Welcome to The Stew’s annual team elimination posts. Like our video-game posts of last year, these are best done in theme. This time? We’re going with “Game of Thrones.” Each eliminated team will join the “army of the dead.” But we won’t just talk about their demise. We’ll also highlight some positives, pick out a memorable moment, tell you their biggest need and let you know when the club might be good again.
Sorry, New York Yankees, but you won’t sit on the Iron Throne this season.
You shocked everyone by thrusting yourselves into contention before anyone thought possible. Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez destroyed baseballs, Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner and Didi Gregorius had their best years and the bullpen was fearsome.
All of that led to a surprising American League Championship Series in which the Yankees took the Houston Astros to Game 7. Not bad for a rebuilding year.
Now that the young Yankees have mostly arrived, it’s time for the club to assert their status as perennial contenders. There’s still some work to do in the offseason, but things look promising in New York after a tremendous 2017.
Let’s take a look at the season that was in New York:
UNBOWED, UNBENT, UNBROKEN (aka WHAT WENT RIGHT)
The historic season from Aaron Judge got the headlines, but there were contributions from everywhere on the roster. Offensively, Didi Gregorius and Brett Gardner both had career years, which added an unexpected dimension to the Yankees lineup. There was Gary Sanchez, whose home run prowess has rivaled Judge’s when you factor in time missed for injuries. On the pitching side, Luis Severino pitched like an ace during the regular season and again in the ALDS. Reliever Chad Green took a step forward, helping to supplement a bullpen that also employed Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances and a returning David Robertson. Given the development of players across the board and the resiliency shown in the postseason, this season bodes well for the Yankees future. (Mark Townsend)
THE RED WEDDING (aka WHAT WENT WRONG)
The Yankees battled back time after time in the postseason. They just couldn’t muster the offense in Game 7 of the ALCS. If there’s one great concern moving forward, it might that this lineup is prone to being shut down for long stretches by good pitching. That’s problematic in the postseason, where good pitching often rules. Aaron Judge’s strikeout problem is a big part of that. He set a postseason record with 27 strikeouts. The power is good, but the strikeouts will need to be cleaned up. (Townsend)
THE NORTH REMEMBERS (aka MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT)
Pick any Aaron Judge home run. Of all the incredible things to happen to the Yankees in 2017, Judge’s breakout will be the thing everyone remembers. The 25-year-old rookie looked like a long-time veteran, hitting .284/.422/.627, with 52 home runs. He’ll challenge for the American League MVP, and has a shot to beat Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve for the award.
If you’re looking for the one home run that stands out to us the most, take a look at Judge’s ridiculous 495-foot blast from June 11. Yeah, it went over the bleachers in Yankee Stadium. You won’t be surprised to learn that was the longest home run hit this season. (Chris Cwik)
WORDS ARE WIND (aka MOST IMPORTANT THING TO FIX)
In order for the Yankees to capitalize on their surprising run, they’ll need to come back with a better rotation. Many considered the team’s starters the weak point last offseason and they proved everyone wrong. But things are even thinner with Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia hitting free agency.
The Yankees haven’t spent much in recent winters, likely due to the team’s focus on youth. Don’t worry, though, the Yankees still have the money to spend with the best of them. Expect them to go hard after any and all pitchers on the market, including Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta and possibly Shohei Otani. There’s also the possibility they make a deal or two to solve their rotation issues. (Cwik)
A DREAM OF SPRING (aka HOPE FOR THE FUTURE)
It might be a rough couple years for Yankees haters, because there’s still help on the way. Shortstop Gleyber Torres was injured for much of 2017, but he’s expected to be ready for spring training. He’s a consensus top-5 prospect in the game. The Yankees have Gregorius at short now, but Torres is a guy you make room to accommodate.
Pitchers Chance Adams and Domingo Acevedo, and third baseman Miguel Andujar, all reached Triple-A in 2017, and should be up in 2018. They could be joined by pitcher Justus Sheffield, who topped out at Double-A. Outfielder Estevan Florial probably won’t be up in 2018, but he’s another top-100 prospect. Oh, and they still have Clint Frazier.
The Yankees just scratched the surface in 2017. They’ll likely be even stronger in 2018. (Cwik)
PREVIOUSLY IN THIS SERIES
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