Pundits wonder if Bombers did enough to make World Series go – The Denver Post

The Yankees have had a huge winter, from re-signing record holder Aaron Judge and then being named captain to retaining Anthony Rizzo and adding another ace-level arm to their starting rotation. to Carlos Rodon, all for $562 million.

But was it a big enough buying spree to guarantee there won’t be yet another disappointment in October? In recent seasons in the Bronx, playoff failure has joined Halloween as an October constant. Three times since 2017, the Yanks have lost to the Astros in the AL Championship Series, including a humiliating sweep last year. The Red Sox have sent the Yankees home twice in previous rounds in the same span and the Rays have done so once.

All of those losses have left Yankees fans yearning for glory in 2009 — the last time the Yankees won the World Series — and hope that Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman can put together a roster that can unlock the treacherous MLB playoffs.

Can the Yankees of 2023 be the club that finally makes that joyful descent into the Canyon of Heroes? Maybe. There is potential in stripes, but also pitfalls. Health became an issue during spring training. Half of what was supposed to be a towering top four in the starting rotation – Rodon and Luis Severino – will start the season on the injured list. Harrison Bader, the center fielder acquired last year for his sparkle glove, is also among the Yankees expected to start the year on the board.

The Daily News asked four baseball people – an American League scout, a National League scout, an executive with an NL team and Jeff Nelson, the former pitcher who is a TV analyst for the Yankees and the Miami Marlins – for a look at this year. Yanks and found, among other things, this little common ground:

A belief that Aaron Boone’s team, barring disaster, will make the playoffs. At least.

“The Yankees are a playoff team without too many problems and they’ll be there at the end,” said the AL scout, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “It’s a question of execution in these playoff games against very good teams. Teams that do this, win.

The Yanks might even be good enough to go further than last year’s model, especially if Rodon gets his health back and DJ LeMahieu is himself. The judge is the judge — whether he hits 62 home runs again or not, he’s a mega-threat. And, Nelson says, the new defensive travel ban could help several Yankee hitters, especially Rizzo.

“I think they can be that breakthrough team,” said Nelson, who was part of four World Series-winning teams with the Yanks. “The rotation is really good and Rodon is a big addition. The pitch was there. It was the playoff offense that thwarted them.

“In the spring, I saw some of their hitters more relaxed, knowing they don’t have to hit on the shift. A guy like Rizzo, some of his releases will now be singles.

Last season, the Yankees averaged 4.98 points per game, the second highest in MLB. Only the Dodgers have scored more. The Yankees led the Majors in home runs and walks and had the fourth-best OPS (.751). They were even one of eight teams with at least 100 stolen bases.

The Yankees, long criticized for being too homer-focused, have become a little more contact-oriented from 2021 to 2022, reducing their strikeout rate from 24.5% to 22.5%, a little above of last year’s MLB average.

But their attack evaporated in the ALCS, against their nemesis, the eventual World Series champions. The Astros’ pitching and happy defense kept the Yanks averaging .162 and OPS 0.501 and just nine points away. Yankee batters have batted out 50 times in 130 at bats. After going 1 for 14 with runners in scoring position for the first three games, they were 4 for 11 in the final, but also lost two leads in that game.

Maybe LeMahieu’s return can help their situational hitting. LeMahieu, who has missed each of the last two playoffs due to injury, is a contact-oriented hitter whose strikeout rate has never exceeded 13.8 percent as a Yankee.

“He has great hand-eye coordination and uses the whole court,” says the AL scout. “A doubles machine and he knows how to extend the bats to put pressure on the pitchers. It will be huge.

“You constantly face good pitches in the playoffs. Situational hitting has hurt the Yankees in the playoffs in recent years. They’ll bludgeon you with the home run and destroy mediocre pitchers during the season, and do it very well, but it’s much harder against elite pitchers like the Astros.

As great as Judge was last season, he failed in his playoff follow-up to break Roger Maris’ AL home run record, going 1-for-16 in the ALCS without RBI. Still, he’s the least of the Yankees’ worries, assuming he’s healthy.

“It took someone 61 years to do what Judge did last year, so I don’t think even he thinks so. [62 homers] can happen again,” Nelson says. “If he hits .300 with 45 home runs and 100+ RBIs, that’s a monster year and I would expect that.”

While there were no seismic changes to the offense, the Yankees could get an infusion of their farm system, like they did last year when Oswaldo Cabrera came on and dazzled at multiple positions. on the field and threw a promising bat.

Anthony Volpe, their top prospect, won the shortstop position by beating fellow prospect Oswald Peraza with a power spring, particularly at home plate. Volpe “came into the camp and took that position,” Cashman told reporters when the Yanks announced the move.

Now, of course, he has to hold on and the Yankees think he will. In fact, they believe this season is just the start of what could be a special career. Is it risky to give him the job so soon? Of course. Our NL scout suggested Volpe, who has just 99 Triple-A plate appearances, could use more at-bats in the minors.

Neither the NL scout nor the AL scout named Volpe as the Yanks’ opening day shortstop either. The NL scout picked Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who was benched last year in the playoffs, and the AL evaluator thought the 22-year-old Peraza might be the toughest defender strong among the three, was the best choice. Peraza has been sent to Triple-A and IKF is moving into a utility role.

“Peraza is going to be a very good player,” added the AL scout. “He’s more of a naturally gifted defensive shortstop than Volpe, but Volpe could also be a quality shortstop. And he could slip to second base. With the depth they have now, they are in a good position. I don’t know if that’s enough to overtake the Astros. »

The NL executive wonders if the changes in the front office, rather than the roster, will have a bigger impact. The Yankees added two former general managers, Brian Sabean and Omar Minaya, who both have a reputation for evaluating players, to a brain trust recently criticized for relying heavily on analysis. Perhaps that affects how the Yankees approach the trade deadline. Or how they proceed with their prospects.

The deadline should be a watershed moment for the Yanks, who could be fine-tuning a championship-level roster or looking for a big deal to propel them to an AL East title. Even with a potential opening in left field, the Yankees ditched the addition of a left-handed outfielder over the winter. And they seem content to give major roles to Josh Donaldson and Aaron Hicks, both of whom were disappointments last season.

Can these two bounce back? Nelson thinks Hicks shortened his momentum, which might help, and the NL scout says Hicks “hit the ball on the screws the time I saw him. I think he has talent. »

Donaldson’s defense was terrific last year at third base, but his offense wasn’t up to mid-order standards — he had a career-worst .682 OPS. Our executive says “I wouldn’t be as confident as the Yankees” on a rebound.

Nelson, however, noted that Donaldson might have been shocked getting traded in spring training last year and donning stripes for the first time. “Sometimes,” Nelson said, “that second year as a Yankee is more comfortable…I think Donaldson can bring a little more offense.”

It would help a rotation that, at its peak, would present a daunting task for opponents in a playoff series. If the Yankees can start Gerrit Cole, Rodon, Luis Severino and Nestor Cortes in October, maybe even Houston can’t beat them in a seven-game series.

“A lot of organizations would envy the Yankees for even getting to where they are,” the Newfoundland scout said. “There’s something to be said about being in a position to get into the World Series. They just haven’t walked away with the big bucks yet.

Have they done enough to make sure this is the year they do?


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