“65 Mustangs” The House that Hal Built. AL East Preview of the New York Yankees.
In the heyday of George Steinbrenner the Yankees always found a way to beat the clock. They constantly churned minor leaguers for veterans who had a good year or two left and augmented with big time Free Agent signings from Reggie Jackson & Catfish Hunter to CC Sabathia and Mark Texiera. Something changed along the way and it is not the Yanks willingness to spend that changed. Instead it is the players themselves that have been brought here to win. George always knew the winners. The guys with the flair for dramatic World Series victories were always welcome in the Bronx. Alex Rodriguez was perfect for the Yankees no matter which Steinbrenner takes the credit for signing him. But, timing is everything and A-Roid got caught in the whirlwind that has become the banned substance witch hunt. Sure, he is guilty as charged, but the Yanks have suffered more from this signing than some people realize. No one will feel bad for the Yanks though, especially after being suckered into re-upping A-Roid for 10 more years when that opt out moment was the chance to walk away. No one feels sorry for the Yankees, and rightly so. (That was hard to say as a lifelong Yankee fan, but the truth is the truth.)
So, here are the Yanks. They are old, battered and bruised. They are closer to “one last chance” than they are to “building for the future.” Fantasy wise there are some gems and some landmines. This is a team that probably has enough to win it all, while at the same time having the possibility of finishing last. It all boils down to health. Last week I analyzed the Boston Red Sox and next week we can talk about the defending AL East Champion Orioles.
Catcher: Brian McCann – Did you know that he lead the Yankees in HR(23) & RBI(75) in a 2014 season that was considered a down year for him? That is more a damnation of the 2014 Yanks offense than a cut against McCann. McCann used to be great in fantasy, always one of the first few catchers off the board, and may even still be a top 10 catcher. He is usually drafted far too early by owners hoping for that middle of the order force that he was not too long ago. He is 31 now which is not ancient, but the wrong side of 30 for a catcher. He’s hit 20 or more HR 7 years in a row and 8 of his last 9, so I’d expect more of the same, but he’s tailed off in so many other categories that it is alarming. From age 22 to 26 he averaged 35 doubles, 92 RBI and a BA between .290 & .300 but the last 4 seasons he has not cracked 20 doubles nor hit higher than .270. He hit .230 in 2 of the past 3 seasons. His Average has followed his Babip for his whole career and that number has been equally putrid the past 3 seasons. It is clear that he does not hit the ball with authority like he did 5 years ago. Maybe it is the over shift? I’d draft him in the 15th to 20th where similar catchers fall, but he won’t make it that far. If he leads the Yanks in HR & RBI again the Yanks are in serious trouble.
AAA Catcher: Gary Sanchez – Sanchez probably needs another year or so at AAA but he can hit. He is only 22 and has been in the Yanks system since he was 17, flashing extra base power and nearly 20 HR with good BA & OBP numbers. But catchers are a dime a dozen at that level so I see no reason in fantasy to stash him. I see his arrival as 2016 with a possible cup of Joe this season if he hits in AAA. It is safe to say 2015 is a make or break year for this guy to keep that prospect tag.
First Base: Mark Teixeira – He’s a slick fielding 1b man and a nice guy, but that won’t help you in fantasy. When healthy he is a slugger that will give you 30/100 but he has been plagued by an assortment of maladies the last few seasons and it is sapping him of all of his value. Or maybe it is the over shift? Like McCann, Tex’s first half of his career produced an Extra Base Hit Percentage of about 11% every season, but that has not cracked double digits in the last 5 years. It is most noticeable in the doubles category making him now a 2 category contributor at best and that is if he can stay on the field. 30 HR hitters are rare in recent seasons so Tex will be owned universally and will probably land on several of my rosters if he falls to the 12th. He’ll also turn 35 the 2nd week of the season.
AAA First Base: Aaron Judge – This Cal-State product burst on the scene in 2014 and is one of the most exciting minor league hitters the Yanks own. I need to see more than one season of success from him but he looks to be the real deal. It is also unclear if he will hit for major power as he is more of a line drive hitter at this point but they say the power is coming. Reggie Jackson has compared him to Willie Stargell and Dave Winfield has been mentoring him in Spring training. He was optioned out yesterday but he’ll be 23 in April so we may not have to wait too long to see him. Worth a flyer if your league stash’s minor leaguers.
