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Best and worst case scenarios for the 2018 Yankees

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What has to go right for the Yankees to make a World Series run?

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Atlanta Braves Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

At long last, the Yankees kick off the 2018 season tomorrow in Toronto. One of the best things about the start of the new season is the feeling of hope for what lies ahead. After all, the Yankees greatly exceeded expectations last year, and ended up just one game away from the World Series. With the addition of Giancarlo Stanton, it would be tough to argue that the team didn’t improve over the offseason. So, is this team World Series bound? Hopefully. Here’s a look at how things could go right (or wrong) for the Yankees this year.

Pitching

This year’s rotation looks exactly the same as it did at the end of last season, and that is okay. This group could be great as long as everyone stays healthy. It’s easy to imagine Luis Severino repeating last year’s performance and winning the Cy Young Award. This dream scenario involves postseason Masahiro Tanaka showing up, and for CC Sabathia to continue to find a way to roll back the clock. Sonny Gray was a bit underwhelming during his time with the Yankees last year, but we could see him reach his full potential. Jordan Montgomery is a wild card, but who is to say that his rookie campaign wasn’t the real deal?

As nice as it is to imagine the rotation coming together, there is also the flip side to consider. There are a lot of question marks surrounding the Yankees’ starting pitchers. Just last season, Sabathia’s knee degenerative knee condition got so bad that he seriously considered retirement. He has been getting it drained and wearing the bulky knee brace, but it could flare up at any moment. The same concern exists for Tanaka and his partially torn UCL. Of course, given the number of players who have Tommy John surgery every year, the same could be said about anyone on the Yankees’ staff.

Brian Cashman was unable to add another arm to the rotation, and that could end up being the biggest regret of the offseason. If the the Yankees are hit with a major injury (or two), then they would have to turn to Scranton to find replacements. Domingo German and Chance Adams could be okay as spot starters, but they are still unproven at the major league level.

There is no doubt that this bullpen is one of the best in baseball. The Yankees have three closers in Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, and David Robertson, which will give Aaron Boone the option to mix and match as he sees fit. Not to mention the fact that Chad Green had a remarkable 2017 and Tommy Kahnle was a great pick up in the White Sox trade. Adam Warren and Jonathan Holder round out the ‘pen. With everyone firing on all cylinders, this bullpen could very well rack up 700 strikeouts.

With that being said, it is hard to forget how much Betances struggled at times last year. His command issues seem to be getting worse (6.64 BB/9 in 2017), and the Yankees couldn’t trust him in any high-leverage situations during their playoff run. It would be a shame to see him delegated to mop-up duty, but the Yankees have enough depth to still be in good shape if that is the worst thing that happens.

Offense

It even looked like the Yankees might start the season without any major injuries, and then the Greg Bird news broke. Bird had surgery to remove a bone spur in his ankle earlier in the week, and he is expected to miss 6-8 weeks. On the plus side, it seems like they have identified the problem, which is more than we could say for several months last season. It is somewhat worrisome that the Yankees will be rolling with some combination of Tyler Austin, Tyler Wade, Brandon Drury, and Neil Walker in the infield though. First base was a black hole last year, and that could be true again.

If the Yankees need infield help, they could call up Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, but both might prove to need more time in Triple-A. This team is stacked with outfielders, but you never know when the injury bug will hit. The true worst case scenario has to be one where Jacoby Ellsbury is somehow the best outfielder on the team (and not because he transformed into the 2011 version of Ellsbury either).

Fortunately, we shouldn’t have to worry about that scenario coming true. Last year, the Yankees hit the most home runs in baseball (241). With Stanton, they could be looking at a number right around 300. Aaron Judge and Stanton might even hit 110 homers between them. It’s unfortunate that Torres and Andujar won’t break camp with the Yankees, but Brandon Drury and Neil Walker are capable of holding down second and third base for now. They could even make us forget that the kids are waiting in the wings. When Torres and Andujar finally do get the call, fingers crossed it will have been worth the wait.

We still don’t really know what to expect from Aaron Boone in his first year as Yankees manager, but here’s hoping that he takes this team all the way to the World Series.