Say what you will about how it ended, but there's no denying that the 2017 Yankees had one of the more enjoyable seasons in recent memory. For me, a big part of it was all the home runs. There are few things in baseball that get me more excited than good old Yankee dingers.
Needless to say, my baseball fandom suffered considerably in that regard from 2013-2016. After coming off of a team-record 245 home runs in 2012, the Yankees only cracked the 200-homer mark once in the next four years. It was glorious to see the Bombers live up to their name in 2017 with a 241-homer campaign.
Luckily, all signs point to the Yankees continuing their homer-happy ways in 2018. Starlin Castro and Todd Frazier are gone, but the core of the lineup - Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, Greg Bird - remains intact. There is also the small matter of Giancarlo Stanton also being on next year's squad. It’s safe to say that there's a chance we might see a new team home run record next year.
Why stop there, though? It's a slow news cycle and winter's not going away anytime soon. Why not pass the time by indulging in some sweeter fantasies? The current MLB record for most home runs by a team in a single season is 264, set by the Seattle Mariners in 1997. The Yankees have a legitimate chance to top that in 2018.
First, it makes sense to look at what the projection systems have to say. ZiPS hasn't been released yet for the Yankees, so I'm going to refer to Steamer, which is generally the more conservative of the two. According to Steamer, the Yankees are projected for an even 250 home runs in 2018.
It’s worth taking a minute to fully appreciate how absurd that projection is. Hitting 250 homers would put the 2018 Yankees at fifth-most all time, between the 2010 Toronto Blue Jays (257) and the 2000 Houston Astros (249). Projection systems are not supposed to spit out those kinds of numbers. They are meant to provide reasonable, 50th-percentile forecasts of a given player/team's performance. When Steamer says, “Yeah 250 homers is probably a reasonable estimate for your club”, then it’s going to be one heck of a ride.
Perhaps the scariest part of the Steamer projection is that none of the individual projections are really out of whack. The most optimistic projection is for Stanton, who's pegged for 55 homers. Normally, I'd be wary of predicting anyone to hit 50 home runs, but after watching him take off in 2017 after his swing change, I'd say 50 is well within the realm of possibility for him. Some might say that Greg Bird's projection (29 homers) is on the optimistic side as well, but that's an issue of playing time, not ability.
Other than Stanton, all of the numbers seem to be on the conservative side. Judge (37), Sanchez (30), Gregorius (19), and Brett Gardner (16) are all projected to hit fewer bombs than they did in 2017. Judge's projection in particular seems unduly harsh, as Steamer tends to come down hard on young players with lesser track records. Bumping him up to 50 homers would get the Yankees to 263 homers all by itself, merely one homer short of the all-time record.
Same goes for rookies Gleyber Torres (7) and Miguel Andujar (12). Both certainly have the potential to exceed their projected totals. If the two of them manage to find some early success against MLB pitching, the Yankees might blow past the 264-homer mark.
In short, the Yankees certainly have the firepower to make a 265-homer season possible. The main things that stand between them and history are health and rookie volatility. Will players like Bird and Aaron Hicks be able to stay on the field? Will Torres and Andujar be able to transition smoothly to the majors? Those aren't small “if”s by any means, but they aren't damning ones either. When all is said and done, it's hard not to like the Yankees’ chances at setting the new MLB record for team home runs.