2017 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Yankees team outlook brightened by young talent like Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Aaron Judge
A youth movement in the Bronx and the question marks in the rotation are central themes for the 2017 Yankees.
When baseball teams talk about rebuilding on the fly, I'm usually skeptical. It sounds like a half-measure, and those are often ineffective. The Yankees are challenging that thought process.
Though they've only made the playoffs once in the past four seasons, the Yankees also haven't bottomed out, maintaining and incredible stretch of 24 seasons above .500. In 2016 they said farewell to retiring stars Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. They watched Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran move to Texas. That's a pair of should-be Hall of Famers and two other perennial All Stars. I'm not sure they're going to miss any of them.
The Yankees got younger in a hurry, most notably with Gary Sanchez turning into a star overnight. Still, they have several young prospects who haven't yet made an impact on the their team, much less in Fantasy. That figures to change in 2017.
What had better change for the Yankees is the performance of their pitching staff. After Masahiro Tanaka there are a whole lot of question marks. C.C. Sabathia is probably the most reliable of the group but he's long past having any sort of upside. Michael Pineda and Luis Severino have upside for days but they also have a floor in the New York Subway. That makes them maddening to project but also interesting late-round fliers.
Is there any reason to keep believing in Michael Pineda?
Fool me once, shame on you and so on and so forth. We know Michael Pineda has the "stuff", but you don't get Fantasy points for stuff. What actual performance we have seen from Pineda the past two seasons has been maddeningly inconsistent, but there were signs in 2016 that are encouraging.
Of the 15 qualified pitchers to post an ERA of 4.62 or higher in 2016, only Robbie Ray had a lower FIP than Pineda's 3.80. What's more, his xFIP of 3.30 was the third best mark in baseball. Yes, you read that right. Of course, xFIP tries to normalize for things like home run rate and BABIP against. Pineda has surrendered a BABIP above .330 and more than 1.2 HR/9 in 33 IP over the past two seasons. That seems like bad luck (and at least partially is), but it has also correlated to the 32.7 percent hard contact rate he gave up last season.
With all of that being said, we're talking about a pitcher who strikes out more than a batter per inning and has repeatedly shown ace-level stuff. You can't give up on him entirely. Pineda should be drafted in the later rounds in the range of No. 60-70 SP as a high upside pick that may or may not pan out.
Can Gary Sanchez come anywhere close to his 2016 pace?
Don't be ridiculous. Sanchez was a on 52-HR pace if you project him for 140 games. In his past 164 minor league games, he'd hit just 28. Regression cometh. But that doesn't mean he still won't be a fantastic option in Fantasy.
Only five catchers hit more than his 20 home runs last season. If you expect Sanchez to reach 520 plate appearances, you should expect him to finish among the league leaders at his position in home runs. Still, I wouldn't expect him to top 30 despite his torrid rookie pace.
Sanchez is currently the consensus No. 3 catcher at CBS Sports, but I've got a little bit more separation between him and Jonathan Lucroy than many do. If I have a choice between taking Sanchez in Round 4 or Round 5 or taking Willson Contreras five rounds later, I'll take Contreras.
Is the next generation of Bombers ready to contribute?
Sanchez is far from the only youngster expected to contribute to the Yankees in 2017. In fact, he was far from the mostly highly touted coming into last season. While Gleyber Torres is probably still a year away, Clint Frazier could absolutely make a difference later this season. Two other top prospects figure to start the year on the Major League roster.
Aaron Judge struggled in his limited big league exposure last season, but he earned his shot. The former No. 31 overall prospect, according the MLB.com, had an .854 OPS in AAA last year and hit 20 home runs in 410 PA. Judge was a first-round pick in 2013 and should get every opportunity to lock down the starting right field job this year. He's not worth a stash in standard mixed leagues unless he has a huge spring, but is definitely someone to keep on your scout squad.
Before there was Gary Sanchez, there was Greg Bird posting an .871 OPS in 178 PA in 2015. Bird missed all of 2016 injured. Now he's back as the favorite to man first base for the Yankees. As the only left-handed bat in this discussion, Bird has the best chance to take advantage of that short porch and post a surprising home run total.
Bird's upside isn't enough to be drafted in a standard mixed points league, but in deeper Rotisserie leagues he makes an intriguing option as a corner infielder or utility. Just know that his ceiling and floor were lowered by the recent Chris Carter signing.
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