Let’s be Frank… not great. For the first time in a long time, the Yankees are in the bottom half of the league in total offense. Everyone came into the year worried about pitching, and even without Kluber the rotation has not been bad. Let’s get into what’s wrong and how to fix it.
The Yankees Big Issue:
Yes, hitting is an issue. Yes, we spend a lot of money on hitters. We don’t need new bats, we need good baseball players. The outfield rotation of Miguel Andújar, Clint Frazier, and Brett Gardner just does not work. If you can’t field, you should not be starting for an MLB team. Baserunning outs kill an offense and so do double plays, to things that are all too common for New York this year.
Aaron Boone keeps saying we need to “turn the corner” and then continues to make the same mistakes. Stanton did not play in the finale of the Red Sox series… TWO DAYS after Boone said he would be playing every game this week. Not only did Boone say this and then went back on it, but the Yankees did not play the next day so he got 2 days back to back of rest. Boone is seemingly making lineups out of nowhere however he pleases.
How to fix the Yankees
People will say “Fire Cashman and fire Boone”, It is not going to happen. If the Yankees can make a trade for a guy like Ketel Marte, a utility guy for the DiamondBacks, who is amazing on defense we would be in a much better spot. Andújar, has been improving quickly for a guy who has only been in left for a year and a half so I believe in him. By the end of June the Yankees expect to have Voit, O’Day, Severino and Britton back. Those 4 drastically change this team and if the Yankees can be 5 or less games back of first in the AL East, they might be able to make a run at the title.
Now if this year is a wash, then you have to bring up Jasson Dominguez. He will be 19 in February and is the most hyped prospect in MLB history. The Yankees could blow it up but it feels like the wrong move for New York at this point. I still have hope.
Yankee fans need to see something in order to stay positive. If that doesn’t happen, then Yankee fans will very hard to win over as we come down the stretch, but hey, Go Yanks.
The Yankees are sitting around .500 and they started off even worse. I’m just here to write an article that they still have one of the most talented rosters in the MLB and they will be okay as they are taking care of business against the Tigers this weekend like they should. I’ll go over the reasons not to panic over the Yankees rough start and why their line-up is okay despite the fact many guys are slumping with low batting averages. I fully expect the Yankees to be battling for the top of the AL East at the end of the season with the Rays and possibly the Jays and Red Sox.
First let’s dive into the line-up. To lead off Luke Voit is missing and that is really messing things up. Rougned Odor isn’t really a starting caliber player at this point. He will be a nice complementary piece of the bench to pinch hit and start a few times a week when Voit is back as he can still hit for power, but Voit is a more complete power hitter. You may also think, well the Yankees have plenty of power hitters but Voit was the biggest contributor in 2020. That’s not to say he’s better than certain hitters like Aaron Judge, but he was the straw that really stirred that line-up last season and getting him will be a huge boost for the team.
Speaking of Aaron Judge he hasn’t gotten off to as steaming of a start as the like of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., J.D. Martinez and Byron Buxton but he is playing really well under the radar. He has 7 homers spraying the ball to all fields and though he will always have some swing and miss in his game his strikeouts haven’t been overwhelming and his chase rate is actually above average. He’s basically a shoo-in for 40 homers and though not the most predictive, he has an expected batting average of nearly .350 a testament to his process working. His contact suggests more of the same Judge we have come to know when he’s healthy. If he can stay healthy the Yankees will have a huge boost from their right fielder. He really has matured as a hitter and his mammoth swing is working with a more selective approach. His K rate is down nearly 5% from his career. Go watch Judge hit this year and tell me he isn’t of the best hitters in the game, I’m willing to bet you wouldn’t disagree.
Aaron Hicks has been the subject of worry too as he can’t get anything to fall in for a hit. He has a .594 OPS and a .155 average this season. This isn’t the craziest statline ever though; Kole Calhoun, Jose Ramirez and Evan Longoria all hit under .200 in 2019 and had various degrees of solid seasons. Also, Hicks is notoriously a bad April hitter and having spent his career in New York and Minnesota I’d say the weather has a negative effect on him. He usually improves in May and hits his stride in the summer months. He is hitting lower at Yankee Stadium, where the summer hasn’t arrived yet and in Aprils of the past this trend. It might not have the biggest effect on him but in the random noise or higher variance that can happen in smaller samples it explains a lot. Hicks won’t be this bad all season.
