Who are the 2023 New York Yankees? That is a question I have been asking myself since the season began. Over 60 games into the season and I am still lacking clarity. Maybe it is less about my indecision and more about what the Yankees have provided on the field. As you parse through the intricacies of this season you find a mixed bag of results, and maybe that’s just what the Yankees are.
Can we coin them the trail mix of baseball? How about the appetizer sampler of the big leagues? Maybe I’m just hungry, but whatever your taste, the Yankees provide an opportunity for your opinion to come true. With a majority of the season remaining there is hope for winning the division. However, maybe this team is destined for a Wild Card spot, or possibly they will miss the playoffs entirely. Let us break it all down.
We should get the negativity out of the way early with the nightmare scenario of the Yankees missing the playoffs. With an extra Wild Card spot and the second-highest payroll in baseball, the mere thought of the Yankees missing the playoffs feels misguided. But recent memory, including an early season skid in 2023 and a brutal August last season, serves to remind us that things can unravel quickly.
Fans and prognosticators that believe that the Yankees could miss the playoffs, which I’m not sure there are many right now, would likely point to the Yankees’ frequent injuries as a concern. Extended periods without top players like Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton shortens this lineup, and exposes the lack of depth that has already reared its ugly head a handful of times this season. Injuries are unpredictable, but the Yankees seem to have a knack for making them habitual. Both the lineup and the starting rotation have been hit hard by the injury bug. It’s hard to imagine this team missing the playoffs, but if you want to win in this league you need your top guys out there every day.
The most realistic scenario for the Yankees is that they end up as a Wild Card team this season. Maybe that is not the season that everyone envisioned, but it is the reality of this team. The revolving door within the starting rotation has not done the Yankees any favors, though luckily their bullpen has picked up the slack by currently boasting the best ERA in baseball. Solid seasons from Anthony Rizzo and Aaron Judge have carried this offense, but poor seasons from the likes of DJ LeMahieu and Oswaldo Cabrera have left the bottom of the lineup sputtering. The star power is elite, but the supporting cast is lacking in many areas.
Stuck in the middle of a tough division, this team reeks of a Wild Card team. FanGraphs agrees as the Yankees are currently projected to finish with 90 wins. That’s good enough for a second Wild Card spot, and four games better than an Orioles squad projected to narrowly miss the boat for the third and final wild card spot in the AL. That would set the Yankees up for a three-game series in — you guessed it — Houston. If the Yankees can stay afloat while Judge is on the mend, the playoffs are there for the taking. I wish I had more conviction in my answer that this is a playoff team, but these Yankees haven’t convinced me of much this year.
FanGraphs projects the Yankees to finish second behind the Rays in the AL East. A whopping nine games back of the Rays. Yikes. It is only June, but the division is slipping away. They would need some help and some health. This rotation and lineup when healthy can beat anyone, but will the full-strength Yankees ever become a reality? A tough June without Judge may put the division out of reach, but who says they can’t have a scorching hot July and August? The return of Carlos Rodón and an upgrade in left field would certainly help. I somehow worry about the regular season Yankees but dream of the playoff Yankees being at full strength.
This team somehow makes you feel concerned and optimistic at the same time. That spectrum seems to leave fans with their head spinning about what type of team is going to show up each day. I’m open to suggestions for how I’m supposed to feel about this team because right now the 2023 Yankees have me confused.