After the Yankees sold at the deadline, effectively punting the remainder of the season, it would be easy to lose interest in the 2016 squad. They aren’t competing for anything, their best players were just traded away, and frankly, Yankees fans aren’t used to that. Still, there are many reasons to keep watching this team for the remainder of the year.
Let the Kids Play
If you’ve been begging the Yankees to bring up the kids for the last few seasons, well this team is for you. In the coming days, the team plans to bring several prospects up to the big leagues in order to give them a look in preparation for next year.
Luis Severino has been placed back into the rotation after months spent in Triple-A and a stint in the bullpen. Now that the season is over, the Yankees have nothing to lose by allowing him to pitch. If he struggles, then you let him pitch through it, and if he does well then you have some confidence going into next year. He should be someone to watch every fifth day because he could change things for the New York rotation next year.
Gary Sanchez is already serving as the designated hitter with Alex Rodriguez banished to the bench. He already collected his first major league hit and followed that up with his first extra base hit the following day.
Sanchez is destined to be part of the Yankees fairly soon, especially if they decide to release A-Rod. Regardless of what the team decides to do, it will be fun to finally see what Sanchez can do when given the chance, even if Brian McCann is still entrenched behind the plate.
Now that he’s returned from a knee injury, Aaron Judge should finally get the call to the big leagues this year. Carlos Beltran is gone and Aaron Hicks doesn’t seem to be doing much to keep the 24-year-old down. Judge improved his strikeout rates and kept his power numbers up, however, the real test will be in how he responds to big league pitching.
Judge is a big man with a lot of moving parts, so strikeouts are going to be part of his game, but it’s a matter of how well he can limit them and still be productive. We likely won’t have all the answers this season, but at least this is where it all starts for him. His debut should be a must-watch event for all Yankees fans.
Tyler Austin is not a name I thought I would be excited to see in the big leagues in 2016, but here we are now that Brian Cashman mentioned him as a guy to look out for. He’s managed to hit .291/.394/.522 with 17 home runs this year, invoking memories of his breakout 2012 campaign before wrist injuries dropped him into oblivion. If he shows he can actually hit, he could be an interesting wild card for the team moving forward.
Mark Teixeira will soon be gone, and with Greg Bird recovering from shoulder surgery, Tyler Austin could serve as a short-term replacement to begin the 2017 season now that he seems to be a full-time first baseman. Even if Bird is fine, they’re still going to need a backup at first, and he could provide a valuable right-handed bat off the bench as well. He’s someone to keep an eye on.
Evaluate the Bullpen
Even before the Yankees broke up their super bullpen at the deadline, the team’s reliever corps was not an incredibly strong one outside of their top three. Now that things are looking a lot different, they need to evaluate their assets and figure out who they might be able to rely on heading into next year.
Tyler Clippard is back with the Yankees, but his home run problem likely won’t translate well at Yankee Stadium. He was more or less acquired simply to replace the talent lost at the backend of the bullpen, but how much of it was them thinking they might be able to correct his fly ball tendencies? It will be interesting to see how he does the rest of the way–will he be a reliable arm, or is he going to be a liability?
Adam Warren was an important pitcher for the Yankees before being shipped to the Cubs in the offseason. Things turned ugly for him there, but now he’s back in New York and looking to turn back the clock. Can the Yankees put him back together, or will he continue to struggle? With Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman gone, they could really use his help.
At some point they will have to evaluate everyone they have. Last year’s bullpen crop fell well short of expectations, so they cannot afford to have the same problem again next year. Hopefully we will see plenty of Nick Goody, Johnny Barbato, Chasen Shreve, Chad Green, and Luis Cessa to see if any of them can succeed in the time they have. Ben Heller, acquired in the Andrew Miller trade, is a high-velocity reliever with late-inning potential who should be up soon. It would also be great to see the likes of Tyler Webb, Giovanny Gallegos, and maybe even Brady Lail.
A Rooting Interest
Maybe the biggest reason to watch the Yankees for the remainder of the season is that it’s ok to root for them to win again. Let’s face it, many of us wanted them to lose heading into the deadline, and it felt gross. Now that the team has already sold and done what is best for the franchise, we can go back to simply enjoying baseball again. They might not be as good, but at least they have nothing to lose. It’s disappointing they aren’t contending anymore, but it’s clear that there is so much left to root for here. The future is bright, so stick around.