We're officially one week away from regular season baseball. The Yankees will be looking to build off a Wild Card berth in 2015 with a strong bullpen, more complete lineup, and a very solid rotation. Most of the offseason was quiet for the team, but the moves that were made have gone a long way toward solidifying the team as a whole for the season ahead.
The biggest question the team will need to answer this season is whether or not they can sustain their success for a full season unlike in 2015. The team blew an AL East lead and had to settle for one game of playoffs against Dallas Keuchel instead of moving straight on to the ALDS. Keeping key players fresh for the stretch run will be vital for more success in that department going forward.
Most of the team is made up of players everyone is already familiar with. Only second baseman Starlin Castro will be a new face in the every day lineup. Reliever Aroldis Chapman is also a new addition, but he won't be joining the team until May. The bullpen will feature some new faces and Aaron Hicks will be playing the role of Chris Young as fourth outfielder.
Below you'll find links and commentary on every aspect of the Yankees. You can click on the links to articles to read the entire thing in case you missed anything along the way.
The Yankees acquired Aroldis Chapman from the Reds in exchange for Caleb Cotham, Rookie Davis, Eric Jagielo and Tony Renda.
PSA's take: "In all, New York has assembled the best bullpen in baseball without sacrificing significant value."
The Yankees traded Justin Wilson to the Tigers in exchange for minor league pitchers Chad Green and Luis Cessa.
PSA's take: "It is still very early in the off-season, and as David Carpenter demonstrated last year, good relievers can become bad ones in a hurry, so Wilson is no guarantee."
PSA's take: "Adam Warren will definitely be missed, but I'll take that in exchange for someone who can fill the hole at second and provide legitimate upside."
The Yankees traded John Ryan Murphy to the Twins in exchange for Aaron Hicks.
PSA's take: "Murphy did everything you could want out of a backup catcher during 2015 and his celebrations endeared him to many. Moving him does, however, open the door for Gary Sanchez..."
What to watch for this season | Tanya Bondurant:
The Yankees are depending on quite a few younger players to really step up and help carry the team in 2016. Luis Severino, Michael Pineda, and Nathan Eovaldi are huge keys to the success of the team going forward. Severino will get his first chance to prove himself for a full season at the big league level after being completely impressive in his first taste of MLB.
The biggest task for Pineda and Eovaldi will be to avoid injuries. Both seemed right on the verge of putting it all together in 2015 before injuries sidelined them for extended periods of time. With all of the uncertainty that continues to surround Masahiro Tanaka's elbow, these are the pitchers the team will have to depend on to carry them.
Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius give the Yankees a more exciting double play duo than they have had in quite sometime. Gregorius showed Yankees fans what he was capable last year in taking over for Derek Jeter, and he only improved as the season went along. Castro has it a bit easier by replacing Stephen Drew instead of a legend. His career has been a bit of a roller coaster to this point, but perhaps pinstripes are the cure to what has ailed him like they seemed to be for a few of his new teammates.
The Yankee bullpen is still reliant upon the success of Dellin Betances and Chasen Shreve despite neither being the team's named closer. Betances has taken MLB by storm since being converted to a reliever, and Shreve was a revelation for the vast majority of 2015. Both of them have every capability of being dominant, and they'll need to be just that for the bullpen to live up to its potentially historic ceiling as one of the best ever.
Health will also be one of the biggest things hanging over the Yankees in 2016. Many of the team's regular experienced injuries that hampered performance or forced them to the disabled list in 2015. Keeping older players fresh and injury-free will be a huge task for Joe Girardi as he tries to keep Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran, and Mark Teixeira in the lineup.
The outfield is especially fragile with all three starters being prone to injury. The 2015 Yankees were at their best when Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury were healthy and producing at the top of the lineup. Both of them experienced injuries and struggles last season that they'll be looking to shake in 2016. Hopefully they can get back to being a dynamic duo that sets the table for power bats in the middle of the order.
Another thing to keep an eye out for in 2016 will be the team's continued youth movement progressing. Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Rob Refsnyder, and Ben Gamel are right on the doorstep of the majors heading into the season. None of the above, maybe except for Sanchez, will likely find their way into a starting role unless a starter is injured, but having that kind of player ready to step in if there is an emergency could be huge.
The Yankees certainly don't have terrible starters; the situation is just uneasy, right from the top. Masahiro Tanaka had games last year where he looked every bit as dominant as he appeared in his All-Star first half in 2014 before the UCL injury. Yet he battled Hughesian home run rates and it still seems like the Yankees are playing with fire every takes the mound. So while people should feel confident in his abilities, his injury will always lurk in the back of every fan's mind.
The three starters after Tanaka could really go in any order right now, and each also has the potential to even usurp him as the de facto ace. After all, Michael Pineda looked to be building an All-Star case over the first two months, which included his phenomenal 16-strikeout performance on Mother's Day.
Nathan Eovaldi had a similar run of starts that sparked chatter, just like Pineda. After a so-so introduction that concluded with him getting bombed by the Marlins on June 16th, Eovaldi tweaked the grip on his splitter to fantastic results.
