Spring is here and so is another season of New York Yankees Baseball. After winning 100 games last season but getting ousted in the ALDS by the eventual World Series Champion, Boston Red Sox, there are a lot of expectations for second year manager Aaron Boone and his club. Those expectations are nothing short of bringing a 28th World Championship to the Bronx.
With the new season looming, we here at NYYST decided to take a look at a few burning questions for the Bronx Bombers as we head into the 2019 campaign.
Joining me (@Christian_NYYST) for this season preview are members of our writing staff, Liam Wiley (@LiamWiley), Beth Wellington (@beth_wellington), Dan Smith (@dan_smith_22), Brendan Sennott (@Aubdec), Nate Marrero (@Nate_Marrero) and my NYYST Podcast co-host Chris Stacy (@ChrisJr_NYYST).
Let’s jump right into the NYYST Staff 2019 New York Yankees Preview!
Has the recent rash of Yankees injuries hampered your excitement for Opening Day?
Christian Hessenius: While it would be nice to start the season at 100%, outside of Didi Gregorius, none of the injuries appear to be long term. You wait so long for the offseason to finally be over that it’s hard for anything, outside of an injury to Aaron Judge (bite my tongue!) to really hamper my excitement for Opening Day.
Liam Wiley: Not at all. The only one that should be any cause for concern is Luis Severino. His injury is the only one that will last more than a month. No matter what, for me at least, seeing the pinstriped uni's on opening day, no matter who's wearing them, is enough for me.
Beth Wellington: No. The Yankees have enough depth that I think they will overcome the injuries just fine. I would rather have the injuries now than in August or September when we could be in a pennant race.
Dan Smith: No. Obviously you want to see your team at full strength to start the season and would prefer not see bench players starting the first few games of the year, but there’s nothing like Opening Day and the excitement/anticipation for it each year is immeasurable.
Brendan Sennott: Not at all. Baseball is the best. I Love the Yanks, and they still have great players. Can't wait for the season to start!
Nate Marrero: Not at all. This is the most excited I’ve been for Opening Day in a while because on paper, this is the best team the Yankees have had maybe since 2009 and we all remember how that year ended. Seeing if the Yankees can match the high expectations is going to be fun to watch.
Chris Stacy: Nothing can hamper my excitement for Opening Day... It’s OPENING DAY. Nothing else matters to me on Opening Day outside of the fact that I get to watch Yankees’ baseball again.
Which Yankees hitter leads the team in home runs in 2019?
CH: Aaron Judge. I expect a monster year out of #99.
LW: I really think that Aaron Judge might top his incredible rookie year. That being said I think he will lead the Yanks in homers by a decent margin. I can also see a scenario where Giancarlo's full year of experience in the American League last year benefits him and he goes as crazy as he did in 2017.
BW: Aaron Judge. You can almost feel he is going to have a massive year with the way he was hitting in spring training.
DS: Aaron Judge (Over 50)
BS: Aaron Judge will hit 54.
NM: Aaron Judge. He’s had a great Spring Training and I think that carries over into the regular season.
CS: Judge. He’s going to have a MONSTER year.
When Luis Severino returns from injury will he return to being the “Ace” of the Yankees?
CH: We won’t see the real Sevy until June, even though he is slated to return before that. He’ll need a few weeks to hit his stride. He’ll have a lot to prove after the bad second half of 2018 and his new extension and he will.
LW: I do think his loss of time will affect him a bit. His velocity may be down a tad, but I think he'll pitch through it until he finds his good stuff again. I'd say, by June we'll see "LuACE Severino" in full force.
BW: Yes. I think Sevy figured out what the issue was the end of the last season (Boone hinted at Sevy tipping his pitches). Sevy knows what needs to be done.
DS: Yes, he has always had the tools to be an ace, and I think 2019 is the year he puts it all together and becomes an elite starter.
BS: If he is showing no ill effects from his shoulder, and he has his good velocity he will be an "ace"
NM: If he’s fully healthy and has fixed his issue with tipping pitches I think he’ll be the ace of the staff. The Yankees need Severino to be fully healthy though to match up with the other team’s ace in the playoffs. I hope the Yankees and Severino are super cautious with his return because a season-ending injury drops their chances of winning a World Series dramatically.
CS: He better. There’s no light way of putting it. This injury is no excuse, Sevy needs to be the ace of the New York Yankees in 2019. I think he comes back and dominates.
Does CC Sabathia finish the season in the rotation?
CH: I’ve been on record numerous times as saying that the Yankees are just looking to get to mid-July with CC and then go and make a trade. I still feel that way but I think the Big Fella has more in the tank than people think. To answer the question, no I don’t think he’ll be in the rotation come September.
LW: As much as I would like to say yes, I just can't see a scenario where he does. He's nearing 40 years of age and he has had knee problems since 2014. Not to mention the fact that he is putting nearly 300 lbs of weight on that knee. I think CC will be very solid while he stays in the rotation, but he may have cut his career short or move to the pen.
