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Know your enemy: New York Yankees

Did the Yankees do enough in the offseason to overtake Boston for the AL East throne?

Baltimore Orioles v New York Yankees Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

The New York Yankees in 2018 were the very definition of the dynamic dynasty we fear them to be. In the first year under new manager Aaron Boone, the Yankees won 100 games with an outstanding +182 run differential, yet still finished second in the division to the Boston Red Sox. They won the wild card game against the Athletics, and lost the American League Division Series to the Red Sox 3-1.

Their 100 wins was in line with their Pythagorean number of 99-63, and they led the American League in attendance with over 3.4M visitors to the ballpark. They also finished the year with their lowest payroll ($192.9M) in over a decade.

The Yankees’ 5.3 runs scored per game was second in all of baseball, and their 4.1 runs allowed ranked fifth best in the AL. They also hit 267 home runs, which was the most in the majors (the Jays hit the fifth most with 217). Yankees’ pitchers also had the 2nd highest strikeout per nine of 10.10.

PECOTA predicts the Yankees will win 96 games in 2018, and take over the division title from the Red Sox.

What’s Changed?


Andrew McCutchen, Lance Lynn, Neil Walker, David Robertson, Adeiny Hechavarria, Ronald Torreyes, Sonny Gray


DJ LeMahieu, Troy Tulowitzki, James Paxton, Adam Ottavino, Gio Gonzalez


J.A. Happ, CC Sabathia, Zach Britton, Brett Gardner

Pitching Staff

The Yankees are already down two starters, as last year’s opening day starter and ace Luis Severino is out until May with rotator cuff inflammation, and CC Sabathia will continue to slowly build up from an off-season heart procedure after he serves his five day suspension to start the season. That leaves James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka and JA Happ to lead the rotation. The fourth spot will go to Domingo German, who had a 5.57 ERA in 14 starts with the Yankees last year, and the fifth spot seems like it will be filled by Jonathan Loaisiga once Sabathia’s suspension is finished. Loaisiga made 4 starts for the Yankees last year, putting up a 5.11 ERA.

In stark contrast to the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees have an incredible bullpen. ZiPS projects the bullpen to be worth 7.9 WAR, 0.2 higher than last year’s record breaking projection. Aroldis Chapman will return as the closer, and Boone will have his choice of set-up men between returning pitchers Zack Britton (with a “k”, not a “h”), Chad Greene, Jonathan Holder, Tommy Kahnle, Stephen Tarpley and the newly acquired Adam Ottavino. Luis Cessa will be the long man out of the ‘pen, and Dellin Betances is currently out with a shoulder impingement.

Position Players


After putting up a 129 wrC+ and 4.3 fWAR in 2017, Gary Sánchez’s numbers plummeted into what became a lost 2018 season. Yankees fans saw his .186/.291/.406 batting line and .197 BABIP and were calling for Romine to fill in as full time catcher. Defensively, Sánchez also had his fair share of struggles with passed balls (his total of 18 led the majors), and missed a couple months with a nagging groin injury. Despite his struggles, Sánchez still showed raw power and put up strong defensive numbers in other metics. He had shoulder surgery in the offseason, but he is the Yankees’ starting catcher.

First Base:

The competition for first base between Luke Voit and Greg Bird lasted the entirety of Spring Training, but both players made the opening day roster. With Hicks out, Stanton can play in the outfield and there’s room for one of them to DH. Voit is one of those players who put on pinstripes and suddenly started mashing. The Yankees traded for him from the Cardinals as first base depth, and he hit .333/.405/.689 with a 194 wRC+ in 39 games down the stretch. Voit is a nice right handed compliment to the oft injured Greg Bird, who hasn’t performed consistently since the 2017 playoffs.

Second Base/Shortstop:

The Yankees needed a shortstop to fill in while Didi Gregorious recovers from Tommy John surgery, so they signed Troy Tulowitzki. Tulo has played in 14 spring training games, hitting .242/.333/.636. He only collected 8 hits, but 4 of them were homers. ZiPS projects for Tulo to be a 0.7 WAR player with a 79 wRC+ and average defence. If Tulo struggles or gets hurt, Gleyber Torres, the Yankees’ starting 2nd baseman who finished 3rd in rookie of the year voting last year, will slide over. Torres is only 22 and put up a 120 wRC+ with a .480 slugging last year so there’s a lot of upside, but his expected batting average and strikeout rate could hold him back.

