2019 Yankees Preview
Source: @Yankees via Twitter
Well, baseball fans, we did it. After a long off-season, the MLB baseball season returns. The season officially started last week when the Seattle Mariners faced the Oakland Athletics in Japan; but, those games were at 5 am eastern time, so they basically never happened.
Last year was a mixed bag for the New York Yankees. On the one hand, they won 100 games, which was good for third most in the MLB. On the other hand, their biggest rivals, the Boston Red Sox, won 108 games, beat the Yankees in the postseason and won the World Series. Despite the amazing season and all the positives, seeing your rival win the Championship is hard to swallow. Luckily for the Yankees, going into a new season, they have improved as a team while the Red Sox have gotten worse. I'll go into further detail on this, but essentially the Yankees re-signed some nice pieces while acquiring a good amount of depth. Meanwhile, the Red Sox re-signed Nathan Eovaldi, who was incredible down the stretch last year, while dominating in the postseason. But, they also lost their closer, Craig Kimbrel; and without adding another reliever to replace Kimbrel, Boston's bullpen is looking like a dumpster fire.
Before I get into the details of the roster that General Manager Brian Cashman has constructed, I do have to address the fact that although the Yankees had a solid off-season, it could've been much better. I am obviously referring to Manny Machado and Bryce Harper who signed record-breaking contracts with the San Diego Padres and Philadelphia Phillies, respectively. The reason I bring them up is that as Yankees fans, we have been sold this bill of goods that the Yankees were trying to get under the luxury tax to reset their tax penalties and spend big in free agency. Last season, the Yankees did get under the tax for the first time in a long time. but they didn't spend like Yankees fans were led to believe. In what was considered the best free agency class of all time, the Yankees took more of a discounted approach than the typical do-whatever-it-takes approach that fans are used to. Instead of spending roughly $300 million on Manny Machado, who is one of the best players in the league and who wanted to play for the Yankees, they elected to sign Troy Tulowitzki for the league minimum and DJ LeMahieu for a lucrative contract, considering the role he was brought in to do. Instead of signing Harper, who signed the biggest contract in baseball history (which was then broken by Mike Trout less than two weeks later), the Yankees re-signed Brett Gardner to a one year deal. Harper is well-known to be a Yankees fan, and his left-handed swing is a perfect match with Yankee Stadium. However, the front office didn't feel the need to hand out hundreds of millions of dollars, so here we are today. I do want it on record that I love the moves that the Yankees actually did make this off-season; I just think that there were obvious ways to improve their chances of winning a title, and they decided against them in the name of saving money.
With all of that said, this team won 100 games last year and they improved. We should be looking at at least another 100 wins, and assuming that the Red Sox regress a bit, possibly the Yankees first division title since 2012.
Expectations haven't been this high going into a season since 2009, and we all know how that went. Without further ado, here are your 2019 New York Yankees.
Opening Day Roster
Catcher: Gary Sanchez 2018 stats: 89 games, 374 PA, 51 R, 60 H, 18 HR, 53 RBI, 1 SB, 46 BB, 94 K, .186/.291/.406
Gary Sanchez is probably the second best catcher in all of baseball, behind only JT Realmuto; however, with Sanchez's skill set and potential, he could easily be the consensus number one by season's end. 2018 was a season to forget for Sanchez. He hit under .200 for the first time in his career, dealt with nagging injuries all year long, had substantial struggles on defence and was heavily criticized for not running out a groundball which the defender bobbled and would've led to a tie game late in the year. Regardless of all that, you should expect a much-improved Gary Sanchez in 2019. In terms of raw power, he is near the top of the league, not just among catchers, but all hitters. He has the potential to hit 30+ home runs a year as long as he stays healthy. He's never going to be a .300 hitter but he's also much better than the .186 he put up last year. In terms of defence, he's still going to show some weaknesses when it comes to blocking some pitches, but he has the best arm of any catcher in the game, which can make up for some of his miscues with his glove. Overall, there are quite a few possible outcomes for Sanchez in 2019. He's been hitting the ball well in Spring Training, now we'll just have to see if he can translate that to the regular season.
First Base: Luke Voit
2018 stats: 47 games, 161 PA, 30 R, 46 H, 15 HR, 36 RBI, 0 SB, 17 BB, 43 K, .322/.398/.671
Who is this guy? Seriously, where did he come from?
That's what the baseball world was wondering after Luke Voit came to the Yankees in a mid-season trade with the St. Louis Cardinals. From the time he played his first game for the Yankees until the end of the season, Voit hit 14 home runs, which was second only to Christian Yellich's 21 in the same time. However, Yelich had around 70 more at-bats than Voit in that time. Voit's 14 home runs and 33 RBI over a full 162 games would be 59 home runs and 138 RBI, just goes to show how dominant he was in that stretch. Due to his performance in the second half of last season, Voit actually has some expectations coming into the season. Nobody expects him to be a 40 home run guy, but if he can hit 20-30 home runs, that would be some much-needed production from the first base position, that the Yankees haven't really had since Mark Teixeira retired.
