2017 Yankees Prediction Post

The writers at It's About the Money gathered (electronically) to lay out our predictions for the upcoming Yankees season.  We looked at the team on a position-by-position basis. 

What follows then is a collection of our individual thoughts.  

Each contributor is listed in alphabetical order in each category.  (I hope that helps the readers find each writer's thoughts and prognostications.)

I hope to revisit this piece at the end of the season to see who was the most prescient.

Sit back, get comfortable...and enjoy the ride!

Starting Pitcher: 

Andy:  Masahiro Tanaka stays healthy and finally puts it all together for a Cy Young  caliber season, going 18-5, 2.95 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 195 K.  Michael Pineda continues to be streaky, but has a significantly better year than 2016 with an ERA under 4.00 while striking out 200+.  Luis Severino shows improvement, but doesn't eliminates chatter that he belongs in the bullpen, pitching to an ERA of 4.15, but striking out more than a batter per inning.  The Yankees have a rotation that ranks among the top-15 rotations in baseball, anchored by Tanaka with help from the shuttle starters from the minors, namely Jordan Montgomery, Chad Green, and Chance Adams.  While not an elite rotation, they do enough to keep the Yanks in most ballgames

Derek:  The rotation will be this team’s Achilles heel. The problem isn't the ace of the staff or the very back end of the rotation, but rather, the second and third starters. As I hinted at, I expect Masahiro Tanaka to be great (200 innings and a 3 ERA, like last year). However, Michael Pineda will continue to be an enigma and CC Sabathia will regress from his solid 2016. I actually expect good things from the 4th and 5th starters, as I believe that sheer amount of young options they have will allow one or two of them to step up. Personally, I expect Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery to be most successful.

EJ:  CC Sabathia and Luis Severino will disappoint, but the Triple-A squad will ride to the rescue. Two of Jordan Montgomery, Chance Adams, and Dietrich Enns will have sub-4.00 ERAs. One will be a candidate for AL Rookie of the Year. Tanaka will regress slightly as his lower strikeout rate catches up with him. Michael Pineda will bounce back, and put up an ERA near his FIP.

James:  Tanaka is electric for most of the season, but does have a couple dings and dents that prevent him from crossing 200 innings.

Pineda leads the AL in strikeouts and maintains a palatable 4.30 ERA.

CC has a horrific start now and then continues to build off last year's progress (his 2016 baseball ref WAR was higher than David Price's), and he posts s 3.97 ERA on his way to a classy 14-10 record.

With Pineda on his way out, Severino takes the role of erratic hyper-talent. Chad Green is on pace to give up more homers than 2012 Phil Hughes, but the team pulls the plug on him for James Kaprielian by July.

Theme song: Mannish Boy (Buddy Guy)

Paul S: Masahiro Tanaka will be the pitcher the Yankees hoped and dreamed of.  He will win 19 games (against only 6 losses) and be the stabilizing force on the staff.  Michael Pineda will have a great April and May forcing everyone to dream and hope for a big season.  In the end, he'll disappoint and his record will be under .500 for the year. Pineda will end at 11-15 with an ERA over 4.25.  I also believe that Severino will disappoint.  He will end the year with a  9-11 record and will spend most of 2018 in the minor leagues trying to fulfill his early promise.  On the other hand, every great champion hopes to have one last great fight in him.  That great champion in 2017 will be C.C. Sabathia. The old lefty will be the Yankees second best starting pitcher and the baseball world be in awe when he ends the year with a 16-5 4.15 record at year's end.  In his last start of the year, C.C. will pitch the Wild Card Clinching game scattering 5 hits in 7 innings before the bullpen closes it out and the Yankees head to the playoffs. The other rotation spot will be shuffled among the young kids.  All the young pitchers will impress at various degrees making the opt-out of Tanaka and the retirement of C.C. less of a disaster for 2018.

