 million contract. He did not produce what the organization anticipated, which was above a .270 average with around 25 home runs and 70+ RBI. These bats must continue their success, and the Yanks must get timely hitting from veteran leaders Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner. As a team, they rank second in runs scored and fifth in hits. This dynamic, elite offense has to continue to shine in order for them to clinch a playoff berth like last year.
What will be the Yankees Downfall?
The Yankee’s team ERA is not so bad, as they are ranked seventh in the league. However, there has been inconsistency from their bullpen that needs to be fixed immediately to prevent further slipping in the standings. Through 75 games, the Yankees have already blown 14 saves, twice as many as last season. One of the culprits is right-handed pitcher Tyler Clippard, who is having the worst season of his career. So far, he has posted a 5.24 ERA, significantly down from last year. His fastball command has not been sharp of late, which has made it difficult for him to differentiate his pitches.
Are They Playoff Bound?
If the Yankees figure out their bullpen woes and stay balanced offensively, they will make the playoffs. When they play a series, they cannot overuse their bullpen and use players like Aroldis Chapman three consecutive times. This will risk future injuries for a team that cannot afford it, especially as they are leading the Wild Card. They also could use improvement from their starting rotation, especially prized pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, who is having a terrible year. His record sits at 7-8, with an ERA that has ballooned to 5.47. He has barely used his four-seam fastball, which he used to work up in the zone. Tanaka has struggled mixing up a batter’s eye level in the zone, which has made him more predictable. He needs to immediately figure out what is wrong with his pitching fundamentals with coach Larry Rothschild.