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.

16 Responses

  1. Les Schraeder

    I wish I could share your optimism Tyler but I just can’t. Their offense is less than average and there are just to many question marks with this team. Their outfield will be their undoing. Gardner is on the decline, Ellsbury is too injury prone and Beltran is just done. Starting Drew at second is another bad choice. This will be their first losing season since the early 90’s.

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    • Bob

      While I do agree with you, I think he is giving reasons for every team in the AL East.

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    • Jo JoAnne

      Not sure how Gardner is on the decline. Granted he isn’t swiping 40 bases a year anymore but he more than doubled his single season home run total last year.. Ellsbury had a couple of freak collision injuries and now he is injury prone? Beltran had surgery to fix the elbow that caused his problems last year.. Although I will say that the author is too optimistic, you are too pessimistic. The Yankees will not have a losing year this year.. They will probably end up like last year with around 85 wins.
      What I don’t understand is with Forbes once again ranking the Yankees the most valuable franchise yet again, why does Hal have to be so greedy and keep repeating how he feels that you shouldn’t have to spend $200m to win a championship? That is true for small market teams who go through win-lose cycles and get high draft picks. The Yankees are in the biggest market in baseball and have millions of bandwagon fans around the country. If you have the money, you need to spend it or sell the team to someone who will. Not going after Lester hard in the offseason was a big mistake. Everyone would pick the Yankees to make the playoffs if Cano was still manning 2nd, Robertson was still closing, and Lester was leading the staff.. Granted Cano wanted WAY too much money but he was homegrown and paying him $25m a year would have averaged out fine with the years the Yankees had him at the league minimum..

      Reply
      • Les Schraeder

        Have you watched any games this Spring Training? Or are you one of those that believes in immediate turn-arounds once the season begins? Gardner is hitting .140 right now. Beltran supposedly healthy is at .200. My point is that their offense is struggling just like the last 2 seasons. I also strongly disagree with you on the subject of Lester and especially Cano and Robertson. They saved $10 million and got a better reliever in Miller than keeping Robertson. Cano will be another A-Rod contract in 4-5 years. I love me some Yankees but I am a realist at the same time. I look for a turnaround in 2017 but not before.

      • Jo JoAnne

        I agree on the Cano contract being a bust in a few years but the Yankees had him at league minimum in the beginning of his career, so it would have averaged out.. I didn’t understand why they gave Ellsbury that much money but wouldn’t go a couple of extra years for a home grown superstar.. Granted, I personally hated Cano but he was a polarizing guy in NY.. Spring training means absolutely jack to me.. Look at Solarte and Sabathia’s spring totals last year.. One bad spring training doesn’t mean he is on the decline.. Now if he has similar stats through July you can make that argument.. There won’t be much of a turnaround in 2017. That will be the year Hal finally gets under the luxury tax.. The spending probably won’t start again until 2018 but with the way teams are locking up the young guys these days, I wouldn’t look for much to be available..

      • Les Schraeder

        I did not say that the Yankees would be on a spending spree after 2016. By then Judge, Bird and Refsnyder should be ready to contribute. Perhaps even C.C. or A-Rod might be gone by that time due to medical issues. I strongly believe there will be a focus on strengthening their outfield as well. I expect that there will some tempered spending in 2018 nowever. Perhaps Cashman and Girardi will both be gone by that time. My crystal ball prediction is that Mike Trout will be a Yankee in 2021.

      • Jo JoAnne

        Wouldn’t that be something? I would love to see what Trout could do in a Yankee uniform. The problem with that is the Angels have shown with the signings of Wilson, Pujols, and Hamilton that they are not afraid to spend big bucks. With a homegrown talent like Trout I am sure they would be willing to go over the Luxury tax..
        Between Ref, Bird and Judge at least one of them will be a bust at the major league level. More than likely 2 of them will be.. Remember the Yankees trumpeting about their own version of the killer B’s a few years ago with Betances, Banuelos, and Brackman? The Yankees (especially Cashman) have proven year after year that they have no eye for talent. I completely agree that it is time for both Cashman and Girardi to go. Girardi needs to be first. I do think he is a top tier in game manager but when he was back in Miami and his first official move as manager was to ban facial hair he showed how much of a control freak he is. That probably had something to do with their trouble hiring a hitting coach this offseason. Micromanaging doesn’t work with a big market team like the Yankees who can afford to hire the best talent available.. Personally, I think Hal needs to go as well.. Owning the richest team in the game and saying how he doesn’t feel that they should have to spend $200m a year over and over, while the #2 team is rapidly approaching $300m a year just shows his greed. Granted, the bad contracts are weighing them down but overall they are nothing to the Yankees.. They can afford a $350m budget without much difficulty at all.. I bet if a salary cap comes up in the next collective bargaining negotiations Hal is the owner leading the charge..
        I have enjoyed our discussion.. Nice to have someone with an opposing view that isn’t a complete idiot..