Paul V:  I expect Tanaka to be on point this year.  With his player option, he will be looking to have his best season to date. I predict 17-19 wins.  If Sabathia can be consistently inconsistent and be on point at the right times, there’s nothing more you can ask.  I think Pineda will have his head on straight this year. Don’t get me wrong, he will have his crooked innings, but I expect them to be limited. Mitchell does not impress me, but his 5 starts last year give him the right to have a spot to start the season. Severino feels more like a bullpen arm, and when we get into the dog days of summer I expect Girardi to experiment.  Overall this staff does not excite and they will probably hover around league average all year.

William:  Tanaka will be fine and should win fifteen games with a FIP around 3.50. If Sabathia and Pineda can be league average or better, I'll be surprised but happy. Announcing Severino in the rotation was a last minute mistake (there was one other which I'll get to). Bryan Mitchell deserves a chance to lose the job and Montgomery is the next guy up. Severino will prove he is not a rotation guy and will head to the bullpen by early June. The Yankee starters will rank around seventh in the league.

 

Relief Pitcher: 

Andy:  The Yankees maintain one of the top bullpens in the majors.  Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances continue to strikeout batters at historic rates while shutting down lineups in innings 7-9.  Jonathan Holder establishes himself as a viable safety net in the middle innings, while Chad Green, Adam Warren, and Bryan Mitchell mix and match as Swiss-Army knives capable of pitching multiple effective innings out of the 'pen.

Derek:  The back end of the bullpen will be dominant, to no one’s surprise. One of Jonathan Holder or Ben Heller will step up in the middle relief innings to help provide a bridge to Betances and Chapman, easing some of the burden placed on Tyler Clippard.

EJ: Tyler Clippard and Adam Warren play themselves out of the job. Ben Heller and Jonathan Holder will take their place. Luis Severino will again end the season as a dominant relief pitcher. Chapman and Betances will be themselves. The Yankees will have the best bullpen in the American League.

James:  The bullpen will lead the AL in innings pitched and K/9. There isn't much else to say. The core group of Mitchell-Warren-Clippard-Betances-Chapman are all well documented pitchers still in the sweet spots of their careers. The only pitcher that takes a small step back is Warren, but he's still stronger than most middle relievers.

Theme song: Fireball (Pitbull)

Paul S:  Chapman, Betances, Clippard, and Warren are lights-out all year.  This Yankees team will lose only three games the entire season when leading after five innings.  (One of those losses will come in the first week.)  Mariano Rivera is quoted (with a smile) at Old-Timers Day saying, "I wish I was that good."  Goose Gossage agrees! (All cheer.)

Paul V: The bullpen is something we do not need to worry about.  If you follow Chapman on Instagram, you know he doesn’t have an offseason and looks bigger and stronger than ever! Bentances’ arbitration was tough to witness, but it gives him a chip on his shoulder which is always great for a late inning bullpen arm.  Clippard, Warren and the rest of the pen seem to be fine and will stop the bleeding more times than not.

William: On paper, the Yankees' 2017 bullpen looks killer. Betances' meltdown in September looms like a dark cloud. Chapman will have his zoinks, but will be fun to watch as always.. Clippard is solid and could be closing for a lot of teams. Poor Adam Warren. He's back in the bullpen. It is his Hotel California. He'll be serviceable. Girardi will figure out the rest. He always does.

Catcher: 

Andy:  Gary Sanchez produces slightly above league-average defense while hitting .270/.350/.525, slugging 35 HR and accumulating 6.5 WAR, establishing himself as one of the premier catchers in baseball.

Derek:  There's no way Gary Sanchez can repeat what he did last year, but that won't stop him from establishing himself as the American League’s best catcher in 2017. He's going to pop 25 home runs on a strong .270/.330/.490 batting line along with stellar defense. Austin Romine will hold his own as the backup. 

EJ: Gary Sanchez will be the best catcher in baseball.

James:  Gary Sanchez finishes in the top 10 for AL MVP voting. Also, he breaks at least two infielder gloves on throws to second base during attempted steals.

Theme Song: Stand Up (Steel Dragon)

Paul S: I am as high on Gary Sanchez as the next guy, but I do think his production last year was unworldly and we can't expect anything close to that.  In the first year that he played over 150 games, Jorge Posada hit .287/28/86.  I'll predict the exact same slash line for Sanchez.  If he does that, we've got ourselves one of the best catchers in the game.  

