Philadelphia Flyers 2017-18 Season Preview

Nolan Patrick is being counted on to become the new face of the Philadelphia Flyers.

The 2016-17 Philadelphia Flyers entered last season with high expectations. They had been one of the top teams in the NHL in the second half, and took the far superior Washington Capitals to 6 games in the first round of the playoffs.

And in the early part of the campaign, the Flyers lived up to the hype. They peaked at a 10-game winning streak around Thanksgiving, and their core players were all gelling and playing at a high level.

But as is custom in Philadelphia, the Flyers regressed. From the start of the new year, the Flyers never looked the same. Their scoring dried up, their flimsy defense finally cracked, and the goaltending duo of Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth choked in big games.

Drastic changes have been made this offseason. GM Ron Hextall said goodbye to eight different players (roughly a third of last year’s team), and replaced them with younger, cheaper, and faster alternatives. Dave Hakstol enters his third year as the Head Coach of the Flyers in yet another year of transition, but he remains the coach of a team that, despite its flaws last season, didn’t miss the playoffs by much. If the young players can step up and the veterans can bounce back, the Flyers could have a chance to sneak into the playoffs.

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Welcome Back: Aaron Hicks Returns in Big Way

After being considered a bust for years, Aaron Hicks has finally put it all together this year for the Yankees.

Let’s flash back to Spring Training, 2017. Aaron Hicks is coming off of a particularly disappointing season, his first with the Yankees. And his leash is very short. He’s in the running for the starting right fielder’s job, but he’s got a beast named Aaron Judge lurking behind him, ready to chase down the job.

Hicks actually went out and put together a very nice Spring Training to his credit, but nothing would be enough to hold off the mammoth performance of Judge. Hicks once again settled into the role of the fourth outfielder, a role he had become accustomed to over his years as a big leaguer. Never good enough to justify a starting job and having been traded once before, Hicks was at a major crossroads.

But then Hicks turned things around. Despite a poor 2016 season, he did finish the campaign strongly and he has improved even further this season, to the point where Hicks is a crucial part of the Yankees’ success and it is hard to imagine where this team would be without the steady contributions of the versatile, 27-year-old outfielder.

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Don’t Let Your “Gard” Down: Yankees’ Gardner Keeps on Turning Heads

Brett Gardner is one of the most clutch Yankees, as his two walk-off hits in three days can justify against the rival Rays.

Brett Gardner has been with the Yankees long enough to the point where he has seen many different phases of the team: he was with the team as a rookie in 2008 when they said goodbye to the old Yankee Stadium, was a part of the World Series Champion 2009 squad, established himself as an MLB regular when the Yankees were still contenders, and then saw his friends and teammates grow older, and eventually retire. And now, in 2017, on a club that has only made the playoffs once in the past four years, Brett Gardner, the longest-tenured Yankee, has morphed into that same veteran presence that helped ease his transition into the league almost 10 years ago.

The Yankees of today are a team built for the future: Aaron Judge, Clint Frazier, Luis Severino, and Gary Sanchez, among others, are no older than 25 years old and look to be the cornerstones of a future dynasty. And right there beside them is Brett Gardner, the old man of the bunch, the trusty veteran to show the kids the ropes. Continue reading

How Should the Yankees Balance Their Outfield Logjam?

Clint Frazier and Aaron Judge’s respective heroics have been welcomed by the Yankees, but have created a logjam in the outfield.

The 2017 Yankee season, while it has had some bumps along the road, has been an overall success for the organization. Chief among those success stories has to be the production the Yankees have gotten out of their outfield. Rookies Aaron Judge and Clint Frazier are enjoying banner campaigns, while Aaron Hicks has broken out and Brett Gardner has been his usual steady veteran self. And speedy veteran Jacoby Ellsbury is still around.

That makes five outfielders for three spots. Manager Joe Girardi will have a tough time making sure that all five of his outfielders receive enough at-bats when Hicks returns from injury in a week. And with Matt Holliday a strict DH and a prominent power bat in the lineup, the Yankees can’t just plug in one of their outfielders at DH every day, lest they lose the bat of Holliday.

It’s a tough situation, but also a good problem for Girardi to have. Let’s figure out how the Yankees can maximize production from their outfielders with the most efficient outfield rotation.

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A-Head of the Pack: Chase Headley Bounces Back in a Big Way

Chase Headley has quietly caught fire this year, in what has been his best season in pinstripes.

