What Has to Happen for the 2017 Yankees to Make the Playoffs
Baby Bombers Sanchez, Bird, and Judge Need to Rake
Although Gary Sanchez is the only youngster likely to begin the season in the middle of the Yankees lineup, this team is built around the idea that Sanchez, Greg Bird, and Aaron Judge will be the heart of New York’s order, with Clint Frazier another possibility.
Sanchez doesn’t need to keep up his 2016 pace, but the team is counting on him to hit 20-25 bombs with solid plate discipline and at least average defense behind the dish. If he falters either offensively or as the starting catcher, this whole thing could fall apart pretty quickly.
The health of Greg Bird’s shoulder is probably the lineup’s biggest wild card going into 2017. If he’s fully recovered and hits like he did during his MLB debut in 2015, the Yankees would have a dangerous middle of the order that could rival any other American League contender.
It seems much more likely from what we saw during the Arizona Fall League though that Bird will take some time to get back to his old self, maybe even requiring a stint in Triple-A to begin the year. If that happens, New York’s offense looks a lot less imposing.
Next: Rotation or Pen for These Yankees Pitchers?
Finally, how Aaron Judge adjusts to hitting major league pitching will have huge implications for how far the Yankees can go in 2017. If he can cut his strikeout rate down to around 25% and knock 30 long balls while doing a credible job in right, he could be a three to four win player, win AL Rookie of the Year, and take over a spot in the middle of the order. It’s also completely possible he’s a colossal bust right out the gate and New York plays a below replacement level Aaron Hicks in right..