This might be the hardest team to predict in all of baseball. Luckily I won’t have to predict and all I will have to do is tell you why the New York Yankees will win the American League East. I know plenty of people, including Yankee fans, who are already writing this team off. “They’re too old, too many injuries, they can’t hit.” Well that may all be true from last year’s team (even though they finished with 84 wins and second place in the East) but this year’s team is different, slightly.
The Yankees do bring back a majority of their starting lineup from last year except the departure of the beloved Derek Jeter. The Yankees also bring in Andrew Miller to form probably the best righty-lefty bullpen duos with Dellin Betances. They re-signed Chase Headley to man third base and traded for slick fielder Didi Gregorius and young flame-thrower Nathan Eovaldi. Then there’s the return of Alex Rodriguez. The 39-year-old is coming off a season-long suspension for PED use. So the circus is back in the Bronx surrounding A-Rod and without Jeter all the attention will be turned to him. That may be a good thing as Gregorius, who is replacing a guy who Yankee fans have seen man shortstop over two decades, is flying under the radar thus far.
Their offseason focus was to get younger and better defensively and in the bullpen. The Yankees vastly improved their defense with Gregorius, Headley and Stephen Drew. They also improved their bullpen despite the loss of closer David Robertson. Like the defending AL champion Kansas City Royals, the Yankees will look to replicate that deep postseason run with defense and their bullpen. If they cannot score runs, they sure will prevent opponents from scoring.
But this is the Yankees and fans demand the playoffs each and every season and a year without a championship is a failure. This season Yankee fans will not have to worry about their team missing the postseason for three straight seasons. So far this spring training, veterans Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira, who dealt with injuries all last season, look revived and healthy once again. The Yankees will rely on them in the middle of the order to be better. Brian McCann enters his second full season as the Yankees catcher and looks much more relaxed and ready. Yes their lineup is old and have questions about health but one through nine this is still one of the best lineups in the league. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner add much needed speed to the top of the order while Headley and Gregorius have had very strong springs. The return of Rodriguez will help them too, adding 15 home runs in the seven hole in the order.
Their rotation is probably the best in the American League East, if not the American League. It is led by Masahiro Tanaka, who became their ace before going down with a partial UCL tear in his throwing elbow. That will be a major topic throughout the season but he has gone through spring training without any hesitation or setbacks. Michael Pineda pitched to a 1.89 earned run average in 13 starts. He will be a huge factor and has the stuff to be an ace on this team. Then comes CC Sabathia coming off season-ending knee surgery. He added over 30 pounds this off-season and has hit 93 MPH on the radar gun. Their top of the rotation stacks up against most in the league and their deep bullpen consisting of the two-headed monster in Betances and Miller will shorten games.
People might be counting the old guys out but just remember to never count out the Yankees, especially this year. This is a team that can make a deep run in the playoffs with bounce-back seasons from Beltran, Teixeira and McCann and with top pitching from their young aces Tanaka and Pineda. Look out for this mix of young guys and veteran players because they can shock a lot of people and take this very winnable division.