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New York Yankees

Yankees year in review | The infield

Stacey Gotsulias



Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Yankees Year in Review. This is the second of four parts looking at each position group for the Yankees. Up next, the infield.

The Yankees opening day infield looked like this:

By season’s end, Didi Gregorius and Gary Sánchez were the only opening day infielders to also start in the American League
Divisional Series. There were many reasons: injuries, trades and possibly some service time manipulation.

Billy McKinney was injured early on, leading to the call-up of Miguel Andújar as Aaron Boone shifted players around. Gleyber Torres would be called up 21 days later to play second base, replacing the struggling combination of Tyler Wade and Neil Walker. Neither Andújar nor Torres would be sent back down to the minors.

Torres and Andújar are both American League Rookie of the Year candidates for 2018. Andújar hit 27 home runs while Torres hit 24 dingers. Torres struck out 25% to Andújar’s 16% but Torres walked 8.7% while Andújar drew a walk only 4.1% of the time. Torres played out of position at second, as a natural shortstop but fared well. Andújar on the other hand, played an extremely poor defensively, forcing Boone to substitute him out for better defenders late in games (Adeiny Hechavarria would assume this role in September and in the playoffs). Both look like the foundation for the infield in the long term.

Tyler Austin initially received playing time at first base with yet another injury to Greg Bird. However, even when Bird returned, neither seized their opportunity. Austin struck out 40.2% of his time as a Yankee and Bird batted below the Mendoza line in 82 games following his ankle surgery. Austin would be sent down until he was traded to Minnesota for Lance Lynn at the trade deadline. Bird would play sporadically with Walker at first.

You may remember a trade deadline deal involving Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos with a player named Luke Voit being sent back to the Yankees. He of one arm bench presses, posted an ISO (slugging minus batting average) of .358 and a wRC+ of 194, with 14 home runs in only 39 games. He was worth 1.9 fWAR, more than Bird, Walker and Austin’s combined fWAR total. He will not be a free agent until 2024.

Eventually, opening day third baseman Brandon Drury would be traded in the J.A. Happ deal. He had been toiling in AAA following his bout of migraines. Drury played well at AAA but was blocked by Torres and Andújar at second and third, leading to his departure.

Gary Sánchez struggled in a myriad of ways. He struggled at the plate, partially due to a BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) of .197, despite posting an exit velocity and barrel% in line with his career averages. Sánchez would also struggle with injuries, limiting his play time but allowing Austin Romine to have consistent time as a starter. Romine put together his best year and highest home run total and fWAR total.

Didi Gregorius had his best year as a Yankee despite being limited to 134 games with injuries. He hit 27 home runs, stole 10 bases and was worth 4.6 fWAR, buoyed by stellar defense. Now, it is worth noting that Gregorius hit 10 of his 27 home runs in March and April. Gregorius, while improved, still has some struggles against lefties, where he had a wRC+ of 107 versus 126 wRC+ against righties.

Even with all the above, it seems like the Yankees have their infield settled for the next couple of years. Everyone is under team control at least until 2020 and the production is there. I am not exaggerating when I say that every starting infielder could hit 30 home runs in a season, especially since this is three years in a row of Gregorius hitting 20+ home runs. That could be 150 home runs from the infield alone.

One slight problem is that Gregorius underwent Tommy John on his throwing arm and will miss at least the first few months of 2019. Yes, that does complicate my 30 home run per infielder prediction. Does this mean the Yankees go after Manny Machado?

Should they go after Machado regardless of Gregorius’ health and ship Andújar as part of a package for a pitcher while placing a superior defender in Machado at third? Again, I think many teams would be envious to have the problems the Yankees currently have.

For argument’s sake, say the Yankees opt-out of the Machado sweepstakes (SNY has reported this but seriously, who really knows anything?). They can move Torres to his natural position in the meantime and call up Tyler Wade to be the starting second baseman. Sure, there’s less offense overall since Wade has never hit above .200 in the majors but the defense will remain strong.

A full season of Voit at first is exciting, even if expectations need to be tempered because there is no way he repeats the 39 game stretch he had in 2018. If Sánchez can find come closer to his 2017 performance, then maybe there will be less focus on his hustle and framing deficiencies. Sánchez was still worth nearly 2.0 fWAR even with his injuries and weakened bat.

Much like the outfield, this is a position group that is built to perform offensively and defensively. It should be a big part of the Yankees’ World Series ambitions the next few years. Expect to see an infield of at least Sánchez, Torres, Andújar, and Voit for the next few years.

Stacey Gotsulias is a writer based in New York. She currently writes for BP Bronx and is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can follow her on Twitter @StaceGots.

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New York Yankees

Yankees year in review | The starting pitchers

Matt Gregory



Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Yankees Year in Review. This is the third of four parts looking at each position group for the Yankees. This week, it’s the starting rotation’s turn.

If you had to pick one weakness of the Yankees in 2018, it would have to be the starting rotation. Going into the season, it looked like this:

Luis Severino
Masahiro Tanaka
Sonny Gray
CC Sabathia
Jordan Montgomery

Much like the infield, this is not what the rotation looked like by year’s end. That is not surprising, starting rotations rarely survive a whole year without injuries or poor performance. There was some good and some bad, let’s start with the bad.

