Previewing The 2017 Yankees Lineup
In just 2 weeks the doom and gloom of winter will be behind us and summer will be right on the horizon, because baseball will be back. To outsiders, the Yankees are doomed because our veterans are gone and we’re relying on a crop of fresh faces to deliver us our 28th championship. For those of us who follow the Yankees, we know this isn’t something to be concerned about and is something that we’re excited for. These young players have shown a ton of promise in Spring Training and we’ll be seeing many of them get called up over the next two years. With that I have one message to all Yankee fans.
DO NOT BUY JERSEYS WITH THEIR NAMES ON THE BACK. YOU’RE GOING TO BUY NEW JERSEYS BECAUSE YOU’RE EXCITED ABOUT THESE GUYS, BUT IF YOUR JERSEY HAS A NAME ON THE BACK YOU LOOK LIKE A FUCKING IDIOT. THE TEAM HAS NEVER HAD NAMES ON THE BACK SO YOU SHOULDN’T EITHER.
With that being out of the way, we’re seeing guys be sent to minor league camp and the roster come together. The rotation and bullpen will be sorted out over the next two weeks but our lineup looks to be pretty set. As great at Torres and Frazier have been this spring, they aren’t starting this season with the big club. In fact, Frazier hasn’t even been promised a call up before September. Unless someone gets injured or traded, the Yankees are going to bring these guys along slowly so let’s look at our lineup for 2017.
Gardner had a great 2016 that ended with a Gold Glove, all while being surrounded by trade rumors. Brett comes into 2017 as the longest tenured Yankees and one of the last pieces of the old guard fully seeing that the future is right around the corner, but that future doesn’t include him. So far, this spring Gardner has hit below the Mendoza line, which makes you wonder if the window to trade him may have closed. With Clint Frazier, basically being Major League ready, this season may not be anything more than an audition for contending teams at the trade deadline. Expect Gardner to figure things out once the season starts bad in the .260 range with great defense and a ton of walks.
Worst contract in baseball. Some people says Pujols has the worst contract in the game but Pujols isn’t on the Yankees so Ellsbury is the worst. No one is trading for this contract even if the Yankee took 80% of it because he’s an older player that can’t stay healthy or deliver to the value of his salary. For the Yankees, our best bet is that he shocks us all and has a decent year. This spring he’s batting .310 with 3 stolen bases, after saying he doesn’t like to steal bases before the season. It’s a glimmer of hope but it’s more likely that fans start cheering for an injury so Frazier gets called up throughout the summer.
El Gary is the real deal. With ant player coming into his second year you wonder if he can keep it up, but as we’ve seen this spring, he can. El Gary is batting .364 with 4 home runs (5 if you count the Canada game) and 11 RBI. Mix in him throwing out runners on a consistent basis and it’s clear that the Yankees made the right move to trade away Brian McCann.
Some people questioned this move with some many young bats available, but Holliday has shown so he can be a big part of this year’s team. Holliday brings a veteran presence to this clubhouse while showing a 1.009 OPS so far, this spring. The key for Holliday is staying out of the field. Like A-Rod in 2015, if Holliday can focus on just being a DH he’s less likely to see some of the injury issues that he’s seen in the past. We may see him out there in left every occasionally, but the less we see it, the healthier the rest of the outfield is and in turn the healthier he’ll stay.
After missing all of 2016 with a shoulder injury, Greg Bird was told the first base job wasn’t just going to be handed to him. Bird played in the Arizona fall league, and didn’t light the world on fire. He was slow to catch up to pitches and there was concern about whether he would be ready to face MLB pitching this spring. It looks like he’s ready. Bird is batting ,438 with an OPS of 1.558, by far leading the guys who will see regular playing time. The power is great, finding gaps in super, but the biggest thing with Bird is how he has shown an ability to cut down on strikeouts.
2017 is a big year for Didi. Last year he was close to being an all-star and now that Jeter has been gone for a few years it’s time for Didi to take the next step in his game. With so many middle infield prospects, he doesn’t really have a choice. Gregorious has been out of camp most of camp playing in the World Baseball Classic, and while all the guys he’s facing aren’t MLB talents, he’s been playing wells. In 6 WBC games, Didi has 4 doubles, 8 RBI, and a 1.037 OPS. It’s not apples to apples to the pitching he’ll see this year in the AL East, but it can’t hurt for him to come into the season with confidence from playing well in competitive games. Look for Didi to make another run at the All-Star Game this year in a stacked American League at his position.
Aaron Judge hits the ball hard, when he hits it. At roughly 8 feet tall, Judge has a huge strike zone and is a free swinger. It’s not uncommon for power hitters to strikeout a lot, but with 23 home runs between AAA and MLB last season, we’ll need to see a bit more and need Judge to stay healthy to be impressed. Last year he struck out in half his at-bats and this year only 1/3, so we’re seeing improvement. Coming to camp Judge was told he would have to earn his position but just like every other level throughout his career, Judge has shown that last season was his adjustment period and he’s ready to contribute.
The fans don’t love him and the organization has a plethora of infielders getting ready to get called up, so there is a ton of talk about who will move over to 3rd. After taking more than a month to record an extra base hit Headley somehow fought to finish the season batting above .250. This spring though, thing have looked much worse. Headley is only batting .200 and if one of these prospects was totally ready for the big leagues we would see Castro taking reps at 3rd. Much like Ellsbury, all we can do it hope but we’ve been given no signs that any good is going to come of it.
When the Yankees made this trade last year Big Cat told me “Sometimes you’re going to love Starlin and sometimes, he’ll be the most frustrating player on your team.” He wasn’t lying. Castro’s glove can be an issue at times but he gave us a HUGE upgrade at 2nd base. We saw Starlin hit a career high 21 home runs last year we’ve seen a productive spring out of Castro this year. Starlin gives Girardi lineup flexibility because he can hit in basically any spot in the order so look for him to move around a lot. With Torres showing this spring that he’s close to MLB ready, Castro needs a productive year to remain part of the next dynasty the Yankees are building.
This may not be the lineup that Girardi uses, because I’m not an MLB manager, but these will be our starters this year. Look for Austin Romine to back up Sanchez behind the plate, and do an adequate job. Hicks will be out backup outfielder and fans will continue to hate him, unless he shocks the world. Chris Carter will add some pop off the bench and when Bird or Holliday need a day off. Ronald Torreyes, who most people don’t realize stayed on the MLB roster all last season, will provide depth as a utility infielder.
Overall this could be a very good lineup. There’s a lot of youth that just may be dumb enough to win a bunch of games. With big contracts coming off the books this year and a big free agent class in 2 years, the future looks bright for Yankee fans. A group of prospects will be packaged for a big trade at some point and the rest of the wholes will be filled through spending.
Over the next 2 weeks look for a preview of our pitching, a season prediction and a state of the AL East podcast with myself, Charlie Wisco, RDT and Carrabis.