One 2023 FanGraphs projection Yankees fans will love and one they'll hate

Championship Series - Houston Astros v New York Yankees - Game Three
Championship Series - Houston Astros v New York Yankees - Game Three / Elsa/GettyImages

The New York Yankees will enter 2023 with a largely-unchanged roster from the group that tore through June on a torrid pace, came back to the pack, then finished the season with 99 wins and an ALCS sweep at the hands of the Houston Astros.

Any potential changes to the offense involve young contributors (Oswald Peraza, Oswaldo Cabrera, Anthony Volpe) getting more run, as well as crossed fingers and injury bounce backs (DJ LeMahieu, Harrison Bader, if you really squint you can add Josh Donaldson).

Their only major alteration, after bringing Aaron Judge back and naming him captain, came in the rotation, a group that performed admirably in 2022. The Yankees signed Carlos Rodón to a six-year deal to be Gerrit Cole's flamethrowing caddy, and if that pair, plus Luis Severino and Nestor Cortes, stay healthy and effective, this could be the franchise's greatest rotation.

It could also be a grand disappointment -- and for a reason other than season-altering injuries.

The Athletic's Eno Sarris shed light on a quirk in Dan Szymborski's ZiPS projections (for FanGraphs) regarding the Yankees' rotation. The pitcher with the single largest disparity between his 80th percentile (likely-skewing-good) and 20th percentile (likely-skewing-bad) projection is Rodón, who could be worth over 5.0 WAR, but could easily dip to the low twos.

The pitcher with the third-biggest gap? Gerrit Cole, and much of that consternation comes from the likelihood that both men could have trouble limiting home runs this season.

The Athletic's Eno Sarris thinks Yankees rotation has bust potential

Cole, of course, already struggled with that bugaboo in 2022, surrendering a league-leading 33 bombs in 200.2 innings last season. Though he kept the ball mostly in the yard during October (unless the fearsome Chas McCormick was present), it was a clear and present danger last year, knocking Cole down to just 2.4 bWAR, despite all the typical strikeouts and swing-and-miss numbers.

Rodón? Last season, he allowed a paltry 12 home runs in a career-high 178 innings -- though yes, it should be mentioned the Yankees signed their shiny new left-hander coming off an unprecedented number of innings on his arm, if you'd like to be pessimistic. As Saris details, there's a tremendous amount of variance in how many dingers a pitcher allows year over year. Maybe MLB cracks down on sticky stuff -- again -- mid-year. Maybe Rodón suffers a downward tick in velocity due to an increased workload. Or maybe he just signed up to pitch his home games in Yankee Stadium rather than San Francisco's Oracle Park! That's the eighth-worst park for home runs allowed vs. the 27th-ranked stadium.

Odds are that both Cole and Rodón will come closer to their median outcomes instead (that's why they're medians), but we've already seen Cole slip towards the bottom tier in a season where he allowed nine more regular-season dingers year-over-year. The fully-healthy regression to the lower end of the spectrum for Rodón (or, of course, an injury) could torpedo things quickly.

Want the good news? ZiPS loves the Yankees' position players, and even their low-end outcomes are mostly solid big-league regular stat lines.

Yes, even Anthony Volpe's. The Yankees' top prospect, who's yet to debut, is viewed as a two-win player at his 20th percentile outcome, and a 4.4-WAR player in his first-ever season at his 80th percentile outcome. For reference, reaching four wins would make him a likely All-Star, and would make Brian Cashman and the front office look particularly smart for keeping him off the table in trade talks and passing on the high-priced free agent shortstops of the past two offseasons. It would also make prospect evaluators like Kiley McDaniel and Keith Law look plenty accurate, too.

Hopefully, Volpe also gets enough run this season to fall in the middle and make a genuine impact after being granted a spring training opportunity.