Well, that's a wrap, Yankee fans. While the season has come to a close in a somewhat sad manner, the Yankees had a successful 2015 season. They weren't predicted by many to make much noise in the division, and they ended up leading the AL East for much of the year and sneaking into the playoffs, and losing to a brilliant Dallas Keuchel is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. This team built its success this season on the backs of many players few expected much from, so here are the biggest (pleasant) surprises of the 2015 Yankees.
Old guys remembering how to play baseball
This is perhaps the most obvious - and the most important - surprise of this season. Few people expected Mark Teixeira to be very productive after a couple seasons lost to injury. No one knew what Alex Rodriguez would do after a couple years of injury-plagued, ineffectual performance (oh, and he had some suspension to deal with, too). Carlos Beltran's first season in pinstripes was a disaster.
This looked like a shoddy heart of the lineup coming into the year, but for much of it, this was one of the best offensive cores in baseball. Teixeira played 111 games, hitting 31 home runs with a 143 wRC+ before finally succumbing to an unfortunate leg fracture. Alex Rodriguez led the team in homers with 33 and posted a .250/.356/.486 triple slash. Beltran ended up being the Yankees most consistent hitter, posting a 119 wRC+ and playing in 133 games. This incredible resurgence by some of the oldest hitters in the game led the Yankees to score the second most runs in the majors this year. The combined production of these three led the Yankees offense to heights it hasn't seen in years, and I think it's fairly safe to say that almost no one saw this coming.
Didi Gregorius becoming the most valuable position player
The Yankees found a young shortstop in the offseason when they acquired Gregorius for Shane Greene, and while Gregorius got off to a rough start, he became the Yankees most valuable position player. His 3.1 fWAR stands just a bit above Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann's 2.9 He hit well for a shortstop (.265 average, 89 wRC+), and played terrific defense, and he looks to be a major fixture for years to come. According to fWAR, he was the seventh best shortstop in the majors this year, and he could still improve at the plate. I can't wait to see what he does next year.
The youngsters making meaningful contributions
I've read a few times that if most Yankee fans had heard that Luis Severino and Greg Bird would be getting serious playing time in September, they would've expected the Yankees to be well out of the playoff race. I would've thought the same thing. But we got our first looks at some of the best Yankee prospects in a while, and they happened to come in baseball games that actually mattered. Bird filled in after Teixeira's injury and did better than anyone could've expected, slashing .261/.343/.529 with a 137 wRC+ in 178 plate appearances.
Severino got called up in August, and over 11 games and 62.1 innings, he managed a 2.89 ERA and a 4.37 FIP. While he gave up too many homers and struggled with his control a bit, he still pitched very well - not just for a 21 year old, but for anyone. To do it at such a young age, and in the pressure-cooker of a playoff race, is amazing.
Making the playoffs
Perhaps some of us thought the Yankees had a shot to be a playoff team this year, but a lot of that seemed dependent on pitching and health. I thought they'd need a great rotation to mitigate some expected offensive woes, but the opposite happened - the rotation was solid, but injuries remained a problem, and instead, a heavy-hitting lineup and an elite bullpen carried the Yankees to the playoffs. If anyone had told me in April that the Yankees would just sneak into the Wild Card Game, I would've taken that in a heartbeat.
What do you think the biggest surprise from this season was? Let us know below!