After adding Giancarlo Stanton and naming Aaron Boone the manager, many are labeling the Yankees World Series favorites. It’s easy to come to this conclusion, given the 2017 new-look Yankees came up one game short an ALCS win and had one of the best lineups in the MLB. Without a doubt, the Yankees have improved their lineup that has already shown its ability to compete with the best teams in baseball. However, with the powerhouse Houston Astros’ pitching staff standing in the way of a Yankees ALCS title, are the Yankees ready to take the next step and win their 28th world championship?
The 2017 Yankees had a season that shocked even the most optimistic New York fans. Early on, everyone labeled it a “rebuilding year” for the “inexperienced” young players on the Yankees. Thanks to an unexpected breakout year from Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge, along with players including Aaron Hicks, Gary Sanchez, and Didi Gregorius exceeding expectations, the Yankees were able to one produce of the best lineups in baseball. The “Baby Bombers” lead the league in home runs and finished among the top 3 teams in runs scored and OPS.
The effect that Giancarlo Stanton will have on the Yankees offense will be huge. In 2017, he lead the MLB in home runs and RBI in a much weaker Miami lineup. He will benefit not only from finding himself in a lineup stacked from top to bottom, but from the short porch in right field at Yankees stadium. In 2017, Stanton 11 opposite field home runs, and hit many deep fly balls and doubles to right field. In Yankees stadium, many of these balls will find their way into the stands in right. Adding this power, along with veteran Neil Walker and potentially prospects Miguel Andújar and Gleyber Torres down the stretch of the season to a Yankees lineup that was near the top in all categories, will give the Yankees the best lineup in baseball.
To no surprise, the addition of the league leader in home runs has created a lot of hype surrounding the 2018 Yankees team. Many Yankee fans believe he is the final piece they needed to a championship run. The place to start when asking this question is with the team that beat them last year. The Houston Astros 2017 lineup lead the league in batting average, runs scored, and OPS. Even more daunting, the Astros pitching staff, which dominated throughout the postseason, has added starting pitcher Gerrit Cole. If Justin Verlander performs as well as he did down the stretch of the 2017 season, posting a 2.21 ERA in the postseason while facing some of the best lineups in the MLB, it is hard to envision any team beating the Houston Astros in a 7 game series. However, with an improved Yankees lineup and dominant bullpen, the Astros will have extremely tough competition.
While the Yankees likely have the best lineup in baseball and a dominant bullpen, there are major questions regarding their starting rotation. Severino exceeded all expectations in 2017, proving himself as the Yankees ace. However, with only one year at this elite level of performance, it remains to be seen whether he can stay in this ace role. The inconsistency of Tanaka, Montgomery, and Gray adds more concern to the Yankees. While CC Sabathia proved his reliability in clutch situations in 2017, his age and level of play in recent seasons indicate that the Yankees may not be able to count on him again in 2018. Though this rotation is talented, its level of performance could be much weaker than it was in 2017.
To resolve the concerns regarding the Yankees’ starting rotation, I think the Yankees need to add another starting pitcher at the trade deadline to set them up for postseason success. It is unclear whether they will be able to rely on a rotation of Severino, Sabathia, Tanaka and Gray in the playoffs, but with one more talented starter, they can move one of their starts, likely Sonny Gray, to the bullpen for long relief. Along with their lineup and bullpen, having a rotation with one upgraded starter would give the Yankees the talent to win the AL and the World Series.
The final reason for optimism among Yankees’ fans is the addition of manager Aaron Boone. Boone is inexperienced as a manager, but has done a great job creating a loose environment within the locker room, allowing players to feel free while playing, while still maintaining his competitive edge. He appears ready to handle the pressure of being one of the teams to beat in the MLB and already has experience in big moments in New York. Many blamed Joe Girardi for the struggles the Yankees had last year, most notably when he did not challenge a clear call that cost the Yankees a win in Game 2 of the ALDS against the Indians. With any luck, Boone is ready to fill the role and manage this team to play at its highest level.
It would be foolish to say the Yankees will not contend for the 2018 World Series title. On paper, they have the best lineup in baseball along with a deep, talented bullpen. Although I think the Yankees are one starter away from surpassing the Astros as the best team in baseball, there are plenty of reasons for Yankees fans to be excited after the addition of Giancarlo Stanton and installment of manager Aaron Boone, and it is safe to say that this is the most talented Yankees team since their 2009 championship run.