Despite all of that, it's not a given that Voit will be the full-time first baseman for the entire season. Voit has been in a heated position battle with Greg Bird throughout Spring Training and due to Aaron Hicks starting the season on the Disabled List, (Yes, I know it's technically the Injured List now, but it will forever be the Disabled List to me. Deal with it.), both Voit and Bird will be on the Opening Day roster, presumably sharing first base and designated hitter duties. As of now, Voit seems like the actual starting first baseman, but if Greg Bird can stay healthy and produce at the level that we know he's capable of, Voit may not have that job for long.
Second Base: Gleyber Torres
2018 stats: 123 games, 484 PA, 54 R, 117 H, 24 HR, 77 RBI, 6 SB, 42 BB, 122 K, .271/.340/.480
Gleyber freakin' Torres. I mean, there's not much to say about this guy other than the hype was real. In his rookie campaign, Torres finished third in Rookie of the Year voting, behind only Shohei Ohtani and fellow Yankee, Miguel Andujar. Torres finished at, or near the top, of just about every rookie statistical category and there's no reason to think that he won't be better this year. This season Torres is primarily going to play second base, however, manager Aaron Boone has said that the plan is to give Troy Tulowitzki a couple of days off each week; which means that Torres will be playing shortstop once or twice a week. Torres is a natural shortstop who moved to second base for the Yankees because they already have Didi Gregorius; so switching between the two positions should be as easy as can be for the young phenom.
This is only the second big league season for Torres, but if he continues to perform like this throughout his career, the Yankees trading Aroldis Chapman for him a few seasons ago - and then signing Chapman back in free agency - may turn out to be one of the best trades in franchise history.
Third Base: Miguel Andujar
149 games, 606 PA, 86 R, 170 H, 27 HR, 92 RBI, 2 SB, 25 BB, 97 K, .297/.328/.527
Will the real AL Rookie of the Year please stand up!
In my opinion, Miguel Andujar should've won the Rookie of the Year last season. But, that's in the past and we are now getting ready for what should be a great encore performance by the 24-year old. When it comes to hitting, Andujar is an extra-base machine. Andujar had 76 extra-base hits which was the eighth most hit by any player last season. Not bad for a rookie. Especially when you consider the fact that since 1965, only four players have had more extra-base hits in their rookie season than Andujar. The names of the other four? Albert Pujols, Nomar Garciaparra, Mark McGwire and Aaron Judge. Some pretty elite company to be in.
The only problem with Andujar's hitting is his lack of walks. In 2018, 72 players had 600 or more plate appearances; of those 72, only one player had fewer walks than Miguel Andujar's 25, Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles with 24. Andujar lacks patience at the plate, although fans won't complain that much due to the fact that he hit just under .300 for the season. But, if he can round into a more complete hitter, seeing more pitchers, getting himself into better counts, there is a legitimate possibility that he could be in contention for the batting title sometime in the next few years.
The biggest question mark with Andujar though is his defence. Andujar made 15 errors last season while displaying a great arm that clearly wasn't the most accurate. Andujar worked endlessly this off-season on improving his defence and it showed in Spring Training. Did he make a few mistakes this spring? Sure. But he also made far more nice plays than bad ones. A lot of people get on Andujar because of the way he throws - most of his throws are from a heavy sidearm angle - but that doesn't matter, in my opinion. Maybe I'm biased because in my baseball-playing days I was also a sidearm thrower in the field, but I say that as long as it's comfortable for Andujar, he should keep doing it. I don't think people understand just how difficult it is to completely change your arm slot, especially if you've been throwing that way for your whole life. I fully expect to yell in anger at a number of Andujar's defensive miscues this year, but that just comes with the territory.
Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki
2018 stats: N/A
That stat line is correct. Tulowitzki didn't play a single game in 2018. He underwent surgery on both of his heels and missed the entire season. The Yankees grabbed him for the league minimum after the Blue Jays released him in the off-season; the Jays are still paying Tulowitzki over $20 million this season, which is why the Yankees were able to get him for so cheap. I would be much more excited about this move if it was a few years ago when he was still in the prime of his career, especially since it seemed that both the Yankees and Tulo wanted to make it happen. Tulo's favourite player is Derek Jeter, which is why he wore #2 in Colorado and Toronto; although he's wearing #12 for the Yankees since #2 is retired for Jeter. It's cool to see the marriage finally happen, but expectations are obviously much lower than they would've been had this happened three or four years ago. In an ideal world, the starting shortstop would be Gleyber Torres, with DJ LeMahieu starting at second base. However, Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman have made it clear throughout the off-season that Tulo is the starting shortstop for this team; at least until Didi Gregorious returns later in the season.