Paul V:  I want to see Gary Sanchez continue to develop.  It’s still too early to proclaim his as anything more than a blue chip prospect.  His power will be there, but being consistent with good at bats and staying back on the off-speed stuff will ultimately decide what type of Bronx Bomber he will become.  A full season under Girardi’s tutelage will also help his development behind the plate. 

William:  I would like to get caught up in Gary Sanchez fever. But two months tells me nothing. Let's see what a full season brings before I start electing him to the Hall of Fame. I'd be happy with an .850 OPS along with his good defense. I would have liked to have seen Higasioka get a shot at the backup. Austin Romine is sort of dudsville to me.

First Base: 

Andy:  Greg Bird fulfills the promise he showed in 2015, hitting .255/.340/.500 while displaying below-average, but improving defense.  This adds up to a 3.5 WAR season.  Chris Carter hits against tough lefties to begin the season, but is released in late June as Bird becomes the full-time starter.

Derek:  Greg Bird’s strong spring will carry over into the regular season. After swatting 8 homers in Grapefruit League play, Bird will top 30 bombs in his first full season in the big leagues. His defense, though a stark drop from Mark Teixeira, will be a pleasant surprise as well. On the other hand, Chris Carter will struggle without regular playing time. His sporadic at-bats will make it difficult for him to get into a power groove. 

EJ: Greg Bird will have a 3.5+ fWAR season, hitting somewhere along the lines of .270/.360/.480. 

James:  Greg Bird hits 31 homers and slashes .253/.340/.490, and Yankee fans forget that Chris Carter plays first base until Bird has a brief DL stint in August.

Theme song: Still Fly (Big Tymers)

Paul S:  For the record, I want Chris Carter to hit 45 bombs and be an awesome slugger.  Somehow, I just don't see it. Greg Bird will hit .272/27/85 and be the full time first baseman.  Following 2017, Bird will bat over .300 for the next eight seasons and will remind long-time fans of Don Mattingly.  Chris Carter will bat .225 with just 4 home runs before being traded in June.  

Paul V:  Greg Bird is the player I’m excited the most to see what he can do.  I think he will be able to settle in and by June, and we will be seeing the beginnings of “Tino-esque” consistency at the plate and first. Even though this is his first year as a full time starter, I see him being one of the leaders in the clubhouse.  I love his quiet confidence.

William:  Greg Bird settles in nicely. 25+ homers is possible. He still has to prove himself against left-handed pitching. Carter shouldn't wear a glove, but will. He won't be as bad as Spring Training and will hit a few important homers for the team

***

Second Base: 

Andy: Starlin Castro continues his free-swinging ways, and produces a .260/.290/.450 batting line.  He makes strides defensively however, making him a roughly average, but inconsistent player.

Derek: The heat will be on Starlin Castro in his second year in pinstripes, and I don't think things will get any better. The power we saw last year will dissipate, leaving him without any redeeming qualities unless he hits for a high average. By August, Gleyber Torres will be on his tail for playing time. 

EJ: Starlin Castro will be worse than last season, around 1 fWAR. He'll hit fewer home runs, but not recover any contact ability. Gleyber Torres will get a shot at second in September and the playoffs.

James:  Castro continues to be Tony Womack v2.0, providing serviceable support at second, but not making any forget about Cano. This is probably a 1.5 WAR season for him.

Theme song: Dust in the Wind (Kansas)

Paul S:  This will be Castro's big breakout season.  He's going to hit 31 homers while batting over .290.  At times, he's going to be the #3 hitter in the Yankees lineup and it will make all the sense in the world.  Rob Refsnyder is traded to the A's is July.  

Paul V:  Castro will be Castro.  His fielding flare is fun to watch, but he will be a hot and cold season in the box. He might be the easiest guy for Girardi to pencil in day in and day out to start the season

William:  I wish I could feel optimistic about Castro. But I just can't. He'll have his hot streaks and his cold streaks and will play slightly better than league average.

*** 

Shortstop: 

Andy:  Ronald Torreyes produces replacement-level results through the end of May.  Didi Gregorius continues his offensive ascent and hits .275/.325/.440 while playing above-average defense, solidifying himself as the shortstop of the Yankees' present and future.