With all of the hype that the young players have brought to the New York Yankees this season, some of the contributions of veteran players have flown under the radar. Guys like Brett Gardner, Matt Holliday, Starlin Castro, and Didi Gregorius have all made major contributions to the ballclub, despite little fanfare.

And yet through it all, there has been one constant presence in the bottom third of the Yankee lineup. This player has been a Yankee for parts of four seasons but has never been fully embraced by the Yankee fanbase, despite being no worse than league average at his worst and a decent hitter and a quality defender at his best. This player has even had to make a position change this year at age 33.

This player is none other than Chase Headley. Headley is not the type of player that is ever desperate for attention, and he is more often than not a forgotten man in the Yankee lineup. He has been a valuable member of the Yankees this season, however. He may never get his due among the fans, but Chase Headley is an underrated part of the New York Yankees. Continue reading

Breaking Down the Yankees-White Sox Trade

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Todd Frazier and David Robertson, along with Tommy Kahnle, are the newest additions to the New York Yankees’ roster.

Just one season removed from selling at the trade deadline, Brian Cashman and the New York Yankees reprised their familiar role as deadline buyers by executing a stunning, seven-player trade with the Chicago White Sox last night.

In the massive swap, the Yankees acquired first/third baseman Todd Frazier, former Yankee reliever David Robertson, and reliever Tommy Kahnle from the White Sox in exchange for reliever Tyler Clippard and three prospects: OF Blake Rutherford, LHP Ian Clarkin, and OF Tito Polo.

Let’s break this trade down team by team and analyze what it means for both the Yankees and White Sox franchises.

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New York Yankees Midseason Report Card

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There have been many celebrations for the 2017 Yankees.

The All-Star Game is the unofficial halfway point of the MLB season. While the Yankees have already played 86 games, just over halfway, the Yankees still have much of the second half to reinforce the club en route to the playoffs.

Let’s take a look at the club so far, while looking ahead to the trade deadline and a possible playoff berth.

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The Development of Didi

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Two years later, Didi still has those rockin’ sunglasses at shortstop.

Exactly two years ago today, I wrote about the progression of Didi Gregorius at shortstop for the New York Yankees. I was still in my infancy as a writer, and the marked improvement that I have made since then is apparent as soon as one reads the article.

And exactly two years ago today, Didi Gregorius was still in his infancy as the Yankees’ first shortstop post-Derek Jeter. And the marked improvement that he has made since then is apparent as soon as one watches Gregorius on the diamond today.

Despite narrowly missing out on an All-Star spot, Didi Gregorius has been precisely that for the Yankees since the second half of his first year in New York. The development of Didi from a shy .220 hitter into an affable team leader that hits .300 and bats in the middle of the order has been a big storyline for the Yankees over the past 3 years, and it’s one that is still being written.

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Yankee Prospects Offer a Glimpse of Promise to Come

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Clint Frazier’s home run in his MLB debut was a high point in a recent stretch of poor play for the Yankees.

The New York Yankees have definitely hit a rough patch of late: they have gone just 6-16 in their last 22 games, have fallen out of first place in the AL East, and have had to deal with several key players going on the disabled list in rapid succession.

But all hope is not lost! While veteran starters like Matt Holliday, Starlin Castro, Aaron Hicks, Greg Bird, and Tyler Austin recover from their injuries, the Yankees have been forced to recall some of their top prospects to fill the void.

While the results have been predictably inconsistent, there have been some serious flashes of brilliance from the young players that have been recalled, including Tyler Wade, Miguel Andujar, Dustin Fowler, and Clint Frazier. Each of these players still has a long way to go in their prospect growth curve, but the early returns have been encouraging enough to where Yankee fans can’t wait to see more of their vaunted prospect core.

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Five Yankees Among Those Selected to MLB All-Star Game

Dellin Betances, Aaron Judge, Starlin Castro, Luis Severino, and Gary Sanchez will be the New York Yankees’ representatives at the MLB All-Star Game.

The MLB All-Star Game rosters were announced this past Sunday, and the New York Yankees will be well-represented in Miami for the Midsummer Classic. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Starlin Castro, Dellin Betances, and Luis Severino will make the esteemed squad, which will be managed by Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona.

This is the first All-Star appearance for Judge, Sanchez, and Severino, the first as a Yankee for Castro (his fourth overall), and the fourth in a row for Betances. Judge will be the starter in right field, the first AL rookie to start in the All-Star Game since Hideki Matsui in 2003. Additionally, both Judge and Sanchez will participate in the Home Run Derby.

Each of these Yankees was more than deserving of the honor; let’s take a look at each Yankee All-Star’s season so far.

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