How do the Yankees' position players stack up against AL foes?
We all know how last season ended, seeing the Houston Astros celebrate winning the American League Championship, while the Yankees left Minute Maid Park dejected. While the 2017 team over-performed greatly it was still a bitter pill to swallow that they came so close from appearing in a record 41st World Series. While last season did not end up the way the organization, players and fans had hoped, it gave everyone so much hope as to what was to come in 2018. After re-loading this Winter with the trades that brought Giancarlo Stanton and Brandon Drury to the Bronx as well as bringing back CC Sabathia the Yankees look even stronger than they finished 2017. (With apologies to Chase Headley, Bryan Mitchell and Starlin Castro). The American League boasts 15 teams, but in all likelihood, there’s only three that stand in their way of getting to the World Series. The most likely team being the defending champion Houston Astros, the Cleveland Indians who the Yankees disposed of in the ALDS, and the Yankees longtime rival the Boston Red Sox. Let’s take a peek at how the Bronx Bombers stack up to their American League adversaries.
Position by Position Breakdowns
1: Catcher - Gary Sanchez vs. Christian Vazquez (BOS), Roberto Perez/Yan Gomes (CLE) and Brian McCann (HOU). This one is pretty obvious and I’m sure fans of the other three teams would agree with me here. Gary Sanchez is far and away the cream of the crop of this group. He’s arguably the best hitting backstop in the game with a rifle in his right arm. He’s had major hiccups blocking the ball, but if he can improve that, he’ll be a mega-star for years to come. Vazquez is a very good defensive catcher but has done little with the bat. Neither Perez nor Gomes do anything overly tremendous that would make you want to write home about, and old pal Brian McCann’s All-Star days are long behind him. The winner is the Yankees.
2: First Base - Greg Bird vs. Hanley Ramirez/Mitch Moreland (BOS), Yonder Alonso (CLE) and Yuli Gurriel (HOU). This isn’t the greatest group you’ll ever see among teams that could contend for a championship. While Bird could become the best player of the group, I just can’t justify having him as the top guy due to his young career being derailed by injuries. Boston’s Hanley Ramirez has the rawest power of the group, but he will be splitting time with Mitch Moreland this year so that takes him out of contention. Alonso had a breakout season in 2017, a campaign in which he split time between Oakland and Seattle, but his track record shows that he’s an average at best big league player. Which leads us to Gurriel who had his first full taste of the Major Leagues in 2017 and did very well for a terrific Houston team. He’s the winner of this position battle but a full season of Bird could change that come 2019. The winner is the Astros.
3: Second base - Tyler Wade vs. Eduardo Nunez/Dustin Pedroia (BOS), Jason Kipnis (CLE) and Jose Altuve (HOU). Before I waste your time here, the winner is Jose Altuve. He’s the reigning American League MVP and won the batting title three out of the past four years. The man is an on base machine with elite speed and great defense. Now the Yankees are at a bit of a crossroads at this position. The hope is that star prospect Gleyber Torres can take over this roll and become the perennial star that scouts have projected him to be. However, as of this moment youngster Tyler Wade would be my choice as the teams starter for 2018 with Torres making his debut in early May, assuming he is ready to go against elite big league pitching. The Red Sox have long had Dustin Pedroia entrenched at second base, but he is injured to start 2017 so former Yankee Eduardo Nunez will be Boston’s guy. Nunez is a good player, but he is suited for more of a super utility role than an everyday starter. Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis has long been the subject of trade rumors that it’s amazing he still calls Progressive Field home. Kipnis has had some solid seasons in the past, but coming off an injury plagued 2017, it’s hard to expect much from Kipnis. The winner is the Astros.
