Hello, and welcome to the 2015 baseball season, sports fans. In the opening series, the New York Yankees will take on the Toronto Blue Jays in a three-game set in the Bronx. After missing the playoffs each of the last two seasons, the Yankees were conservative by their own standards this offseason, opting to retain Chase Headley and bring in Andrew Miller as the big moves of the offseason. The Blue Jays, of course, carry the longest postseason drought in baseball and added Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson to what was already a potent lineup. It should be a fun and interesting series to kick off the season.
CF-L Jacoby Ellsbury (.271/.328/.419/.275, 3.6)
LF-L Brett Gardner (.256/.327/.422/.276, 3.2)
RF-S Carlos Beltran (.233/.301/.402/.258, 0.0)
1B-S Mark Teixeira (.216/.313/.398/.263, 0.3)
C-L Brian McCann (.232/.286/.406/.256, 1.8)
3B-S Chase Headley* (.261/.371/.398/.283, 2.1)
DH-R Alex Rodriguez** (.244/.348/.423/.273, 0.7)
2B-L Stephen Drew* (.150/.219/.271/.194, -0.9)
SS-L Didi Gregorius (.226/.290/.363/.244, 1.4)
*Statistics include time with the Yankees only.
**Statistics are from 2013.
The Yankees offense has a lot of the same faces that were here at the end of last year. Headley and Stephen Drew were re-signed and Carlos Beltran’s elbow is healthy now. The Yankees traded for the slick fielding Gregorius and A-Rod is back as the DH after missing all of 2014 due to suspension. The Yankees were 13th in the American League in runs last year and without many personnel changes it’s clear the club is counting on improvement from the players already in place. PECOTA projects Beltran, Teixeira, McCann, Drew, and Gregorius to improve on the TAv displayed next to each above.
SS-S Jose Reyes (.287/.328/.398/.271, 2.8)
C-R Russell Martin (.290/.402/.430/.312, 5.2)
RF-R Jose Bautista (.286/.403/.524/.329, 6.0)
1B-R Edwin Encarnacion (.268/.354/.547/.302, 2.6)
3B-R Josh Donaldson (.255/.342/.456/.302, 6.7)
DH-S Justin Smoak (.202/.275/.339/.235, -0.8)
LF-R Kevin Pillar (.267/.295/.397/.258, 0.3)
2B-R Devon Travis*** (.298/.356/.460/.277, 2.5)
CF-S Dalton Pompey (.231/.302/.436/.253, 0.1)
***Statistics are from the minors.
The Jays project to have one of the best offenses in all of baseball this year. Toronto was fourth in the AL in runs scored last season and that was before the offseason additions of Martin, Donaldson, and the injured Michael Saunders. While catcher and third base weren’t major holes for the Blue Jays last year, Martin and Donaldson are still substantial upgrades offensively. Each team only has a few guys in the lineup who are a threat to steal bases and for the Jays that’s Reyes and Pompey.
OF-R Chris Young* (.282/.354/.521/.308, 0.8)
INF-R Gregorio Petit (.278/.300/.423/.263, 0.5)
C-R J.R. Murphy (.284/.318/.370/.265, 0.2)
1B/OF-L Garrett Jones (.246/.306/.411/.267, 0.1)
Chris Young was a revelation after coming over from the Mets last year and that’s why we call him True Yankee™ Chris Young. Jones was acquired along with Nate Eovaldi from the Marlins in the Martin Prado trade and likely more gobsmacked than anyone at A-Rod’s spring training numbers. He’s still nice insurance to have if an injury to Beltran or Teixeira were to arise. Murphy and Petit each made the team in the last few days. Petit, a veteran minor leaguer acquired from the Astros, gives the Yankees a sure-handed infield backup. Murphy outlasted Austin Romine in the competition for the backup catcher job in camp.
C-S Dioner Navarro (.274/.319/.395/.257, 1.4)
IF/OF-R Steve Tolleson (.253/.308/.371/.251, 0.1)
IF/OF-R Danny Valencia**** (.240./.273/.364/.223, -0.2)
****Statistics are from time with Blue Jays only
As you can see, the Blue Jays are only carrying three extra players. Despite his contract, Navarro is nice to have as a bench piece. He can obviously catch, but he also did a solid job with the bat last year when Edwin Encarnacion got injured down the stretch. They won’t be sorry for not trading him if there’s an injury or Justin Smoak struggles. Valencia is a solid option against left-handed pitching.
