Suitcase packed. Pinstripe jersey laid out on the chair. March 28th, 2018 and there is no chance I’m sleeping tonight. I am the starting center fielder for The New York Yankees.
If we were playing “two truths and a lie” I’d like to think you would be able to guess which part of the first paragraph was a lie.
My suitcase is not packed.
Now that I’ve lied to you twice, let’s talk some Yankees baseball!
I wish the reason I was not sleeping tonight was due to the fact that I am such a die-hard of a Yankees fan. Sure it is an incredible day as Major League Baseball returns and for a lot of North America, it is a reminder that summer is on its way. I have (unfortunately) hit the point in my life where I understand that my sleeping habits have zero effect on the upcoming game. More unfortunately I have booked a 5am flight to begin my travels to attend my friend Ethan’s (Hi, Ethan) bachelor party in Mexico. Fear of missing a flight + Yankees opening day + an odd enjoyment for writing manifesto’s (Knick’s midseason manifesto) has me chomping at the bit.
If you are not familiar with me, my name is Jake Storiale (@Espn_Jake, on twitter @JakeyJokes on insta) and I am a lifelong Yankees fan. My best good friend Jimmy (@Jomboy_) became popular on the internet due to his video editing skills and being one of the more passionate and genuine people you will ever come across in this world. We host a podcast (Talkin’ Yanks) that has gained enough popularity that Jimmy is pursuing covering the Yanks (is that what we’re calling it?) with live tweets, this website, merchandise and the podcast. Meanwhile, I’ll be working my normal job until enough of you start drinking our Kool-aid. Tell your friends!
With that, let’s talk Yanks baby!!!
I vividly remember having conversations before last season saying the best case scenario for the team was that some of the young talent took a leap and the team was set up to make some free agent acquisitions and compete in 2018. Heck, even if the youth is showing some promise and we were set up to sign Harper or Machado in two seasons we were on an okay path.
How much of an idiot was I for not expecting the guy who hit to the tune of a .179 batting average and 4 home runs in 95 plate appearances to go on and finish second in the MVP voting??
Aaron Judge shocked the baseball world with a season that will not soon be forgotten. He was joined by a young catcher who is hitting at a historic rate himself, a dominant bullpen, solid rotation, contributing veterans and core of young players. I’d feel remiss if I didn’t mention our run of the mill shortstop who speaks 5 languages, learns video editing as a hobby, and broke the record for most home runs by a Yankees shortstop.
Yeah. He hit more than that guy ever hit in a single season.
The Yankees survived a wild-card game where their young ace got shelled. They beat the defending AL champions in Cleveland after being down 2-0 in the series. In the ALCS, they took the Astros to game 7 only to be defeated in Houston by the team that would become The World Series Champions. It was a beautiful season where The Yankees had a rare underdog feel to them.
That underdog feeling was out the door the second the season ended as The Yankees announced their return to baseballs elite and became a popular pick in Vegas to take home the trophy in 2018.
What is the first thing you do when your team has an incredible, out of nowhere season where seemingly everything went right? Fire the manager.
Excuse me, not fired. Just not offered a contract to return to the team. Joe Girardi’s voice seemed to have run its course over the decade he was with the team. Around different corners of the internet you can find all sorts of rumors; disagreement with management, too expensive to pay, and a disconnect with the players. Normally when a coach with Girardi’s resume is “let go” and a team is on the rise they have a coach lined up. This was not the case. Most of the speculation hinted at an internal candidate, a voice these young players have heard and respect coming up through the system. Then one interviewee came out of the left field bleachers (Hey, Mr. Wakefield).
Aaron Boone became the 33rd manager of The New York Yankees in December of 2017. The now 45 year old fun lovin’ Southern California man who comes from one of the great baseball families left the booth to take the reins of what could become the next Yankees dynasty.
With the young core, young coach, and big expectations, The Evil Empire was back. A few days later, the team traded for NL MVP, Giancarlo Stanton for low-level prospects, essentially just taking on his massive contract. NOW, The Evil Empire was really back and shout out to The Yankees second-best power-hitting shortstopin a single season for helping to get the deal done.
Eighteen paragraphs later, let’s discuss the team! Defending NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton, AL MVP runner-up Aaron Judge and catcher Gary Sanchez (who’s resume will catch up to those two) combine to form one of the most feared lineups in MLB history. With Didi Gregorius having SS locked down, every remaining position either had a big-time prospect or a talented veteran attached to it, which really got some of us dreaming of what records this lineup could approach.
Let’s go around the horn and get into it a little bit.
Catcher – I’ve mentioned ‘El Gary’ a few times now, I’ll stop and leave you with the stats: at age 25 his 162 game averages are: .283BA, .353OBP, 49HR, 121RBI.
First base – 6’4″ with a swing made for Yankees Stadium, Greg Bird has people swooning over what his lefty bat can be for this team. After a misdiagnosed injury the previous year and then fighting his way back to be a big part of the teams post-season success, Greg went down with another injury in the same foot that was misdiagnosed the year before. 6-8 weeks was the first timetable given, at this point, nobody truly knows if it is bad luck or being injury prone. Until then, Tyler Austin will get his chance to prove he can stay healthy while continuing to feast on left handed pitching (1.154 OPS vL). Neil Walker will get the majority of at bats against right handed pitching (for now). Lets circle back on Neil in a little bit.
