Last week, the fine folks at Baseball Prospectus released the 2016 version of their annual to the world. It is, as per usual, an incredibly in-depth look at every team and player under the sun. If you don't want to take my word for it, you can buy one for yourself here.
Kenny Ducey of Sports Illustrated and Baseball Prospectus authored the Yankees essay in the annual. Here's a look at the most interesting things we gleamed from that essay and the countless profiles and projections of the Yankees' players.
1. Despite the youth movement, the Yankee lineup is still as old as can be...
In the midst of all the talk about the Yankees getting younger, the team still had the greatest average batter age in MLB according to Ducey. That should hopefully change by next year, once Aaron Judge and Greg Bird (get well soon, big guy!) start to earn more playing time. For now, the lineup is still among the oldest in the league, with over-thirty players at every starting position besides second base and shortstop.
2. ...but the pitching staff does have age on their side
Ducey notes that the Yankees' average pitcher age was lower than at any point since 1971, at 27.4. None of Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, Michael Pineda, or Nathan Eovaldi have even reached 29 years old. Same goes for relief aces Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman. While the effects of the move towards youth have yet to entirely show in the lineup, the pitching staff is already littered with young talent.
3. However, that young pitching staff looks rather volatile
For every player, BP estimates their chances of a breakout (posting numbers 20% better, relative to their previously established performance) and a collapse (numbers 25% worse). Most of the staff has high numbers in each camp. Pineda, Tanaka, Chapman and Betances all have greater than 20% odds of either breaking out or collapsing. Eovaldi and Ivan Nova each have about a one in four chance of a breakout, but with less than 20% odds of collapse. The Yankees could potentially have a staff full of young, breakout stars, but they also could be left with a collection of young, broken pitchers. The reality will likely fall somewhere in between.
4. Jorge Mateo is beyond promising
Mateo has yet to take a plate appearance above A-Ball, and still has a few months until he can legally buy a drink in the U.S. That hasn't stopped PECOTA from giving him an extremely exciting outlook. He's not likely to see the majors anytime soon, but he already is projected for 2.1 WARP in 2017 at the age of 22, based entirely off his elite speed and ability to play shortstop. If his bat can play, the sky is the limit.
5. Starlin Castro is a gamble, but a worthy one
Over with the Chicago Cubs, the departed Adam Warren is projected for a 3.61 ERA and 3.70 FIP in a swingman role. Nice production, but the man acquired in exchange for Warren appears to have more than enough upside to make the exchange palatable. PECOTA seems to love Castro as a prime-age middle infielder, slating him for 2.8 WARP in 508 plate appearances. He is projected to bounce back a bit for a .277/.316/.418 slash line, and if he can combine that with quality defense at second base, we could be looking at a huge upgrade over Stephen Drew.
6. PECOTA doesn't seem to love the Hicks-Murphy swap
The Yankees' trade of backup catcher John Ryan Murphy for fourth outfielder Aaron Hicks looked like a pretty reasonable transaction. PECOTA doesn't paint a very rosy picture, from a Yankees perspective, however. Hicks is projected for a total of just 1.1 WARP across 2016 and 2017, while Murphy looks remarkably solid, projected for a usable .257/.308/.396 line with above average defense behind the plate. Hicks is certainly still intriguing as a young outfielder with upside, but PECOTA offers reason for caution.
7. That Jacoby Ellsbury contract doesn't have to be a disaster
We've tried to remain optimistic that the Jacoby Ellsbury investment isn't already doomed. Coming off one of the worst seasons of his career, PECOTA likes Ellsbury to bounce back right to pre-knee injury levels, with a .277/.333/.420 line and good defense in center field. His 3.1 WARP projection certainly looks agreeable compared to his dismal 2015 production.
8. ...But it still might be a disaster.
Every player profile in the annual comes with three comparables, who performed most similarly to the given player at the same age. For Ellsbury, the comparables are Angel Pagan, Coco Crisp, and Vernon Wells. From age-32 (Ellsbury's 2016 age) onward, Wells and Pagan were both replacement level. Crisp maintained his production through age-33 before collapsing the next two seasons. That these are Ellsbury's best comps is not exactly the most promising sign for his time with the Yankees.
9. Greg Bird's comps are pretty awesome
Speaking of comparable players, Bird may have the best, as he receives Jerry Sands, Brandon Belt, and Anthony Rizzo. Sands has only a career 88 OPS+, but Belt and Rizzo are two of the premier young first basemen in baseball. These comps serve as a helpful reminder that sports are bad and life is pain.
10. Brian McCann might be the Yankees' best player
The Yankees are a team composed of several exciting young players and an even greater number of quality veterans. Nowhere is the latter group more epitomized than Brian McCann. McCann receives the highest WARP projection, of 3.5, on the team, and appears as perhaps the Yankees' most reliable player. His defense has taken a dip, but he still profiles as an above average backstop, and his projected .245/.318/.442 line is as solid as ever. If anything, he may reflect what the Yankees look like as a whole; solid, dependable, and ultimately not quite spectacular.