The New York Yankees won 100 games last season. What did that get them?
Merely a Wild Card berth and a first-round exit courtesy of the Boston Red Sox, a team that will go down as one of the greatest ever in baseball history.
It might be easy to write New York’s season up as a disappointment, but that would be a tremendous injustice. The current roster is very similar to the one that made a surprise run to the 2017 ALCS and came within one game of reaching the World Series.
And last year, the Yankees dealt with a host of injuries, including losing Aaron Judge for 50 games.
With a young and loaded roster and arguably the best bullpen in the league, New York heads into Spring Training with high hopes.
Here are five reasons why the Yankees can win the World Series in 2019.
5. Best lineup in the league?
The Yankees clubbed a major league record 267 home runs as a team last season, even with Judge missing 50 games and catcher Gary Sanchez missing 73 on the year.
When everyone is healthy, this is arguably the deadliest lineup in the entire league.
Judge looks like a perennial MVP candidate in the American League, and Giancarlo Stanton still hit 38 dingers in a “down year.” Now that he has grown accustomed to New York, it would not be a surprise if Stanton eclipsed the 50 mark once again this season.
Shortstop Didi Gregorious will likely miss at least the first half of 2019, but Gleyber Torres can play shortstop, and the Yankees signed D.J. LeMahieu and Troy Tulowitzki to make up some of that production in the aggregate.
Aaron Hicks showed that he has 20-homer power in center field and Miguel Andujar offers another powerful bat at the hot corner.
Will the Yankees start Luke Voit or Greg Bird at first base? Voit was spectacular after coming over from St. Louis and figures to be the Opening Day starter, but Bird has tremendous power when healthy.
Regardless, there is an abundance of power and depth, which help second-year manager Aaron Boone settle in as he hopes to lead the club to their first World Series title in a decade.
4. The bullpen
Bullpen units are often one of the most crucial components of any championship team. The ability to squeeze out one-run games is absolutely imperative come October.
Luckily for Yankees fans, their team has an elite bullpen. New York relievers had a 3.38 ERA in 2018, easily the best in baseball.
After re-signing Zack Britton following a midseason trade from the Orioles last year and also signing free agent Adam Ottavino, the Yankees run four deep at the end of pen.
Ottavino, Britton, Betances, and Chapman. That is…scary.
Not to mention, opposing hitters must contend with the likes of Chad Green and Jonathan Holder before even getting to the back end.
The only possible setback for New York could be usage. The Yankees threw the 10th-most innings in the MLB last season, and only the Oakland Athletics and Milwaukee Brewers logged more innings in terms of teams that also made it to the postseason.
But with a stronger starting rotation that will look to go deeper into games, the Yankees pen should be plenty fresh for the postseason, which will be absolutely vital to their World Series hopes.
Speaking of the rotation…
3. An improved staff
New York was quick to address a position of need, trading a package that included prospect Justus Sheffield for former Seattle Mariners lefty James Paxton in November.
Paxton gives the Yankees a true No. 2 behind ace Luis Severino, and his peripherals suggest he could be even more dominant in New York.
While his ERA jumped from 2.98 in 2017 to 3.76 in 2018, his K/9 ratio actually increased by 1.4 strikeouts. And Paxton’s 3.24 (Fielding Independent Pitching) was more than respectable.
After taking the hill for a Mariners defense that was in the bottom-half in the league in terms of defensive runs saved and UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), Paxton should be more effective behind a Yankees defense that is, at worst, average.
Severino was arguably the best pitcher in the American League in the first half before falling off a cliff after the All-Star break, but he has truly dominant potential.
Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, and C.C. Sabathia fill out the starting rotation, and you could certainly do worse than that 3-4-5 combination.
If Tanaka can recapture his 2016 form, this might be one of the better staffs in the league.
And if not…
2. They have the pieces to upgrade at the deadline
For all of his potential at the plate, Andujar was one of the worst defenders in baseball last season.
Despite his deficiencies, he is an extremely attractive trade piece. Any team in need of young talent with expendable pieces at the deadline would likely jump at a package including Andujar.
Particularly given the depth that the Yankees employ in the outfield, they might look to add Florial to a potential package. Doing so would also likely show a level of commitment to Hicks, who will be a free agent after this season.
The San Francisco Giants are unlikely to find themselves in playoff contention in July, and given ace Madison Bumgarner’s status as an impending free agent, they may look to deal. Conveniently enough, San Francisco also has plenty of needs in the outfield.
Do not be surprised if the Yankees pull off a blockbuster like this or something similar if they need to upgrade the starting rotation at the deadline.
1. They are hungry
This may be slightly cliche. But after consecutive postseason disappointments, it is safe to say that this Yankees group is ready to take the next step.
The young core have all experienced playoff baseball, and Stanton got his first taste last season. Those experiences should only bolster this group moving forward.
And, did we mention how difficult it is to repeat? The Red Sox are undoubtedly title contenders once again, but no team has repeated since the Yankees three-peated between 1998 and 2000. It’s that hard.
The Yankees have all the pieces to win it all once again. They may not have made the biggest splash this offseason, but they made subtle upgrades that should pay tremendous dividends on a holistic level.
New York, New York. The Yanks are going for it all.