It’s Opening Day.
I traded questions with Joshua Diemert of Pinstripe Alley, SB Nation’s New York Yankee’s blog. I have to apologize to Joshua, I had mistakenly credited this to Tyler Norton at first.
Besides the obvious man mountain, what additions have been made to the Yankees’ roster over the winter?
Like a lot of teams, the Yankees spent the season trying to navigate under the $197mm competitive balance tax. Even the absorption of Stanton’s contract was offset somewhat by trading Starlin Castro and Chase Headley (approx. $21mm combined) and signing CC Sabathia to a much lower AAV ($10mm, down from $25 in 2018). After that, the trade for Brandon Drury and signing Neil Walker finished the offseason.
Can you give us a quick scouting report of the starting pitchers the Jays are likely to face? How confident are you in the ability of the starting rotation to stay healthy and keep opponents under the 10 or 15 runs a game that the offense will give them?
Luis Severino – a shorter version of Noah Syndergaard in terms of fastball/slider stuff. His delivery worries me a little, he doesn’t generate as much power from his lower body as I’d like. He spent a lot of the offseason tweaking the delivery, so that concern may be lessened. Head and shoulders above the rest of the staff, in my opinion.
Masahiro Tanaka – Had a really solid end to 2017 after starting disastrously. Great sinker/splitter combination that generates a lot of ground balls, but when he misses he leaves a lot of balls in the air. Probably the single-greatest victim of the juiced ball, as his HR/FB% skyrocketed last season.
Sonny Gray – Talented, soft contact generator, probably fiddles with pitch selection too much. Decent fastball, really good curve, takes way too long to deliver a pitch. If the pitch clock ever comes to the majors, he’ll be in trouble.
CC Sabathia – Jays fans have seen Sabathia long enough they know what to expect. Shockingly effective for his age and history. Health is an extreme concern.
Jordan Montgomery – Really good rookie campaign. Five pitches, all from nearly identical release points. Fastball is a little underwhelming and he’ll generate a lot of contact. Whether he stays effective for a career or not depends on how soft that contact can be.
Overall, the health of the rotation can be a bit concerning. Tanaka and Gray have arm injuries in their history, obviously, but have shown a pretty solid ability to recover. Severino worries you because of the velocity and 100% effort on every pitch. Like Justin Verlander, he often throws harder in a game the deeper he gets, so maybe like Verlander he’ll avoid significant ligament problems. Still scary, though. CC Sabathia is a walking injury risk, and I can almost guarantee he’ll miss a couple of starts at least. The biggest misstep of the offseason was not shoring up the starting rotation depth. Chance Adams, the closest prospect to the majors, doesn’t inspire much confidence from me, and the other top depth option is Luis Cessa, whom I’m constantly surprised is able to stay on a 40 man roster.
So, Stanton and Judge, more or less homers than Maris and Mantle in ’61? Who plays left, who plays right? I’d imagine there will be a healthy competition between the two.
I’m taking the under on the 1961 home run chase (115). I think they’ll both end up right around 50 home runs apiece, and I’m perfectly happy with that number. Stanton has certainly had more reps in left field in spring training, but Judge is probably a better athlete so it might make more sense to play him in Yankee Stadium’s spacious LF. I imagine the team will make judicious use of the DH spot as well.
Can Greg Bird stay healthy? Who plays first if Bird can’t? What sort of numbers would you expect from him if he can stay in the lineup? (I asked this before Bird ended up on the DL with a bone spur - Tom)
God I hope so. The Yankees having quite literally the worst production in baseball form first base in 2017 isn’t something I want to relive. Fortunately, Bird’s injury last year was more team error, as the medical staff somehow missed the broken bone in his right foot for the first eight weeks of the season. If he’s healthy, I think a 125 wRC+, 35 home run-type season is what he’s capable of. He’s not as good a pure hitter as others in the lineup but he’s very patient and has the proverbial Yankee Stadium swing.
As far as depth, the Yankees released our mutual friend Adam Lind this spring, which I wasn’t a huge fan of. Tyler Austin (assigned to AAA) and Neil Walker appear to be the first base depth for now.
I guess it is too early to ask, but any early thoughts on the new manager Aaron Boone?
I’m not a huge Boone fan, I think Hensley Meulens was probably a better choice for the job, but it’s honestly so far down my list of concerns for 2018. I don’t think Boone will have a lot of authority to make serious decisions. Brian Cashman is the one who’s in charge here, and Boone just has to fill out a competent batting order and not do anything stupid with the pitching and the Yankees should be fine.
Looking at the Yankees.com ‘depth chart’, I’m confused. What will the Yankees’ infield look like?
The Opening Day infield will be Bird, Walker, Didi Gregorius and Drury from right to left. Both Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar were sent to AAA for performance and service time reasons, and I don’t think either will be called up before May at the earliest. Drury is a really interesting case, as he seems to be the type of player that could most benefit from the swing-change trend across baseball.
And what do you expect the batting order to be?
In this case, I hope the team takes a page from the 2015 Blue Jays. Judge-Stanton-Sanchez is the Yankee version of Donaldson-Bautista-Encarnacion, and should be hitting 2-3-4, handedness be damned. Brett Gardner fills in nicely as a leadoff hitter, and Bird/Gregorius fill out the five and six spots. An ideal would look something like:
I am a little concerned that Boone will try and squeeze a lefty into that big three, but hopefully not. At the very least, Judge and Stanton need to hit 2-3, the prospect of them both coming up in the first inning is too good to ignore.
Ever get tired of winning? Asking for a friend.
Hey, the team hasn’t won a World Series my entire adult life.