Well, it's the Friday before the season begins. Only a very reasonable amount of hours separate us all from one of the most exciting days on the sports calendar, Opening Day. This window also provides the final chance to get in any last-minute predictions
sure to go wrong before the season's introductory pitch is delivered.
For the Yankees, 2015 appears to be as hard a season to forecast as any the franchise has had in the previous two decades. Between a re-tooled roster (is that the world that we've settled on?), but one that certainly has its holes and question marks, the Bombers could do just about anything this year and few would be utterly shocked. With that in mind, here are five bold predictions for the Yankees' upcoming season:
5. Stephen Drew isn't the worst everyday player in the lineup
This isn't necessarily as bad as it sounds! Yes, Drew is coming off The Worst Season Of All Time. Yes, there is stiff competition at the position in the form of Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela. Yes, Drew didn't look particularly rejuvenated in Grapefruit League action (.188/.278.250 through yesterday's game). However, it can't be completely ignored that just two years ago, Drew was a productive bat in a World Series-winning lineup. Is it out of the question for Drew to hit 15 home runs and hit .240? For New York's sake, one would hope not.
4. The Yankees' production at shortstop increases from its 2014 levels
Okay, so maybe this one isn't as bold as it is difficult for Yankee fans to hear. Life after the Captain is a weird concept, but even though he might not sell as many t-shirts, Didi Gregorius is potentially a fine replacement for 2014 Jeter, and then some. At the very least, New York's defense up the middle will take a significant leap, as Gregorius posted a better defensive WAR a year ago than Jeter had since 1998. The 25-year old took a step back offensively last year, and his wrist injury is not an ideal start for the year, but Gregorius showed offensive skill in 2013. If he does exactly what he did that year (.254/.332/.373), it's a win for the Yankees.
3. Alex Rodriguez finishes as a top three home run hitter for the team
Every year, people overreact to spring statistics and every year, those some people get burned by making dumb predictions. Am I falling into the trap with A-Rod? Yeah, probably. Wouldn't it be awesome, though, if he just had a huge year? By huge year, we should be realistic. 30 homer A-Rod is gone (I think) but 20 homer A-Rod is very plausible if he performs consistently anywhere close to the level we saw this spring. Keep in mind that he hasn't hit 20 or more since 2010. His performance since arriving in Tampa, on and off the field, has appeared to earn him the benefit of the doubt in terms of keeping his name in the lineup on a regular basis. The Yankees need all the offense they can get their hands on in 2015, and they're certainly paying A-Rod enough to do his part.
Extra prediction: A-Rod's 660th homer, which will vault him into a tie with Willie Mays on the all-time home run list, and net him a cool $6 million, will be a walk-off shot.
2. The Yankees have the majors' best record when leading after six innings
While it's been a semi-disastrous March for Dellin Betances, well....remember what I said about trying not to get too married to spring stats? There are some great bullpens in baseball (Kansas City, Seattle, Oakland, San Francisco, to name a few), but the Yankees have as much firepower as any of them. David Carpenter could wind up to be an absolute steal for the team in the Manny Banuelos deal (as could Chasen Shreve, the other player New York picked up). The signing of Andrew Miller gives the Yankees the best eighth and ninth inning combo in the league, assuming Betances' issues in Florida don't travel north with him. The Yankees can't count on getting an excessive amount of innings from their starters this season. Having a lights-out bullpen, which they should, helps mask that scar.
1. Michael Pineda is an All-Star and a serious Cy Young contender
Last year, Yankees fans saw how incredible Big Mike is capable of performing. Alas, they just it just 13 times due to injury (and suspension, but we don't have to talk about that). If Pineda can make 30 starts, there is absolutely no reason why he shouldn't be in Cincinnati this July representing the American League, and no reason why his name won't be tossed around as a legitimate Cy Young candidate. The stuff is there. The build is there. The crooked hat is there. For an organization that is in transition, like New York is, Pineda is the perfect player. Ton of talent, young, cheap. Across town, the Mets are assembling a pitching rotation that has many thinking of the playoffs. However, it is very possible that in 2015, the best pitcher in the town is Pineda.
What are your bold predictions for the Yankees in 2015?