The 2017 New York Yankees could be a surprise playoff contender if these three things happen during the upcoming campaign.
It’s worth remembering that the New York Yankees were a legitimate threat to grab the second Wild Card well into September last year despite giving a combined 681 plate appearances in the middle of their lineup to two guys who were not only among the worst offensive performers in the American League last year but playing everyday for much of the year at first base and DH, positions that are generally pretty easy to fill with a productive power bat.
According to Baseball-Reference, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira were a combined two wins below replacement level in 2016, meaning if the Yankees had filled their roles with average Triple-A players, the club would have likely won 86 games rather than 84. Removing them from New York’s everyday lineup already moves next years club that much closer to contention.
After selling at the August 1st trade deadline, the Yankees immediately went on a tear, going 17-11 over the next month. Their .607 winning percentage in August was their best of any month in 2016.
Even after a barrage of injuries to key regulars including Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, Starlin Castro, Jacoby Ellsbury, Nathan Eovaldi, Chad Green, and Masahiro Tanaka, New York managed to hang on and play .500 ball in September with a skeleton crew.
Those two months provided a preview of what the 2017 club is capable of if all goes according to plan. Many fans have given up on serious contention next year because they’ve labeled the Bombers a rebuilding club, but this team could surprise a lot of people if things go right. Here’s what would have to happen for the Yanks to make the postseason in 2017.