Evil Empire to Rebuilding Empire Rebuilding Expectations
Yankee 1st Basemen Greg Bird
Yankee Catcher Gary Sanchez showed great power in 2016.
Projected Opening Day Lineup:
LF Brett Gardner
CF Jacoby Ellsbury
C Gary Sanchez
DH Matt Holiday
SS Didi Gregorius/Ronald Torreyes(due to injury)
2B Starling Castro
1B Greg Byrd
3B Chase Headley
RF Aaron Judge
OF Aaron Hicks
1B/DH Chris Carter
C Austin Romine
INF Ronald Torreyes
As we enter into the last week of spring training 2017 the New York Yankees are going to do their best to keep their winning expectations high even in the midst of the most obvious rebuilding year they have had since the early 1990's. After years of old contracts and old legs these Yankees are headed into a new era of young unproven but more athletic players. For the last 4 years the Yankee previews could have all been written the exact same way. All of baseball has been waiting and wondering when will all of these aging players(Teixeira, Rodriguez, Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte) finally finish their careers and when does it all come crashing down? Joe Girardi to his credit has done an adequate job of keeping the Yankees afloat and competitive in the midst of what has been a very methodical rebuilding process.
The Yankees still made two key acquisitions this off season of Closer Aroldis Chapman and Outfielder/DH Matt Holiday. Both should play important roles this season. Those acquisitions come while Catcher Brian McCann has been traded out of town, Mark Teixeira retired and Nathan Eovaldi was let go to free agency.
The story of the Yankees 2017 season will be the performance of the young prospects that will be given a chance to play in the big leagues and also those that will potentially come up later this year or next year. Gary Sanchez will look to continue his 2016 season where he took the league by storm and he will also look to take more of a leadership role as the season progresses. Greg Byrd and Aaron Judge will be two prospects who have been highly touted and will get a chance to be in the opening day lineup. Pressure will mount early for Judge if he does not get off to a good start based on his age(24) and his performance at the end of last year where he looked overmatched by major league pitching. Bryd has had a great spring training after missing almost all of the 2016 season due to injury.
Infielder Glabor Torres and Outfielder Cliff Frazier are waiting in the wings in AAA and have shown great promise this spring. The yankees hope to be able to give them both more time to develop this year in the minor leagues but we all know those plans can change quickly in the Bronx if the team does not play well.
The greatest concern for the Yankees headed into the 2017 season, other than the youth, is the starting pitching staff that really only has one lock for double digit wins in Masahiro Tanaka. The next best option is Michael Pineda who has had a good spring but makes the yankees nervous with his inconsistent performance through most of his career. The yankees hope that the starting staff is able to keep the yankees in enough games to allow the bullpen to finish things up. The combination of Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman should be the best finishing combo in baseball but they will be rendered useless if the starters can't keep the team in games.
All in all the Yankee season will be as interesting a season as they have had in several years simply based on the young athletes that they have in the mix. Gone are the old, slow veterans who were reliable but fragile. If the team is able to stay competetive in the wild card hunt for the majority of the season it will be a victory for the Yankees especially due to the fact that they will be freeing up a ton of money going into the 2018 off season. If Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenners don't see the results they are looking for this season the Evil Empire may return quicker than we think.