New York Yankees
by Matt Schneider
2018 Record: 100-62 (2nd in AL East)
2018 Payroll: $180,098,151 (6th)
Projected 2019 Lineup:
1. LF Brett Gardner, .245 AVG/.331 OBP/.385 SLG, 1.2 WAR
2. RF Aaron Judge, .251 AVG/.368 OBP/.501 SLG, 4.6 WAR
3. DH Giancarlo Stanton, .267 AVG/.354 OBP/.569 SLG, 4.4 WAR
4. CF Aaron Hicks, .247 AVG/.348 OBP/.430 SLG, 3.3 WAR
5. C Gary Sanchez, .245 AVG/.322 OBP/.483 SLG, 3.2 WAR
6. 3B Miguel Andujar, .279 AVG/.321 OBP/.481 SLG, 2.0 WAR
7. 2B Gleyber Torres, .257 AVG/.329 OBP/.438 SLG, 2.2 WAR
8. SS DJ LeMahieu, .269 AVG/.333 OBP/.388 SLG, 2.0 WAR
9. 1B Luke Voit, .262 AVG/.336 OBP/.458 SLG, 1.4 WAR
Projected 2019 Rotation:
1. Luis Severino, 196.0 IP/3.45 ERA/1.14 WHIP, 4.5 WAR
2. James Paxton, 172.0 IP/3.46 ERA/1.15 WHIP, 4.0 WAR
3. Masahiro Tanaka 153.0 IP/ 3.93 ERA/1.20 WHIP, 2.6 WAR
4. JA Happ 168.0 IP/4.10 ERA/1.26 WHIP, 2.8 WAR
5. CC Sabathia 117.0 IP/4.55 ERA/1.37 WHIP, 1.3 WAR
In an offseason where the Yankees were expected to sign a major free agent deal, they stayed relatively quiet and still improved. The first move was to re-sign veterans Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia to one-year deals. Both bring a veteran presence to a team full of young players, are relatively inexpensive, and fill a needed role. Later in November, the Yankees made their biggest move of the offseason, trading for Mariners ace James Paxton. In exchange for Paxton, the Yankees sent elite prospect Justus Sheffield and two other lower prospects. The Yankees rotation was their biggest weakness in 2018 and this trade helped improve that. If the injury-prone Paxton can stay healthy, the Yankees seem to have improved significantly.
In early November, it was announced the shortstop Didi Gregorius would need Tommy John Surgery and miss the first couple months of the season. With a void in the middle infield and no real backup, the Yankees needed to sign someone to play shortstop. In January the Yankees signed SS Troy Tulowitzki and 2B DJ LeMahieu. It is currently not clear as to what the exact setup of the Yankees infield will be, but a lot of this will be cleared up through Spring Training.
The Yankees filled the rest of their pitching depth by signing RP Adam Ottavino, RP Zack Britton, and SP JA Happ, and allowing RP David Robertson to sign with Philadelphia. The final move the Yankees made was trading the extremely disappointing Sonny Gray to the Reds in exchange for a prospect, opening a much-needed spot on the roster. Though the Yankees did not sign Manny Machado or Bryce Harper, they were still able to significantly improve for 2019.
2019 Season Preview:
The Yankees have a lot to look forward to in 2019, but at the same time, a lot is still uncertain. Most predictions have the Yankees finishing with a top-three record in the league, which I think is fair seeing their offseason improvements. Coming into the season, there are still a lot of unknowns regarding certain position player and pitcher roles.
The biggest question coming into the season is how Aaron Boone will manage the infield situation. Shortstop Didi Gregorius injured his elbow at the end of 2018 and is not expected to return until July. The Yankees signed aging shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and second baseman DJ LeMahieu to help fill the space, but the exact way Boone will set up the infield is not clear at this point.
One certainty is Miguel Andujar will be the starting third baseman. Though his defense last year was abysmal, the Yankees still seem to believe in his dedication to improving. Another infield starter will be former top prospect Gleyber Torres. While Torres did not have a stand-out year like teammates Aaron Hicks and Miguel Andujar, he finished with a 121 DRC+ which was tied with Hicks and one point above Andujar. Torres will be coming into his sophomore year and is poised to have a great season.
Moving on, Troy Tulowitzki will try to stay healthy in 2019 and hopefully get some play time. The former superstar shortstop did not play at all in 2018 due to multiple injuries. Reports are that he is coming into Spring Training lighter than he used to be and in better shape. If Tulowitzki can stay healthy, he could be an important asset for the Yankees while Gregorius is not available. The final player competing for a spot in the infield is former Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu. LeMahieu has not seen much success outside of Colorado in the past, triple-slashing .229/.277/.422 in away games in 2018. He has experience playing all four infield positions and could be a reliable and experienced backup.
The first base starter is another question that is still up in the air. Luke Voit finished last year on an absolute tear hitting for a 194 wRC+ over the last two months of the season. Voit won the starting spot at first and is currently slated to start in 2019. His competition will be the continually disappointing Greg Bird. Bird reportedly showed up to training camp weeks early to get into shape, but his career lackluster triple slash of .214/.302/.434 shows that his chance at a starting spot might already be gone. Voit will most likely regress in 2019, but unless he significantly underperforms, the spot seems to be his.