What’s on Second: Stephen Drew, Rob Refsnyder, Brendan Ryan, Jose Pirela – What happened to Brian Roberts? We’ve all heard the jokes. But, seriously, Drew actually is a double digit HR hitting infielder who will have 2b and SS eligibility in 2015. He should go undrafted but would be a safe plug and play if you need one. It is also his 32nd birthday today. Ryan will make the team as a utility infielder but has no fantasy relevance. Pirela may make the team, especially if A-Rod can’t play 3b (more jokes). He has hit for power in the minors but seems to need 2 full seasons at each stop which is a red flag development wise. Can we stop with the jokes now? Drew will start the season at 2b but I bet we get a good dose of Pirela and Refsnyder when all is said and done. I’m not sure who, if any of them, will end up contributing in fantasy in 2015. Maybe it will be this guy:
AAA 2B Rob Refsnyder: The one I want to own is Refsnyder. Like Judge he was drafted out of college (AZ State) so we don’t have a lengthy minor league book on him but he hits with authority and has been compared to Dustin Pedroia. Tanya Bondurant had this to say about Refsnyder in her column on Pinstripe Alley.
Happy Birthday Stephen: Live long and prosper.
Shortstop: Didi Gregorious – The Yanks were smart not to bring in Troy Tulowitzki to replace Derek Jeter. Expectations and pressure would have cracked a bone or two in his fragile body. Instead they brought in the slick fielding Gregorious who will have no hitting expectations placed on him. He should go undrafted in fantasy.
Third Base: Chase Headley – Chase is another smart signing by the suddenly frugal Yankees. He can field (1b & 3b) and can hold his own with the bat, slugging over 30 HR three long years ago playing in Petco Park. But I think he is more valuable in real baseball than in fantasy baseball. He is the 3b version of Stephen Drew. and reminds me of former Yank WS hero Scott Brosius. I’d draft him late as a bench player but I don’t draft bench players. 16 HR and a .275 AVG is what you’ll probably get unless he finds the short porch to his liking.
Outfield: Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Brett Gardner, Chris Young – Offensively this is where you will find some fantasy value on the Yanks. Ellsbury will get you steals, average and runs if someone drives him in. He’ll also be drafted far too soon for my liking as his power wanes a bit more every season. Beltran can still hit and knows how to hit in October. The question is whether or not his knees will hold up until then or if the Yanks will even be playing in October. (More jokes) He should be the DH but there is a line of players ahead of him starting with A-Rod. I don’t see Beltran playing all season in RF and hope he’ll be the DH full time at some point. A healthy 500 AB will give you 25 HR and 90 RBI with a good average. Brett Gardner is a streaky hitter. He was so good last July that I traded for him. I missed the playoffs. Gardner is similar to Shane Victorino. He makes for a good 5th OF’er and will give you double digit HR, has 30 SB speed and a decent average. If he was better at getting on base he could score 100 runs hitting at the top of the order. From the scary stat department, Gardner will be 32 in August. The Yanks could have traded him for Brandon Phillips last season. I’m glad they didn’t but he is not going to win you a league if you trade for him in July. Chris Young is BJ Upton’s older brother. He teased us with dreams of 30/30 years ago and some fantasy players are still clinging to that. But the problem is that major league pitching will not let him get there. He should be an undrafted waiver wire plug-&-play that may net you some HR if he plays. He will play some as the aforementioned group of OF will likely see plenty of DL time.
Designated Hitter: Alex Rodriguez, Garret Jones, whoever is too sore to play the field – There is no need for me to talk about Alex. He is 40 and has not played in nearly 2 years. He’ll get drafted late as a flyer in every league for the simple fact that he has hit 650 HR with nearly 2,000 Runs and RBI. (I might draft him but don’t tell anyone) I don’t quite understand the Garret Jones signing. It reminds me of the Red Sox with Alan Craig. He has no position but will play because of injuries. He may even hit 15 HR and knock in 60. He should go undrafted but will be there when you need him.
