Nathan Grimm

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Team Roundup: Yankees

Wednesday, November 1, 2017


New York Yankees
2017 Record: 91-71
Second Place, AL East
Team ERA: 3.72 (5th)
Team OPS: .785 (3rd)

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What Went Right

A lot more than expected, a lot sooner than expected. Aaron Judge bypassed "pretty good for a rookie" and went straight to "this guy might be the AL MVP this year, oh, and it's also his rookie season," hitting 52 homers and 114 RBI. He was joined by Gary Sanchez, whose last impression was a miserable postseason but who hit a catcher-best 33 home runs with 90 RBI during the regular season. Didi Gregorius, Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks also had fabulous offensive years, helping the club hit a major league-high 241 homers. On the pitching side, Luis Severino took a step toward becoming an ace, posting a 2.98 ERA with 230 strikeouts. A dominant bullpen, led by closer Aroldis Chapman, setup man Dellin Betances and breakout star Chad Green, helped shorted the game in many of the team's 91 wins.

What Went Wrong

Yankees hitters proved incapable of hitting Lance McCullers' knuckle curve. Otherwise, not much, with the team pushing the Astros to Game 7 in the American League Championship Series after winning a Wild Card play-in game and their Divisional Round series against the Indians. Falling short of the ultimate goal and some internal factors led the Yanks to part with manager Joe Girardi, who went 910-710 with a World Series title in 10 seasons managing the club, following their ouster. On the field, injuries once again played a role, limiting Greg Bird to 147 at-bats and forcing Michael Pineda to undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery in July. New acquisition Todd Frazier disappointed after a midseason trade, hitting .222/.365/.423 as a member of the Yankees. Fellow offseason acquisitions Chris Carter and Matt Holliday were also both busts to different extents -- Carter played just 62 games before being designated for assignment, and Holliday battled injuries and ineffectiveness en route to hitting .231/.316/.432.

Fantasy Slants

**The conversation begins with Judge. The 52 homers are what get talked about, but the 25-year-old also showed some real on-base skills to go along with his prodigious power. Judge walked an American League-most 127 times, part of the reason he scored a league-high 128 runs. Of course, he also struck out 208 times, most in the majors. That, and the fact that he owned a fairly unsustainable .357 BABIP, points to a regression basically across the board in 2018. The question is how much, and how prohibitive his cost will be in drafts. Unfortunately, it's not hard to see the market overvaluing Judge next spring, focusing on the .284 batting average and the fact that he's only entering his sophomore season in the bigs. Believers will have to pay up to land him.

**After hitting just 22 homers through his first three full seasons, it would be amazing that Gregorius hit 25 homers this year if he hadn't hit 20 the year before. It was still a little amazing, though, and noteworthy if nothing else. There are issues -- he doesn't run, he almost never walks, and those 25 home runs might be a career high -- but it's time we start taking the 27-year-old seriously as an offensive player. Of course, taking him seriously as an offensive player doesn't mean taking him above a number of his contemporaries at the position, as a number of shortstops will deservedly be drafted ahead of Gregorius next March. His limitations leave him as an ideal MI starter that could be a fantasy team's starting shortstop in a pinch.

**It's hard to imagine now, but there was uncertainty surrounding Severino's viability as a starter as recently as spring training, when he had to pitch well just to earn a spot in the team's rotation. Those questions have now vanished after the 23-year-old made 31 starts and approached 200 innings. There's some concern that such a leap in innings -- he'd thrown just 133 1/3 innings at the big league level combined in 2015 and 2016 -- paired with a deep run in October will have a negative effect on his 2018 performance, but that kind of concern is for the faint of heart. This is a budding top-of-the-rotation starter who could reach true stardom as soon as next year.

**Many were surely surprised to see Sanchez's name atop Rotoworld resident rankings guru Matthew Pouliot's catcher rankings heading into the 2017 season, but Sanchez delivered on the promise that he's shown since the minors with a terrific offensive season. Still just 24 years old, Sanchez hit 33 homers with 90 RBI and 79 runs scored and a .278/.345/.531 line while playing 122 games. That's huge production from a backstop, especially in a year where guys like Alex Avila and Kurt Suzuki were starting-caliber. Buster Posey just turned 30 and will remain in the conversation for his ability to hit for average, but there should be less consternation when Sanchez once again appears at the top of catcher rankings lists next spring.

**That Masahiro Tanaka's elbow survived another year is promising, and after a brutal first two-plus months he was actually a pretty darn good pitcher this year. What will be interesting to see is whether Tanaka wants to take a chance and opt out of his contract with the Yankees, which still has three years and $67 million left on it, or whether he decides to stay put. The good news for the Yankees is they'll know relatively quickly, with the 29-year-old having three days after the conclusion of the World Series to decide. Home runs were a big part of his downfall in 2017, an issue exacerbated by pitching half his games in Yankee Stadium. If he opts out and lands in a more pitcher-friendly ballpark, that, paired with numbers that belie how well he actually pitched down the stretch, could make the right-hander an undervalued pitcher in drafts.

**Chapman showed some cracks in 2017, but health played into that, and "cracks" for a reliever like Chapman are subjective -- most teams would take a 3.22 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 69 strikeouts in 50 1/3 innings from their closer. Still averaging 100 miles per hour with his fastball, the 29-year-old may not be the undisputed top closer anymore (he was actually routinely ranked behind Kenley Jansen heading into the year, in fact) but he's still firmly in the top five.

Key Free Agents: CC Sabathia, Todd Frazier, Matt Holliday, Michael Pineda, Jaime Garcia

Team Needs: The club has a good foundation with Severino, Tanaka and Sonny Gray, but rotation depth will be key in a division as tough as the AL East. The team would probably do well to add two starters, truthfully, especially if Tanaka is serious about testing the waters. A potent bat, possibly a right-hander who can also fill in at first base, should also be on the shopping list with Frazier and Holliday departing, and no obvious internal candidates to slide in at designated hitter. Oh, and a new manager.



Nathan Grimm is a baseball writer for Rotoworld. He can also be found on Twitter (@Nate_Grimm).
Email :Nathan Grimm



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