New York Yankees
The Yankees have missed the playoffs in three of the last four years after being in the big dance 17 of the previous 18 seasons. They scored 84 fewer runs than 2015 (764), which was the 12th highest total (680) in the American League. New York ranked 11th in HRs (183) with below league average success in batting average (.252). The Yankees have one World Series Title since the turn of the century.
In the offseason, 1B Mark Teixeira retired while DH Alex Rodriguez was sent to pasture late in 2016. They added Matt Holliday to take over at DH, and a healthy Greg Bird will return to play first base. The starting lineup is loaded with fading veterans who have plenty of major league experience and success. The future franchise player is C Gary Sanchez who gave New York fans plenty to root for after the All-Star break in 2016. There’s one misguided Yankee fan living in northern New Jersey who believes Aaron Judge will become an impact power bat. Overall, the names in this starting lineup won’t blow you away, but there is enough to be competitive if New York gets enough starting pitching.
The Yankees signed Aroldis Chapman to take over as closer. They traded C Brian McCann to Houston for two prospects – SP Albert Abreu and SP Jorge Guzman while releasing SP Nathan Eovaldi.
New York slid to 7th in ERA (4.16). They allowed the most runs (702) since 2009 (753). The Yankees were 16th in the majors in bullpen ERA (3.67) with most of their success coming early in the year when they had Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, and Dellin Betances pitching well. They finished with 48 saves and 36 bullpen wins.
The starting rotation will have three arms coming into spring training with questions about their health. SP Masahiro Tanaka ended 2016 with a right forearm issue. SP C.C. Sabathia had minor surgery on his right knee in October. SP Chad Green was shut down last September with a UCL issue that didn’t require surgery. The key arm with be Luis Severino who failed to live to expectations in 2016.
1. OF Jacoby Ellsbury
A sports fan must look no further than the Ellsbury signing to see the direction of the Yankees franchise. Over three seasons in New York, Jacoby hit .264 compared to .297 in his career with Boston. During this span, he’s scored 208 runs with 32 HRs and 80 SBs. On the bright side, Ellsbury has four years left on his contact while being owed almost $85 million. He finished with almost the same K rate (13.4) as his career average (13.6) with a career high walk rate (8.6). His CTBA (.310) has faded in each season with Yankees while being above the league average in RBI rate in 2014 (15) and 2016 (15). Jacoby also has a fading value in his stolen base rate (70 percent in 2015 and 71.4 in 2016). Ellsbury was league average vs. RH pitching (.271 with eight HRs and 42 RBI in 373 at bats) while fading against lefties (.247 with one HR and 14 RBI over 178 at bats). Last season he battled a hip issue in early May, a minor foot issue in late August, and a right knee injury in mid-September. His swing path remains in line with his career resume. Jacoby has a low FB rate (30.9 in 2016 – 31.3 in his career) with a short HR/FB rate in four of the last five seasons (2012 – 4.7, 2013 – 6.6, 2014 – 9.8, 2015 – 6.2, and 2016 – 6.2). Ellsbury controls the strike zone well enough to have a rebound in batting average while his upside in HRs is low double digits. He has enough speed to reach 30+ SBs if given enough chances. In the early draft season, he’s the 63rd outfielder selected with an ADP of 242. Possible value depending on your team structure.