Tulowitzki isn't the same player as he used to be, but the Yankees just need him to be like 60% of that player for this signing to be more than worth it. In his two and half seasons with the Blue Jays, Tulo only managed to hit 36 home runs in 238 games to go along with a .250 average. He's clearly a player on the decline, but now that he seems to be fully healthy he should be able to contribute a decent amount to this Yankees team. This Spring Training, which is the only baseball we actually have to judge him on in the past year, he struck out in nearly half of his at-bats but did hit a total of four home runs, which was a welcome sight. The strikeouts don't worry me since this was his first in-game action in a long time, but at the same time, I'm not expecting him to be crushing the ball all season. His defence still seems solid, from the limited action we've seen, and if he can hit something like .250-.270 with a few home runs before Gregorius returns than that would be awesome.
Left Field: Giancarlo Stanton
2018 stats: 158 games, 705 PA, 102 R, 164 H, 38 HR, 100 RBI, 5 SB, 70 BB, 211 K, .266/.343/.509
My boy. I love Giancarlo Stanton. He received an incredible amount of hate in his first season as a Yankee; while some of it was justified - like him having two 5 strikeout games in the span of a week, or the fact that his 211 strikeouts were tied for the sixth most in a single season in MLB history - most of the hate made no sense to me. How often does a player have a 38-100 year and it's considered a down year or a failure? People don't understand just how much of an adjustment Stanton had to make the second he became a Yankee. In his eight years on the Marlins, he never made the postseason, he played in front of maybe 10000-15000 fans a night, and the team rarely had expectations. Then he gets traded to the Yankees and is immediately thrown into a city where the pressure is higher than anywhere else and where the expectation is to win the World Series every year. Just for comparison's sake, here is Stanton's first year compared to another superstar's first year as a Yankee.
Stanton: 38 HR, 100 RBI, .266/.343/509 Other Superstar: 36 HR, 106 RBI, .286/.375/.512 As you can see, those numbers are pretty much identical. Who is the other superstar? None other than Alex Rodriguez. Like Stanton, Rodriguez was traded to the Yankees from a small market team immediately after winning an MVP. So both players had "down years" in their first season as a Yankee, but how did A-Rod fare in his second season with the team? Pretty good, if you must know. He hit 48 home runs, 130 RBI with a .321/.421/.610 slash line, and was awarded the second MVP of his career. Now, am I expecting Stanton to have a similar year? No. Stanton isn't nearly as good of a hitter as A-Rod was. However, in terms of just home run hitting abilities, they're pretty close. So, although I don't expect Stanton's batting average to improve by that much, I do expect him to hit many more home runs.
I looked up projections from eight of the leading projection websites and their average home run projection for Stanton this year is 42.5. In my opinion, that's too low. I would hammer the over on that. But to make things even more interesting here's what I'll do: I'll take the 42.5 and add 2 for Derek Jeter, since he's the one who traded Stanton to the Yankees, and just for fun, I'll add 3 more, in honour of Babe Ruth, who Stanton's new teammate Adam Ottavino said he would strikeout him out every time if he faced him. So, that gives us 47.5 projected home runs for Stanton. I will gladly take the over, and if he doesn't hit 48 home runs, I will shave my eyebrow in the same way that he does. That doesn't seem like much, but let me tell you, that eyebrow will not work on me.
It probably doesn't need saying, but I'm expecting big things from Giancarlo Stanton in his second season in the Bronx.
Center Field: Brett Gardner
2018 stats: 140 games, 609 PA, 95 R, 125 H, 12 HR, 45 RBI, 16 SB, 65 BB, 107 K, .236/.322/.368
A lot of people were confused by the fact that the Yankees would re-sign Gardner to a one year-$8 million deal after he was coming off of the worst statistical season of his career. However, now that Aaron Hicks is probably going to miss the first month of the season, this is looking like a great signing by Brian Cashman. I'm not expecting Gardner to be great at the plate, despite the fact that he raked in Spring Training. But, what Gardner does give you is a possible leadoff hitter, who does get on base at a decent clip, and somebody who can give you good defence in centre field until Hicks does return. Gardner also provides some much-needed speed on the basepaths, something that this team doesn't have much of. For now, he's the starting centre fielder, although once Hicks returns, he'll shift over to left field.
Right Field: Aaron Judge
2018 stats: 112 games, 498 PA, 77 R, 115 H, 27 HR, 67 RBI, 6 SB, 76 BB, 152 K, .278/.392/.528
Ladies and gentlemen, he's back. Despite returning in mid-September after being hit by a pitch and breaking his wrist in July, he wasn't the same Aaron Judge that we're used to seeing. Now that he's had a full off-season to recover, we can expect gigantic things from Mr. Judge. In Spring Training, Judge was as locked in as I've ever seen a player. He had 12 hits in the spring and only one of those was a single. He belted 6 home runs, to go along with a slash line of .316/.447/.947. Now that the games are actually going to matter, I see no reason why he can't carry that performance over.
When healthy, Judge is one of the most polarizing hitters in the game, as he displayed in 2017 when he broke the rookie record for home runs with 52. Much like Stanton, you're always going to get an absurd amount of strikeouts with Judge, but you'll gladly take those if it means another 50+ home runs. Unlike Stanton though, Judge walks at an elite rate. Since 2017, Judge is one of four players in the league with 200+ walks. Judge has walked 39 fewer times than Joey Votto, the leader of the group, but has played 40 fewer games. Aside from Mike Trout, who has 13 more walks than Judge in 13 fewer games, Judge may be the best walker in the game today.
