The New York Yankees rode their AL MVP to the top of their division, but couldn't take that last step and compete in the World Series. Will 2023 bring their first Fall Classic since 2009?
#13 - 3rd in AL East
MIH - Josh Donaldson
MIP - Luis Severino
PTW - Oswald Peraza
#3 - 99-63, 1st in AL East, lost in ALCS
Highest WAR (Position) - Aaron Judge
Highest WAR (Pitcher) - Nestor Cortes
The New York Yankees are currently riding their longest drought without a World Series appearance in franchise history. That may sound like a spoiled statement, but Yankees standards are higher. It's World Series or bust every year. With that said, it's hard to look at 2022 and say it was a complete failure. They won the AL East, which was probably the toughest division in baseball. They made it to the ALCS and lost to the eventual champs. Individually, they had a surprise All Star season from starter Nestor Cortes. With all that said, by far the biggest story of 2022 was Aaron Judge. Right now, it takes a record-breaking season to pass both Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout to win the MVP. Well, 62 home runs, 131 RBI's, .311 batting average, 211 OPS+, 10.6 WAR ... yeah, that'll do it.
Additions / Subtractions
Aaron Judge won the MVP in a record-breaking season in his contract year. The Yankees had to bring him back, and they did (even though everyone thought for an afternoon he was going to be a Giant). They also upgraded the rotation by signing Carlos Rodon to replace Jameson Taillon. Outside of that, there wasn't much change in this roster.
Most Important Hitter
Obviously, Aaron Judge and his health is vital to this lineup. Keeping Giancarlo Stanton and Josh Donaldson on the field for a whole season is important. However, the X-factor of this lineup that could make it elite is Gleyber Torres. Torres burst on the scene with All Star appearances in his first two seasons. Then, he followed it up with two disappointing seasons in 2020 and 2021 as the Yankees played with putting him at shortstop. Last season was his best year since his All Star seasons, but he is still a big question mark entering the season, with even trade rumors surrounding his name this offseason and even entering the season. He is still only entering his age 27 season with two more years of club control. If Torres can build off a strong season in 2022 and get back to a borderline All Star level, this lineup will be scary.
Most Important Pitcher
Carlos Rodon has had a bit of a roller coaster career so far. He came up with the White Sox in 2015 with a lot of promise and showed that he could develop into something great. Then he flatlined for a few seasons and never really improved. Then came injuries, which derailed his 2019 and 2020 seasons. In a contract year in 2021, he had the best season of his career, but no one was sure if it was sustainable. After signing a one year deal with the Giants, he proved he had turned a corner. Now he's a Yankee on a big free agent deal and is expected to pair with Gerrit Cole at the top of the rotation as co-aces of the staff. Some are already nervous as he is starting the season on the IL. If the Yankees are going to have a successful season, they need Carlos Rodon to earn his paycheck.
Prospect to Watch
The Yankees sport a mid-level farm system, which is impressive considering how often they dip into it to make blockbuster trades. The top of their system is the #5 overall prospect in all baseball, Anthony Volpe. He is a highly-touted phenom drafted out of high school that has cheered for the Yankees his entire life that got the Opening Day start at shortstop for the Pinstripes. Sound familiar? Volpe does sport a different game than Derek Jeter had though. He is a true five-tool player that can do it all. This was shown in the minors when in 2021 he hit 27 homers, 35 doubles, and stole 33 bases. He followed that up in 2022 with 21 homers, 35 doubles, and 50 steals. He became the first 20/50 minor leaguer since Andruw Jones in 1995. That's pretty good company too. The Yankees may have another superstar on their hands at shortstop.
1st in AL East, lose World Series
The Yankees have been so close to getting back to the World Series recently. One of these seasons, they are going to break through. There were a lot of big names available in free agency, and they did bring in Rodon (which was a much needed addition). However, I like it when teams decide to stay quiet and show confidence in the group they already have. They are the Yankees so they may be a prime candidate for a big trade at some point, but the consistency of this roster might bode well and bring them an AL pennant.
Aaron Judge will not lead his team in home runs in 2023.
He can't do it again, can he? Aaron Judge played in 157 games in 2022, the most of his career and only the third full season of his career. Most of those games were in centerfield. An injury does tend to creep up on him from time to time. I could also see the Yankees try to protect him and keep him fresh. With all that said, this is less of a statement on Judge (he did homer yesterday on the second pitch he saw on Opening Day) and more a statement on Giancarlo Stanton. I have always been a fan of Stanton, and his time in the Bronx has been perceived mostly as a disappointment. However, he has stayed moderately healthy the last two seasons, hitting over 30 homers both years. He has big seasons in him too, having hit 59 homers back in 2017 in his last season in Miami. If he can stay healthy again, I could Stanton and Judge pull a Mantle and Maris in their home run competition. It's not out of the question to see a total of over 100 home runs from just these two (last year they combined for 93).