New York Yankees As Good As Any Team In AL East

by Nik Swartz | Posted on Tuesday, February 17th, 2015
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Dellin Betances

New York Yankees relief pitcher Dellin Betances

The New York Yankees head into the 2015 season having missed consecutive postseasons for the first time in two decades. Winning the World Series had always been the benchmark in Gotham, but the bar of expectation is set very low this season for the Yankees; though it shouldn’t be.

The 2015 Yankees are as good as any team in the AL East and have the potential to be much better than most think they will be. All the teams in the AL East have questions and concerns and none, as of right now, have a better starting rotation or lineup than the Yankees.

Yes, the Yankees head into the 2015 season without Derek Jeter, the heart and soul of the team for the past 20 years, but the Yankees can be a better team without him in ‘15.

No one expects anyone to replace Jeter, the leader and captain of one of the last dynasties in all of sports, but the 2014 version of Jeter the player was a shell of the player who led the team for the past two decades. Yes Jeter will be missed, in ways much deeper than what he did on the diamond, but it will not be hard to replace the numbers Jeter put up in 2014.

The Yankees upgraded defensively in the offseason when they made a trade for shortstop Didi Gregorius. Gregorius will never be Jeter and he may have issues hitting, but when it’s all said and done, he is a better option than the 2014 Jeter; anything Gregorius can add offensively will be a bonus.

Jeter wasn’t a fulltime shortstop last season and only hit .256 with four home runs and 50 RBI, so as much as Jeter will be missed from a fan standpoint, it’s very probable Gregorius will surpass Jeter’s stat line from last season.

The biggest concern about Gregorius is not his physically ability to play the game, the biggest concern with the young shortstop will be his ability to handle the pressure of taking over for Jeter in the toughest town in MLB. Gregorius has a ton of upside and will not be asked to do a lot, so as long as he can give the team some production and handles himself in the field, the Yankees will be better than they were last season.

Even though the Yankees were not making front page news this offseason with free agent signings, the team did light up the presses last offseason when they went out and opened the checkbook for free agents Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Japanese pitching phenom Masahiro Tanaka.

None of the players had the season the team had hoped for, and each player landed on the DL at one point or another last season, but the Yankees should expect good things from this group in 2015. If the quartet stays healthy and puts numbers up closer to what most expect, the Yankees will be a better team than they were last season.

The chief concern for the Yankees heading into the season is the starting staff’s ability to stay healthy. The Yankees ended last season with all but one of their opening day starters on the DL, so if the starting rotation stays remotely healthy the team will be better.

The Yankees will start the season without Ivan Nova, who is coming off Tommy John surgery, but have as good a top three as anyone in the AL East. Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda all have injury concerns, but they also have the potential to win 15-20 games each. The backend of the rotation could be an issue until Nova comes back. Few expect anything from Chris Capuano, who has never been anything but a low end starter, but newly acquired flame thrower Nathan Eovaldi has the potential to really surprise; Eovaldi makes this rotation and team as a whole better.

The Yankees head to Spring Training with a healthy core of solid veteran stars. Having a healthy Mark Teixeira and Brett Gardner to go with a full season of Chase Headley, Stephen Drew and the player we all love to hate Alex Rodriguez, make the Yankees a better team than they were last season.

Many are tired of hearing about Rodriguez 24/7, but just having Rodriguez the baseball player helps make the Yankees a better team. It’s hard to argue the Yankees aren’t better with Rodriguez, even if he brings a decade worth of unwanted attention with him this season.

It is very plausible Rodriguez will come back, after his yearlong suspension, 50 percent the player he was in his prime, but that still makes him the best backup third baseman/DH in all of baseball, which still makes for a better team.

The biggest area of optimism for the 2015 Yankees is the teams’ bullpen, which will be led by flame thrower Dellin Betances and the Yankees biggest signing this offseason, lefty reliever Andrew Miller.

After decades with future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera shutting the door in the ninth, the Yankees go into 2015 having to make their second change in as many seasons.

