Thursday, February 18, 2016

2016 Pre-Season Profile: New York Yankees

In the last couple days, pitchers and catchers have started to report to Spring Training.  This means baseball season is just around the corner.  Every year, the baseball offseason is one of the most interesting in all of sports as teams work to remake and revamp their teams through trades, free agents, or their farm system.  No sport has rosters as fluid in the offseason as baseball.  This makes Spring Training an exciting time for all baseball fans as we get our first look at what each team looks like this year.  Last year, I attempted to write a prediction article for every team in the league.  I came up a little short when the season started.  This season, I am starting with the teams I didn't get to last season, starting with the Yankees.

Last Season
My 2015 Prediction: 4th in AL East
2015 Results: 87-75, 2nd in AL East, WILD CARD, lost to Astros in Wild Card Game
The Yankees really overachieved last year with an aging roster.  The resurgence of players like Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez led to an unexpected playoff birth for the Pinstripes in 2015.  However, a quick exit also came for them when they ran into the young upstart Astros.

2016 Additions / Subtractions
These are not the Yankees we are used to seeing in the offseason.  They came out early on in the winter to say they were not going to sign any of the big ticket free agents.  High price tags still placed on aging stars like Teixeira, A-Rod, Carlos Beltran, and CC Sabathia can even scare off the deepest of pocketbooks from spending.  However, it didn't stop them completely from making improvements to their roster.  They pulled off a trade for Starlin Castro as they continue to look for a replacement for Robinson Cano at second base.  The big move everyone has been talking about though is Aroldis Chapman coming in to give the Yankees a "super bullpen" that rivals the Royals of the past couple years.

Most Important Hitter
Mark Teixeira
For the Yankees to have another great season this year, all of their aging stars need to repeat their performance from the year before.  The most important of these is Mark Teixeira, mainly because of his insurance policy is no longer available.  Greg Bird, who had a really solid 2015 season, was meant to split time with Tex at first to keep him fresh.  However, shoulder surgery has knocked him out for the year, putting all the pressure back on the veteran.  Now, if nothing changes, the Yankees' option at first base if Tex gets hurt is Dustin Ackley.  I know from experience as a Mariners fan that that is not a strong option.  Teixeira has to be great.

Most Important Pitcher
Masahiro Tanaka
Tanaka is being counted on as the ace of the Yankees' staff, however since an elbow injury halfway through his first season, Tanaka has been much less than that.  Since then, his elbow has been a ticking time bomb waiting for if and/or when that ligament will tear the rest of the way and he will need Tommy John.  The Yankees can't have that happen this season.  Not only that, but he needs to be the ace of the staff again.  He needs to pitch more than his 2015 total of 150 innings and get his ERA back down under 3.00 (3.51 in 2015).  If that happens, he will once again anchor that starting rotation.

Player to Watch
Robert Refsnyder
This spot is reserved for a player that could have a breakout rookie season in 2016.  I would say Luis Severino for this spot, but he played too much in 2015 to still qualify as a rookie.  The Yankees have higher profile prospects (Aaron Judge, Jorge Mateo), but Refsnyder has the biggest opportunity to make an impact on this year's season.  He is listed as a second baseman, but the Yankees are hoping he can become their "super utility" along the lines of guys like Ben Zobrist and Josh Harrison.  After being a star for Arizona's CWS 2012 championship, he is no stranger to the pressures he will face playing in New York.  He has a good chance of making the Opening Day roster and having a big impact all around the field.

2016 Prediction
5th in AL East
I do not have much faith in the Yankees this year.  There are way too many question marks for this team.  Can Mark Teixeira stay healthy? Can Alex Rodriguez repeat his bounce back season?  Does Carlos Beltran have one more stellar season in him?  Can CC Sabathia return to former glory?  Will Masahiro Tanaka's elbow hold up another season?  How long will Aroldis Chapman be suspended for his off-the-field problems this offseason?  They have a roster that can win, but I don't see every one of these scenarios working out in the Yankees' favor in 2016, which is what has to happen for them to compete in the highly-competitive AL East.

Fearless Prediction
Aroldis Chapman will not end the season as a Yankee.
Aroldis Chapman was brought in by the Yankees with just one year left on his contract to bolster what was already one of the best bullpens in baseball.  If the team has the type of season I am predicting they have, don't be surprised if the Yankees turn around and unload the flame-throwing closer at the Trade Deadline for a haul of prospects and hit the reset button on that whole experiment.

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