2. OF Brett Gardner
Brett gave Fantasy owners and the Yankees a ton of empty at bats in 2016. He finished with a reasonable number of hits based on his recent resume (2013 – 147, 2014 – 142, 2015 – 148, and 2016 – 143) leading to a slight dip in runs scored (80 – 87.3 over the previous three years). The biggest negative was the sharp decline in the length of his hits (2013 – 1.524, 2014 – 1.648, 2015 – 1.541, and 2016 – 1.385). Also, Gardner seemed to press at the plate leading to a short RBI rate (11). A Fantasy owner can see the decline in his swing path that Brett lost his mental approach and confidence in 2016. He had a huge spike in his GB rate (52.3 – 41.7 in 2014 and 45.3 in 2015) leading a short FB rate (27.0 – 36.7 in 2014 and 33.9 in 2015) and a sharp decline in his HR/FB rate (5.9 – 11.0 in 2014 and 2015). After a poor May (.184 with three HRs and seven RBI in 87 at bats), Gardner only hit two HRs over his last 389 at bats with 27 RBI and eight SBs. He didn’t have any major injury news creating his regression. Brett had a slight neck issue in late April and a minor ankle injury in early August. The only positive from 2016 was a rebounded in his K rate (16.7) with improvement in his walk rate (11.0). Gardner won’t be an asset in any category with runs being his strongest suit. His resume is long enough where a rebound season should be expected. Nothing more than a 15/20 guy with some batting average risk if he regains his swing path from the previous two season.
3. C Gary Sanchez
For two months in 2016, Sanchez had a power swing that matched the best players in baseball history. He hit 20 HRs in 201 at bats highlight by his success in August (.389 with 11 HRs and 21 RBI in 95 at bats). His K rate (24.9) was above his minor-league resume (20.0) with plenty of fade in September (29.7) when pitchers started to figure him out. Gary dominated RH pitching (.338 with 14 HRs and 31 RBI in 148 at bats) while showing downside risk vs. lefties (.189 with six HR and 11 RBI in 53 at bats plus 20 Ks). Over seven seasons in the minors, Sanchez hit .282 with 99 HRs, 428 RBI, and 37 SBs in 2441 at bats. 2016 was the first year of his career with over 450 at bats. His HR/FB rate came in at 40 percent in the majors, which isn't repeatable. His swing path delivers plenty of ground balls (49.3) in 2016 with the Yankees. His price point will be top shelf this season, and I'm sure the Yankees will do their best to keep in the lineup on many days at DH. His path paints him as a slight edge in batting average with 20 HR power and nice complementary speed for a catcher. I don’t expect 30+ HRs unless he has over 600 at bats.
4. OF Matt Holliday
Matt struggled with injuries over the last two years leading to short at bats. In 2016, he missed two months with a broken right thumb. His production was favorable over his first 344 at bats (18 HRs and 59 RBI) while his batting average came in short in June (.224) and July (.188). His K rate (16.7) fell in line with his career resume (16.4) with a huge step back in his walk rate (8.2 – 14.1 in 2015 and 11.1 in 2014). Holliday hit the most GB balls (50 percent) of his career while setting a career low in his LD rate (14.1). His FB rate (35.9) fell in line with his career average (35.1) with a spike in HR/FB rate (17.9 – 7.5 in 2015 and 15.6 in his career). The change to the AL will be positive, and his at bats should be much stronger by playing DH. Holliday's skill set is clearly fading, but volume of at bats should lead to a solid 20/80 season with a neutral batting average.
5. 1B Chris Carter
New York brought the free-swinging Carter to compete for at bats at 1B and DH. For the second time in four seasons, he led a league in Ks (206). His K rate (32.0) remains well above league average (20.4) while his walk rate (11.8) came in about his career average. Chris struggled against both RH (.222) and LH (.224) pitching with power coming from both options (righties – 29 HRs and 63 RBI over 415 at bats and lefties – 12 HRs and 31 RBI over 134 at bats). He had five HRs or more in each month with his best success coming in September (11 HRs and 23 RBI). His only month with over a .250 batting average was April (.257). His swing path continues to deliver a high volume of fly balls (48.7 percent). He had his second highest HR/FB rate (23.8) of his career. Low average power, but he won’t have a full-time job in 2017. Carter will platoon with Greg Bird at first while seeing most of the action against lefties. He’ll also be an option at DH. Chris is extremely streaky so the Yankees will need to commit to him if he struggles with power.
