It's the eve of one of the best days of the year. Yankee baseball will begin in earnest tomorrow afternoon when they host the Houston Astros. Here are three questions that Yankee fans should be asking themselves heading into the season.
Can this lineup be as productive as last year's?
After a couple disappointing years, in 2015 the Yankees rediscovered that patience and the long ball can go a long way. They ranked second in the AL in walks and fourth in home runs, so it was coincidence that only the Blue Jays scored more runs than they did. This year's lineup will largely be the same, as the only significant additions are Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks, not exactly offensive juggernauts.
That means they'll need repeat performances from Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, and Alex Rodriguez, which may be playing with fire. Injury prone and rapidly approaching their expiration date, it's highly unlikely that they will get a full season out of each of those guys. In order to remain an elite offense, their best hope will be bounce-back years from Jacoby Ellsbury and Chase Headley, who struggled at the plate throughout 2015.
Will the revamped bullpen make up for the lackluster rotation?
The bullpen was the team's greatest strength last year, but they traded away two big guns from that group in Adam Warren and Justin Wilson this off-season. However, they replaced those two guns with a Howitzer when the acquired Aroldis Chapman from the Reds. More importantly, they retained Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller along the way, so the bullpen should again be the backbone of the Yankees.
They'll need it, too, as they're bringing back the same rotation that failed to impress and faltered down the stretch last year. A three-headed monster in the bullpen may seem excessive, but they will need it more often than not to win games.
How do the Yankees stack up with the rest of the AL East?
By most accounts, the AL East will be a three-team race this year with the Rays and the Orioles on the outside looking in (though some projections still have Tampa on top). That leaves the Blue Jays and Red Sox to duke it out with the Yankees for division supremacy. The Blue Jays are still the front-runners to take the crown; however, David Price's departure from Toronto to Boston evens the deck and makes this a far more interesting story.
None of these teams are perfect, but with precious little depth to speak of, the Yankees will need some breaks to go their way if they want to take home their first division championship since 2012. Rest assured, even if the Yankees don't top the division, the chances of them making the playoffs will still be relatively high, as they seem in position to win more games than most other Wild Card contenders.
Happy baseball, everyone.