Due to the recent trend of teams buying out their players' arbitration years, it looks like the same will happen with Judge during the season, or after it. When it happens doesn't really matter, but it will be the first step in ensuring that the future Captain, Aaron Judge, is a Yankee for life.
Designated Hitter: Greg Bird
2018 stats: 82 games, 311 PA, 23 R, 54 H, 11 HR, 38 RBI, 0 SB, 30 BB, 78 K, .199/.286/.386
I understand the frustration with Greg Bird, but I don't understand the hate that he receives. I, along with most people, actually want to see him play well, but people make it seem like he gets injured on purpose. He seems to be as injury prone as they come, but it's clearly just bad luck. There are people who root for him to get hurt just so he's not on the team, or they root for him to suck so he can be sent down. Those people are what we call terrible "fans". You can dislike a player on your team, that's fine, but to actively root for a player on your own team to fail is as idiotic as it gets. I understand that Bird has failed to live up to expectations, but for once he seems to be perfectly healthy and ready to go for the season. I'm not expecting 30+ home runs, but I am expecting him to show us why he was once a top prospect.
The one thing that may prevent Bird from showing us what he has though is the eventual return of Aaron Hicks. When Hicks returns from injury, it is very likely that either Bird or Luke Voit will be the one being sent down. The only way I see them avoiding this is if both of them are playing very well. In which case I could see them continuing to split 1B and DH, while Hicks plays centrefield, Stanton plays left field and Gardner is moved to the bench. I do fear that the team is dead set on Gardner being in the starting lineup regardless of the situation, leading to Bird or Voit being sent down regardless of performance.
DJ LeMahieu (Infielder)
2018 stats: 128 games, 581 PA, 90 R, 147 H, 15 HR, 62 RBI, 6 SB, 37 BB, 82 K, .276/.321/.428
The signing of LeMahieu was puzzling at the time. The Yankees seemed to still be in the running for Manny Machado and then they went out and gave LeMahieu a 2 year/$24 million contract. What made it even more puzzling was giving that much money to a player that would be used in a bench utility role. However, as time has gone on, the signing has made more sense. With them clearly not spending the big bucks on a guy like Machado, they saved themselves a couple hundred million dollars and got a three-time Gold Glove winner, former batting champion and a guy who can play all four infield positions. With him being paid $12 million this season, I would expect him to play somewhere around 140 games. How he's going to do that will take some creativity on Aaron Boone's part. We already know that LeMahieu will be playing second base twice a week when Tulowitzki gets days off and Gleyber Torres slides over to short. Then you would expect Torres to get a day off a week, so LeMahieu can fill in for him; the same goes for Andujar at third. Then if Luke Voit or Greg Bird get sent down, LeMahieu will become the backup first baseman, and probably play there once a week. Against lefties, they might bench Gardner, so they could put Stanton in left, Voit/Bird or Andujar at DH and LeMahieu takes over their spot in the field. So, right there I just made a plan for LeMahieu to play at least five times a week. Factor in a possible injury to an infielder, and he'll be an everyday starter.
Since debuting in 2011, among batters who have 3000 or more plate appearances, LeMahieu is tied for the 10th best batting average in the MLB. Match that with him being one of the best defenders in the game, and you have quite possibly the best bench player in the league. If they are able to incorporate LeMahieu enough this year, this could turn out to be a genius move on Brian Cashman's part.
Austin Romine (Catcher)
2018 stats: 77 games, 265 PA, 30 R, 59 H, 10 HR, 42 RBI, 1 SB, 17 BB, 67 K, .244/.295/.417
There's not much to say about Romine if I'm being honest. He's one of the better backup catchers in the league, which I guess isn't saying much. He's going to play a fair bit since the team will want to give Gary Sanchez a good amount of days off or at DH. Romine wasn't terrible when Sanchez missed all but three games from June 24th to September 1st, but he also showed why he's not an everyday starter. Romine will probably play 70-80 games, but hopefully Sanchez can stay as healthy and possible so that Romine plays closer to 70 than 80.
Mike Tauchman (Outfielder)
21 G, 37 PA, 5 R, 3 H, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 1 SB, 4 BB, 15 K, .094/.194/.125
In a move that infuriated the vast majority of Yankees fans, the Yankees traded for Tauchman a day or so before their roster was finalized. Having acquired Tauchman, it meant that the team was going to send down Tyler Wade, who many people felt earned the spot on the big league roster. If we're being honest, I don't understand the backlash, especially considering the fact that Tauchman or Wade would be the last bench guy, play maybe once a week, and pinch run every now and then. Neither of them has had any success in their limited time in the MLB and Tauchman has shown more potential, especially from the power side of things, than Wade at Triple-A. Now, granted, Tauchman played his Triple-A in the PCL, which is notoriously a league that inflates a batter's numbers, but the point stands regardless. Both Wade and Tauchman are speedy guys. Wade is an infielder who has been working on becoming an outfielder, while Tauchman is a natural outfielder. Throw in the power numbers and the fact that Tauchman is presumably a better outfielder, a position that the Yankees need depth at since Hicks is hurt, and the decision seems pretty easy.