4: Shortstop - Didi Gregorius vs. Xander Bogaerts (BOS), Francisco Lindor (CLE) and Carlos Correa (HOU). All four teams do really well in this position as there are four quality players all the way around. Brian Cashman, the Yankees’ GM, may have pulled off the steal of the century when he traded for Didi following Derek Jeter’s retirement in 2014. Gregorius has been everything and then some for the Yankees since coming over from Arizona; including getting AL CY Young award winner Corey Kluber for two home runs in the decisive fifth game of the ALDS. Sir Didi had a remarkable 2017, and that was with missing the month of April. Boston’s young shortstop out of Aruba, Xander Bogaerts, took a huge step back in 2017, but still has the makings of a great ballplayer. I’m convinced he hasn’t put it all together yet, and I know Yankee universe is behind me in hoping that doesn’t happen. Cleveland’s Frankie Lindor is the engine that makes the Indians run. He hit 33 home runs this year, besting his 2016 total by a staggering 18 long balls. He’s going to be force to be reckoned with for the foreseeable future. Finally, we have Houston’s young star Carlos Correa who like his double play partner Altuve is the winner of this positional battle. Correa a former number one overall draft pick had his best statistical year in 2017, while only playing in 109 games. While he is the best of the bunch, the other three especially Lindor and Gregorius are not far behind. The winner is the Astros.
5: Third Base - Brandon Drury/Miguel Andújar vs. Rafael Devers (BOS), Jose Ramirez (CLE) and Alex Bregman (HOU). This is another intriguing battle as we have a group guys who are all still pretty young. It’s possible that young Miguel Andujar could win the Yankees third base job out of camp as he has hit the cover off the ball this spring. However, I’m fairly confident it will be Drury who gets the nod. The Yankees went out and acquired him because they were unsure of their infield depth. The Drury trade gave them options and a solid if not underrated big league player. With so many stars in their lineup Drury should be a nice complimentary piece. Rafael Devers made his debut with Boston in late July and didn’t miss a beat. The 20-year-old seems to be a future star in the making with power to all fields and average defensive ability. However, after having Pablo Sandoval man the hot corner they’ll take anything at this point, and Devers is one heck of an upgrade. Ramirez had an All-Star season for the Tribe, but slowed down in the second half. He’s still a very good player and will have the opportunity to drive in tons of runs with Edwin Encarnacion and Frankie Lindor hitting around him. Finally, we have Houston’s Alex Bregman who had as incredible of a postseason as anyone knocking four home runs and driving in ten. He had a solid first full year in the big leagues and is steadily improving. He performed well on the biggest stage, so it’s obvious the young man can handle the pressure. This was a tough group but the potential stardom of Rafael Devers is going to give him the slightest edge for me. The winner is the Red Sox.
6: Left Field- Brett Gardner vs. Andrew Benintendi (BOS), Michael Brantley (CLE) and Marwin Gonzalez (HOU). Gardner is the longest tenured Yankee and played a huge role in the team’s 2017 success. His speed is still his greatest weapon and ability to get on base makes him a steady leadoff man for the big boppers that come behind him. He added a little more power in 2017 something new manager Aaron Boone would love his leftfielder to continue in 2018. Andrew Benintendi finished second behind New York’s Aaron Judge for the 2017 AL Rookie of the Year award. Had it not been for Judge’s incredible rookie season Benintendi probably would have won. He’s got one of the sweetest swings in the game but makes way too many mistakes on the base paths and has flashed poor fielding ability, despite being very athletic. Michael Brantley, when healthy, plays at a very high level and is a threat on both sides of the ball. The issue for the 30-year-old Brantley has been staying on the field as he has only played in 101 games in the past two seasons. The Tribe could be a very dangerous team if he can get back to his pre-2015 form. Gonzalez has been with Houston since the days when they were rudely called the “Lastros”, obviously, those days are far behind the team, but Gonzalez has consistently played hard day in and day out for Houston at whatever position the team needs him. For 2018, he appears to have a bulk load of the playing time in left. A healthy Brantley would win this, but his health is not a given, so with that we go to Gardner who is the most consistent and proven of the bunch. The winner is the Yankees.