6. 2B Starlin Castro
I wish baseball players had an annual weigh-in at the start of spring training to help Fantasy owners get a better feel for a player's commitment to the game. In one season, Castro went for 6'0" and 190 lbs to 6'2" and 230 lbs (seems strange). I’ve mentioned this in the past; Starlin remains on a path to reach 3000 hits if he stays in shape. After seven seasons at age 26, Castro has 1147 hits. His best success came in his second (.307 with 207 hits, 10 HRs, 66 RBI, and 22 SBs) and third (.283 with 183 hits, 14 HRs, 78 RBI, and 25 SBs) years in the league. Last year he set a career high in HRs (21) due to a sharp rise in his HR/FB rate (15.0 – 8.3 in 2015 and 8.0 in his career). His swing path still produces too many ground balls (49.1 percent in 2016 and 49.5 in his career) leading to short FB rate (30.2). Starlin’s quest for power led to a career high K rate (19.3) while rarely taking a walk (3.9 percent of the time in 2016). His bat appeared to make a nice step forward in August (.313 with eight HRs and 24 RBI over 112 at bats), but a hamstring injury limited his at bats in September (.280 with two HRs and six RBI in 75 at bats). If Castro wants to get paid in his next contract, he needs to start producing better stats. Just reaching the prime of his career while offering no edge in any category. His power may be repeatable based on his rising AVH (1.603).
7. SS Didi Gregorius
Gregorius made a nice step forward in 2016. He set a career high in runs (68), HR (20), RBI (70), and SBs (7). Didi had the lowest K rate (13.7) of his career while improving in back-to-back years. At the same time, his walk rate (3.2) regressed for the third straight year. His swing path became much more balance in 2016 leading to almost equal ground balls (40.1 percent) and fly balls (40.3 percent). Gregorius had his highest FB rate (10.4) of his career. The best part of his game in 2016 was his ability to handle left hand pitching (.320 with four HRs and 23 RBI over 147 at bats). Over three months from May through July, Didi hit .308 with nine HRs, 39 RBI, and four SBs over 286 at bats. His swing remained strong in August (6 HRs and 18 RBI) with a slight fade in batting average (.268). I don’t think 2016 was a fluke. He’s getting better as a player while getting stronger. His lack of walks hurts his chance of moving into a more favorable part of the batting order. Nice backend middle infielder with a chance to produce league average stats for his position in five categories.
8. 3B Chase Headley
Over a 10-year major league career, Headley has one season of value (2012 - .286 with 31 HRs, 115 RBI, and 17 SBs). He's been a losing investment for the Yankees over the last three years while producing below replacement value stats in all three seasons. His approach at the plate (K rate – 22.3 and walk rate – 9.6) fell in line with his career resume. His AVH (1.525) and CTBA (.338) remain well below his success in 2012. Over his first 235 at bats in 2016, Chase only had five home runs. He did hold his own in batting average in May, June, and July (.285) with his best success coming in July (.286 with five HRs and 13 RBI). Surprisingly, Headley had his second-best season in HR/FB rate (12.4), but his swing path continues to produce a low volume of fly balls (32.0 percent in 2016 and 33.5 in his career). The Yankees are on the hook for two more seasons, so there's no way out as of now. Only a bench option in deep leagues unless he adds some JUICE to his swing.
9. OF Aaron Judge
Over three seasons in the minors, Judge hit .278 with 56 HRs, 215 RBI, and 13 SBs in 1297 at bats. Aaron is a beast of a man (6’7” and 275 lbs.) with immense power upside. He struck out 373 times in 1513 at bats in his minor-league career (24.7 percent) with an above average walk rate (12.5). His swing was full of holes in the majors in his limited at bats in 2016 (42 Ks in 84 at bats – 44.2 percent K rate). He walked 9.5 percent of the time with New York. His scouting report is favorable with his ability as a hitter while his swing doesn’t look ready to handle major league pitching. Jose Bautista struck out 40 times in his first 88 major league at bats (41.7 percent K rate) and his career turned out alright. I don’t think Judge is ready to make an impact in the majors in power, but he could have short-term success. The quickest way back to the minors is lack of contact. Backend flier for power with plenty of batting average risk, but a Fantasy owners needs to have a short leash.
