Well the first for-sure, definite, 100% confirmed, future Yankee free agent signing has signed with the Padres. And this kid is now every Yankee fan:
That was definitely me back in the early 90’s when my favorite player was Don Mattingly (because he lead the league in having a walrus mustache just like my Dad. Runner up: Dennis Eckersley.) Like all Yankee fans and the bandwagon Yankee fans, I then went through the arrogant highs of the late-90’s dynasty. Followed by the dark, lonely era of the Aughts which turned me into the bitter, jaded fan who grew sick and tired of the high-spending, future-sacrificing ways of the overpaid Yankees that I am today. My writer photo above is a sarcastic response to the Yankee fans who never grew out of the dynasty era and still yell “COUNT DA RINGS BRO! DEREK JETAHHH BABBYY!!!” Despite the Yankees only winning one championship in the last 19 years. But there is now a light at the end of that tunnel! Five of the players in the Yankees starting lineup are home grown players! Our ace came up through our own developmental system and wasn’t just plucked from some poor, small market, podunk team like the Reds! Our bullpen is TERRIFYING!
The eyes of Yankee Nation are set on only one thing: adding another championship ring to the trophy case. The team, fans and front office will accept nothing less. Right now, many experts have the Bombers tabbed as the World Series favorite — we’ll see how that all shakes out in October. I talked to Callen Elslager from the Fantasy Life Blog who just had his 2019 Yankees Team Preview published. Here are his thoughts on a few key questions the 2019 Bronx Bombers are facing:
Kerry: What are your predictions for Gary Sanchez in 2019? Is he the 2017 MVP candidate — or the 2018 biggest bust of the year?
Callen: I expect Gary Sanchez to return back to his prior form. Injuries plagued his 2018 season, and he’s come back ready to prove doubters wrong this season, I believe he will be somewhere between the MVP level he was in 2017 and the 2018 bust.
Callen: The Yankees left field position should be a very interesting one this season. While I expect Brett Gardner to be the Opening Day left fielder, I think Clint Frazier should get plenty of opportunities as well. The other possibilities include Giancarlo Stanton to play left field as well when there is a left-hander on the mound, pushing one of the infielders to DH.We also know that Gardner was benched down the stretch last season, and only played in the Postseason when Aaron Hicks got hurt, so Boone may be willing to do so again this season. In terns of fantasy value, I would guess that neither will provide much value, since they will hit near the bottom of the order. If Clint Frazier takes over the starting job he will be exciting just because of the upside he has as a top prospect, so for that reason he would be the player I’m most excited about for fantasy.
Callen: Its hard to expect much from Troy Tulowitiski because of how injury prone he’s been over the past few seasons. He is supposed to be the starting shortstop, however he will most likely not play every day. For the $550,000 he is being payed, as long as he stays on the field he will be with the price until Gregorious returns. On the other hand I have high expectations for DJ LeMahieu. I have even taken him in my TGFBI league this season because of these expectations. Aaron Boone has stated he wants him to play over 140 games this season which makes him essentially an everyday player. He should get some start all over the infield, helping to give certain players days off or half days off, while hitting for a solid average and even chipping in some stolen bases.
Kerry: James Paxton 2016: 20 starts. 2017: 24 starts. 2018: 28 starts. 2019: 32 starts? What are your projections for the newest Yankee starting pitcher?
Callen: I am very excited to see James Paxton in pinstripes this season. While the injury history still exists, Paxton will be essential to the 2019 New York Yankees. His strikeout upside is still incredible, and though the change to Yankee Stadium may increase his ERA a bit, he is one of those pitchers who has continued to grow each season and should thrive in New York. While his ERA may increase slightly, I believe all his other numbers will stay the same and he will be a valuable addition to the rotation. Oh and did I mention he is also a part of my TGFBI team?
