Monday, March 18, 2019

New York Yankees 2019 season preview

Chad Green. Photo from SBNation


             Another year, another New York Yankees playoff run. Well, 2018 was a very short playoff run. After winning in the AL wild card game, the Yankees were embarrassed in four games against their arch-rivals, the Boston Red Sox, in route to Boston's World Series win. Making sure that won't happen again, the Yankees added not huge, but good players to help solidify their World Series chances.

              Offseason additions: LHP James Paxton, RHP Adam Ottavino, INF DJ LeMahieu, SS Troy Tulowitzki, RHP Danny Farquhar, OF Billy Burns, RHP Drew Hutchison, LHP Danny Coulombe, LHP Rex Brothers, 3B Giovanny Urshella, C Ryan Lavarnway.

               Offseason subtractions: RHP David Robertson, OF Andrew McCutchen, RHP Sonny Gray, RHP Lance Lynn, INF Ronald Torreyes, INF Neil Walker, SS Adeiny Hechavarria, RHP AJ Cole, LHP Justus Sheffield

                Rotation
The Yankees went into the offseason looking for a better rotation. They came out of it with three solid starters. First, the Yankees traded top prospect Justus Sheffield and two more for James Paxton. Paxton has always been hurt in his career, and his measly 160.1 innings in 2018 was a career high. But, he has a 3.42 career ERA. JA Happ and CC Sabathia were re-signed. Happ had a 2.69 ERA with 63 strikeouts in 63.2 innings over 11 starts after a non-waiver trade deadline deal from Toronto. CC Sabathia, in what will be his final MLB season, will start the season suspended because of an incident in his last regular season start last year, then will be on the disabled, er, injured list. He had a 3.65 ERA in 29 starts last season. Joining him on the Opening Day IL will be Luis Severino. Severino, the ace of the staff, has received Cy Young votes in each of the last two seasons, and is entering his age 25 season. He had a 3.39 ERA last season. Masahiro Tanaka is still around, and will start Opening Day. Though inconsistent, Tanaka's 2018 ERA was nearly a run less than his ERA in 2017. Due to Severino and Sabathia's injuries, Domingo German and top pitching prospect Jonathan Loaisiga will likely start in the rotation, though Luis Cessa is another option. Jordan Montgomery, a starter from the 2017 team, will return from Tommy John surgery midseason. The Yankees could also possibly add Gio Gonzalez to the team.

                    Bullpen
For the last couple of years, the bullpen has seen vast improvements since the offseason following 2017. Dellin Betances was still around then, and though his ERA has shot up since 2014-15, he became the first reliever ever to have five consecutive 100 or more strikeout seasons. The 2017 offseason was when Aroldis Chapman was signed. Chapman had a 2.45 ERA with 32 saves and struck out 93 batters in 51.1 innings. Zack Britton, another trade deadline acquisition that was re-signed in the offseason, was solid in his Yankees debut. If he could find a way to get back to his 2016 supernova form, then the Yankees' bullpen would excel even more. Chad Green wasn't as great as he was in 2017, but still had a very respectable 2.50 ERA. He has a career 11.8 K/9 rate. Adam Ottavino, who grew up a Yankees fan, finally gets to play for them this year. 2018 was his best season, with a 2.43 ERA and 112 strikeouts in 77.2 innings. Jonathan Holder returns after a breakout season that saw him earn the trust of manager Aaron Boone and he posted a 3.14 ERA. Tommy Kahnle faltered, and spent the chunk of 2018 in AAA. The Yankees could use him getting back to 2017 form. The final spot could either go to either German, Loaisiga or Cessa, depending on who doesn't make the rotation, or Stephen Tarpley, a lefty who impressed in 10 games down the stretch last season, and made the playoff roster.

                        Catching
Gary Sanchez had a small bit of trade rumors in the offseason, but were obviously shut down by GM Brian Cashman. Injuries and overall bad play ruined 2018 for Sanchez. He hit 18 home runs with a .697 OPS, largely due to a .291 OBP. But, Sanchez has 30-40 home run power when healthy. Austin Romine returns again as the backup, after setting career highs in batting average (.244), OPS (.713) and home runs (10).

