It might have been a few years since the New York Yankees were a World Series challenging team but the franchise are looking like a competitive outfit again this season and will be targeting a place in the playoffs.
Despite being written off by large sections of the media at the beginning of each season, it seems as though more often than not the Yankees stumble their way into the postseason without ever really hitting their stride. That was certainly the case last year, where the franchise produced 87 wins on their way to securing a wild-card spot before losing to the Houston Astros in the AL Wild Card game.
On paper, there have not been too many changes made to this roster. Led by a core of players who have all been there and done that, those experienced professionals are all expected to have a massive role to play this year.
Alex Rodriguez surprised almost everyone at the age of 40 by hitting a team-high 33 home runs, while Mark Teixeira stopped his late-career drop in form at 35 by racking up 31 homers. Thirty-eight-year-old Carlos Beltran produced a sensational .862 OPS to salvage his season after a dismal April and Brian McCann enjoyed a much more successful season than the previous year, hitting 26 home runs and improving his all round game.
Unlike some years, though, there is also a very exciting group of young players ready to step up into the team. Didi Gregorius at shortstop and the very talented Luis Severino in the starting rotation are both players to watch.
Tasked with replacing the legendary Derek Jeter, who is now enjoying his retirement, Gregorius initially failed to really impress during the opening weeks of last season. But the 25-year-old recovered to finish third in the team rankings in WAR with 3.3. For Severino, the pitcher is coming off the back of a breakthrough year in which he established himself as a key part of a thin rotation. He finished the campaign with a 137 ERA+ with 8.1 strikeouts per nine in his 62 1/3 innings in the Yankees rotation.
At odds of around 18/5 with the Bet365 MLB Betting odds to finish top of the American League East when this article was produced, the Yankees know they have their work cut out to finish ahead of the Blue Jays and the Red Sox this year. But there are three players in particular who could have a say in that. The real key to success for the Yankees this season could likely be their ability to close an innings with three of the best in the business: Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances. The trio of strikeout specialists have the ability to finish off any batting line-up and this group of pitchers may well have a massive say in how big an impact the Yankees have in the playoffs.
All in all, while there are certainly stronger teams in the league this year, you would be a brave soul to completely write off this team this season.
*image by apardavila