Callen: The dreaded sophomore slump…the 2019 New York Yankees have many options to fall into this slump. The most likely of these options to fall into this slump I believe is Luke Voit. While his September and Postseason run was incredible, it would be hard for him to keep this up for a full season. I believe he is the most likely because he is the one we have seen least at this level of play. The team also has Greg Bird on their bench, and while he was awful last season I believe that Boone would be more than willing to make the switch if Voit struggles The next most likely player for this slump is Miguel Andujar. The argument can be made and probably won, that Andujar was the most impressive of the three at the plate last season. His struggles may persist in the field, which while maybe not translating to his bat could cause him to be sat in favor of LeMahieu at other points in the season. Because of this he falls right in the middle in terms of sophomore slump. Finally the least likely of this group would be Gleyber Torres. The former #1 prospect in all of baseball impressed greatly last season. He is the most likely of the three to remain on the field everyday, which makes him a key part of the team. While he may struggle a bit in his second season, his upside to me makes him least likely to fall into the sophomore slump.
Projected Starting Lineup
The Yankees still have one of the highest powered lineups in all of baseball, but there are still some questions that need to be answered. The new Murderer’s Row of Judge, Stanton and Sanchez are all capable of hitting at least 30 HRs, but where will their batting averages end up? Then we have three second-year Yankees who will look to avoid their sophomore slumps with the team. Andujar and the say-Gley kid are hoping to live up to their 2nd and 3rd place Rookie of the Year finishes, but will Luke Voit hold off the once and future king Greg Bird at first base? Then there are the two veteran question marks for 2019. Is there any bounce back in Troy Tulowizki’s bat? He’s only 34, but is coming off every injury ever which makes him more like 45. And Brett Gardner who epitomizes the high-energy, hussle guy that managers love to coach, but have a hard time cutting lose once they turn 35. And where does D.J. LeMahieu fit into all this?
Position battle to watch: First Base.
It shouldn’t be too much of a position battle as Brian Cashman has already basically come out and rewarded Voit the position after his fantastic second-half last year. Voit has the look of a steroids-era first baseman: 6’3” tall, 225 pounds. Can apparently bench 365 pounds (https://ftw.usatoday.com/2019/02/luke-voit-lifts)
Bird himself had a solid debut way back in 2015 (157 ABs, 11 HR, .871 OPS) but unfortunately has struggled with injuries and production since then (419 ABs, 20 HR, .685 OPS.) However, the Yankees keep giving Bird chances and that’s not to say he hasn’t deserved them. He’s a career .281 hitter with an .881 OPS in 1,349 minor league ABs. And he’s a Yankee product/project. For now, this is Voit’s job to lose — but if he should slip Bird is waiting in the wings (I hate myself) to take over.
Projected Starting Rotation
Oh there’s all that risk! Their ace, Severino, completely fell apart in the second half (2.31 ERA vs. 5.57 in the second-half.) James Paxton finally pitched more than 150 innings for the first time in his career in 2018. Tanaka had the opposite problem from Severino having a 4.54 ERA in 15 first-half starts, but a 2.85 ERA in 12 second-half starts. Happ has been a fine, productive starter and even made his first All-Star Game in 2018, but turned 36 at the end of last season and if his 42.4% FB% doesn’t come down his ERA will continue to rise in the Bronx. And C.C. Who saw all the love and free gifts that Jeter and Mariano Rivera got in their farewell seasons and wanted some of that attention for himself. If C.C. was a Kansas City Royal would he get this #LegaCCy talk? A guy with a career 3.70 ERA (as of right now,) 1.25 WHIP and 7.7 K/9? Thanks for the good times and one championship C.C., but I’m not convinced you deserve the fanfare.
Easily the biggest strength hides out behind the right-center field walls of Yankee Stadium. They’ve got 5 pitchers in their bullpen who are projected to have a K/9 over 10 (Chapman, Betances, Adam Ottavino, Chad Green and Tommy Kahnle.) They added the MLB holds leader from 2018 (Ottavino) to a team that was 4th in reliever ERA and 2nd in reliever K’s. And brought back Zachk Britton who rounded back into form with a 2.88 ERA in 25 innings with the Yankees. The only worry is the status of Aroldis Chapman’s knee. He didn’t need surgery and all reports are that he is ready to throw in spring training games.