To round out the infield, the starting catcher will again be Gary Sanchez with Austin Romine as his backup. Sanchez had an underwhelming 2018, but much of his poor performance could be due to bad luck. BABIP (Batting Average On Balls In Play) is a statistic that measures a hitter’s batting average on balls in play. Typically, a players BABIP is pretty consistent from year to year; however, Sanchez’s BABIP fell from .304 in 2017 to .197 in 2018. Sanchez’s average exit velocity decreased by an insignificant .4 mph from 2017 to 2018. From watching many Yankees games, it seemed like Sanchez regularly hit balls right at fielders. Sanchez will bounce back in 2019 and be a major contributor this year.
The Yankees designated hitter will obviously be Giancarlo Stanton. Not a lot more has to be said about the former NL MVP. He is coming into his second year as a Yankee and will be more accustomed to the stadium and New York atmosphere than he was last year.
The outfield is a much simpler situation than the infield. Aaron Judge will be in right field, Aaron Hicks will be in center, and Brett Gardner will start in left field. Clint Frazier will seek to place himself into the outfield as the season goes on. Frazier sat out most of 2018 because of persisting concussion symptoms. The former top prospect, Frazier is a young, electric player with a lot of love for the game. He will most likely contend with Gardner for the left field spot.
As typical, the Bronx Bombers will rely mostly on their stacked lineup in 2019. While the pitching is good, many of the pitchers are aging and injury prone. Staying healthy will be of utmost importance for the Yankees rotation in 2019. Going through the rotation, Severino and Tanaka seem like the best bet for consistency. Severino is an established top 10 starter in baseball after putting up back to back seasons over 5.5 fWAR. For Masahiro Tanaka, 2019 will be his sixth season in the MLB. He has pitched an average of 165 innings a year with a career ERA of 3.59. He is extremely streaky. At times his splitter is straight unhittable and sometimes he serves up meatballs like an Italian chef. Tanaka will be a good second or third pitcher who can come through in big games.
The other three projected starters are James Paxton, JA Happ, and CC Sabathia. The former ace of the now-tanking Mariners, Paxton will look to stay healthy in 2019. Paxton has accrued about 12 fWAR over the last three seasons even though he has never pitched more than 161 innings in a season. If he can stay healthy, Paxton will make a very formidable number two in the Yankees rotation. Paxton also has no postseason experience so we will see how effective he is late into the season and in October. On the other hand, Happ and Sabathia will be 36 and 38 respectively in 2019. Though Happ and CC have experienced late-career renaissances, they are both still aging will likely not play as well as last year. These three pitchers will complete the pitching rotation for the Yankees.
As it was in 2018, the bullpen is again loaded with talent. The Yankees said goodbye to David Robertson this offseason, but signed relievers Zack (Zach) Britton and Adam Ottavino. The roles in the bullpen will likely be similar as they were last September with Ottavino replacing Robertson. Aroldis Chapman will still close games, He will be set up by Dellin Betances, Ottavino, or Britton. Chad Green and Jonathan Holder will pitch in the lower leverage situations.
In his second year as manager, Aaron Boone will have much higher expectations. He will again have access to a deep bullpen and now has experience using it. Boone will also have a lot of choices for every place in the lineup. For example, Rotochamp.com predicts Brett Gardner batting first, but Boone could try putting Gleyber Torres, Aaron Hicks, or even Aaron Judge there.
Overall, expectations are very high for the Yankees in 2019. The team has improved from 2018, especially if they stay healthy. The AL East division race between the Yankees, Red Sox, and dark horse Rays will be thrilling throughout the whole season. Given all this, the Yankees should make the playoffs and have a very good chance of winning it all in 2019.
Record Prediction: 98-64
Player to Watch #1: C Gary Sanchez
Gary Sanchez had a nightmare year in 2018 and will look to wake up and bounce back in 2019. After putting up 4.4 WAR in his first full season, Sanchez was hyped to have another elite season in 2018. However, Sanchez was troubled with injuries and serious bad luck as I mentioned above. If Sanchez can stay healthy and perform as he is expected, he will be a serious candidate for Comeback Player of the Year.
Player to Watch #2: OF Clint Frazier
A lesser known player to watch this year is Clint Frazier. Another player who struggled with injuries in 2018, Clint Frazier will compete with Brett Gardner for the starting spot in left field. Frazier has been MLB ready for over a year now, but because of reoccurring concussions and no room in the outfield, has not gotten many chances to play. A former top prospect, Frazier has performed well in the minor leagues, hitting a .832 OPS. “Red Thunder” will try to prove himself this season and hopefully find a new nickname after his outspoken displeasure with it.
Player to Watch #3: SP CC Sabathia
The future Hall of Famer, CC Sabathia, recently announced his plan to retire following the 2019 season. While Sabathia is no longer on the level of dominance as he used to be, he will look to reach two impressive milestones in his final year. Though wins are no longer held up to the same standard as they used to be, CC is currently at 246 wins. He is four away from the 250 milestone and one away from cracking the top 50 in all-time wins. The second milestone CC will look to reach is strikeouts. Coming into the season, CC will need fourteen strikeouts to reach 3,000 becoming the seventeenth pitcher to reach that milestone.