                         Infield
First base has been a death battle between Luke Voit and Greg Bird, both of which are having great Spring Trainings. Voit hit 14 home runs with a 1.095 OPS in 132 at bats for the Yankees last year after a trade from St. Louis. Bird, a former top prospect, again disappointed, hitting .199. Both at second and third base are sophomores that finished second and third in rookie of the year voting. Third baseman Miguel Andujar slugged out 27 home runs with a .297 batting average. Second baseman Gleyber Torres had about 150 less at bats than Andujar, but still hit 24 home runs with a .820 OPS. Shortstop Didi Gregorius will miss half of 2018 because of Tommy John surgery, and in his place will be two former Rockies. Troy Tulowitzki missed all of 2017, but the five time all-star is the favorite to play short. It will be interesting to see how DJ LeMahieu will play away from Coors Field. He has a .298 career batting average. He is primarily a second baseman, but the Yankees plan to use him at first base and third base, which he hasn't played since 2014. Tyler Wade, who is much better defensively than offensively, enters the season as the utility man.

                          Outfield
Center fielder Aaron Hicks recently signed a seven year extension, but he won't start on Opening Day in year one of the deal. He will start the season on the IL, but should quickly be activated (thus is why is on the projected lineup below). Aaron Judge missed 50 games in his sophomore season, and hit 27 home runs, nearly half of what he hit in his record breaking rookie campaign. Left fielder Brett Gardner returns for another season, and will be the Yankees' primary steal income. Former top prospect Clint Frazier will hopefully get left field looks this season. But, he is having a bad Spring Training, and it looks like Wade, who is  inexperienced in the outfield, could be the fourth OF.

                          DH/Bench
Well, Giancarlo Stanton also plays outfield. But, he was primarily a DH in his first Yankees season. His home run total dropped by 21 to 38, but that still led the Yankees, as did his 100 RBIs and his 705 Plate Appearances (Gardner was second with 609). The Yankees like to go with a short bench. Once again, Romine will be a part of it. So will LeMahieu and Wade.

                          Lineup
CF Aaron Hicks
RF Aaron Judge
DH Giancarlo Stanton
C Gary Sanchez
3B Miguel Andujar
2B Gleyber Torres
1B Luke Voit
SS Troy Tulowitzki
LF Brett Gardner

                           Rotation
Masahiro Tanaka (R)
James Paxton (L)
JA Happ (L)
Luis Cessa (R)
Domingo German (R)

                            Bullpen
Aroldis Chapman (L)
Dellin Betances (R)
Zack Britton (L)
Chad Green (R)
Adam Ottavino (R)
Jonathan Holder (R)
Tommy Kahnle (R)
Stephen Tarpley (L)

                             Bench
C Austin Romine
INF DJ LeMahieu
UT Tyler Wade

                             Additional Information
Ballpark: Yankee Stadium
Manager: Aaron Boone
GM: Brian Cashman
World Series Championships: 27
2018 record: 100-62

                             Steal of the Decade
There are a couple of trades that can go here. The Aroldis Chapman trade that landed Gleyber Torres and eventually had them as teammates once Chapman re-signed is a possibility. So is Aaron Hicks for John Ryan Murphy. But I'll choose a three team trade with Detroit and Arizona. Arizona traded backup shortstop Didi Gregorius to the Yankees. The Yankees traded pitcher Shane Greene to the Tigers, and pitcher Robbie Ray went from Detroit to Arizona. That isn't the entire trade, but it is the gist of it. Gregorius had the task of replacing the legendary Derek Jeter at short. Since 2016, Gregorius has hit 20 home runs each year, with his career highs going from 20 to 25 to 27. Those 27 broke the record for a Yankees shortstop. He also has a .765 OPS with the Yanks. Gregorius will miss half of 2019, but is still the best trade New York has made this decade.

                             Prediction
The Yankees are very good. But, so are the Red Sox. The Yankees should have no problem getting into the playoffs, but will still battle for the division title. Once in, the Yankees have a legit shot for their 28th World Series.

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