7: Center Field - Aaron Hicks vs. Jackie Bradley Jr. (BOS), Bradley Zimmer (CLE) and Geoege Springer (HOU). Hicks had a terrible first year in pinstripes and came back with a fire in his belly in 2017 and had the best season he’s ever had in the majors. Hicks has one of the, if not the strongest throwing arm in baseball. Hicks like a few of the other players mentioned above has a history of injuries, and that has slowed his progression. Something that may also hinder Hicks in 2018 is the fact that the Yankees still have Jacoby Ellsbury at about $22 million a season making him a very expensive fourth or fifth outfielder. Ellsbury and Hicks may end up splitting time unless Hicks can distance himself as the clear-cut favorite. The Red Sox counter with Jackie Bradley Jr. who is the best defender of the bunch. He has outstanding range, and it is a crime he hasn’t won a gold glove award yet. His biggest problem is his offense, which is probably average, but he’s very streaky much to the dismay of the Fenway Faithful. Bradley Zimmer’s career is just a shade over 100 games, so the jury is still out on him. Springer is the crown jewel of this group. The 2017 All-Star and MVP of the Fall Classic is one of the brightest young stars in baseball. He has elite power, speed and defense. Houston’s young core is really something to behold. The winner is the Astros.
8: Right Field - Aaron Judge vs. Mookie Betts (BOS), Lonnie Chisenhall (CLE) and Josh Reddick (HOU). Not that they’ll ever read this but I’m going to apologize to Chisenhall and Reddick because there is no point even diving into them here. Betts and Judge are two of baseball’s best young stars and the veteran right fielders from Cleveland and Houston just don’t stand a chance. Aaron Judge took the Bronx and the game of baseball by storm in 2017 by slugging 52 home runs (New York’s previous high for a rookie was 29 set by Joe DiMaggio in 1936) and winning the home run derby in Miami. Judge became a fan favorite with his larger than life frame, majestic power and humble attitude with fans, reporters and teammates. He finished second in the MVP race only behind Jose Altuve. Betts finished second in the MVP race to Mike Trout in 2016, and while his production decreased slightly in 2017, he is still one of the best players in the league. He won consecutive gold glove awards in 2016 and 2017 and overall has more tools than Judge, but Judge has the power and ability to drive in runs makes this position our first and only draw. The winner is both the Red Sox and the Yankees.
9: Designated Hitter - Giancarlo Stanton vs. JD Martinez (BOS), Edwin Encarnacion (CLE) and Evan Gattis (HOU). The Yankees went out and acquired Giancarlo Stanton the 2017 NL MVP who clubbed 59 home runs for the Marlins last year to lead baseball. He will join Aaron Judge (second most home runs in MLB last year) and Gary Sanchez to make a modern day murderers row that many hope will rival that legendary 1927 team. Stanton and Judge will split time between DH and RF, but Stanton figures to have the majority of the time as DH. His power numbers should improve playing in the smaller confines of Yankee Stadium as opposed to the spacious Marlins Park. A few miles up Interstate 95, the Red Sox went out and added a power threat of their own in JD Martinez. Martinez hit 45 home runs in 2017 in only 119 games between Detroit and Arizona. He should help the Red Sox offense which was among the lowest in the league in long balls last season. Cleveland’s Edwin Encarnacion is still one of the better power hitters in the game and signed a modest three-year deal with the Tribe prior to 2016. Gattis is definitely below these three in terms of skill and overall power, but he always has the cool story on how he used to be a janitor and then last October he held up the World Series trophy. There’s some good choices here but it is hard to go against the reigning NL MVP and a man who almost hit 60. Stanton wins the DH spot. The winner is the Yankees.
RED SOX- 1.5
Houston has the slight edge in terms of position by position value but I’d still take the Yankees offense over any in baseball based on shear potential. We’ll take a look at the pitching staffs next week.
Article by: Fave RuggieroFollow @BronxBomberBall