BW: That’s tough. I want him to. I think the knee will be an issue more than the heart condition. Given the bullpen the Yankees have, yes. I think he will be in the rotation.
DS: No, he will likely be transitioned into a bullpen/spot starter role with the return of Jordan Montgomery at some point during the season and a potential deadline move for a starter.
BS: Probably not. My guess is he ends up in pen after the Yanks acquire a frontline starter at the trade deadline.
NM: I believe he will. He’s by far the Yankees most experienced pitcher in the postseason, so I expect Aaron Boone to manage his workload so he’s fresh come October. I’d think there’s going a decent amount of six man rotations or the Yankees starting guys like Gio Gonzalez, Luis Cessa or Domingo German in Sabathia’s place to make sure he’s at his best when it matters most.
CS: Yes. CC Sabathia will do whatever his body and performance allows him to do. If he’s having a decent season and his knee/heart is holding strong, there’s no reason why he can’t finish out the regular season in the rotation.
What are your expectations for Gary Sanchez this season?
CH: To absolutely destroy American League Pitching and play good enough defense to get fans to stop complaining about passed balls.
LW: Nobody will deny that Gary Sanchez was downright sickening to watch at times last year. He had an average below .200 and surrendered passed ball after passed ball. But let's not forget how good this guy was from the second he came up in 2016 until the start of 2018. I really don't think someone as talented as him is destined for mediocrity just because of one bad year. I think Gary will be scary once again in 2019.
BW: Get ready Gary haters! Gary will return to his 2016 form for hitting. We have already seen his improvement behind the plate this spring. Gary will be comeback player for the Yankees this year.
DS: I expect Gary to bounce back and hit the way we all know he can. 2016 and 2017 were no flukes, as Gary is arguably the most valuable player in the league at his position. His defense has shown improvement this spring, and he has had lots of quality at bats, solid contact, and his approach of using all parts of the ballpark will pay dividends in the regular season.
BS: Not high. I hope he has matured, and is not as pull conscious at the plate and resembles the guys we saw in 2016 when he came up.
NM: Injuries were a major reason why Gary Sanchez had such a down year in 2019. With him coming into this season healthy and refocused, I expect him to be back around 30 home runs and around 100 RBIs.
CS: .267/38/105 - sheeeeeeeeit.
Who will be the Yankees starting 1B by the end of the season: Luke Voit, Greg Bird or someone else?
CH: Greg Bird. Even when Didi comes back they’ll still need some lefty pop to balance the lineup. This also might be more wishful thinking that he’ll finally live up to the potential we saw at the end of 2015.
LW: This is tough. If I'm being completely honest, I have no idea. However, for the sake of this article, I'll go with Greg Bird. I truly think he's as good as we've always been told he could be. I love Voit and I do think he'll last the entire year on the MLB roster, but Bird will mainly be the guy at first.
BW: I’m #TeamVoit on this, so I have to choose him.
DS: Luke Voit. The job is his to lose, and as his workout videos would suggest, he plans to keep it. The organization, fans, and his teammates have all embraced him and the energy/enthusiasm he brings, and it has become clear that Bird is no longer the word in the Bronx.
BS: Luke Voit. I think he is the real deal, and the next big Yankee star.
NM: As much as the Yankees need an impact left-handed bat, I’ve learned to stop putting my faith into Greg Bird. I expect Luke Voit to be the starting 1B at the end of the season.
CS: Luke Voit. He may not be as magical as he portrayed at the end of 2018, but his presence alone will make him an impact to the team. He’s solid, very talented, and hungry. He needs to stay patient and not get ahead of himself.
Does Didi Gregorius make a significant impact on this team in 2019?
CH: Didi Gregorius will seamlessly slot right back into the lineup and play a stellar SS. It might take a few weeks to work out the kinks but we’ll see the Didi we all love at some point this year.
LW: Didi is my guy. He's been my favorite player since '16 and I DEVASTATED when I found out he needed Tommy John Surgery. I think it will take him some time to get back into the swing of things on the offensive side but come playoff baseball time, he will be the same old Didi we know and love.
BW: I think it depends on when Didi comes back. If he comes back in June/July, yes, he will. It will be harder for him to make an impact if he doesn’t make it back until August.
DS: Yes. While the time of his return is still not set in stone, Didi is likely to play at least a month or two this season, and the addition of his bat to the lineup when he is healthy will be huge for the Yankees down the stretch as they look to hopefully lock up the division. Also, he will be fully healthy by the time October rolls around, where he has already shown a knack for hitting in the clutch.
BS: Yes. Didi is the consummate pro. His return will make a huge impact if only from a leadership stand point, and his clutch bat.