Derek:  The Yankees will be without Didi Gregorius for at least a month, meaning Ronald Torreyes gets the nod for the time being. Torreyes might run into a few brief BABIP driven hot streaks given his propensity to make contact, but odds are that his bat provides little value. When Gregorius returns, things will improve offensively but not as much as we might expect. Last year, Didi showed impressive power and a solid all around offensive game, but I am concerned that he take a step back this season as his shoulder heals. 

EJ:  Didi Gregorius' injury will linger longer than we expect. The Yankees will cycle between replacement players until his return in June. Yuck.

James:  Torreyes is a quality backup through April, but the Yanks are ready and waiting for Didi to come back in May. Didi's average takes a step back from the 2016 campaign, but he reaches a new high with 23 home runs in 130 games.

Theme song: Ezy Ryder (Jimi Hendrix)

Paul S:  Didi Gregorius comes back in late April and has another great year.  Gregorius will hit .287 and contribute 24 homers.  His defense will be so special that people are going to call him the best fielding Yankees shortstop since...Forever?  Didi's performance will force the Yankees have to make a very tough decision with their great surplus of shortstop talent in the minors.  I'll be less than specific, but predict one of the big prospects gets traded for a solid starting pitcher (Qunintana?) who helps the Yankees during the stretch drive.

Paul V: Torreyes will be fine as a fill in.  He will make the plays he’s supposed to make. Once Didi is back, expect Torreyes to split time with Headley at third.

William:  Late mistake #2. Torreyes is somewhat useful in utility, but a dud decision to start the season. Yes, Gregorius will be back and that will solve the problem, but it would have been a great opportunity to see what they had in Tyler Wade. Wade could have added some real excitement to the lineup while Torreyes doesn't make anyone skip a potty break. Oh well. It is understandable since Wade is not on the 40-man Roster.

***

Third Base: 

Andy:  While playing solid defense, Chase Headley produces at a below-average clip at the plate through the All-Star break.  In mid-July, the Yankees call-up Gleyber Torres to start at 3rd base, relegating Headley a backup role (3rd/1B/OF).  Torres holds his own as a rookie, producing as a league-average starter.

Derek:  Chase Headley will bore everyone to tears, but boring is good. He’ll be perfectly acceptable at the hot corner. Though there isn't much pop in his bat, he'll get on base at a solid clip and generate a .260/330/390 batting line along with reliable glove work.

EJ:   Chase Headley plays well enough to keep his job all season, but we all wish Miguel Andujar was playing by September. 

James:  Headley drags through another .260 average/15 homer season. Andujar gets an August call when the rosters expand.

Side note: Does anyone else find it odd how much Fangraphs loves Headley's defense (fangraphs)?

Theme song: Margaritaville (Jimmy Buffett)

Paul S:  I'm not high, at all, on Chase Headley.  I never have been.  I just don't see him producing.  This is a cop out, but I like Andy's thoughts so much that I'm just going so say, "I hope Andy's prediction is what happens."

Paul V: Ehh… that’s all I got on Headley.  We will all see plenty of low throws to first and face cringing K’s. Let’s hope for the best!

William:  I am officially off the "I Wear Rose-Colored Glasses For Chase Headley" wagon. I long for something more exciting over there. But at least his defense was better last year. :::sigh:::

Outfield: 

Andy:  Brett Gardner plays typically above-average defense while regaining some of the power that disappeared in 2016, hitting .280/.350/.425.  

Aaron Judge plays average defense in RF, hits 30 homers, and strikes-out at an acceptable enough rate to stay in the conversation for AL ROY.  

Jacoby Ellsbury continues his underwhelming play, and with the Yankees in the playoff hunt, the Yankees eat a significant amount of his salary and trade him in a deadline surprise, giving Aaron Hicks an increased role as the starting CF.  Hicks acquits himself well in a starting role, but Clint Frazier steals some ABs in September.

Derek:  It might not always be pretty, but Aaron Judge will prove that making him the everyday right fielder was the right decision. He’ll bash 30 home runs between a handful of strikeout spells, but he'll also bring more to the table than his power stroke. His keen eye at the plate will allow him a respectable on base percentage and his defense will be above average in right.  