We also shouldn't dismiss this move just because we may feel bad for Wade. Brian Cashman is notorious for acquiring players that other teams no longer wanted, and seeing them have great success as a Yankee. Aaron Hicks, Didi Gregorius and Luke Voit are a few that come to mind. I'm not saying that Tauchman will become an everyday player like those guys, but since the Yankees have the most in-depth analytical department of any team in the league, maybe we wait and see what happens with him since the Yankees clearly think that there's more to Tauchman than his career numbers show.
I want it known from this point on that I am officially Team Tauchman.
My projected batting order to start the season would be something like this:
CF Brett Gardner
RF Aaron Judge
LF Giancarlo Stanton
1B - Luke Voit
3B - Miguel Andujar
C - Gary Sanchez
2B - Gleyber Torres
DH - Greg Bird
SS - Troy Tulowitzki
Obviously, things will change based on whether it's a lefty or a righty on the mound, but this seems like a good starting point.
James Paxton (LHP)
2018 stats: 28 G, 11-6, 160 1/3 IP, 3.76 ERA, 208 K, 1.098 WHIP
Easily the biggest acquisition of the off-season, Paxton was acquired from the Seattle Mariners for a package that included one of the Yankees' top prospects, Justus Sheffield.
Last season, Paxton was quietly a dominant pitcher. In strikeouts per nine innings among pitchers with 150+ IP, Paxton had the 5th highest (11.68), behind only Chris Sale, Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. Paxton also pitched two complete games, which was as many as the entire Yankees pitching staff had in 2018. Paxton has never received votes for a Cy Young, and I'm not sure he will as a Yankee either unless he wins 18+ games, which is definitely a possibility due to the run support he should be getting. But even if he doesn't contend for a Cy Young, he'll still be a valuable member of this rotation as the #2 guy, although he'll technically be the #1 guy until Luis Severino returns.
Mashiro Tanaka (RHP) 2018 stats: 27 G, 12-6, 156 IP, 3.75 ERA, 159 K, 1.128 WHIP
The Opening Day starter. Tanaka is one of those middle of the rotation guys that will show exceptional stuff one start and then seemingly implode the next. For his career, he has a 3.59 ERA which is exactly what you want from your #3 pitcher. Despite being middle of the pack in the regular season, Tanaka has been incredible in the postseason. In five career postseason starts, Tanaka has pitched 30 innings while having a minuscule 1.50 ERA. It's obviously way too early to be thinking about that sort of thing, but for a team with Championship aspirations, it's nice to have a person you can depend on in the postseason.
J.A. Happ (LHP)
2018 stats: 31 G, 17-6, 177 2/3 IP, 3.65 ERA, 193 K, 1.131 WHIP
Acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays at the trade deadline, J.A. Happ became one of the better deadline acquisitions for the Yankees in quite some time. In 11 regular season starts with the Yankees, Happ went 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 63 2/3 innings. Happ has become a very dependable starter since 2014. In the past five seasons, the fewest amount of games he has appeared in is 25; while putting up a respectable 3.62 ERA in that time. Since 2014, Happ is top 30 in the league in terms of innings pitched, and along with teammate Masahiro Tanaka is one of only thirteen pitchers to have 500+ innings pitched and a win-loss % of .625 or higher. Obviously, a lot of things factor into a pitcher getting a win, so it's not the most reliable stat, but there is something to be said about a player who consistently gets wins, especially when he's bouncing from team to team as Happ has.
Re-signing Happ was one of the main things I wanted to happen this off-season and now that he got the contract he wanted, he'll have to prove he's worth it as this team's #3/4 starter.
Domingo German (RHP)
2018 stats: 21 G, 2-6, 85 2/3 IP, 5.57 ERA, 102 strikeouts, 1.331 WHIP
This is where the rotation takes a bit of a dive. German showed a lot of promise last season, but the overall consensus was that he needed a lot of work if he was going to be a full-time major leaguer.
This off-season, Aaron Boone has talked a lot about how the Yankees are going to implement the "opener" that The Tampa Bay Rays made famous last season. The Yankees tested it out a bit in Spring Training, and with the injuries to Luis Severino and CC Sabathia to start the season, it makes sense to use an opener.
In my opinion, German is the perfect candidate to be the second pitcher on a day that the Yankees implement an opener. Last season, German had the 11th worst ERA in first innings among pitchers who started ten or more games. In 14 games, German allowed 13 earned runs in the first inning, a 8.36 ERA. The second inning wasn't much better for German - 11 earned runs in 15 games for an ERA of 6.91. But, from the third inning to sixth inning, German's ERA was 4.57, which still isn't great, but is much better than the 7.69 that he had in the first two innings. So, if Boone wants to use the opener, he can have Chad Green, Jonathan Holder or Stephen Tarpley start the game, pitch an inning or two and then bring in German for 3 or 4 innings.