10. 1B Greg Bird
Greg missed all of 2016 with a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Over five seasons in the minors, Bird hit .282 with 48 HRs, 192 RBI, and three SBs in 1246 at bats. His K rate (20.9) was much stronger in the minors than his results in the majors (29.8). Greg did show the ability to take a walk with New York in 2015 (10.7 percent walk rate - 14.9 in the minors). When the Yankees lost Mark Teixeira for the season in August, Bird proved to be a great replacement. Over the last six weeks of 2016, he hit .261 with 11 HRs and 31 RBI. His swing was very good against righties (.270 with nine HRs and 24 RBI in 115 at bats - .574 SLG). It looks like he has some work to do vs. LH pitching (.238 with two HRs and seven RBI in 42 at bats). His power was tied to a huge FB rate (51.4) and a strong HR/FB rate (20.4). Intriguing player with upside in power, but his swing path and K rate points to some downside in his batting average. In 2017, Greg’s power may take a step back due to the nature of his injury. Viable backend first base option with his best success expected to come later in the year.
C Austin Romine – Over 334 at bats in the majors, Romine hit .222 with five HRs and 37 RBI. He’s a career .273 hitter in the minors with 57 HRs, 340 RBI, and 19 SBs in 2425 at bats. Austin spent part of the last five seasons at AAA (.251 with 17 HRs and 96 RBI in 741 at bats). Not enough upside to earn a starting job.
C Kyle Higashioka – If Gary Sanchez has an issue, New York may turn to Higashioka at catcher. Last season he hit .276 between AA and AAA with 21 HRs and 81 RBI. It was by far his best success of his career. Over nine seasons in the minors, Kyle hit .242 with 51 HRs and 237 RBI in 1792 at bats. His overall resume is lower than Romine.
IF Ronald Torreyes – The Yankees gave Torreyes 155 at bats in 2016 (.258 with a HR, 12 RBI, and a SB). He hit .298 in his six seasons in the minors with 22 HRs, 253 RBI, and 72 SBs. Ronald will compete for the utility infield job in New York.
OF Aaron Hicks – Poor outfield play was a theme for the Yankees in 2016. Hicks hit .217 over 327 at bats with eight HRs, 31 RBI, and three SBs, which was a step back from his success in 2015 (.256 with 11 HRs, 33 RBI, and 13 SBs in 352 at bats). Aaron controlled his strikeouts again in 2016 (18.8) after struggling in this area in 2013 (26.8) and 2014 (24.9). He’s a .276 hitter in the minors over 2203 at bats with 42 HRs, 258 RBI, and 98 SBs. If Ellsbury or Gardner has an injury, Hicks will be next in line. His game looks more major league ready than Aaron Judge. Bench option in deep leagues.
1. SP Masahiro Tanaka
Over three seasons in the majors, Tanaka has a 39-16 record with 445 Ks in 490 innings. His walk rate (1.6) is one of the best in the game, but his K rate (7.4) has faded in back-to-back seasons. Masahiro pitched his highest inning total (199.2) in 2016. He battled a forearm injury in September, which led to only one missed start. It was his second occurrence with this issue. When added to a partially torn UCL in 2014 and right elbow surgery in the offseason 2015, his arm comes with plenty of injury risk. I still believe he’s one bad throw away from TJ surgery. Tanaka had almost equal success against righties (.235) and lefties (.237). He had an ERA of 3.00 or under in five of six months with his best overall month coming in August (4-1 with 3.00 ERA, 38 Ks, and one walk in 39 innings). His AFB (92.0) was a slight step back from 2015 (92.8). Masahiro has the most success getting batters out with his split-finger fastball (.166 BAA). His slider (.239 BAA) and curveball (.280 BAA) had less value compared to 2015 (SL – 140 BAA and CB -.214 BAA). Real tough to trust due to his potential for season-ending surgery. When on the mound, he's one of the best arms in the game. A Fantasy owner can never predict when a player will go down with an injury so Tanaka may pitch at a high level for a good portion of the season. I'll fade him as he's not discounted enough for me in the early draft season (20th starter off the board).
