Yeah, it’s over… but it was great. No credible observer can look at the 2017 season for the New York Yankees as anything other than a resounding success.
- Aaron Judge – the oddity with potential we hoped might play his way to 200 at bats this season led the AL homers, setting the rookie record on the way, will finish in the top 2 in the MVP voting, and has proven himself to be a bona fide superstar on both sides of the baseball. Judge is now the most recognizable Yankee, the heir apparent to Derek Jeter as the face of the franchise, and the guy whose shirsy I most want.
- The New York Yankees got Sonny Gray! Sure, the Yankees had to give up a lot to get him – James Kaprelian was the best pitching prospect the team had in a while, Jorge Mateo was on the fast track to the middle infield in the Bronx, and Dustin Fowler was the exciting new outfielder before he got hurt in his very first game – but Gray gives the Yankees a long term rotation mainstay who has the chance to be one of the best pitchers in the league. There’s a reason it took so much to get him; he was the best pitcher available (until we found out Justin Verlander was on the market), and he’s under contract for at least a couple more seasons.
- Luis Severino is amazing. Who saw that coming? I guess one winter with Pedro Martinez turns you into a stud. (This is the best thing Pedro’s ever done for New York, and it has to kill Boston Red Sox fans). Severino is the hardest throwing starter in the majors and at this point is the Ace of the staff. He broke 200 innings for the first time in his career and still posted a sub-3.00 ERA. He’ll get some well deserved Cy Young votes this season and looks like a guy who might be setting himself up for a few more runs at the award in the years to come. The Aaron Judge of the pitching staff, Severino was by far the best pleasant surprise on that side of the ball this year.
- The bullpen is spectacular. You know that lockdown, unreal pen Joe Girardi had at his disposal this October with Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle, David Robertson, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman all throwing above 97 mph and blowing guys away? Yeah, they have that for 162 games next year.
- Didi Gregorius is a middle of the order hitter, apparently.
- Gary Sanchez is just the offensive force we all thought he was going to be.
- Greg Bird, when healthy, is as good as advertised.
The Yankees have a great young core and some veterans to compliment it, and some players to move to potentially shore up weak spots.
Todd Frazier was great in the post season and seems to really enjoy being a Yankee, but they should let him walk. In reality, his a low .200’s hitter with a little pop. That’s roughly what the Yankees get from Chase Headley and he’s under contract for the next 2 years so they’re stuck with him. When Gleybar Torres comes back from Tommy John surgery, there’s a world where the Yankees have Bird at first, Starlin Castro at second, Gregorious at short, and Torres at third and I couldn’t be more excited.
In the outfield. Judge is a lock and Clint Frazier seems to be the future. Sure, Brett Gardner just had a great October and hit 21 bombs this year but all that means is his trade value will never be higher. Maybe the Yankees sell high and set themselves up with a Frazier-Aaron Hicks-Judge outfield with immovable-piece-Jacoby Ellsbury as the 4th man.
Things aren’t perfect in Yankee land though. Severino, Gray, Masahiro Tanaka, and (if he comes back) CC Sabathia is a good rotation, but the Yankees need more than a 4th starter or two. All those pitchers can be world beaters, but not a single one of them is particularly consistent. I’m not sure yet who it is, (rest assured I’ll write way too many words on it) but the Yankees need a strong number 2 type starter to give themselves a rotation capable of matching up the best in the league.
Beyond the number 2 starter, the Yanks will be wagering on quality 2018s from guys who are anything but sure bets. While he had a solid playoffs, the regular season was a disaster for young Greg Bird and he missed another year of development. Clint Frazier didn’t exactly come on with bang when given his taste of Major League ball and the Yankees will have to hope he has a Judge-like sophomore season. Like Bird, Aroldis Chapman figured it out late but he had an uncharacteristically up and down year. On the other hand, Betances was untouchable at the start of the year but utterly fell apart down the stretch and will need the rest this winter to get his head straight and find the strike zone again.
The Yankees never expected to get 27 outs from the World Series this year. That they did is a testament to this team and its resilience. I’ve been skeptical of Brian Cashman for a few years but I love this group he’s put together and I’ve never been happier with the front office. Falling down 0-2 in back to back postseason series isn’t exactly the hallmark of a powerhouse, but for a very young team beating the hell out of expectations, it was an awesome ride.
The New York Yankees are one starting pitcher and some infield depth away from being truly great. The Red Sox may have won the division this year, but the 2018 Yankees are coming for them and I’m already excited.