Play Ball! NY Yankees Preview

Yankees Preview 2016

By Christopher Saunders
The  New York Yankees have high expectations for both their experienced and their younger players throughout the 2016 season; in fact they’re  depending on them to really step up and help carry the team.  A closer look at the positions and the players who cover them will help both the diehard and novel Yankee fan begin the season with some useful information.
Let’s  begin with the players already in the rotation:  Luis Severino, Michael Pineda, and Nathan Eovaldi.  All three are keys to the Yankees’ success and their ability to advance in the standings. Severino will get his first opportunity to prove himself  at the big league level and for a full season after being completely impressive in his initial taste of MLB in 2015. The biggest task for Pineda and Eovaldi will be to avoid injuries. Both seemed right on the verge of putting it all together last season before injuries sidelined them for extended periods of time. With all of the uncertainty that continues to surround Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow, these are the pitchers on whom the team will depend to carry them.
If there’s one thing the Yankees do well, it’s compiling a strong bullpen, something they have done year after year for close to a decade now.  The 2016 bullpen will be no different with Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller , Dellin Betances, and others finishing out games this season. This year,  the Yankees have compiled one of the strongest bullpens in baseball with these three pitchers.  Either one  could be the team’s closer. Even without Chapman for the first 30 games of the season, Miller could be the team’s closer (if he can pitch through a chip fracture in his non-throwing wrist which he suffered Wednesday against the Braves), with Betances as the setup man and possibly the closer if Miller is unable to pitch.
Beyond the Yankees top three guys in the bullpen,  New York will be depending on some young middle relievers to bridge the cap.  LHP Chasen Shreve is the lone lefty option out of the Yankees pen, while RHPs’ Luis Cessa (acquired in the Wilson trade), and Johnny Barbato (acquired via the Shawn Kelly trade with Padres) will be the middle relievers.  Both pitchers will need to mimic former Yankee reliever Adam Warren and  try to make the middle part of the ball game easier for the big three.
The infield of  newcomer Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius give the Yankees an  exciting double play duo, something the team hasn’t seen in quite awhile.  Gregorius showed Yankees fans what he was capable of last year when he took  over for Derek Jeter, improving as the season went along.  Castro has it a bit easier this season,  replacing Stephen Drew instead of a legend, Derek Jeter.  His career has been a bit of a roller coaster to this point, but perhaps pinstripes are the cure to what has ailed him.  Wearing white and blue stripes has certainly had a positive effect on a couple of his teammates, namely Didi Gregorius and starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi.
Health will also be one of the biggest things hanging over the Yankees in 2016. Many of the team’s regular players experienced injuries that hampered performance or forced them on to the disabled list in 2015.  Keeping older players fresh and injury-free will be a huge task for manager Joe Girardi as he tries to keep Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran, and Mark Teixeira in the lineup.
The outlook for the outfield is especially fragile with all three starters prone to injury.  The 2015 Yankees were at their best when Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury were healthy and producing at the top of the lineup. Both of them experienced injuries and struggles last season that they’ll be looking to shake in 2016.  Hopefully, they can get back to being a dynamic duo that sets the table for power bats in the middle of the order.
The final yet vital thing to keep an eye out for in 2016 will be the team’s continued youth movement to progress forward.  Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Rob Refsnyder, and Ben Gamel are right on the doorstep of the majors heading into the season.  None of the above, except maybe  for Sanchez, will likely find their way into a starting role unless a starter is injured, but having that kind of player ready to step in if there is an emergency could be huge.

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