It will be interesting to see what happens with German when Severino and Sabathia return, but I wouldn't be surprised if he is sent up and down all throughout the year.
CC Sabathia (LHP)
2018 stats: 29 games, 9-7, 153 IP, 3.65 ERA, 140 K, 1.314 WHIP
Sabathia is technically starting the year on the big league roster, but not for long. Sabathia still has to serve a suspension that he got last season, so he's beginning the year on the roster, serving the suspension and then being put on the Disabled List. Sabathia had heart surgery in the off-season, which saved his life, so he's going to need some extra time to get back in regular season game shape. He has been pitching some minor league games, so he shouldn't be too far off, but the team is better to play this safe and make sure he's 100% before activating him from the DL.
Sabathia has already announced that he will be retiring after this year, so this will be his final season. He's obviously not the pitcher he once was, but he has changed his game from being a power pitcher to a control pitcher. He's not going to put up dazzling numbers, but for a fifth starter, he's as good as they come.
It would be very fitting if Sabathia's first and last season's as a Yankee both ended with up getting a World Series ring.
Jonathan Loaisiga (RHP)
2018 stats: 9 G, 2-0, 24 2/3 IP, 5.11 ERA, 33 K, 1.541 WHIP
Loaisiga is starting the season in Triple-A, but the plan is for him to be called up once Sabathia is put on the DL, which is why I'm including him here. Loaisiga is expected to start the sixth game of the season for the Yankees, although he seems to be another candidate to be the second pitcher in an "opener" game.
MLB Pipeline has ranked Loaisiga as the Yankee's #2 prospect and the 66th best prospect in all of baseball. He's still young, only 24, so there's going to be some struggles, as he experienced last season. But the future does look promising for Loaisiga, who looks like he may be a part of this rotation for the next 5-10 years.
Luis Cessa (RHP)
2018 stats: 16 G, 1-4, 44 2/3 IP, 5.24 ERA, 39 K, 1.433 WHIP
Hand up. I may be wrong about Cessa? Let me explain.
All of last season I wanted nothing to do with Cessa on the big league roster. Then in the off-season, there were rumours that some teams were inquiring about trading for him and I couldn't be happier. Then came Spring Training. This spring, Cessa shoved it right in all of his haters' faces. He pitched 18 1/3 innings and had a microscopic 0.98 ERA. Now, I'm not going to suddenly claim that he's a great pitcher or anything, but I'd be lying if I said that his performance in the spring didn't impress me. In a matter of months, I went from wanting him traded to actually wanting him on the Opening Day roster. We'll see what happens, I'll have to see what he does in regular season games before I believe that he's a changed pitcher, but as of right now, it's promising. Cessa is going to be primarily a long reliever and could start games if need be. I don't think he has any minor league options remaining, so it'll be interesting to see what happens if he struggles. I'm not sure he would clear waivers, so the Yankees may have to trade him if he doesn't meet expectations.
Stephen Tarpley (LHP)
2018 stats: 10 G, 0-0, 9 IP, 3.00 ERA, 13 K, 1.333 WHIP
Tarpley is a bit of a feel-good story. He's been working his ass off in the minors for the past four years and has been putting up great numbers. Now he'll finally get his chance at the major league level. He figures to be a long reliever or an opener on certain occasions. He's also a lefty, which the Yankees need in the bullpen, so I'm expecting big things out of him this year. He's definitely a name to watch for in this Yankees bullpen.
Tommy Kahnle (RHP)
2018 stats: 24 G, 2-0, 23 1/3 IP, 6.56 ERA, 30 K, 1.629 WHIP
2018 was a year to forget for Tommy Kahnle. He dealt with some injuries to start the year, spent a lot of time in the minors and never seemed to return to the pitcher he truly is once he was called up. In the previous two seasons, Kahnle had a 2.60 ERA and 121 strikeouts in 90 innings; then he gets hurts and puts up a dud of a year last season. It seems that he is fully healthy going into this year, so I'm expecting something much closer to 2016/2017 than 2018.
Jonathan Holder (RHP)
2018 stats: 60 games, 1-3, 66 IP, 3.14 ERA, 60 strikeouts, 1.091 WHIP
Holder was the breakout performer of the 2018 Yankees bullpen. He had no expectations going into the season, in fact, fans were begging for them to send him down, but he proved all of them wrong. Last season, Holder was one of only forty relievers in the MLB with 60+ innings pitched and an ERA of less than 3.20. He gave the Yankees a lot of quality innings, which is all you can hope for from a reliever like Holder. As I stated earlier, he also figures to be one of the pitchers that Aaron Boone uses as an opener this year.