Thankfully, there is Luis Severino, the most exciting young player on the team. In just a couple months of pitching, the 21-year-old displayed remarkable poise on the mound, fanning hitters far older than him and working out of jams like it was no sweat.
If there's one thing the Yankees do well, it's compiling a strong bullpen, which they have done year over year for what seems to be close to a decade now. The 2016 bullpen will be no different with Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, and others finishing out games this season.
This year, the Yankees have compiled one of the strongest bullpens in baseball with three pitchers who could be the team's closer. Even without Chapman for the first 30 games of the season, Miller will be the team's closer with Betances as the setup man.
The Yankees should do just fine without their closer, and it will give someone a chance to play in the big leagues who likely wouldn't have been given the opportunity had he not been suspended. After these three, the bullpen should be in a constant state of flux, but the talent should be there.
The 2016 version of the lineup projects to be very similar to the 2015 version of the lineup, with one notable difference. Instead of "Black Hole" being penciled in the second baseman's spot, the Yankees will trot out a real live baseball player in Starlin Castro, something that hasn't been done since Robinson Cano was in pinstripes.
By virtue of this, the Yankees already have an improved lineup from 2015. The biggest key, as has been said throughout the off-season, will be health. If everyone can remain healthy, there's no reason why the Yankees offense won't be the force it was in 2015 when it was second in the majors in runs scored.
The 2016 Yankees should be just about the same defensively as they were last year, when they made 92 errors over the course of the season, falling just under the American League average (94) and MLB average (95). The only major difference between this year's team and last year's team is that Starlin Castro will be playing second base instead of Stephen Drew.
Since Castro has only played 258 innings at second base, it is too soon to judge his defensive abilities. Hopefully the more reps he takes at second base, the more comfortable he will feel. His new double play partner, Didi Gregorius, made quite a few bad plays at the start of last season, between fielding mistakes and base running errors, but he really settled in as the season progressed.
Aaron Judge, OF: There is some speculation that Judge is a Rookie of the Year candidate, but there doesn't seem to be a good chance for him to spend much time in the majors without a major injury. Carlos Beltran improved in 2015 and has nowhere else to play, and Aaron Hicks is perfectly capable of filling in if someone gets hurt.
Something to also consider is that Judge is still adjusting to a new leg kick in his batting stance and really needs to learn how to lay off an offspeed pitch before he can be an everyday solution in the majors. He will need to be added to the 40-man roster at some point before next winter's Rule 5 Draft, so we should see him in September at least. I could see a competition between him and Hicks to see who will be the 2017 right fielder after Beltran leaves.
Jacob Lindgren, LHP: Much is expected from Lindgren, but his major league career hasn't gotten off to the greatest of starts. After struggling in his debut, he required elbow surgery and still didn't seem to be 100% this spring. Chasen Shreve will be the primary left-handed specialist to open up the season, but if Lindgren gets back to normal, I could see them bringing him up to move Shreve into more of a setup role. Remember, they traded Justin Wilson primarily to give Lindgren an opportunity to take on his role, so they'll give him a shot if they feel he can handle the workload.
Pinstripe Alley also put together our Top 20 prospects list and a list of potential sleeper prospects that you should definitely check out to familiarize yourself with Baby Bombers who could make an impact this season.
Know Your Enemy | Pinstripe Alley Editors
The Red Sox might be the least predictable team in the division. Talent is there for them to do well, certainly. However, the team has shown that talent alone isn't always enough. If everything goes right for them, sure, they could win the division. If it doesn't...well, you remember last year.
The Orioles can take solace in the fact that no one stands out in the AL East right now, so if the bounces go their way as they did in 2014, they could defy the last place predictions and end up on top anyway. As they stand now though, they are the least likely team in the division to make the playoffs.
None of the teams in the AL East seem to have any huge advantage over the others. The Blue Jays lineup is potentially the best in the division, though it seems unrealistic to expect their offense to hit quite as well as last year. Aside from Stroman, the rotation looks to be largely mediocre. There are some strong arms in the bullpen, but this is true of just about every other team. The Blue Jays could very well find themselves back at the top of the division if they can find a way to duplicate last year's performances.
The American League East doesn't seem to have a clear favorite, but the Rays won't stop anyone in their tracks unless something completely unexpected happens. Archer, Longoria, and a few others will remain effective, but it remains to be seen whether anyone can step up and offer game-changing value for them.
Season Predictions | Pinstripe Alley editors
Yankees' Record: 89-73
Yankees' MVP: Brian McCann
Yankees' Cy Young: Luis Severino
Yankees' Rookie of the Year: Mason Williams
Yankees' Record: 86-76
Yankees' MVP: Alex Rodriguez
Yankees' Cy Young: Michael Pineda
Yankees' Rookie of the Year: Gary Sanchez
Yankees' Record: 87-75
Yankees' MVP: Mark Teixeira
Yankees' Cy Young: Nathan Eovaldi
Yankees' Rookie of the Year: Johnny Barbato
Yankees' Record: 89-73
Yankees' MVP: Brian McCann
Yankees' Cy Young: Masahiro Tanaka
Yankees' Rookie of the Year: Jacob Lindgren