The Yankees are not as invincible as they may look
By George Kurtz
All the talk during the offseason and spring training has been about how good the Yankees are and how they are a cinch not only to make the playoffs but also to win the World Series. Well you know, this talk may be a bit premature. I’m here to tell you that the Yankees aren’t a mortal lock to make the playoffs and I’m here to tell you why.
- Justin Verlander is right: The Astros are the best team in the American League, if not all Major League Baseball. Have we forgotten that Houston won the World Series last year? They defeated the Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS. The Astros should only be better with Verlander around for a full season. They can do it all.
#MLB Verlander: ‘American League goes through us’ – Justin Verlander doesn’t care for your opinion. He also doesn’t care who the Yankees picked up — 2017 National League Most Valuable Player Giancarlo Stanton, by the way — or that the Indians will b… https://t.co/7y2LXAC90i
— Xtreme Sports News (@xtnetworks) February 14, 2018
They have Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and George Springer to lead an offense that should be able to put up runs at will. Verlander will headline a starting staff that also includes Dallas Keuchel and the recently acquired Gerritt Cole. There bullpen may not be aces, but it’s still above average. They are the team to beat, not the Yankees.
- Injuries: The quickest way for a promising season to go off the rails is due to an injury or two and let’s face it, the Yankees are loaded with players that have a prolific injury history. Gary Sanchez missed about a month of the 2017 season due to a strained biceps. Greg Bird has yet to play a full season due to shoulder and foot injuries. Top prospect Gleyber Torres missed most of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Sure, Giancarlo Stanton had a monster 2017 campaign, but his history tells us that he is an injury waiting to happen, as he has only played more than 145 games twice in his career. As for Aaron Judge, he’s coming off shoulder surgery and the Yankees were treating him with kid gloves this March. Aroldis Chapman missed time last season due to a sore shoulder. We all know Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow is hanging by what literally might be a thread. Sonny Gray has battled injuries for each of the past three seasons and CC Sabathia is another DL stint waiting to happen.
- Wild card: The next problem is assuming the Yankees win the AL East. Have we forgotten that Boston resides in that division and they aren’t about to go down without a fight? When you compare these two rosters, they are very similar. In most offensive positions, the edge either goes to Boston or it’s a tie. The only clear win for the Yankees is at catcher. The Yanks do have the edge in pitching, but it’s not as big as one might think, especially if David Price proves to be the pitcher he used to be. So, if the Yankees don’t win the division, they will likely have to battle for a wild card spot and that can be dicey, as a team like the Twins, although not as good as the Yankees, may be able to take advantage of a softer divisional schedule. Not to mention a one game playoff is not what the Yankees would have in mind.
- New York media: It’s not like the pressure from the media in New York hasn’t derailed players in the past. What if Stanton gets off to a slow start? What if he only has two bombs in April? You can just imagine what the headlines in the back of every newspaper will be. Granted, this would seem unlikely. as Stanton wanted to come to NY, but he may not exactly know what he is in for. The media and fans will be expecting Judge and Stanton to hit 100-plus HRs.
- Starting pitching: The Yankee lineup is loaded with big hairy monsters who can hit the ball 450 feet, but games are still won with pitching. On paper the Yanks have one of the best starting rotations, but there are question marks. Luis Severino was in the Cy Young race last season, but he imploded during the playoffs. Is he truly ready for prime time? As mentioned above Tanaka’s elbow is a tear waiting to happen, but even if he stays healthy, he better pitch a whole lot better than he did last season. Gray is a good starting pitcher, but he’s battled injuries over the past couple of seasons and he’s a fly ball pitcher. Why doesn’t that sound like a good thing in Yankee Stadium? Don’t get me started on Sabathia. Not only does he have zero chance of making 30 starts, but he’s a five and fly guy at this point in his career. He’s a bullpen killer. Jordan Montgomery is a solid fifth starter, but there is little room for upside. As for depth when injury arises, and it will, they don’t have much. Chad Green is much better suited for the bullpen. Luis Cessa has failed multiple times at trying to become a starter. Will GM Brian Cashman be comfortable with a rookie or two (Chance Adams/Justus Sheffield) holding down the fort? The Yankees may have made a mistake not trying harder to get Cole. Not only would he have solidified their rotation, but they would have also kept him away from Houston.
- Growing pains: By just about anyone’s ranking, the Yankees possess one of the best farm systems in MLB. They are loaded with top prospects (Torres, Sheffield, Miguel Andujar), but it’s rare that any rookie comes in right away and lights up the scoreboard. Mike Trout struggled in his first stint with the Angels and the Yanks certainly can’t forget the struggles of Aaron Judge in 2016. A farm system is a great thing to have, but it generally takes time before it pays off.
- Batting practice: If the Yankees charged for BP, people would pay for it. Bird, Sanchez, Stanton, and Judge could hit 150 HRs this season. The question is, do the Yanks have enough batters in their lineup that can get on base for them to drive in, or are we talking about a whole lot of solo shots?
- Defense: Not only does a team need to throw and hit the ball, but they also need to catch it. This is something the Yankees may have issues with. The reason Andujar isn’t going to be the starting 3B come Opening Day is because of defense. If and when Torres is called up (certainly not until after mid-April when the Yankees would control his rights for another year) he will be a natural SS playing 2B, not as easy a move as you would think. Everyone knows the issues Sanchez had last season catching the baseball (so many passed balls). Either Stanton or Judge will have to play LF on occasion, not a good thing in Yankee Stadium. Defense could be the team’s downfall this year.
- Luxury tax: The Yankees are currently about $20 million below the luxury tax threshold and make no mistake, they will stay under that amount this season. That means they aren’t going to take on big contracts during the season. That’s the reason they don’t have a Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta in their starting rotation now. The Yanks may look to make a big splash in free agency after this season when the likes of Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Clayton Kershaw could be on the market.