Chad Green (RHP)
2018: 63 G, 8-3, 75 2/3 IP, 2.50 ERA, 94 K, 1.044 WHIP
Over the past two seasons, Green has been one of the most reliable relievers in all of baseball. Since 2017, Green has the 11th most innings pitched for a pure reliever, and for relievers with 100+ innings pitched in that time frame his 2.18 ERA is 4th best and his 12.26 K/9 is the 13th highest. Not enough people know about Green, mainly because he's overshadowed by pitchers like Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances, but he's a name you should get to know since he's one of the league's best at what he does.
Adam Ottavino (RHP)
2018 stats: 75 G, 6-4, 77 2/3 IP, 2.43 ERA, 112 K, 0.991 WHIP
Adam Ottavino may have been the fourth-best reliever in baseball last season: behind Josh Hader, Edwin Diaz and Blake Treinen. He ranked near the top of innings pitched, ERA and K/9 for relievers. Ottavino grew up a die-hard Yankees fan, and he couldn't have been happier when he signed with them. Ottavino is mostly known because of his slider, which is one of the nastiest pitches in the game. Now that he's out of the thin air of Colorado, his slider should show even more bite and make opponents look as foolish as possible. Ottavino will be used in high leverage situations, most likely the 6th or 7th inning, if I had to take a guess, which will make him arguably the most important reliever on the team.
Zack Britton (LHP)
2018 stats: 41 games, 2-0, 40 2/3 IP, 3.10 ERA, 34 K, 1.160 WHIP
Britton was another mid-year acquisition that the Yankees ended up re-signing in the off-season. Britton's 2018 season wasn't the greatest as he started the season on the DL after tearing his Achilles last off-season. He then returned and was a productive pitcher, but not the same Britton that the baseball world was used to seeing. A few years ago he had one of the best seasons a reliever has ever had when he went 47-for-47 in save chances and had an ERA of 0.54 in 69 innings, which is unheard of. The chances of him having a similar season are close to zero, but now that he's a full year removed from his Achilles injury, we should start to see some glimpses of the Zack Britton of old.
Britton isn't going to strike out a lot of batters, but that doesn't stop him from being arguably the most effective reliever of the past decade. Among pitchers with 30+ innings pitched in a season, he has led the league in ground ball percentage in four of the past seasons; the one year he didn't lead the league he came in second. Also, since becoming a full-time reliever in 2014, Britton leads the majors in inherited runners scored percentage at 10.77%. Basically, if he comes into the game with runners on base, there's a really good chance that they aren't going to score. Britton has been a closer for the majority of this career, but with Aroldis Chapman in the closer role, Britton will see most of his time in the 7th or 8th inning, while getting save chances when Chapman needs a day off, or if Chapman were to suffer an injury.
Aroldis Chapman (LHP)
2018 stats: 55 G, 3-0, 51 1/3 IP, 2.45 ERA, 93 K, 1.052 WHIP
Good ol' Aroldis. Random thought: This guy doesn't seem real. I don't know why, but when I look at him he just seems like he's not an actual person. Weird, I know. Anyways, that concludes my Chapman preview.
Okay, fine. Here are some Chapman stats:
- 4th most saves in the league since he debuted in 2010 (236)
- Highest K% among relievers with 150+ IP since his 2010 debut
- One of 24 pitchers with 6+ seasons of 30+ saves
There you go. As long as he stays healthy, he will once again be a dominant pitcher.
Starting Season on Disabled List
Didi Gregorius (SS)
2018 stats: 134 G, 569 PA, 89 R, 135 H, 27 HR, 86 RBI, 10 SB, 48 BB, 69 K, .268/.335/.494
Gregorius suffered an elbow injury in a postseason game against the Red Sox (Yet another reason to hate them) and was forced to undergo Tommy John Surgery. As of right now, it seems like Didi will most likely be returning after the All-Star break, although, with something like Tommy John, you never know if there are going to be setbacks. If he does return this year, he will immediately be the team's starting shortstop upon his return. The only way that doesn't happen is if Troy Tulowitzki is having an MVP season, which isn't going to happen.
This a rough time for Didi as the injury is going to cost him most of his final season before becoming a free agent. There have been rumours about the Yankees beginning contract extension talks with Didi, although they will probably be better off holding off on those talks until they see how Didi recovers from the injury. Didi has become a fan favourite over the past few seasons while playing himself into the conversation of the top 5 best shortstops in the league. He will definitely be missed, but hopefully, he makes a full recovery and can help this team win the World Series.
Aaron Hicks (CF)
2018 stats: 137 G, 581 PA, 90 R, 119 H, 27 HR, 79 RBI, 11 SB, 90 BB, 111 K, .248/.366/.467
Just a few weeks ago Hicks signed a big seven year/$70 million extension, only to see him suffer a back injury shortly after. As of today, Hicks still hasn't resumed baseball activities, but Aaron Boone said that things are moving in the right direction. If I had to venture a guess, I would say that we don't see Hicks on an MLB field until May at the earliest.