Second base – Well, yeah so…Neil Walker! The Yankees calmly waited out the slow free agency season this year and had the 9-year major league vet Walker fall into their laps. He looked to block Tyler Wade, the organizations super utility prospect, who had a great spring. As mentioned with Greg Bird’s injury, both of these guys will now have the opportunity to play a lot of baseball at multiple positions.
Third base – Miguel Andujar, right? Ah okay, top prospect Gleyber Torres?? No. They brought back Todd Frazier, the pride of Toms River, NJ??? No. We got our man, Brandon Drury. Coming over in a trade from the Diamondbacks, the 25-year-old will man the hot corner ruining all the prospect huggers dreams. Drury has position flexibility himself being able to play some second base and corner outfield. From the sounds of it, the Yankees believe he can solely man the hot corner while approaching being a 20 home run type of player. With some scary home vs road splits from his time in Arizona it will be interesting to see how he adapts to playing in the Bronx.
Shortstop – Sir Didi Gregorius has been mentioned. If you’re just killing time google him to find out about a smart, happy dude who also happens to be a very good baseball player.
RF/DH – Judge and Stanton. I’ll leave you to debate who should be in the field and who should be DH-ing. It will be interesting to see how/if and when they deploy one of these big boys in left field with the other in right.
CF – Aaron Hicks is an analytics darling. Defensively he is off the charts with a cannon for an arm while at the plate he has power and a good eye from each side. The only problem is the sample size and do you believe he can reach his ceiling? The defense will always be there but he has a bit of an injury history himself. Last season in the first half over 60 games he had 10HR and an OBP right below .400. In the second half (28 games) he hit .218 with 5HR. Health issues aside, I need to see more of the good before I buy in. Otherwise, you could see fan favorite Jacoby Ellsbury (sarcasm if you’re not on twitter) getting a lot of innings and maybe even our fellow in left field…
LF – Brett Gardner! The longest tenured Yankee who started as an afterthought on the team to arguably the pulse of the team last year. A traditional lead-off hitter who is always in for a grinding at-bat, Gardy had arguably his best season at age 33 in 2017. He was robbed of the gold glove last year and think his defense will be greatly appreciated this year especially if the big boys get some innings in left. The only flaw from last year was he did struggle against left-handed pitching. It will be interesting to see if he drops in the lineup against lefty’s or make the adjustments.
Luis Severino – At age 23 he finished 3rd in the AL Cy Young voting. A triple-digit fastball and a wipeout slider, if he takes a leap this year he is a bonafide ace.
Masahiro Tanaka – Stepping down from his ace pedestal, Tanaka had a terrible first half of the season. He showed out in the playoffs going 20 innings pitched with only 2 earned runs.
CC Sabathia – After 3 seasons of injuries and losing velocity, the big man put together a 3.69 ERA which he credits to a knee brace and learning how to pitch without his fastball. With a pitcher his age, you worry about health but there are not many gamers like CC.
Sonny Gray – The pedestrian 4th starter on the Pinstripes has been top 10 in AL ERA 3 of the past 4 seasons. In his age 28 season, some are expecting a huge season while others point to advanced stats of him fading.
Jordan Montgomery – The best rookie pitcher in the AL last year (6th in ROTY voting), Monty looks to build on that. Some (maybe only myself at this point) are slightly skeptical due to his ability to pitch out of trouble from last year. If it’s a skill and not luck, the Yanks have a quality lefty arm for the back of the rotation.
The Bullpen – Arguably the best in the game. The closer Aroldis Chapman may have the best stuff in the history of baseball. Robertson, Green, Betances, Kahnle all mix elite stuff on different levels of reliability (Hi, Dellin). Adam Warren had a 2.35 ERA last year and may find himself having to fight off Jonathan Holder who made the team while having more strikeouts than innings pitched in his age 24 season. A power arm group with more depth coming from the farm.
The Farm! – When Yankees spring training started the second major storyline was the prospects. Torres and Andujar had prospect huggers screaming in frustration over the Drury trade and the Walker signing. Pitching prospects Chance Adams and Justice Sheffield underwhelmed to a degree this spring but neither were expected to break camp. Clint Frazier wanted to compete for a roster spot but a very serious concussion left him out of baseball activities for most of the spring. Estevan Florial is a name to watch as the uber-talented youth turned heads in Tampa. You won’t see him this year (unlike 4 of the 5 listed above if I had to guess) but he’ll be on the radar for 2019.
What Does It All Mean?
To start, all of the above means I’m a crazy person and if you’ve made it this far I truly appreciate it. For the 2018 New York Yankees, it means a target is on there back. Every team will give them their best punch and the weakness’ that I briefly touched upon will be blown up by the New York media. I was shocked the first time I heard it but it truly is World Series or bust. They brought in the NL MVP and a new manager while having gone to game 7 of the ALCS the previous year. If the team were to fall short, you could possibly see Aaron Boone back in the booth. There is one name I have yet to mention (strategically not lack of sleep): Brian Cashman.
He is the GM and the man at the roots of the dynasty in the late 90’s. He is a man that does not always get full credit for doing that and there were rumors that Girardi’s departure was to get more credit for these next few years. I don’t know about that. What I do know is that he has a great eye for talent and a long list of trades and signings over the past almost 3 decades that have led to great teams and great Yankees players. Next time you want to scream “Call up Andujar” or “Trade Brett Gardner!” just calmly tell yourself #InCashWeTrust.
Sleep when you’re dead (or after the game). Enjoy opening day and hopefully we can enjoy the 2018 New York Yankees season together.
- Jake Storiale