Gleyber Torres is another guy people have worried about. He has just 3 homers in 267 plate appearances since the start of 2020. This is a bit concerning as a guy who hit 38 bombs in 2019 should be going deep at a higher rate, especially when that is part of his game. Overall though 2020 was a weird season and this season hasn’t been long enough to draw any conclusions that you can be highly confident in for the most part. It is probably in Torres head a little too as he has recently started to swing the bat better and got the ball to fall having more success this last week. Baseball is a mental game and hitting 3 homers in a stretch of 40 games isn’t unheard of but when you start hearing about your power missing and you’re still just a 24 year old developing at the plate it leads me to believe you’re overthinking and slumping. If he just eases into his approach I believe he will start hitting and the power will follow. He may not hit 38 home runs again but he can get over 25 and be valuable to the team. His defense will be more of a concern as he fits way better as a second baseman but if things fall into place for the Yankees they can likely overcome any negative value his defense brings.
Lastly with the offense I wanted to hit on the catchers, as Gary Sanchez is losing playing time to Kyle Higashioka. Higashioka has some power, but not as much as Sanchez and though he has hit well over the last two seasons that’s in less than 80 plate appearances. In his career so far he has a 79 OPS+ so he’s well below league average. He’s a good back-up to have around and its okay to play the hot hand, but over the season Sanchez will reign superior. Sanchez is a below average framer as FanGraphs has him costing the Yankees about 8 runs in his career, his arm though brings to around being just a slightly below average fielder. Sanchez has had insanely bad BABIP luck too, so if his luck improves his average should get above the Mendoza Line. If he can do that, field as around an average catcher and hit 30 home runs he’s an insanely valuable catcher. The thing about him though is that he is so slow that when you look at his defensive shifting below you can see that fielders play him up the middle and far back, so a lot of his hard hit contact doesn’t turn into singles like with a faster player who can use right fielder would. He won’t gain speed so he will either need to cut down on his strikeouts and/or try going the other way to shoot the hole on the second base side, even if his contact isn’t scalding to open up the whole field again. The good news is so far this year he’s being somewhat selective and has walked more and struck out less. That’ll go a long way, especially when his power shows again. The upside is a .230 hitter with 30 homers and one of the better wOBA for a catcher out there.
I felt it worth mentioning that the Yankees bullpen has looked very good so far, contributing 2.4 WAR with a FIP below 3 and Aroldis Chapman being one of the best closers in baseball. They also have Gerrit Cole who is pacing right behind Jacob deGrom still and has actually been rewarded with run support, which is huge for a team to have that advantage every fifth day of that added win boost. Corey Kluber isn’t the pitcher he once was but he could be the slow and steady veteran that turns in a good season and is quietly the leader of the staff. Jordan Montgomery also still has breakout potential as he upped his velocity and lowered his walk rate last season. At the very least he’s a solid middle of the rotation lefty and at the best he will be the second guy behind Cole. His stuff is nasty, especially the way he plays his pitches off of each other to fool guys and create one of the better contact profiles in the league. He’s the guy to watch in that rotation. I also think Jameson Taillon has high potential and solid mechanics. I think he fills in the middle of their rotation well and he just needs time to get going consistently for them. We’ve seen some really good performances out of him in Pittsburgh, but he’s coming off of two injury saddled seasons and needs to find himself in game. Luckily, the bullpen is good too so if they can get 5 innings out of the guys behind Cole they are golden. The starting rotation is just one of seven with a called strike plus swinging strike percentage above 30% so far too, again suggesting bad luck in the Yankees record. Deivi Garcia and a possible trade deadline acquisition will only bolster their rotation as well.
I think all in all the Yankees limped out of the gate, not uncommon for any team. They have answered the call now though and their guys are starting to come out of slumps. When you look at their roster from top to bottom it’s with the Dodgers, Padres, Braves, and Rays of the world. The Yankees have the ninth best expected win percentage going by the Pythagorean record. They are among the elite teams in baseball since 2017 and aren’t giving up that anytime soon.
It’s really hard to predict the MLB season, especially in the COVID world as we saw a team like the Marlins can face adverse conditions. I will try my best today though.
