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2017 New York Yankees Team Preview

After contending most of the 2016 season, the New York Yankees found themselves on the outside looking in, finishing five games behind the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles for the two Wild Card spots in the American League. Instead of loading up on free agents in the off-season, the Yankee brass has decided to let the young guns take the wheel.

[the_ad id=”567″]Gone are high profile players such as Carlos Beltran (traded to Texas at the deadline), Alex Rodriguez (released), Mark Teixeira (retired), Nathan Eovaldi (released) and Brian McCann (traded to Houston). They’ve now been replaced by rookies Greg Bird, Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Tyler Austin, Luis Cessa and Chad Green. The Yankees didn’t shy too far away from the free agent field as they brought back pitcher Aroldis Chapman and signed Matt Holliday and Chris Carter. The addition of Carter and Holliday will basically cover the DH roll. Carter led the NL last year with 41 HRs but also struck out 206 times and has never batted over .236 in his career. Holliday is a lifetime .303 hitter who has averaged over 20 HRs and 100 RBIs throughout his career, however, his numbers have diminished with age.

In only 201 at bats, Gary Sanchez became a superstar and established himself as the No. 1 backstop making it easy for Yankees GM Brian Cashman to trade McCann to Houston. The 24-year-old Sanchez slashed an AVG/OBP/SLG line of .299/.372/.650 while also hitting 20 HRs, 12 doubles, and 42 RBIs. Sanchez’s ability to throw baserunners out from his knees means the Yankees seem pretty set behind the plate — that is if he can produce in the same way during a full season as he did in a little over a month last year. This will be one of the many ‘Ifs’ the team will have going into this season.

The Yankees’ infield has pretty much everyone returning from last year with Starlin Castro at second, Didi Gregorius playing short and Chase Headley at third. The one new addition will be Bird at first base. Bird was supposed to be Teixeira’s backup last year but a season-ending shoulder injury in Spring Training put an end to that plan. He comes into the position with high potential for power and defense and has the full confidence of the head office that he can replace the oft- injured Teixeira. Carter and Holliday can back up Bird at first or fill in if he falters. This, however, leaves Tyler Austin as the odd man out. Both Gregorius and Castro hit over 20 HRs for the first time in their career and both had 70 RBIs (Gregorious’s 71 led the team). They were also the only two batters to hit over .270 and play more than 150 games for the club. Headley missed 14 games last year due to injuries and doesn’t seem like he will get anywhere close to the 31 HRs and 115 RBIs he earned in the 2012 season.

Look to see Ronald Torreyes and Rob Refsnyder battle for the infield backup jobs. Both have relatively the same batting numbers, although Torreyes is better defensively. Depending on how his spring goes, top prospect Gleyber Torres could supplant one of these guys and take a roster spot with the big club — he could even challenge Headley for the third base position.

Aaron JudgeWith Jacoby Ellsbury in center field and Brett Gardner playing left field, the real battle this spring will be between Aaron Hicks and Aaron Judge for the right field position. Judge brings the potential power, middle of the lineup bat while Hicks is a switch-hitter with above-average speed. Both struggled at the plate last year but have above-average arms and are good defensive fielders. Holliday can fill in at the corners as well.

The signing of Chapman gives the Yankees a bona fide closer who has a fastball that averages 100mph and they also have one of the top setup men in baseball in Dellin Betances — all good news. The bad news is they have only three starters in Masahiro Tanaka, C.C Sabathia, and Michael Pineda. Tanaka is the clear ace with Sabathia having somewhat of a comeback year, and Pineda having a year he wishes to forget, even though he struck out 207 he finished 6-12 with an ugly 4.82 ERA. This leaves the Yankees entering the 2017 season with two open starting positions. Cessa, Green, Bryan Mitchell, Louis Severino, Adam Warren and Jon Niese will all be vying for these spots. With Severino’s horrible stats last year as a starter, look to see him start in the bullpen along with Warren who has spent most of his career as a swing man. This leaves Cessa, Green, Mitchell and Niese to pitch their way into one of the two spots in the spring.

[the_ad id=”693″]The New York Yankees are coming into the 2017 season as a team in transition. Having only made the playoffs once (2015) since 2012, it looks like Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has started a youth movement in the hopes of sparking new life into a club on the downswing with an eye on a future championship. Cashman’s build-now-win-later attitude is a stark contrast to the days of the late George Steinbrenner’s spend-now-win-now attitude. With teams in the East like Boston, Toronto, and Baltimore, this Yankees team will be hard-pressed to make the playoffs this year. They have potential in their young stars but as of right now that’s all it is –potential.

There are plenty of unknowns this year: if Sanchez can maintain the same numbers over a full season or how well will Bird be after shoulder surgery and a year off. They’ll have to wait and see if Judge has developed enough to be an MLB starter, or if the Yankees can get through the season with the starters they have. With all these questions in mind, look for the team battle for third in the East if everything goes right. Otherwise, it could be a battle for them to make .500.

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