If the Yankees Can’t Win the AL East Because of Age, You’re Making the Wrong Prediction

Aaron JudgeLet it be because of Masahiro Tanaka‘s elbow or because you believe Aroldis Chapman will be suspended for most of the year. Think it’s because David Price will win a Cy Young or The Blue Jays will hit 250 home runs as a team. Take a flier on the Tampa Bay Rays’ rotation or Buck Showalter in the dugout for the Baltimore Orioles.

But don’t pick against the Yankees because of the team’s age.

It’s lazy and a mistake.

You can likely go back to around 10 years ago and find at least one “expert” or member of the media who predicted the downfall. The year the Yankees stop competing; the season New York falls below .500 and enters a full rebuild.

It’s about as predictable as the sabermetric community loving the Red Sox to win the World Series every year despite back to back last place finishes, or the Rays’ rotation to dominate it’s way back to where it hasn’t been in eight years.

The Yankees are a flawed team. Maybe outside of the Cubs, all that means it they are on par with 28 other teams in Major League baseball.

But make no mistake, New York has durability question marks in its rotations and workload concerns in the bullpen.

But this is a team who consistently outperforms its metrics. It’s a team with a top five manager, and the capacity for multiple electric arms in the aforementioned rotation.

Not to mention arguably the most frightening bullpen to ever assemble.

Are the Yankees a lock to win the East? No.

Are the Yankees going to challenge for a World Series? It remains to be seen.

But here’s the facts about the team’s age.

It once again went out and grabbed young players even though that didn’t involve a major league free agent. Greg Bird wasn’t making the roster so his injury impact is minimal in 2016. But Starlin Castro and Aroldis Chapman are both in their 20’s. Aaron Hicks is still in his mid 20’s.

With Hicks and a prospect who has worked all winter on adjusting to the difference in AAA pitching and can hit the ball around 500 feet, the Yankees have more high end depth in the outfield than ever before. So don’t worry if Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury or Brett Gardner get hurt as much as you had to worry in year’s past.

And for the record, that trio didn’t start in 91 games last year.

And the Yankees still scored the second most runs.

Now add Hicks and Aaron Judge presumably becoming MLB ready early into the season and people who take this seriously actually think the Yankees can do worse in outfield production this season?

Makes sense.

Chase Headley made 23 errors last season and barely hit his weight. Didi Gregorius had a brutal two months adjusting to New York. The Yankees were historically bad offensively at second base. While third base, shortstop and second aren’t so much injury or age concerns (though Headley does have back issues) you will hear critics clamor about Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann.

McCann, the same catcher who, at 31-years-old outperformed his age 30 season in less games. The same position the Yankees have a top five prospect competing to back up. The same spot on the diamond where they have a catcher who is top five in every offensive category for a catcher except batting average, where he ranks eighth instead.

Brian McCann may fall off a cliff one day, but the Yankees are deeper behind the plate this season and its starter isn’t quite in his twilight yet, nor has he ever had major injury concerns.

Teixeira actually had a season where he didn’t get hurt like he usually does. This time he simply fouled a ball off his leg and broke it, missing the end of the season. It’s not something you blame on age, lack of conditioning or regression. It’s a fluke accident that happened.

Those two missed 78 games last year.

What exactly are critics expecting them to miss this year that’s so much worse?

And the Yankees still scored the second most runs in baseball last season.

Now they’ve added Castro, look for a bounce back year from Headley and have near or completely major league ready high end prospects in Sanchez and Rob Refsnyder.

The bullpen is young.

The rotation is young.

Maybe CC Sabathia‘s age will be the big problem? Alex Rodriguez at DH?

This season the Yankees have safeguarded to an extent against those scenarios too. New York has six healthy major league starters off the bat and a better understanding of Nathan Eovaldi‘s potential as well as full years from Luis Severino and Ivan Nova. Sabathia, himself, could stand to actually improve since the main reason he wasn’t playing despite throwing well towards the end of the year was alcohol, not age or regression.

Rodriguez only hits these days and has a full year under his belt after missing an entire season from suspension. Nobody talks about it, but DH’ing him full-time seems to have revitalized the slugger and the Yankees will likely give him more days off during the season with enough outfield depth for Beltran to DH more.

Are the Yankees’ middle of the order bats old? Yes, but they DH and play a minimally invasive defensive position.

Sort of like David Ortiz in Boston or Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion in Toronto. The latter two guys currently discussing eight figure extensions despite injury woes and being chalked off for 30/100 years despite their own age and durability concerns. The former in his final season with statistics eroding year after year.

Want to discuss durability? Worry about Dustin Pedroia, Jonathan Schoop, Drew Smyly, Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, JJ Hardy, Manny Machado‘s knees, Troy Tulowitzki, Encarnacion and Hanley Ramirez.

Want to talk performance concerns? Pay attention to Pablo Sandoval,  Mark Trumbo, Matt Wieters, Logan Morrison, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Rusney Castillo.

Want to talk age? Pay attention to Ortiz and Bautista.

McCann aside, the Yankees’  five of six best hitters missed a combined 151 games last year and they scored the second most runs in the game. Then they added Castro over whatever corpse was playing there the most in 2015, have Refsnyder, Judge, Sanchez and Hicks potentially helping out this season and have two more starters to count on as well as arguably the best closer in the game added at some point.

Maybe instead of concentrating on the same problems the rest of the division has, it’s time to start worrying about why the Yankees have already faced age and injury concerns and overcome them anyway.

And how they’re even more prepared to do it this season.

 

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