New York Yankees
Toronto Blue Jays
Tampa Bay Rays
Boston Red Sox
The Yankees are probably the favorites in the AL. Their lineup is stacked and they just brough back Brett Gardner for one more run at it all, though I think Clint Frazier deserves the starting job. Their rotation is good too and getting Luis Severino back near the end of the season is like a built in trade deadline acquisition. The scariest thing is if Judge and Stanton can both eclipse 550 plate appearances. The Blue Jays line-up could rival the Yankees though. Springer and Semien were huge acquisitions and guys like Rowdy Tellez offer extreme upside even though their big league career is so-so right now. That line-up is great, the biggest question is if the cast-off veteran group and Nate Pearson and combine for something behind Hyun-jin Ryu in the starting rotation. I like their postseason chances though. The Rays are taking a step back, I trust their front office and player development but they lost Charlie Morton and Blake Snell and that’s huge. Glasnow is good and he is a borderline ace pitcher though he could still make some improvements to his game but they lack as much punch as they had last year. Austin Meadows will need to have a comeback season for them. They are still a winning team but they are likely taking a step back after the off-season they had. The Red Sox might not be as bad as everyone thinks but they lack any kind of pitching whatsoever without Sale. They need some pitching before they can start competing again and leave the 70-something win territory. They are at 13.9 projected pitching WAR but 2.3 of that is Chris Sale when we don’t really know how many starts he will really make. The Orioles are still rebuilding but it will be exciting to see Trey Mancini come back and Ryan Mountcastle start to develop.
Chicago White Sox
Kansas City Royals
The Twins really should’ve re-signed Odorizzi because their starting pitching and bullpen might come up a little short but I think they are de facto favorites right now. Their offense is still really strong and Alex Kirilloff is a ROY candidate that isn’t getting enough attention. Simmons was a huge pick-up and overall I like the Twins chances despite losing some pitching, Kenta Maeda and Jose Berrios will have to lead the way. Also, this is Buxton’s breakout year. The Indians still have one of the top rotations in the AL. Trading your best (or second best) hitter though is not going to help when you’ve struggled to score runs. I still think they will have a winning record but they need an offensive boost. Josh Naylor, Jake Bauers, and Bobby Bradley. A few of those guys need to break out. The White Sox are a popular pick but I need to see Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech do an above average job if they want to beat the Twins. Their offense is probably the best in the divison along with Minnesota though. Their bullpen is also a secret weapon. Liam Hendricks isn’t a secret but guys like Codi Heuer and Aaron Bummer are really strong back end relievers. I wasn’t a huge fan of the Lance Lynn trade though. The Royals are a sleeper team but they need Soler and Dozier to be the 2019 version of themselves and Benintendi to find himself again. Their pitching is young but Singer and Bubic could take a step forward and Brad Keller has proven he is a solid starter. The bullpen also has some good weapons like Scott Barlow and Josh Stautmont. They have a higher ceiling if they can get things going. The Tigers should try and break 70 wins this year. They have a chance to make one more huge draft selection but they will need guys to start stepping up to supplement the top prospects they have. JaCoby Jones, Christin Stewart, Willi Castro and Jeimer Candelario need to keep going. Spencer Turnbull needs to keep striding forward and Matt Boyd needs to step up. They have a chance at 70 wins if things roll in their favor.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The Astros scandal and 29-31 record lead some to believe decline. They also lost some of the key players in their last WS with Verlander shelved and Springer gone. I do not think Houston is the 100 win juggernaut they once were but they are still really good. Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker and Michael Brantley is still a difficult lineup to make your way through. Their starting staff is led by young arms they’ve developed too but the depth takes a hit with Framber Valdez and Forrest Whitley injuries. McCullers and Greinke are a great top 2 and Odorizzi was a great signing too. I think they have enough under the radar arms to do well: Urquidy, Parades, Garcia, and Javier will all play roles. The Athletics are a solid team. They’ve recently had the tradeoff of good hitting contributors leaving like Khris Davis and Marcus Semien but have some starting pitching coming through with Jesus Luzardo and Chris Bassitt breaking out. Trevor Rosenthal completely changed his release point and found huge success so the downgrade of losing Hendricks to him might be mitigated. The Angels rotation doesn’t really bring confidence and their bullpen isn’t good either. Without Trout and Ohtani I think they are right with the Tigers and Orioles but those guys along with Jo Adell, Dylan Bundy, and David Fletcher being solid contributors make them a 75-80 win team. The Mariners are coming. Logan Gilbert and Jared Kelenic will be debuting in 2021 and that’s the start. I expect some regression from Kyle Lewis but they have some exciting pieces and I thought they did well in their recent trades last year. Justin Dunn could really bring that rotation forward as well. The Rangers are a mismatch of positions. They are trying everyone out somewhere new. They lost their “Big 3” of Kluber, Minor and Lynn from last year, they are trending in the wrong direction.