2. SP Luis Severino
Severino was a complete train wreck as a starting pitcher in 2016 in the majors. Over 11 starts, he went 0-8 with an 8.50 ERA and 1.783 WHIP. His arm held value when shipped back to the minors (3.49 ERA with 78 Ks in 77.1 innings). New York moved him to the bullpen late in the year. Over 11 appearances, Luis went 3-0 with a 0.39 ERA and 25 Ks in 23.1 innings. Batters only hit .105 against him in the pen (.337 in a starting role). His final stats in walk rate (3.2) and K rate (8.4) fell in line with success in the majors in 2015 when he went 5-3 with a 2.89 ERA and 56 Ks in 62.1 innings. HRs continues to be an issue in the majors (20 allowed in 133.1 innings). Over five seasons in the minors, Severino went 31-12 with a 2.51 ERA with 403 Ks in 401 innings while doing a much better job throwing strikes (2.2 walk rate). His AFB (96.9) had more zip in 2016, but batters hit .302 against it with a huge SLG rate (.528). Luis also threw a slider (.227 BAA) and changeup (.242 BAA). I expect him to comeback in a big way in 2017. He needs better command of his fastball in the strike zone to make that impact step forward. Complete gift in the early draft season (ADP of 409 in 15 team leagues). Potential SP3 with a chance at a sub 3.50 ERA and 175 Ks.
3. SP Michael Pineda
Over the last two seasons, Pineda failed to live up to expectations. He led the American League in Ks per nine innings (10.6) with regression in his walk rate (2.7), which was in an elite area in 2015 (1.2). Michael has multiple flaws in his game at this point of his career. He struggled in the first inning (6.19 ERA in 2016) while his arm has less value in the 4th through the 6th inning (5.56 ERA). In 2016, Pineda only pitched two innings in the 7th inning (two runs allowed and four hits). His arm looked electric in June (2.75 ERA with 49 Ks in 36 innings). Michal battled walks in July (13 in 30 innings and September (13 in 28 innings). He has no edge at this point in his career against lefties (.272) or righties (.261). Pineda hasn't thrown a four-seam fastball since 2011. His top pitch has been a cutter that clocked in at 94.8 in 2016, which was stronger than 2015 (93.3). He dominated hitters with his slider (.187 BAA). Interesting dilemma for a Fantasy owner, Michael has high K ability, upside in command, and gets ahead in the count…this should add up to an arm of value. The key for his growth is the command of his fastball option in the strike zone.
4. SP CC Sabathia
After three down season, Sabathia delivered serviceable value in 2016. After struggling in April (5.06 ERA), C.C. pitched at a high level over his next nine starts in May and June (2.44 ERA with 44 Ks in 55.1 innings). HRs became an issue over the last three months (18 in 103 innings – 1.6 per nine innings). Sabathia has plenty of downside in July (5.93 ERA) and August (5.35 ERA). His arm has value vs. lefties (.209) with league average success against RH batters (.260 with 18 HRs over 553 at bats). C.C. had his best fastball (92.1) since 2013. His slider (.200 BAA) and cutter (.224 BAA) remains strong assets. Sabathia had minor right knee surgery late October. New York expects him to ready for spring training. Not ready to be sent to pasture, but he needs to regain his command (3.3 walks per nine in 2016) to be in play as a backend starter in deep leagues. Start-to-start play with a kick to the curb if he stumbles out of the gate.
5. SP Chad Green
Green struggled at AA in 2015 (5-14 with a 3.93 ERA with 137 Ks in 148.2 innings). His arm made a huge step forward at AAA last year (1.52 ERA with 100 Ks in 94.2 innings). Chad struggled in a spot start in May with the Yankees (four runs and nine base runners in eight innings). He flashed upside in early July (one run in six innings with eight Ks) before getting bombed in his next start (seven runs and seven base runners in 4.1 innings with four HRs allowed). New York shipped back to the bullpen after the All-Star break (no runs in 8.1 innings with seven Ks). After another bombing in the starting rotation on August 3rd (three runs and 12 base runners in 3.2 innings), Green tossed an elite game (no runs in six innings with 11 Ks). He finished 2016 with two bad outings (eight runs and 16 base runners over 6.1 innings) and then a trip to the DL with a right elbow injury that didn’t require surgery. His AFB (95.4) is above average with his best two pitches being a slider (.200 BAA) and cutter (.250). Live arm with upside if his elbow doesn’t have a setback this spring. I expect some disaster risk until he controls his fastball in the strike zone.