Hicks is coming off of what was the best year of his career. A switch-hitter, he hit almost 30 home runs while displaying great plate presence, illustrated by his 90 walks. I'd like to see the batting average come up about 10 or 15 points, but you can't get everything you wish for. Along with his bat, Hicks is also a good fielder with an incredible arm, so his overall presence will be missed. However, when it comes to back injuries, you want to take as much time as possible to make sure it's fully healed, which is why the re-signing of Brett Gardner is proving to be a smarter decision as each day passes.
Jacoby Ellsbury (CF)
2018 stats: N/A
Much like Troy Tulowitzki, Ellsbury missed the entire 2018 season. Somehow he had multiple injuries that kept him off the field, but it does seem like he's getting closer to a possible return.
Ellsbury will go down as probably the worst contract in Yankees history. His $21 million cap hit, this season and next, definitely played a role in the team not pursuing a player like Bryce Harper this off-season. But, they signed that contract and they have to live with it for the next two years before they can buy him out for $5 million after the 2020 season.
Similar to Greg Bird, there are a lot of Yankees fans who want to see Ellsbury fail. I've been as frustrated with him as anybody, but if he does get to the point where he's healthy enough to contribute to the big league roster, he should be on the team. If he can help, I want him playing. There's a misconception with Ellsbury that he has sucked in his time as a Yankee, and that's just false. Has he lived up to the contract? Hell no. He never has and he never will. But, overall, when he has played, he's been good. In his four years as a Yankee, he's averaged 26 stolen bases and a slash line of .264/.330/.386. It's nowhere near the player they expected him to be, but if you removed the name and salary from the equation, you'd be happy to have that guy on your team. Unfortunately, because he goes make $21 million, the expectation is that he'll hit 25 home runs, steal 50 bases and have a batting average of .300.
In the end, if the team can find a way to trade him, I'd be fine with it. But if they want to keep him, which is obviously the most likely scenario, I want him in the MLB, even if it's just as a pinch-runner/fourth outfielder, as long as he's healthy.
Luis Severino (RHP) 2018 stats: 32 G, 19-8, 191 1/3 IP, 3.39 ERA, 220 K, 1.145 WHIP
This is another injury that felt like a punch in the gut. I remember this day vividly. It was only a few weeks ago in Spring Training, but I was getting ready to watch the game, I saw him warming up, I then went to the kitchen to get some food, came back downstairs and I heard them say that he was pulled from the start due to shoulder discomfort. My heart dropped. In the span of maybe five minutes, the Yankees' best pitcher's season seemed to be in question. It was obviously an overreaction, but whenever you hear a pitcher is having shoulder or elbow problems, your mind immediately goes to the worst case scenario. Luckily the Yankees seem to have dodged a major bullet as tests showed that it was just rotator cuff inflammation. Still not the best news, but much better than it could've been. So, the team has already announced that he's most likely going to miss all of April, but he has been throwing from 120 feet in the past few days without any problems, so things seem to be trending up. Much like Hicks, the team is better of letting the player heal completely than trying to rush things. If anything, it's good that it happened now than later in the season.
Injury aside, Severino has shown over the past two seasons why he was a top prospect just a few years ago and is seen as the present and future Ace of the Yankees pitching staff. Earlier this off-season, the Yankees rewarded Severino by giving him a four year/$40 million contract with a club option for a fifth year. Based on how much money Severino would've probably received in his arbitration years, this is an absolute steal for the Yankees, while also giving Severino the comfort of guaranteed money.
Over the past two seasons, Severino's 450 strikeouts are the 9th most in the MLB, behind names like Scherzer, Sale, Verlander, deGrom and a few others. In that time, he also has the 14th best ERA among pitchers with 30+ starts, along with the 7th best FIP and 10th best K%.
He's the real deal, we just have to hope that this injury is just a short-term thing.
Dellin Betances (RHP) 2018 stats: 66 G, 4-6, 66 2/3 IP, 2.70 ERA, 115 K, 1.050 WHIP
I've said it before and I'll say it again: when he's on his game, Dellin Betances is the best reliever in baseball. Unfortunately for him, there are days when he is as wild as can be and he's terrible. But more often than not, his stuff is as dominant, if not more, than any other pitcher in the game. Since 2014, Betances has 120 more strikeouts than any other reliever and is also the only reliever in MLB history with five consecutive seasons of 100+ strikeouts. Since becoming a full-time major leaguer in 2014, Betances has led all relievers with 373 1/3 IP and is behind only Aroldis Chapman in K/9, among pitchers with 150+ IP, with 14.7 K/9.
This spring his velocity was significantly down, and he told people not to worry. But it turns out that there was some cause for concern as his off-season regimen wasn't what it normally is, so he tried to speed up his training, which led to a shoulder issue and the decrease in velocity. He is already throwing again, and it looks like he may be back before the end of April. But, due to how incredible the Yankees bullpen is, they may be able to hold him off for a bit longer if need be.
There you have it. My 2019 New York Yankees season preview. It's quite long, but that's just because I love my Yankees and I have no life. We are just a few hours away from actual Yankees baseball and I for one, cannot wait.