Here is the last of three installments as we check up on our pre-season predictions.
Today we’ll look at the outfield, designated hitter, and catcher…
THE OUTFIELD -
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.
Analysis: Brett Gardner has certainly played well defensively. His slash line of .251/.347/.440 has been pretty close to Andy’s prediction. Well done! Aaron Judge has played better than average defense and he did hit 30 homers – in half a season! I think we’re all hoping Andy’s predication of Ellsbury being moved at the deadline comes true.
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.
Analysis: Derek nailed Aaron Judge as well, sort of. He was right on with the defense and the OBP. The power? Well, he does have 30 homers. He was also correct that Aaron Hicks would replace Ellsbury – at least until Hicks got injured. Derek basically nailed Gardner’s OBP (.350 to .347).
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.
Analysis: Gardner has been better than predicted,. Ellsbury’s WAR is .6. If we double it, it’s still off the mark. EJ nailed Judge’s defense. As for the homers and the great success…well, who saw any of this coming?
Paul S Predicted:
Let's start with the good, Aaron Judge plays (almost) every day 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.
Analysis: I’ll take some props for being confident in Aaron Judge’s power. He did hit a homer that almost went 500 feet and people did talk about him being able to leave the yard… Brett Gardner’s power has been surprising. Jacoby Ellsbury’s play has not. Aaron Hicks performed as expected and my confidence in Clint Frazier seems to be on the money!
Paul V Predicted:
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!
Analysis: Lots of predications, most of them pretty accurate. Gardner has been exciting. Ellsbury, not so much. Judge’s defense has been impressive and he has hit tape-measure bombs. Clint Frazier is starting to light that fire!
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...
Analysis: Right on with Ellsbury!
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.
Analysis: Holliday is at .250/.350/.488 with 16 homers. Andy, you are RIGHT ON again!
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.
Analysis: Derek, you also earn an A!
EJ: Matt Holliday rebounds. Chris Carter hits 10 home runs one week, bats .180 otherwise.
Analysis: EJ’s prediction was also solid. It’s too bad Carter didn’t even have his one great week.
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.
Analysis: Correct on the leader part, the batting average prediction is too high, but homers might be close.
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.
Analysis: Holliday is hitting… .250!
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.
Analysis: We’ll give William credit for saying that Holliday just might thrive as the DH.
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.
Analysis: Sanchez = .276/.357/.496…close, very close. The homers and the WAR are off the pace to make this prediction perfectly accurate.
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.
Analysis: Also, right on. RIGHT ON!
EJ: Gary Sanchez will be the best catcher in baseball.
Analysis: RIGHT ON!
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.
Analysis: His batting average is lower than hoped, but at 14 homers and 44 RBI’s, the other counting stats are right on target!
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.
Analysis: Nothing wrong with this prediction.
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.
Analysis: Sanchez’s OPS is .852. William is happy!
CONCLUSION – For the most part, our It’s About The Money staff of baseball experts was pretty much on the money in our predictions. Our biggest flaw was under estimating Aaron Judge. We will hope he continues to outperform all expectations and hopes. We’ll also hope that he hits a moon shot right out of Yankee Stadium!