6. SP Luis Cessa
Over six seasons in the minors, Cessa had a 3.59 ERA with 488 Ks in 591 innings. His walk rate (2.0) is in a winning area with growth in his K rate (8.0) at AAA in 2016 (7.4 in his minor-league career). Luis had some success in the majors (4.35 ERA), but he did allow too many HRs (16 in 70.1 innings) with a sharp decline in his K rate (5.9). This stat line paints him as soft tosser, but Cessa has solid fastball (95.1) with some success with his three secondary pitches (slider - .227 BAA, curveball - .250, and changeup - .237 BAA). Developing arm with disaster risk until he solves his HR problem.
7. SP Adam Warren
Warren will be the Yankees swingman in 2017. Over five years with New York, Adam has a 3.38 ERA with 270 Ks in 319.2 innings. After two bad outings in July (nine runs and ten baserunners in 3.2 innings) with the Cubs, he was shipped back to New York where he repeated his previous form (3.26 ERA). HRs (11 in 65.1 innings) were a problem for Warren in 2016 with a huge step back in his walk rate (4.0). His AFB (93.4) is league average. He had the most success with his changeup (.108 BAA) and slider (.235 BAA). In his major-league career, Adam has a 3.88 ERA as a starter and 3.51 out of the bullpen. Gap option who needs to throw strikes to have success over the long whole.
Chapman had his best command of career in 2016 (2.8 walk rate). When looking at his 2016 stats, some Fantasy owners may lose sight of the 30 games missed due to his suspension. Aroldis has never saved 40 games in a season while offering an elite K rate (14.0 – 15.2 in his career). His addition to the Cubs was a key part of a World Series Title. His AFB (101.1) was over triple digits for the third straight year. Batters hit only .161 against his fastball and .200 vs. his slider. Last year Chapman had his best success keeping the ball on the ground (46.0 percent) leading to a career low FB rate (29.2). Stud closer with no threat to lose saves in 2017 while offering a solid edge in Ks, ERA, and WHIP.
The two-year dream of Betances becoming an elite closer appear to be over with Aroldis Chapman returning to the fold. Dellin threw the ball well over the first five months (2.12 ERA with 108 Ks over 63.2 innings) with his best success coming in July and August (1.07 ERA with 41 Ks and seven SVs over 25.1 innings). His arm lost value in September (9.64 ERA and 2.143 WHIP) leading to the Yankees losing faith in his in the 9th inning. He dominated righties (.176 BAA) with a solid edge against LH batters (.233). His AFB (98.4) was the best of his career, but batters hit .337 against it. His curveball remains his swing and miss pitch (.126 BAA). K machine with a chance to gain an edge in vulture wins.
Tyler pitched for four different teams over the last two seasons. His K rate (10.3) rebounded after a down 2015 season (8.1) while his walk rate (3.7) remains a liability. Clippard has been a very good reliever for ten years (2.95 ERA with 684 Ks in 625 innings). Tyler still has an edge against RH (.220) and LH (.241) batters. He did struggle in June and July (6.62 ERA) when he allowed five HRs in 17.2 innings. His AFB (91.9) was the lowest since 2009. He had success with his four-season fastball (.196 BAA), slider (.143 BAA), and split-finger fastball (.143 BAA) while his changeup became his losing pitch (.281 BAA - .197 in 2015). Clippard is a fly ball pitcher (50.0 percent – 55.9 in his career) with a plummeting HR/FB rate (12.7 – 8.7 in his career). No chance at saves with best innings behind him.
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