Jacoby Ellsbury will continue to be a laggard, and the Yankees will finally realize that he's no longer worth significant playing time. Given that the Yankees kept Aaron Hicks in the right field competition to the very end of spring training, I expect him to steal significant time from Ellsbury in center in order for the Yankees to evaluate Hicks. In all likelihood, Hicks won't be much better, but at least the Yankees will have a chance to see what they have.

 Brett Gardner might lose some at-bats to Hicks, too. Gardner’s decline years have begun, and it might make sense to take create some sort of platoon with him, Ellsbury, and Hicks between left and right field. Gardner will still be passable at the top of the order, posting a .350 on-base percentage, but his power numbers from 2015 are not returning. The other story behind Gardner’s upcoming season is if he'll stay in the Bronx. Despite all of the trade rumors, I think he sticks around all season. He's survived so many rumors in the past that I'll have to actually see a move to believe it. 

EJ:  Brett Gardner will continue his slow decline, but be a useful average player. He will end up on a semi-strict platoon by the end of the season.

Jacoby Ellsbury will rebound slightly to a 2.5 fWAR season. 

Aaron Judge will continue to struggle to hit for contact. However, he'll hit enough home runs and play good enough defense to justify a spot in the lineup. May be forced out for Clint Frazier.

James:  The Judge arrives! Judge hits 26 home runs and a decent slash of .223/.314/.478. Brian Cashman forgets Hicks is on the team by June.

Theme song: The House of the Rising Sun (Five Finger Death Punch)

Ellsbury plays 120 games but somehow only steals 11 bases. Even more impressive, no one notices that he continues to quietly kill the Yankees lineup. Mercifully, Jacoby strains an oblique in August, and the Yankees call up Mason Williams. EJ cries with joy.

Theme song: The Dock of the Bay (Otis Reading)

Gardner puts together another solid campaign in left. Brett hits 16 home runs while slashing .268/.371/.400. By the end of the season, though, Frazier is breathing down his neck from Scranton. Ellsbury's inevitable injury is an opportunity for the Yankees to use Brett part time and call up some more explosiveness from the farm.

Theme song: Simple Man (Lynyrd Skynyrd)

Paul S:  Let's start with the good, Aaron Judge plays (almost) everyday and hits 38 homers.  One of his homers is hit so far into the Yankee Stadium Upper Deck in left field that people start calculating how much further he'd have to hit one to actually clear the roof.  Judge strikes out 212 times, but no one cares.  

Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury both play like former stars who are in their 30's.  Neither steals a lot of bases. Neither hits even .280 nor comes close to 10 home runs.  

Aaron Hicks becomes an every day player.  Clint Frazier, after raking in AAA comes to the Bigs and hits .282 with 11 homers in August and September.  

During this time, Frazier makes a game saving diving play on a ball hit to shallow center field, going all out to catch the ball just before it hits the ground.  He comes up and then throws out the runner on third who was trying to score on a presumed sacrifice fly.  John Sterling calls the play "There's a bloop into shallow center, here comes Frazier, here comes Frazier, he dives, down goes Frazier...down goes Frazier, he...makes the catch...UNBELIEVABLE!  Clint Frazier, WAIT!...Up Comes Frazier, Up comes FRAZIER.  He throws.  Sanchez tags.  He's out at the plate.  The Yankees win.  Theeeee Yankeeeeeeessss Wiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnnnn!"  (People listening on radio won't quite know what happened, but this will go down as one of Sterling's most memorable calls of all-time.)

Paul V:  Ugh, is anyone else as tired of Brett Gardner as I am?  I’m just going to leave it at that.

 I have no clue why I’m optimistic on Ellsbury.  Maybe it’s because nobody is expecting anything from him. Don’t get me wrong he will not deserve that salary this year, but the infusion of youth might be exactly what he needs

Arron Judge is one big dude.  I’m consistently impressed by his defensive abilities, but that swing is oh so long.  Let’s just hope the behemoth bombs over shadow the K’s

Arron Hicks is super athletic!!

