Entering the 2015 season the New York Yankees had a ton of different variables that were going to alter the course of their season. They were completely unpredictable and it was impossible to know what the answers to the variables would be. It turns out the Yankees got mostly good answers. Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda stayed mostly healthy. Luis Severino and Greg Bird were ready to contribute. Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira were able to turn back the clock. Didi Gregorious and Nathan Eovaldi took steps forward. As we fast forward to this season, many of those same questions have to be answered affirmative again for the Yankees to get back to the postseason and they're once again almost impossible to figure out. You used to always know what you were getting with the Yankees in the previous decade because they made sure they had a championship caliber team every season. They were about as low variance as you could get. Now with the bottom line factoring into most of the decisions rather than winning this is what you get.
Many of the questions are injury related, so you never know there. However, the performance can be of high variance as well. Just look at the Yankees in the beginning of last season compared to the end of it. That makes complete sense due to the age of the team, so having a solid bench will help a lot this season. Aaron Hicks will replace Chris Young in the role of playing everyday against lefties and will bring more speed, athleticism and defense. Hicks also hit .307/.375/.495 against lefties last season with a 139 wRC+. Dustin Ackley was awesome as a Yankee hitting .288/.333/.654 in 57 at-bats in pinstripes, so if he can come anywhere close to that production he will be huge off the bench. Gary Sanchez will have a chance to give Brian McCann a rest against tough lefties in addition to his regular off days, and if he can build on his Arizona Fall League performance the sky appears to be the limit for him.
It seems like the offense is a little more high variance than the pitching, if only because you know the bullpen will be superb with the addition of Aroldis Chapman. Also, I think health is more of a question than performance with the starting pitching. I see Pineda and Tanaka having more success this year if they stay healthy and have their overall stats fall more in line with their peripherals. A full season of Eovaldi and his splitter is something to be excited and to see what Severino does in his sophomore season.
Even if the lineup is healthy it's impossible to know what to expect. You would expect Jacoby Ellsbury and Chase Headley not to completely stink again, but you also thought you knew what you were getting last year with them and you got none of it. Starlin Castro could prove to be a huge upgrade at the bottom of the lineup if he can just be a league average hitter like he has been in four seasons in his career. Just being league average would be a big upgrade over Stephen Drew, who was just a dead spot. The Yankees could conceivably have no dead spots in their order this season, which would be a far cry from the last few seasons. Basically every spot was dead in the 2013 season other than Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner. Castro balances the lineup out more and gives it more versatility to move pieces around.
However, none of that really matters unless the Yankees get big production out of the middle of the lineup, and it seems unreasonable to expect another 143 wRC+ season out of Teixeira and a 129 wRC+ season out of A-Rod. However, nobody expected it last season either. If they can do it again along with another good season out of Beltran the Yankees should have a very good chance to make it back to October, and if they all break down than their chances seem very small. If they were to reach October that is where their bullpen can wreak havoc like the Royals' pen has done. In an elimination game you could get six innings out of Chapman, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances. How much fun would that be? Getting that opportunity will rely on high variance players coming up positive for the Yankees.