      • Les Schraeder

        Thank you for the compliment. You said something that no fan has mentioned before but I believe in wholeheartedly, the organization has no eye for talent. That is incredibly observant of you. They also have no idea what price tag to place on talent. That is why they overpay so dramatically on some of their contracts. I also strongly believe that is one reason Hal is afraid to open up the spending vault. In regards to Mike Trout, he grew up in New Jersey and his idol growing up was Derek Jeter. He was made to wear Pinstripes and will be the fan replacement for Jeter and the next Captain if he so desires. His contract was specifically tailored to join the Yankees and there is nothing that LA can do to stop it. WHEN he signs with the Yankees he will be the highest paid professional at that time. Regarding Girardi you are dead on. Cashman is not suited to make player personnel moves due to his lack of vision.
        I look forward to your reply

      • Jo JoAnne

        I believe that their lack of vision has something to do with ego. I strongly feel like they are stuck in the mind sight that everyone wants to play for the Yankees.. I think Cashman is also fishing for a new contract. He seems to be falling on the sword a lot lately. Not paying Moncada the extra $7m goes against everything the Yankees have done in the Boss years.. Without Hal handcuffing him there would have been no way the Sox outbid them.. I feel like he is just trying to be a loyal employee by saying it was his decision.. You nailed it by mentioning his lack of vision. I remember a few years ago where he mentioned something about his desire to GM for a small market team.. Why he would say something like that baffles me.. If a small market team had anyone of his bad contracts weighing them down they would be in the cellar for years.. Lack of vision is putting it mildly.. The guy has blinders on.. When Joe Maddon left the Rays Cashman should have traded Girardi to the Cubs for some of their pitching depth and gone after Maddon..
        I think Mike Trouts contract was geared more towards the end of the Hamilton, and Pujols deals. By the time his contract expires he will have been in the Angels organization for 10 years. Jeter will have been out of the game for 5 years and with the Pujols contract expiring the next year look for the Angels to offer him the first $400m contract. Had they given him a lifetime contract when he was first extended they would have had to pony up $500m over 15 years or even something like the Stanton deal of $350 over 12.. I don’t agree with either.. A prime example was Andruw Jones.. He was the Mike Trout of the 90’s and then when he turned 30 he forgot how to play..

      • Les Schraeder

        Either Cashman or Girardi or both will be gone by the end of 2016 when the Yankees have the ability to open their vaults again. In the mean time I will be following the progress of their prospects paying special attention to Greg Bird and Rob Refsnyder.

      • Mexor

        You are concluding Gardner is on the decline in his career because of a poor spring training batting average? That’s ludicrous.

      • Les Schraeder

        Have you seen him the last few years? He has an arm that reminds me of Damon, he is not nearly as aggressive on the bases and has been struggling at the plate for sometime now. Trade him now while he has some value or risk getting nothing for him later. He is a player on decline.

      • Mexor

        His arm is fine. He was never a great base stealer, just very fast. How long is “sometime now”? The last two years, both of which he’s posted the highest OPS+ of his career? He’s a player who has been trying to develop his power, not a player in decline.

  2. Led Millman

    Tyler , not bad, but for the Yankees it is the little things as well. The bullpen has Wilson and the real sleeper Bailey. The bench with Jones Refsnyder? or Pirella, Murphy, Young or Heathcott is much deeper and stronger. This team is built with stronger underpinnings

    Reply
  3. Eastside Sanity

    Well, you are either the most optimistic Yankees fan or delusional.

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    • Mexor

      It’s very popular to say the Yankees are going to stink, and they might. But it’s not any more out of line to say they will win the AL East, because I think they are just as likely to win the AL East as they are to stink. There are sound, analytical reasons to propose that Beltran, Texeira, and McCann will all be better this year than last. The arguments that they won’t be are much weaker, and mostly based on recency, and some vague notion of “age”. While age (and increased shifting in baseball) will probably mean Texeira and Beltran will never again approach their best seasons, McCann might. We are talking about three players here, and since the expectation of each one should be to improve over last year, it is very likely that as a set, the three of them should be better than the three of them last year. If you consider the offensive performance from each position the Yankees got over the entire course of last year, it’s not hard to imagine that the Yankees have a reasonable chance to equal or exceed that performance at every position. Last year the offense was anemic, this year it will probably be average. What won’t be average is the team’s starting rotation, bullpen, and defense. They will probably all be well above average. That is enough to win the probably mediocre AL East. Yes, the starting rotation comes with injury concerns, but so does every starting rotation in the league. I don’t buy the “Tanaka’s arm is about to fall off” claim, as if it is a forgone conclusion. It’s people claiming to know things they really don’t know. We don’t really understand UCL injury and repair enough to be making such claims. Certainly, one would expect there to be a positive correlation between past UCL injury and an increased probablity of future UCL injury, but I think it’s fallacious to combine that with the recent rash of UCL injury in general to conclude “Tanaka will be lucky to last until July”.

      Reply

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