The calendar has turned to 2018 and with a new year comes new expectations. Last year, the New York Yankees season was deemed a “rebuilding” year. The 2017 Yankees shattered those expectations, falling one win short of the World Series. 2018 has a much different feel. Aaron Judge is no longer a rookie. Luis Severino finished 3rd in the AL CY Young vote. Giancarlo Stanton is a Yankee. The Evil Empire is back. The buzz in the Bronx is loud. This team is the favorite to win the World Series in 2018. What must go right for the Yankees to fulfill these predictions?
1. Giancarlo Stanton Must Stay Healthy
In a shocking turn of events, Brian Cashman swooped in and acquired Stanton from the Marlins. The reigning NL MVP and NL HR leader will bat in the same lineup as his twin brother, Aaron Judge. Stanton put it best after the trade saying that he “…[Felt] sorry for the baseballs”. There is zero doubt that Stanton and Judge create a dynamic power duo that will make pitchers terrified.
However, Stanton must be in the lineup everyday for the Yankees to live up to expectations. In 2017, Stanton set a career-high playing in 159 games. Prior to last season, he managed to play in only 193 games over the previous two seasons combined. I am not here to deem Stanton injury prone. He sustained a freak injury when he was hit in the face. Yet, he has only played in 145+ games in a season three times in his eight year career. If the Yankees truly want to be the Bronx Bombers, Stanton will need to play in 145+ games for the fourth time in his career.
2. Dellin Betances Must Rediscover his Command
It is no secret that Betances completely lost control of his command at the end of last season. Bluntly put, he had zero idea where the ball was going when he released it. It was difficult to watch him struggle to throw a strike. As a human, you feel for someone who is clearly struggling to fulfill his responsibilities. It reached a point where Joe Girardi lost complete faith in Betances, avoiding putting him into most playoff games.
Betances will never be the most accurate pitcher in baseball and that is okay. He is often wildly effective. He has been a staple in the Yankees bullpen, making four straight All-Star appearances. He has shown he is capable of dominating at the big league level. When Betances is on he is essentially unhittable. He has had the entire offseason to regain control and the Yankees will need him this upcoming season to be a topflight team.
3. They Must Acquire An Infielder
Look, Gleyber Torres is going to be a star but he has not played a single game in the Majors. Miguel Andujar has only played five career games. Ronald Torreyes is simply not an everyday player. Shedding salary by trading Starlin Castro and Chase Headley were shrewd moves made by Cashman this offseason. However, these moves also significantly depleted their infield depth.
Cashman must bolster his infield prior to Opening Day to solidify their roster. Resigning Todd Frazier seems to be the most logical outcome, but the Yankees appear reluctant to give out a contract longer than one year. They want to keep 3B open for Manny Machado next year. Yes, they have spoken to the Orioles about Machado this offseason, but barring unforeseen circumstances Peter Angelos is not trading with the Yankees. The Yankees have also been linked to Eduardo Nunez who would fit their needs. Whoever it is Cashman and Co. must add an infielder.
4. Luis Severino Must Maintain his Status as the Yankees Ace
Luis Severino was nothing short of brilliant last season. He was virtually unhittable at times and he finished the season with a 14-6 record, a 2.98 ERA, and 230 K’s in 193.1 IP. Those numbers were good enough to earn him third place in the AL CY Young voting. He clearly established himself as the ace of the rotation. However, let us not forget that coming into 2017 uncertainty surrounded Severino. He had struggled immensely in 2016 and the doubters wondered if he had what it took to be a successful starter. Severino silenced those doubters last season and he must continue to silence them in 2018 if the Yankees are going to win the World Series.
Every great team needs an ace and Severino is in position to fill that role for the 2018 Yankees. Having said that, if he takes a step backward it could seriously hurt the Yankees hopes in 2018. He’s only 23-years-old, but the Yankees success lies on his shoulders. If he can step-up and continue his dominance, the Yankees are in position to fulfill championship expectations.