2017 Bold Predictions: The New York Yankees edition

As we prepare for yet another season of Yankees baseball, I thought it would be pertinent to write my second annual bold predictions piece. First and foremost, it's hard to not look forward to the start of the 2017 season. Unlike in recent years, the Yankees are not an aging team comprised primarily of washed up veterans being paid money they are no longer earning. Granted, the Bombers do still have a few of those players left on the roster, but the story heading into 2017 is the youth movement. Bearing in mind the excitement felt by the fan base and my own personal feelings, I've compiled a list of 10 bold predictions for the 2017 team. Some may seem a bit more outlandish than others, but all are certainly possible.

I'd like to preface the substantive portion of my piece by stating that I do not truly believe all of my predictions will come to fruition. I have a much dimmer outlook for the 2017 New York Yankees. While the Baby Bombers will indeed be exciting to watch, the roster likely has too many weaknesses to overcome.

Photo Credit: Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports


1. The Yankees will clinch a playoff spot.

The Yankees have only made the playoffs once in the last four years. They have not won a playoff game since defeating the Baltimore Orioles in game five of the 2012 American League Division Series. The Bombers' sole playoff appearance was the snooze fest of a wild card match up with the Houston Astros in 2015. That being said, the Yankees are due. The AL East is yet again one of, if not the, toughest divisions in all of baseball. In all likelihood, either the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, or Baltimore Orioles will win the division crown.

If things go right, the Yankees can leapfrog one of these teams. This prediction is clearly contingent upon the Baby Bombers meeting their offensive potential, the bullpen coming together as it is expected to, and the starting rotation somehow not being the disaster that most are expecting it to be. On a good day, and for the purposes of this article, I'm assuming things will go right for the Yankees this season. Should that occur, I see this team winning 84-88 games. That might just be enough to snag the second wild card spot.

2. The Yankees will win at least one playoff game.

Following a logical line of reasoning, in order for prediction two to come to fruition, prediction one must occur first. Assuming all things go right in 2017, I still do not think it is possible for the Bombers to win the division. They will instead win the AL Wild Card Game. This game is a complete crap shoot. I'm going to go out on a limb here, and say that if the Yankees can snag a wild card spot, they will take full advantage and make up for their pathetic performance in 2015.

I'm trying to be as optimistic as possible while writing this, but I still cannot bring myself to say that the Yankees will win a playoff series with their starting rotation. Needless to say, I can write with a certain degree of confidence, that the Yankees are capable of making an appearance in, and winning, the AL Wild Card game. Consistent with my bold predictions theme, this is what will happen. The Yankees will upset either the Blue Jays or Orioles and move on to the divisional series, where they will ultimately lose.

3. The rotation will perform much better than expected.

This may turn out to be my boldest prediction, but bear with me. Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, and CC Sabathia are either free agents, or have the potential to be. While Tanaka has an opt out clause after the 2017 season, Pineda and Sabathia will definitely enter free agency. All three will be motivated by their future earnings potential. Luis Severino has been announced as the fourth starter. This will be the year that he finally figures it out. Severino will prove that he is not destined for the bullpen. He will rediscover the talent he displayed following his 2015 call up, and become a solid member of the rotation for years to come. Though the Yankees have not officially announced the number five starter, it will be either Jordan Montgomery, Chad Green, or Bryan Mitchell. Since Mitchell made the opening day roster out of the bullpen, it appears that he may have the advantage. Either way, these three pitchers have the potential to be reliable arms at the backend of the rotation. Side note, I'd love to see Montgomery win the spot.

Photo Credit: Matt Rourke/AP

4. Matt Holliday will hit 30 home runs to couple with 100 RBIs.

Assuming Holliday can stay healthy, he is more than capable of putting up these kind of numbers. Ever since the departure of Robinson Cano following the 2013 season, the Yankees have been lacking a dominant presence in the middle of the lineup. Granted, Holliday is 37-years old and by no means a long-term solution; however, getting full time at bats as a DH will certainly help him moving forward. Without the heightened injury risk that comes with playing the field, Holliday shouldn't have much of a problem staying healthy. He has raked throughout spring training, and I have no reason to believe that trend will not continue. Simply put, if Holliday stays healthy, his veteran presence and offensive performance will go a long way in determining the fate of the 2017 New York Yankees.