NM: Offensively I think he will. The Yankees can really use his bat given how right handed heavy they are. Defensively, I think he’ll have less of an impact on the team because of how long it takes to get back to full strength from Tommy john surgery. The Yankees infield depth should allow the Yankees to take their time with Gregorius make sure he’s at 100% before he plays shortstop again.
CS: Unfortunately, I say no. But I hope I’m wrong. Not on the field at least, but absolutely in the clubhouse.
Which player will be the biggest disappointment in 2019?
CH: Everyone got so upset when I asked this on Twitter but it’s something that needed to be asked. Every year some player under performs (Hi, 2018 Gary Sanchez) and in 2019, to me (and I’m changing my answer from a recent episode of the NYYST Podcast) it will be Aaron Hicks. The extension was immediately followed by an injury and I just have a feeling he’ll be trying to live up to it and play catch up all season long.
LW: Don't make me do this. I don't really see anyone being a "disappointment" (although it’s inevitable that at least one player will be). I suppose I'll go with Troy Tulowitzki. For starters, I don't think he'll stay healthy and I don't think he's going to hit well. With that being said I hope he proves me wrong and becomes the comeback player of the year.
BW: Aroldis Chapman. He makes me uneasy every time he goes out there. Throwing hard is not enough. Unless he can figure out the new pitch he’s working on, I think he gets rocked a few times. Couple that with his ongoing knee problems, I think he’s going to have issues.
DS: Greg Bird. While Luke Voit is currently the starting first baseman, Bird will have an opportunity early on to show he deserves to be in the Majors with the injuries to Aaron Hicks and Didi Gregorius freeing up roster spots. However, I believe Bird’s struggles from 2018 will continue, and he’ll spend much of 2019 either riding the pine or in AAA.
BS: Brett Gardner. The Yanks gave him that sentimental contract, and it could hurt them. His recent history of bad second halves makes me nervous.
NM: Troy Tulowitzki. The chances he stays healthy is very slim and I don’t know how much he has left in the tank with everything his body has gone through. I think it would’ve been better to stick with Gleyber Torres at short then put DJ LeMahieu at second while Didi is out.
CS: Aaron Hicks. We are all starting to love the guy. He gets his money and years. And now I think we see a big drop off. Not because he’s complacent, but that’s just how some things go in the Bronx. He’s another solid player, but 2019 will not be his season.
Who will be this team’s MVP in 2019?
CH: I said it earlier and I’ll say it again, I expect a monster year out of Aaron Judge. He’ll undoubtedly be the Yankees MVP and he should be the AL MVP too.
LW: Aaron James Judge. Explanation: see what I wrote for "Which Yankees hitter leads the team in home runs in 2019?"
BW: Aaron Judge. I think Judge will be an AL MVP candidate.
DS: Aaron Judge. What else is there to say about this guy? He has quickly become the face of not only the New York Yankees, but also Major League Baseball. He is an elite player on both sides of the ball, and quite possibly the next captain of the Yankees.
BS: Aaron Judge. He looked awesome this spring. He changed his 2 strike approach. He may win the MVP of the whole league. .285 54 HR 150+ RBI, 100 + runs scored.
NM: This team will go as far as Aaron Judge takes them and his value to this team became painfully obvious when they struggled while he was out with the fractured wrist last season. If he can get through 2019 fully healthy then I expect him to not just be the Yankees MVP, but also be a front runner for AL MVP.
CS: Judge. End of story. Might be the American League’s MVP as well...
When the 2019 season ends, how far did the Yankees go?
CH: To the Canyon of Heroes.
LW: I'm biased to the max when it comes to this question, but I think even those who hate the Yankees see them as an extremely realistic option to make or win the World Series. A steady rotation, a stacked bullpen, and if last year was any indication, possibly the most powerful lineup of all time. You heard it here first; on the 10-year anniversary of the 2009 championship, the New York Yankees will have their 28th championship.
BW: I think there is enough talent and depth to win it all. The offense is great, the bullpen is great. If Sevy comes back and is back to being Sevy, they can do it.
DS: World Series Champions
BS: If Sevy comes back and is the dominant ace World Series champs. If he is inconsistent they will lose in the ALCS to Houston.
NM: I still think this teams tops out at the ALCS. My biggest concern is still Aaron Boone in the playoffs. He made many questionable decisions in the ALDS that really hurt the team. Going up against another great team, the thought of Boone having to match X’s and O’s to give his team an edge over teams managed by Cora, AJ Hinch or Terry Francona—three of the best managers in baseball who have all won at least one world series doesn’t inspire much confidence.
CS: Aaron Boone is taking selfies in the Canyon of Heroes, celebrating the 28th World Series Championship of the New York Yankees.
I would like to thank the NYYST Writing Staff for joining me on this season preview and I’d like to thank you for reading. The 2019 Yankees season looks to be a promising one that hopefully ends with a nice parade in early November.