We are coming off a season in which the Yankees saw tons of injuries and missed the playoffs for a 2nd straight year, and an offseason in which no major moves were made. We are 19 days from the start of another exciting year of Yankees baseball. Being so close to the start of the season, one can only assume that all offseason and spring training questions have been answered, however this is false. The Yankees are yet to find their everyday starters, have almost an entire pitching staff that is returning from injury, and a bunch of older players that may or may not be good this season. All these unknowns make people wonder whether or not the Yankees will be good this year or not.
Alex Rodriguez was quiet for all of last season after accepting his season long suspension. However, since arriving at spring training 3 days early, the spotlight has been on him. It is not realistic to assume that A-Rod will be the MVP, homerun hitting monster that we have seen in the past. Not only is he coming off a major suspension, he is also coming off a major hip surgery. Now, I’m not saying that A-Rod won’t be good this season. He is still Alex Rodriguez. He has shown that he can play; this spring he has been hitting .300 through 20 at-bats and has been solid at both third and first base. A-Rod will be an asset to the Yankees this year by providing them with some flexibility at third, first, and at DH. He will also hit some home runs that the Yankees desperately need. A-Rod will also be a huge asset in the locker room now that Derek Jeter is no longer with the team. A-Rod has been around the game for over 15 years, won championships, and has been through the good and the bad. While A-Rod may not be worth the $21 million that Yankees owe him for this season, he will be a solid player that the Yankees can certainly use and be successful with.
The next question for the Yankees this season which has not been a focus lately, is will Didi Gregorius be able to replace Derek Jeter at shortstop? The answer to this question is absolutely not. No one will replace the captain. It doesn’t matter that its Didi Gregorius; the Yankees could have signed Hanley Ramirez or traded for Troy Tulowitzki and yet neither of them would be able to replace Jeter. Didi will be a great addition to the Yankees infield as a defender, however, he may not be as valuable in the batter’s box. Didi is a career .243 hitter through 3 seasons in the majors. This is all I see the Yankees getting out of him on the offensive side — mediocre hitting. He may steal some bases and be a great fielder but, in the end, it will amount to nothing when compared to the presence Derek Jeter had in the clubhouse.
Pitching has been a huge issue for the Yankees in the past and it may be once again. Last year, the Yankees lost 4 of their 5 starters to injury. This year, 3 of them are returning from injury (Ivan Nova out till July) and their last starter Hiroki Kuroda left to play in his final years in Japan. The rotation this season relies on 3 things. 1. Can Masahiro Tanaka return to his pre-injury dominance from last season? 2. Will Michael Pineda stay healthy? and 3. Will C.C. Sabathia be decent this season? The answer to the first question is Yes. Tanaka rehabbed his elbow all season and has been dominant in 2 spring training starts. This should not be a concern. Second, Michael Pineda’s health is up in the air. There is no way to tell if his arm will be able to withstand an entire season. As a Yankees fan, one can only hope that it does. Lastly, the big boy C.C. Sabathia. C.C. has struggled significantly in the past 2 seasons and is coming off knee surgery. Last season C.C. lost a significant amount of weight and some believed that this contributed to his severe loss in velocity. While for many, arriving to camp heavier than before can be seen as a bad thing, C.C. has made it a good thing for this season. In his 1 spring training start he went 2 innings and gave up 2 earned runs. This may not appear to be promising but he did have great command on his fastball and decent velocity that maxed out at 96 mph. For C.C. to be decent this season I believe he will need to improve his changeup and stay healthy — both of which I believe he can do.
The Yankees have more unanswered questions than any other team heading into the regular season. It will not be easy for the Yankees to be dominant this season but it is definitely possible. My prediction for the Yankees is to make the playoffs this season as Wild Card team. For Yankees fans it will be a season of ups and downs but it is important to be optimistic.