Starting Pitchers (IP, ERA, FIP)
RHP Masahiro Tanaka (136.3, 2.77, 3.07)
RHP Michael Pineda (76.3, 1.89, 2.74)
LHP C.C. Sabathia (46, 5.28, 4.81)
I’m very excited to see all three of these guys make their first start as there’s unique intrigue surrounding each of the trio entering this season. Tanaka, of course, made headlines recently when he said not to expect much velocity from him this year. This comment only adds to the intrigue as he was already coming off being shutdown for a good portion of last season with a slight UCL tear and prioritizing his two-seam fastball over the four-seam fastball this spring. It’s always exciting when Michael Pineda is healthy and pitching well and he’s coming off posting a SO:BB ratio of 23-to-1 this spring. C.C. Sabathia didn’t enjoy the same type of success in spring training; his ERA was 11.57. He looked pretty hittable, but he also made it through the spring healthy and that still counts for something given the nature of this year’s rotation.
RHP Drew Hutchison (184.7, 4.48, 3.87)
RHP R.A. Dickey (215.7, 3.17, 4.35)
LHP Daniel Norris (6.7, 5.40, 6.16)
Of the Yankees projected offensive starters, only Alex Rodriguez is strictly a right-handed hitter. Having the platoon advantage could prove advantageous on Opening Day when Hutchison takes the mound as he displayed a pronounced platoon split last year as he allowed an .817 OPS against left-handed hitters. The lefty Norris will be making his second major league start after making the rotation out of spring training and his control will be something to watch against a veteran lineup like the Yankees’.
Bullpen (IP, ERA, FIP)
RHP Dellin Betances (90, 1.40, 1.67)
LHP Andrew Miller***** (20, 1.35, 1.16)
RHP David Carpenter (61, 3.54, 2.91)
LHP Justin Wilson (60, 4.20, 3.59)
RHP Chris Martin (15.7, 6.89, 3.74)
LHP Chasen Shreve (12.3, 0.73, 1.40)
RHP Esmil Rogers* (25, 4.68, 4.20)
*****Statistics include time with Baltimore only.
The Yankees have a bit of a new feel to their bullpen. Legendary closer Mariano Rivera retired after the 2013 season and the club lost another mainstay in the bullpen this offseason when David Robertson signed with the Chicago White Sox. The Yankees still have a formidable bullpen with Betances and Miller, who have each been deemed “co-closers” by manager Joe Girardi, at the end of games.
LHP Brett Cecil (53.3, 2.70, 2.37)
LHP Aaron Loup (68.7, 3.13, 3.86)
RHP Miguel Castro
RHP Roberto Osuna
RHP Marco Estrada (150.7, 4.36, 4.85)
LHP Colt Hynes** (17, 9.00, 5.55)
RHP Todd Redmond (75, 3.24, 3.59)
RHP Liam Hendricks**** (13.3, 6.07, 6.23)
The Blue Jays are carrying eight men in the bullpen including two rookies in Castro and Osuna. It’s a temporary setup, but looking at the eight names above it’s clear that this isn’t a very strong bullpen. Brett Cecil and Aaron Loup are solid pitchers, but getting the ball to them with the lead could be an issue for Toronto this year.
The Yankees defense looks great on paper. Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius make up one of the best left sides of the infield in baseball. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner cover much of the spacious outfield at Yankee Stadium. The Jays have a new young centerfielder in Dalton Pompey and it should be fun to watch him run down fly balls. Toronto’s defense doesn’t project to be as good as New York’s and Jose Reyes is becoming part of the problem. In two of the last three seasons, he’s posted -10 FRAA or worse.
Bullpen usage will be something to watch closely in this series. While Betances struggled deep into spring training, he seemed to get better over the last week. On Saturday, he struck out the side in Washington (all on sliders) and his average fastball topped 95 mph, according to Brooks Baseball. It wouldn’t surprise me if Betances is getting stronger with each outing. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Girardi gives him the first save opportunity.
On the other side, John Gibbons looks to improve on his replay challenge percentage from last year, which was the worst in the majors at 33 percent.
The Yankees and Blue Jays have contrasting styles. While the Jays have a fearsome and powerful lineup, the Yankees have the better bullpen and team defense. Despite the Yankees’ offensive struggles over the last two seasons, the club still managed a record of 89-73 at home. As tempting as it is to pick the Blue Jays with their impressive lineup in this series, I think the Yankees will come from behind to win a game on the strength of their bullpen and take the series 2-1.
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