The 2016 New York Yankees are a very exciting team. However, they are a team with lots of crucial variables. If everything goes right for the Bombers, they will have a chance at hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy in November. But if just a couple of things go wrong, the Yankees could find themselves scratching and clawing for a wild card spot. Here are the Yankees’ Keys to Success in 2016.
Key 1: Health
The most critical key for the Yankees this year will be one mostly out of their control: health. Simply put, if the Yankees’ top players avoid the DL, they will be a playoff team. While that is true for a lot of teams, it is especially so for the older, more fragile Yankees.
Every player in the Yankees’ starting lineup from spots 1-6 is an injury risk. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner had hamstring and wrist injuries hinder their second-half production, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeria are banged up all over, and Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran have old knees.
The Yankees will have to provide their veterans with ample days off and “half-days-off” (days at designated hitter). Luckily, they have the bench to be able to do this. Aaron Hicks is a starting-caliber outfielder that can play all 3 positions, Dustin Ackley can play first, second, and the outfield, and Ronnie Torreyes can play anywhere in the infield.
Rodriguez played 151 games last year, McCann 135, Beltran 133, and Teixeria 111 in an injury-shortened year. Expect these guys to play about 130 each this year in order to moderate their workload. If the Yankees can rest some of their big guns and still win ballgames, they’ll be tough to beat in the playoffs.
Key 2: Pitching
I was originally going to have the Yankees’ rotation and bullpen as two separate keys, but they really fall hand in hand. First up, the rotation. Feeding off of the first key, no Yankee starter pitched 170 innings or started 30 games last year. Healthy seasons from Masahiro Tanaka and Nathan Eovaldi will go a long way in boosting the Yankees’ production from their starters.
As for the rest of the rotation, the Yankees need some consistency. Both Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia struggled with providing steady results last year. Only 23 of their combined 56 starts last year were “quality starts” (at least 6 innings, no more than 3 earned runs). The two big boys of the Yankee rotation will need that figure to be at least 50% next season.
Some see the Yankee bullpen as the best in the MLB when everyone is healthy. The unit is definitely in the top 3, and the main help that the bullpen will provide will be seen, surprisingly, in the rotation.
The Yankees couldn’t acquire a starter this winter because they didn’t have the space for one. However, the acquisition of Aroldis Chapman can turn any game into a 6-inning contest, which is the biggest help that the Yankee rotation could have gotten.
The bullpen will be a little bit shorthanded to start off due to Chapman’s suspension and Bryan Mitchell’s toe injury, so rookies like Johnny Barbato and Luis Cessa will have to hold down the fort in the meantime, with help from the “Scranton Shuttle” coming soon in the form of Branden Pinder, Nick Rumbelow, Nick Goody, James Pazos, and Jacob Lindgren.
Key 3: Young Guns
The Yankees are the oldest team in baseball, so some DL time will be expected. Thus, how the rookies and second-year players perform in their stead will be imperative.
The “Scranton Shuttle” will provide help to the pitchers, but young outfielders like Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, and Ben Gamel as well as infielder Rob Refsnyder and catcher Gary Sanchez will all have to contribute at the Major League level to rest some of the old guard.
It is sometimes said that a team is only as good as its depth, and in that regard, the Yankees have assembled their best bench and slew of call-ups in years. The 24th and 25th spots on the roster will constantly be in flux, which will help keep the Yankee veterans fresh.