Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com (Oct. 20, 2017 – Source: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images North America)
Major league baseball is at its best when the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees are simultaneously competitive. It’s a rivalry unlike any other in baseball, and arguably the greatest rivalry in all of sports. After a few quiet years, the Sox and Yankees are both set to be good for the forseeable future thanks to infusions of youth. Can the Red Sox fend off the young Bombers, or will the Sox best hope for the playoffs be via the Wild Card?
The 2018 New York Yankees: AL East Report
The Yankees Starting Lineup
The Yankees youth infusion led to the most power-happy offense in all of 2017. Right fielder and Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge led an offense that combined for 241 home runs, most in the American league. They scored the second-most runs in the league, only to the World Series champion Houston Astros, and ultimately were one of the more feared lineups in the league.
This off-season, an already stacked offense added reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton finished 2017 with a league leading 59 home runs, 132 RBI’s, and .631 slugging percentage. Additionally, the Yankees didn’t lose any key contributors from last years campaign, making them easily the biggest threat in the AL East.
However, the situation may not be as bleak as it seems for the Red Sox. The majority of last years Yankees offensive production came from first- or second-year players, and all of them could easily regress in 2018. Additionally, Giancarlo Stanton will surely take a step back this year. 2017 was the best year of his eight-year career by a wide margin, and anyone expecting that to be the norm going forward is asking for disappointment. This offense will still probably be a top-five unit, but it won’t be unstoppable.
The Yankees Starting Rotation
The biggest flaw on the Yankees roster lies in its starting rotation. The entire rotation is filled with high-risk, high reward players that could make this rotation one of the best or one of the worst in the league. Luis Severino is a safe bet as one of the best young pitchers in the league, but the rest of the rotation has its questions.
The 2-4 spots in the rotation belong to Masahiro Tanaka, C.C. Sabathia, and Sonny Gray, respectively. If these three players can pitch up to their ceiling, then this rotation is one of the best in the league. However, that is a very big if.
Tanaka has been plagued by injury over the past few seasons, and isn’t the pitcher he once was. Sabathia had a good 2017, but has struggled with weight and shoulder injuries in the past. He’ll be 38 for the majority of the 2018 season, and is no guarantee to have a repeat of 2017. Sonny Gray looked like a true ace as recently as 2015, but hasn’t shown that form of late. His last two seasons have been plagued by injuries and ineffectiveness, and really looks like nothing more than the third or fourth arm in a rotation.
The Yankees Bullpen
As has been the case for the past two seasons, the Yankees should have one of the stronger bullpens in the league. However, the unit might not be as strong as it has been in recent years. The unit is led by the fire-throwing trio of Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, and David Robertson. While this grouping should still be good, they probably won’t be the top-five bullpen of recent seasons.
Chapman still has his 100 mph fastball, but it’s not as dominant as it used to be. After cashing in during the 2017 off-season, Chapman had his worst season as a pro. The southpaw blew several saves, including two against the Red Sox. He was demoted midway through the season before getting the closing role back near the end of the year. While he finished the year on a high note, his extended lull could be a bad sign for New York.
Betances also had a poor 2017. He had a difficult time finding the strike zone, finishing his year with a 6.64 BB/9 rate. While his other measurable weren’t quite as bad, he finished the year with a 1.2 WAR. By comparison, he finished 2016 with a 2.9 WAR, a drastic drop over just one season. He’ll probably bounce back in 2018, but the 32-year old is no longer the sure-fire bet he once was.
Overall Prediction for the Yankees
This Yankees team should be the biggest threat to the Red Sox in the AL East. With an absolutely stacked lineup, a solid starting rotation, and an above average bullpen, this Yankees team will make some noise this year.
However, they’re not quite on the Red Sox level yet. Their offense is due to regress and there’s too many questions with their starting rotation. The Yankees will probably win 90-93 games and finish with the first Wild Card spot. There’s a very real chance the Sox and the Yankees collide in the playoffs, which is the best thing that could happen for baseball.