Our previews of the AL East teams, part of previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2016 season, continue with the New York Yankees, who finished in second place in the division last season.
In the past, the Yankees likely would have hit the free agent mark hard and went big after the big names, like SP David Price. But that’s not necessarily how the Yankees operate now. Instead, they traded for 2B Starlin Castro and RP Aroldis Chapman, which was a questionable move because of a possible suspension for domestic violence allegations he faced in December for which no charges were filed against him. Now we now he has been suspended for 30 games. He is expected to be the Yankees’ closer this season, but the team does have a viable backup plan for the time he misses in the form of RPs Andrew Miller, who had 36 saves as the closer last season, and Dellin Betances, who had 9 saves of his own in 2015.
The Yankees’ offense had mixed results last year, finishing in the bottom half of the American League with a .251 average but in the top four in both home runs (212) and RBI (737). Those latter numbers were helped in large part by a surprisingly strong season by DH Alex Rodriguez, who hit 33 home runs and to go along with 86 RBI, his best numbers in those categories since 2008 and 2010, respectively. C Brian McCann and 1B Mark Teixeira also showed a lot of power last season, blasting 26 and 31 home runs, respectively. None of the team’s regular starters had a high batting average, however, with OF Carlos Beltran leading the team at .276. The bullpen was good in 2015, with Miller posting a 2.04 ERA and hitting the 100-strikeout mark in 61.2 innings while Betances had a 1.50 ERA and 131 strikeouts in 84 innings. The rotation, on the other hand, wasn’t great and brought the team’s overall ERA to around league average at 4.03. No pitcher made more than 30 starts, and SP Masahiro Tanaka led the rotation — among the pitchers with the most starts — in ERA at 3.51, with SP Nathan Eovaldi next with his 4.20 ERA. And SP CC Sabathia‘s poor performance was well-documented. He led the team with 29 starts, but he put up a 4.73 ERA.
Castro should be an upgrade over last year’s starting 2B Stephen Drew in batting average, but it’ll likely result in a little less power for the Yankees. The rest of the offense is the same as last season, but with aging players like Beltran, Teixeira, and especially Rodriguez — who will turn 41 in July — regression shouldn’t be surprising as age and, possibly, injuries catch up with the veterans. With questions surrounding Sabathia, who spent part of the offseason in alcohol rehab, it’ll be up to the rest of the starting pitchers, particularly Tanaka and SP Michael Pineda at the top of the rotation, to step up their games to help the team succeed in a tough AL East. Even with Chapman missing the first 30 games of the year, the bullpen is expected to one of the best parts of the team in 2016.
Although the Yankees finished in second place and made the playoffs last season, it’s not going to be easy to repeat that performance this season, with the Red Sox having improved their team, the Blue Jays keeping the core of their team intact, and concerns about some of the Yankee veterans. Those three teams will likely finish in the top three spots in the division, and I’m thinking the Yankees will end up third in that three-horse race.