New York Mets
The Braves keep getting a lot of flak for their pitching but they have Ian Anderson, Max Fried and Charlie Morton leading the way with Mike Soroka making a comeback. That reminds me of the Rays teams of the last two seasons. Combine that with brining Ozuna back and Christian Pache debuting on an offense that was already right with the Dodgers last season and they are the most slept on star team in baseball. They should go out and re-sign Shane Greene but their bullpen is solid too. The Mets and Phillies are closer than I think most people think but the Mets get the edge with their rotation. There’s no doubt the Mets improved this offseason and I actually liked the McCann signing along with the Carrasco/Lindor trade but what worries me is that their defense could be really bad. Overall, I think the Mets are about an 88 win team and Phillies are 84-85 going into the season. They have shored up the bullpen a bit too and I think they are a really good team. The Nationals are a top heavy team: Scherzer, Strasburg, Turner and Soto are among the best players in the game but the rest of the team is weak or has question marks. The Marlins have a team to work with but there’s no denying they greatly benefitted from a 60 game season and expanded playoffs. I do like their starting rotation to grow into one of the best in the game but that probably won’t come together this season.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Brewers offseason strategy was good, improvement on defense behind their young starters they have high hopes for again this season with Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff. Christian Yelich will need to play like an MVP again to compete and a combination of breakouts from Hiura and Urias. The bullpen is loaded with Hader, Williams, Suter and Peralta though and in a weak division that may be enough. The Cardinals made the huge splash of getting Nolan Arenado but they need some more offesne even on top of him and Jack Flaherty needs to be in 2019 form. Their defense is also strong but I’m not sure they have enough to win the division even with Arenado and Goldschmidt leading the way. The Cubs still have some really good players but they have underperformed due to the bullpen, and inconsistency from both pitchers and hitters over the years. If they have more guys perform on their higher percentile projections then they could win the division. The Reds still have no shortstop. They may have the most power in the division and Gray-Castillo leading the rotation is good along with some promising arms Mahle, Antone and Lorenzen behind but they don’t strike me as any better than they were last season. Any four of these teams could win the division. The Pirates are the worst team in abseball. There are some good players there but they’ll be lucky to win more than 60 games.
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego Padres
San Francisco Giants
The Dodgers still have the potential to be a dynasty, they are the defending champions and best team going into the season. They have 3 previous Cy Young winners and Walker Buehler. Gavin Lux is going to be huge and their line-up is still stacked, normally a team like the Padres would win this division but they just aren’t as good. The Padres stacked up on pitching depth and have Machado and Tatis and in the postseason they are built to win short series so they will be dangerous. Two of the best teams in baseball will play each other 19 times this year and that’ll be fun. The Giants are good at outperforming expectations and they are neck and neck with Arizona. Arizona has more talent to work with and Zac Gallen could win the Cy Young but don’t underestimate how solid San Francisco is. They are both .500 teams in the end. Colorado is trending in the wrong direction, they still have some solid pieces but they might as well tear it down and rebuild at this point and they are even messing that up.
Wild Card Round
Padres over Mets
Jays over A’s
Yankees over Jays in 5 Astros over Twins in 4
Dodgers over Padres in 5 Braves over Brewers in 4
Astros over Yankees in 7
Dodgers over Braves in 6
Dodgers over Astros in 5
AL MVP: OF Mike Trout NL MVP: OF Juan Soto
AL Cy Young: SP Lucas Giolito NL Cy Young: SP Walker Buehler
AL ROY: SS Wander Franco NL ROY: 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes
AL Manager of the Year: Charlie Montoyo NL Manager of the Year: Craig Counsell