Third Base:

The Yankees 3rd baseman, Miguel Andujar, was a Blue Jay killer last year. In 15 games, he batted .351/.393/.684 (1.078 OPS) against the Jays with 4 homers. Andujar posted a .297/.328/.527 slash line in his rookie year, and finished 2nd in rookie of the year voting after Shohei Ohtani. However, Andujar was one of the worst defenders in all of baseball last year, posting a -16.0 UZR and -25 DRS in 2018. He also made 15 errors. Andjuar was the subject of many trade rumors this off-season when Manny Machado was still unsigned, but Andujar has apparently been training with Adrian Beltre in the offseason, and the Yankees seem to be content to let him be their everyday 3rd baseman.


The Yankees outfield will be similar to what we saw last year, that is, a combination of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks. Thankfully, the Yankees never really seemed to be in on Bryce Harper. Clint Frazier has once again been optioned to AAA.

I’m obligated to mention Aaron Judge is big (6’ 7”), and strong. He regressed a bit from his 2017 numbers last season, but still put up an astonishing .278/.392/.528 slash line in 2018, good for a 149 wRC+. Judge is a power hitter (.249 ISO), who also walked 15% of the time in 2018. Strikeouts continue to be an issue for him, as he has struck out 30% of the time over his two full seasons in the majors. He also hit significant fewer home runs last year (27 down from 52), but in fewer games (112 down from 155). Judge is a solid defender in right field, posting a 8.4 UZR in 2018.

Judge appears to be a 4-5 WAR player who can easily slot into the top half of your lineup. He also seems like a really likable guy, so it’s unfortunate that he plays for the Yankees.

Similar to Judge, Giancarlo Stanton also regressed from his 2017 MVP season last year, accumulating 3.1 fewer WAR, and dropping from a 159 wRC+ to a 127 wRC+. Stanton is also big (6’ 6”) and hits for power (.243 ISO in 2018). He walks about 10% of the time, and similar to Judge, has posted a strikeout rate a tick under 30% in three of his last four seasons. Stanton hit 38 homers last year, and also struck out 211 times. He has played in almost every game over the past two years, and figures to hit in the heart of the order again this year.

The oft injured Aaron Hicks figures to be the Yankees lead-off hitter and center fielder in 2019, that is, after he returns from the back injury that currently has him sidelined. Hicks signed a seven year extension in the offseason, so he will be a Yankee for a while. Nearly a prospect bust, Hicks has the 2nd highest OBP on the team, and also put up a 127 wRC+ and hit 27 home runs last year. He also has one of the strongest outfield arms, and had an .219 ISO last year. If Hicks can stay healthy, there is a ton of potential there.


The Yankees signing of DJ LeMahieu pretty much guaranteed they would be out of the running on Machado. The biggest question around LeMahieu is how he will do outside of Coors Field. His career numbers at Coors (.330/.387/.448) are much stronger than his career road numbers (.264/.311/.362), but he has double digital potential in both steals and home runs.

Austin Romine, who played in 77 games last year, will return as the Yankees back-up catcher. The Yankees traded for center fielder Mike Tauchman from the Rockies on March 23rd, and has the final utility spot. Tauchman had a breakout season in AAA last year, slugging .571 with a 153 wRC+ and 20 homers, but he had no path to major league playing time.


While the Boston Red Sox mainly stood pat (and conceivably actually got worse), the Yankees acquired a bunch of talented players who made their team better. Their farm system has taken a hit and has fallen from one of the top just last year to 12th at Baseball Prospectus, 19th at ESPN and 21st at FanGraphs. However, the Yankees have made the postseason two years in a row and are World Series favorites on several betting sites, and I’m sure many fans are happy to pay that price.

Despite the Yankees dropping 2 out of 3 to the Baltimore Orioles to start the season, it will most certainly be another enjoyable season for baseball fans in the Bronx.


The Yankees will finish ___ in the AL East

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  • 51%
    (57 votes)
  • 37%
    (42 votes)
  • 6%
    (7 votes)
  • 0%
    (1 vote)
  • 3%
    (4 votes)
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