5. Gary Sanchez will be the starting catcher for the American League All-Star team.

Gary Sanchez is undoubtedly the most exciting player on the Yankees roster heading into 2017. During spring training, the young catcher has picked up where he left off at the conclusion of the 2016 season. He's still hitting bombs and throwing out those baserunners foolish enough to attempt stealing on his arm. I have no reason to believe that Sanchez won't continue his dominance next season. Expecting the youngster to replicate the impressive pace he performed at in 2016 is a bit unfair, but he's certainly capable of it. Come July, Sanchez will be representing the Yankees as the American League's starting catcher.

6. In the thick of both divisional and wild card races, the Yankees will make a consequential move at the trade deadline.

This may be one of my most speculative predictions. Over the last few years, the Yankees have either stood pat or been sellers at the deadline. Should a need arise, likely in the starting pitching department, the Yankees certainly have the assets to improve via the trade market. The Yankees are wisely invested in the future. This reality, however, does not preclude them from fielding a contending ball club. The 2017 team has the ability to compete. If the Bombers find themselves within striking distance of a playoff spot come July, don't be surprised if Brian Cashman pulls the trigger on a deal that will not cost the team too much in terms of prospects.

Photo Credit: Reinhold Matay/ USA TODAY Sports

7. Aaron Judge will begin hitting for contact more and not striking out as much.

Yesterday, the Yankees officially announced that Judge will be the team's starting right fielder. Judge will answer the call this season. Following his call up last August, Aaron Judge struck out at an alarmingly high rate. Sure, he showed some tremendous power potential, but striking out roughly 60 percent of the time is not viable for a major leaguer. This spring, fortunately, Judge has cut his strikeouts down to a more respectable level. We all know Judge's potential. This is the one major flaw of his game. He will build on the progress he's made this spring, and strike out less, while simultaneously bringing his average up with more base hits.

8. Greg Bird will emerge as one of the league's premier first basemen.

Greg Bird's bat has not lost a beat. He's been tearing the cover off the ball this spring training. After being sidelined for the entire 2016 season because of injury, Bird has shown that he is ready for primetime. With the retirement of Mark Teixeira and recent injury to Tyler Austin, the pathway has been paved for Bird to begin what will hopefully be a long stint in pinstripes. His defensive skills may not match those of his predecessor; however, Bird's bat just might. Playing a full season, where half of the games will be played at lefty-friendly Yankee Stadium, should induce Bird to become a 30 home run, 100 RBI player. Big things will be coming Bird's way in 2017. I would not be surprised if he earns himself an all star spot.

9. Jacoby Ellsbury will finally put up numbers consistent with his pay grade.

In light of the optimistic mood swirling around the Yankees at this juncture in time, I decided I'd extend some good faith to the player who has been robbing the Yankees blind (quite literally). In perhaps one of the worst moves during his long tenure in the Bronx, Cashman signed Ellsbury to a 7-year, $153 million contract after the 2013 season. Ever since his first year in pinstripes, Ellsbury has struggled. Due to his streaky tendencies, Ellsbury has shown flashes of the player he was in Boston, but those have been few and far in between. Whether we like it or not, Ellsbury will be in pinstripes until 2020. No team will want that atrocity of a contract. This year, something will click for Ellsbury. Contrary to common sense and father time, he will improve, and start to earn his pay check. Well, at least we can hope.

10. The bullpen (in its entirety, not just three pitchers) will be one of the most dominant relief units in the league.

This may be the least boldest of my bold predictions. We all know that Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, and Tyler Clippard will be comprise a more than formidable back end of the bullpen. Many don't realize that the other pitchers who will join these three in the bullpen have the potential to make this unit even more dominant. The Yankees have announced that Adam Warren, Bryan Mitchell, Jonathan Holder, Tommy Layne, and Chasen Shreve will constitute the remaining bullpen spots. By April 16, however, the Yankees will have to make a roster move for fifth starter. This will either be a promotion for Mitchell, or a demotion for one of these pitchers, followed by the call up of Montgomery of Green. Either way, this relief unit may be one of the best in the league.

Conclusion:

The 2017 New York Yankees are still a team in transition, but not one resigned to a season of failure. If things go right, this team has the potential to contend, while at the same time build for the future. For the first time in a long time, I'm genuinely excited for the start of baseball season. Many of these predictions may not come to fruition, but if even a few do (specifically the player specific ones), I will be pleased. This season, we should be more concerned with player development, rather than overall team performance.

The Yankees will snag a wild card spot, win the wild card game, and then lose in the division series. Okay, this may be a stretch, but better to be bold than modest!

Article by Steven Eareckson

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