This is not a playoff caliber offense unless EVERYONE stays healthy. (Go ahead and get out the last couple of jokes now)
Masahiro Tanaka – Plain and simple he is either healthy or not. Right now he appears to be healthy. How much risk are you willing to take as he could be a slight tear away from Tommy John surgery at any point? I think he is like Matt Harvey in that he is somehow able to heal better than others. Maybe he is superhuman. Maybe it is something in the Sushi and Seaweed. This guy is a stud and I’m not going to worry about his elbow. Any pitcher who walks up a mound is a candidate to blow out an elbow or a shoulder. But few can pitch like him. I traded a 10th round pick for him in my keeper league (we keep 4) and only had to drop David Wright to do it. I can’t wait for the season to start. He is a top 5 SP, especially with Darvish out.
Michael Pineda – Pineda is an ace in the making. He is only 26 and has very little mileage on that right arm of his missing essentially 2 and a half seasons with surgeries. I hate to sound cliché but he turned from a thrower to a pitcher during that time off working with Larry Rothchild and others. In his sensational rookie campaign in Seattle he had a K Rate just above 9 and a walk rate around 3 per 9 innings just like he did in the minors. In 13 starts covering 76 innings in 2014 his K rate was only 7 per 9 innings, but he only walked 7 as well. 7 walks total in 76 innings giving him a serious 8.5 K/BB ratio, 1.89 ERA and .825 WHIP. I hope he falls to the mid rounds and I can picture him on all my teams. He will likely have his innings monitored.
CC Sabathia – None of us knows what we’ll get from CC. He was arguably in decline already before getting hurt, but it was his knee and not his arm that did him in. Maybe the rest did him good. He is a bulldog though and I’d love to see him have a good bounce back season. I think he’ll fall very far in drafts but he won’t go undrafted. Pick him as your last SP but don’t start him until May. Even when healthy his ERA in April was 2 runs higher than the rest of the season.
Nathan Eovaldi – The plum of the Marlins trade, Eovaldi could be the bargain of this staff, but he may be better in the real game than our game. He is a pitch to contact pitcher so he will not get you 200 k’s or a 1.1 WHIP as he gives up hits, but he dramatically cut his walk rate in half in 2014 and is only 25 years old this season. He has been known to get his fastball up into the high 90’s and was clocked at 100 once in 2014 so perhaps the K’s are coming. He is not an ace but is certainly better than a streamer in my opinion. Draft late.
Chris Capuano, Ivan Nova, Chase Whitley, Adam Warren – There is nothing to talk about here unless Nova recovers and puts up a good 4 months or so. Warren would be more valuable setting up Bettances and Miller. If the Yanks contend (stop with the jokes already) watch Cashman pick up a high end SP like Cole Hamels or Cliff Lee if his arm does not fall off first. Unless of course this guy is ready for the majors at some point in 2015:
AAA SP: Luis Severino – He has a low to mid 90’s fastball along with a serious slider and changeup which leads him to more than one strikeout an inning. He does not walk many and can get the fastball up to 98 if he needs to. The Yanks are fast tracking this guy and he may still be available in most Dynasty Leagues. He was optioned out yesterday, but he could pitch in NY in 2015 and will probably have a rotation spot no later than 2016. Martin Stozano of Pinstripe Alley gives a very detailed analysis of Severino here.
Dellin Betances: Stop with the “Miller may end up closing” talk. Miller was not brought in to close games no matter how big his contract is. He is one of the best lefty specialists in the game and will continue to be, but he has no more closer experience than Betances (each has one career save). Betances will close and get you 100 strikeouts. If Betances fails I would be surprised, however I’m not expecting the 2nd coming of Mo. I’d pick him right after the top 4 or 5 closers as he is that good. When the closer run starts I’ll add him to my queue, hopefully not too late.
Andrew Miller: Lefty specialists seldom become closers. He is only 29 and spent the bulk of his early career as a SP, but I’m pretty confident he will be one of the best and most expensive lefty specialists in the game in 2015. In a balanced scoring league he is a top 10 reliever. In a league that counts holds he is a top 5 middle reliever. In any league he should be owned.
David Carpenter: I’ve used him the last few season but to be honest he disappointed last season. I won’t draft him but if he starts picking up holds I’ll scoop him up.
A bunch of other guys: Any reliever who gets outs and racks up Holds and IRS can have value. Like any team’s middle relief, keep watching to see who rises to the occasion. If Warren is not starting then he may be a good pickup for Holds, IRS, etc.
The Yankees spend to win and did not bring in guys like Tanaka to watch the World Series from Japan, but there are just too many injury concerns, questions, holes and age to take them seriously unless everything goes right. We all know it usually doesn’t.
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