Chris Carter? Why, just why?

Let’s see the young buck Clint Frazier light a fire all over the diamond!

William:   Am I the only Yankee fan that thinks Brent Gardner sucks wind? Yeah, okay, he can run a ball down in left field. But seriously! He is not even Roy White caliber and I would love to see a different guy out there.

Yes, the Jacoby Ellsbury Era needs to end. I cannot believe like my colleagues that anyone would want him for a trade deadline deal. I think I am too lazy to look it up, but my recollection is that Gardner and Ellsbury have both been productive at the same time twice since Ellsbury signed.

I think Aaron Judge will strike out 200 times this season. If everyone is okay with that, enjoy his couple dozen moonshots.

Aaron Hicks? Uh...nice guy...good arm...uh...

Designated Hitter: 

Andy:  Matt Holliday benefits from not having to play the field and plays a role mentoring all of the young guys in the Yankee clubhouse.  His strong, consistent performance stabilizes the middle of the Yankee lineup, slashing .275/.350/.475 while hitting 25 HRs.

Derek:  Matt Holliday will barely see the field in 2017, and that's a good thing. Keeping him healthy will be high priority, because as long as he stays off the shelf, he'll hit. Expect 20 homers and a .275/.340/.475 batting line. 

EJ:  Matt Holliday rebounds. Chris Carter hits 10 home runs one week, bats .180 otherwise.

James:  Holliday and Carter combine for 40 home runs, and the Yankees easily have their most productive season at DH since the mid 2000's. On a related topic, Chris Carter takes down a zeppelin with one of his homers, which serves as a reminder both not to fly over Yankee stadium in 2017 and that zeppelins are dangerous.

Theme song: Boom Boom (John Lee Hooker)

Paul S:  Matt Holiday is going to rake all year long.  He's going to be a leader and a presence in the Yankees line-up batting over .310 and hitting more than 30 homers, many into the right field seats.  

Paul V:  What William stated (see below) says it all. “Holliday’s OPS dropped 100pts below his career average in 2016.” The DH role seems to be a spot where he can be comfortable.  It may be a slow transition since he has only started 32 games as a DH in his career.  He will settle in and hit around .250 on the year

William:  Matt Holliday has seen some serious decline. His OPS was a hundred points less than his career numbers in 2016. Some guys thrive doing just the DH and he might be one of them. Or he could continue his 37-year-old fall off the age curve.

Overall: 

Andy:   The Yankees are significantly better than the various projections predict, as the Yankees use strong performances from a young core of hitters and a strong bullpen to carry the team to a Wild-Card birth with 89 wins.

Derek:  I predict 85 wins for the 2017 Yankees, not quite enough to snag one of the two Wild Card spots. I expect the offense to be a lot of fun to watch, particularly Sanchez and Bird, while the pitching will be a drag on most nights.

EJ:  Yankees win the first wild card with 88 wins. 

James:  Yanks win 86 games and finish 2 GB from Baltimore in the East, taking home the second wild card. 

Paul S:  This is going to be one of the most enjoyable seasons for Yankees fans in quite some time.  They are going to win over 90 games through smoke, mirrors, and magic.  The super strong bullpen will make up for the less-than-great starting pitching of Severino and Pinada (and the fact that C.C. only had six good innings each start).  The young kids: Bird, Judge, Sanchez, Torres, and Frazier are going to set the foundation for the next great Yankees dynasty.  The Yankees are setting themselves up for a World Championship in 2019. Somehow Bruce Harper is added to the mix that year and the Yankees, staring in 2019, win four consecutive World Series.

Paul V: The Yankees have a .500 winning percentage written all over them. Anywhere from 80-85 wins seems logical.  Who knows?! Maybe the back end of the rotation is more reliable than we thought and the injury bug doesn’t sting.  90 wins and a Wild-Card berth isn’t out of the question.  Let’s thank the Good Lord baseball is back!

William:  The Yankees still feel like an 85 to 87 win team to me. A lot will have to go really well to win 90 games. The rotation would have to be solid, the bullpen as good as on paper and some of the paper tigers of the last few years putting together good seasons. It's Opening Day so let optimism ring!