With Greg Bird’s fly-out to center fielder George Springer, the Yankees 2017 season ended without their 28th title. Despite the loss, there is a lot to look forward to in the years to come with a strong young core and a renewed energy to win a title following this year’s deep run.
Looking back on this year, there were many positives that the Yankees would like to take into next season and many moments and performances they would like to forget. Here are some notes I have on the team:
POSITIVE: The Baby Bombers have arrived
Gary Sanchez’s strong second half of 2016 was followed by a thirty-homer season. However, he was not alone. Aaron Judge burst onto the scene, leading the American league with 52 home runs, 128 runs, and 127 walks. Luis Severino proved that he is more than a capable major league starter, leading the club with a 2.98 earned run average and 230 strikeouts. Didi Gregorius improved once again and Greg Bird showed off his incredible power in September and the postseason. That, along with the growth and development of many prospects in the minors, gives a lot of reasons for hope in 2018.
NEGATIVE: Growing pains
Yes, even with the major strides made by young players this season, there are still several questions to be asked. Can Sanchez improve his overall defensive game? Can Judge cut down on his strikeouts and stay more consistent? Can Severino match his performance after pitching over 200 combined innings in the regular season and playoffs? Will Bird stay healthy and hit consistently? How will top prospect Gleyber Torres respond to the Tommy John surgery he had last spring? Will Chance Adams pitch as well as advertised?
POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE: The Bullpen
Probably the largest enigma on the team, the bullpen, was dominant at times and incompetent in others. As a whole, the pen had a rate of 10.92 strikeouts per nine innings. Along with this, four relievers have an average fastball velocity above 95 miles per hour. However, the pen also had 23 blown saves and 24 losses with Aroldis Chapman (4 blown saves, 9.00 ERA in August) and Dellin Betances (6.65 walks per nine) taking heat for being wildly inconsistent. With David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle acquired at the deadline and the emergence of Chad Green and Adam Warren, the Yankees have several options to close out games. However, consistency is key for this unit.
QUESTION MARK: The Rotation
There are many questions that have been left unanswered with the rotation. Overall, there were many positives, including the emergence of Severino and rookie Jordan Montgomery, along with CC Sabathia turning back the clock and the acquisition of Sonny Gray. However, there could be great turn over. Sabathia and injured starter Michael Pineda (who went through Tommy John surgery in July) are free agents and inconsistent ace Masahiro Tanaka can opt out of his contract. While a reunion with Sabathia seems likely, it would be tough for the Yankees to give Tanaka a larger salary especially given his inconsistencies this season. In addition, there are many uncertainties on whether Severino and Montgomery can repeat their strong seasons. Overall, while there are many positives to the unit, there are several question marks as well.
VETERANS: Who’s in and who’s out?
With an abundance of young talent on the Major League roster and in the farm system, some veteran players may have to be traded to make room. This would include outfielders Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury, third baseman Chase Headley, and second baseman Starlin Castro. With Judge, Aaron Hicks, Clint Frazier, and more, there is an overabundance of outfielders on the Yankees. While general manager Brian Cashman would prefer to trade the often injured and inconsistent Ellsbury, Gardner would be easier to move as he has a shorter and less expensive contract. Either Headley or Castro could be replaced by Torres next season. Both of those players have been inconsistent at the plate and in the field but they do offer experience and maturity in the clubhouse.
OVERALL VERDICT: Where are they going next season?
All-in-all, given their abundance of young talent and their overall strong performance this season, the Yankees have high expectations going into next season. While there are some question marks, their performance this season is a starting point for another great run. Whether or not Cashman goes out and resigns Sabathia or Tanaka (if he opts out), trades a veteran, or makes a run for Japanese superstar Shohei Otani could raise those expectations.
There is a lot to like about the Bombers chances next season!