The fifth starter was a rotating door, as the Yankees lost Jordan Montgomery after six starts to an elbow strain. That would eventually lead to Tommy John surgery, ending his 2018 and potentially his 2019 season. His initial replacement was Luis Cessa who was also bitten by the injury bug with a hip issue.

Domingo Germán would then get his opportunity to lock down the fifth starter. While he stayed healthy, the results were mixed. Germán has a starter quality pitch mix, the issue was walks and home runs, which kept him from holding onto the spot.

CC Sabathia was a consistent bright spot for the rotation and statistically the third best starter in his age 37 season. It was announced on November 7th that Sabathia signed a one-year contract for 8 million dollars. He also stated that 2019 would be his last season. Sabathia raised his K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings) from 7.26 in 2017 to 8.24 in 2018.

Additionally, he cut down his HR/9 (home runs allowed per nine innings) to 1.12 from 1.27 in 2017.
Getting 2.5 WAR from a 37-year-old back-end starter is impressive and if Sabathia can give the Yankees another 150 innings as he did in 2018, then it would be an undeniable success. One milestone to watch: Sabathia needs 14 strikeouts to reach 3,000 in his career.

That brings us to Sonny Gray. The Yankees dealt James Kaprielian, Jorge Mateo and Dustin Fowler for the righty in 2017 and he performed fine in those 11 starts. His first full season with the Yankees was bad. Gray walked 3.94 batters per nine innings and had an ERA of 4.90. He was sent to the bullpen where he would be used in long relief and an occasional spot start to end the year.

General Manager Brian Cashman has been rather open about his intent to deal Gray, telling Matt Ehalt of the Bergen Record that Gray “has got a good makeup, I just don’t think this is the right spot for him.” Unless he is packaged with some prospects, it seems hard to believe that Gray will bring much of a return in prospects, maybe some lottery ticket type players.

To replace Gray and strengthen the fifth spot, Cashman dealt from the surplus of players and prospects who were blocked for Lance Lynn and J.A. Happ. Both performed as good, if not better than what was expected of them coming over. Lynn was worth 1.8 fWAR in 9 starts while Happ was worth 1.1 fWAR in 11 starts. Both are free agents and potential targets for backend innings. Lynn can also provide extended innings out of the bullpen, something he did both in the regular season and playoffs for the Yankees.

Masahiro Tanaka was not healthy for the full year but still turned in one of his better seasons statistically. He sliced his ERA down by a full run to 3.75 and his HR/9 to 1.44. Still, he only pitched 156 innings. When healthy, he is arguably the second-best starter to Luis Severino in the rotation and will be with the Yankees for another two years since he did not opt-out of his contract.

Speaking of Severino, he started off the year with Cy Young caliber stuff. The problem was that his ERA in the second half was 5.57, which for reference was higher than Sonny Gray’s full-season ERA. Severino has the pure stuff: a high 90s fastball and a wipeout slider. He did not use the changeup much until the second half, but it showed flashes as a good pitch. There is also some evidence that Severino was tipping pitches, specifically in the playoffs. The hope would be that the team caught this, and it gets addressed going into next season.

Still, with Severino, Tanaka, and Sabathia there are two spots left in the rotation. There are three routes the Yankees could choose: internal promotion, free agency, and trades. Internally, the Yankees have Justus Sheffield, Chance Adams, and Jonathan Loaisiga. Adams and Loaisiga both made starts during 2017, while Sheffield made some relief appearances late in the year. Loaisiga performed better than Adams but he also dealt with shoulder issues. Expect all three to compete in Spring training 2019 for a spot.

This free agent class looked impressive for pitching a couple years ago and now, it merely looks okay? Clayton Kershaw was taken off the market by signing an extension with the Dodgers in early November. Hyun-Jin Ryu is rumored to most likely accept the Dodgers’ qualifying offer. So, those are two fewer options.

According to Keith Law (insider paywall), the best pitching options still left are Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton and Nathan Eovaldi. Corbin would be an “ace” type acquisition, though he has been injured in the past. Keuchel also has missed some time in 2016 and 2017 but would be a great option as a mid-rotation starter. Morton is on the older side and the Yankees may be wary to sign Eovaldi again, especially with the workload he shouldered coming off Tommy John.

Finally, we come to the trade candidates. James Paxton, Carlos Carrasco, and Corey Kluber have all been rumored to be available so far this offseason as both the Mariners and Indians decide whether they want to shed payroll. Any one of the three would be welcome additions but come with hefty price tags, though it has not stopped Cashman from dealing before.
No matter what, the rotation will be the number one priority this offseason. Expect Cashman to get creative as he addresses the clear weakness of this Yankees team.

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Gary Sanchez has shoulder surgery, will be ready Opening Day

Stacey Gotsulias



Gary Sanchez
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

In today’s episode of Locked On Yankees, Stacey discusses Gary Sanchez’s shoulder surgery (try saying that three times fast), Luke Voit’s insane offseason workouts, Brian Cashman’s comments about Chris Sale and she takes you around the league.

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CC Sabathia signs one-year deal to stay with the Yankees in 2019

Stacey Gotsulias



Brad Penner-USA Today Sports

In today’s episode of Locked On Yankees, Stacey discusses CC Sabathia’s latest one-year deal with the Yankees and she discusses Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson and much more!

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