Last season’s closer David Robertson has moved onto Chicago and even though he did an admirable job stepping into the larger than life shoes of Rivera, the Yankees will be better at the backend of games, regardless of the player the team choses to close games out this season.

Both Miller and Betances have said they don’t care if they close or not, and there is no set MLB rule stating the Yankees have to use only one, but chances are the team will settle on one of the two before too long. Having to make a decision between Betances or Miller to close games is something most teams in baseball would love to make.

In Betances, who made the All Star team last season in his rookie year, and only pitched to the tune of a 1.40 ERA, a 1.64 FIP, and a 13.50 K/9 ration in 90 innings of work, the Yankees have the next face of their franchise. Betances knows what it’s like to pitch when the game is on the line and even if he can’t quite match his 2014 numbers, he’s proven his mettle and should get a chance to show that he can be the next great Yankee closer.

Miller has more experience than Betances, pitching nearly 500 major league innings (compared to 97.2 for Betances); however, much of that came as a starter.  In 2012, when Miller became a full-time reliever, he posted a 3.17 FIP and a 3.05 FIP in 2013 before his stellar numbers last season, so using him as the set-up man would seem to be the more ideal situation for the team. Regardless of who, or how, the Yankees use the duo, the team is better than they were last season.

Bottom line, Yankees manager Joe Girardi and the team have more healthy talent than they’ve had the past two seasons. Bad luck and tough injuries have hurt the Yankees the past few seasons, but as good luck isn’t promised, bad luck can’t be assumed.

In 2015 if the Yankees get a little good luck, sprinkled with the production expected from the 25 man roster, what they will have is a team that can win the AL East and a team that’s as good as any in the American League.

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Nik Swartz
About the Author

Graduate of Penn State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communication and Psychology, currently a counselor in Philadelphia. I started writing professionally in 1999 as the Penn State beat writer for the Milton Standard/Lewisburg Daily Journal in Pa. I have worked at eight daily newspapers as a Sports Writer/Editor - covering all high school sports, the NFL, professional baseball and professional hockey. A few sites I've written and/or contributed articles for include Rant Sports, Bleacher Report, FanSided and Pro Football Spot. Follow Nik on Twitter @Sweetnesz13.

  • Bob Callison

    Plain and simple, Gregorius sucks! Even the Mets didn’t want him. He batted 226 and all he is, is a glove. He will prove to be an eyesore and a big mistake.

    This team that is one breath away form the MRI tube and is being held together by rubberbands. . There are absolutely no hitting stars on this team and if they are better than last year, that doesn’t say much because if their opponents scored 3 runs, the Yankees lost.

    Mentioning CC as a 15-20 game winner is delusional. His fastball clocked at 88 mph last year. He’s been a power pitcher and now he has no power, pitching on a bald tire.

    All in all, even if the pitching, by some miracle, holds up, the Yankees are a boring time and all these projects come from the Land of Hope. Teixeira batted 216 last year once the shift was employed. He’s approaching 35. He’ll be shifted again and will be an out. Yes, Beltan’s bone chip probably did hinder him but how many 38-year-old hitters produce? Headley is a 246 hitter with a questionable back and not much power. At least McCann is addressing the shift this year and while Elllsbury and Gardner are better than average, they’re not stars.

    That leaves A-rod. Ironically, he might surprise. He has a cause now, has a strong work ethic and will probably devote 100% on giving the best he has left. Based upon the fact that he was once the best player in MLB, a healed A-Rod with something to provie may surprise.

    In fact, the only excitement this team is going to offer is A-Rod. Ironically, he will put more people in seats and push up YES ratings more than all the other players combined–mostly to boo him and because of controversy but Yankee management are morons by challenging his bonus money at the start of the season. He will get 6 home runs and if they try to take that money away, they will do the impossible–make A-Rod into a sympathic figure. They are biting the hand that feeds them.

    Outside of A-Rod, these are the Bronx Bummers who don’t scare pitchers and won’t excite fans.

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