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Brett Gardner (Keith Allison/Wikipedia)


Comparing the 2016 Yankees to the 2017 Team

Now that spring training is over and the regular season begins, all the experts weigh in with their opinions of who will be this year’s best. In the American League East, the Boston Red Sox are the popular choice to be on top. The New York Yankees can be found anywhere from second to fifth.

Last year, Manager Joe Girardi led the Yankees to a record of 84-78 and a fourth-place finish, even though they should have only won 79 games as they scored 680 runs while allowing 702. Those 84 wins continued a streak of 24 consecutive years of finishing with a winning record, dating back to 1993.

The Yankees minor-league system also excelled last year. All their full-season affiliates made the playoffs, including the AAA Scranton RailRiders who won the Governor’s Cup Championship. Here are all their records:
Scranton 91-52
Trenton 87-55
Tampa 77-58
Charleston 76-63
Staten Island 44-31
Pulaski 29-37
GCL 19-36
GCL 24-31
DSL 27-42
DSL 33-36

Using the 25-man opening day roster, Pinstriped Prospects’ top 50 Yankees prospects list, and baseball reference, I am going to do my best to compare last year’s teams to the ones entering 2017 to see if we should expect a better result, the same, or ones that are worse. Baseball reference uses Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and defines 8+ as MVP, 5+ as All-Star, 2+ as a starter, 0-2 sub, <0 Repl.

First Base
Last year, Mark Teixeira was the opening day first baseman and played in 116 games during his injury-plagued season. He managed only a -.6 WAR.
This year, Greg Bird is entering the season as an unknown, but if spring training is any indication, he should see a WAR in the 4+ range.

Second Base
Last year, Starlin Castro had a solid season and produced a WAR of 1.3.
He returns as a 27-year old, entering his prime. There’s no reason to expect any drop-off.

Third Base
Chase Headley got off to a terrible start in 2016. He battled back and finished with a 2.6 WAR.
He should be able to exceed last year’s production if he can get off to a better start.

In 2016, Didi Gregorius had a very good year and produced a WAR of 2.2.
Gregorius will start this season on the disabled list. Ronald Torreyes, who produced a .5 WAR last year, will be the primary starter for the first month.

Left Field
Brett Gardner put up a respectable 3.3 WAR last year.
This year, he should be able to match that.

Center Field
Jacoby Ellsbury should be able to improve upon his WAR of 2.8 from last year.
Right Field
Carlos was the Yankees most productive player during much of his 99 games in a Yankees uniform. His WAR was a 1.7.
Aaron Judge will be given the opportunity to play every day, and he has the potential to at least match what Beltran did.

Brian McCann put up a WAR of .9 in 130 games last year.
Gary Sanchez did a 3.0 in only 53 games late last year. No one is expecting him to duplicate those results, but perhaps 25 home runs and 85 RBI will make him an all-star and a 5 WAR.

Designated Hitter
Alex Rodriguez did not have an excellent season, producing a WAR of -1.2 before his forced retirement.
Matt Holiday was injured most of last year, and his WAR was .3. Signed as a healthy free agent, he should be much better.

The Bench
Last year, the bench was comprised of Aaron Hicks, Austin Romine, Dustin Ackley, and Torreyes. They combined for a WAR of -.3.
This year Pete Kozma and Chris Carter will join Hicks and Romine as the backups. Similar or slightly better results are likely.

Masahiro Tanaka had an excellent season with a 5.4 WAR. CC Sabathia was solid with a 3.0. Michael Pineda (1.2), Nathan Eovaldi (1.3), and Luis Severino (-.3) were inconsistent at best.
Except for Eovaldi, that staff remains the same. The results from the tail end of the rotation will likely determine the team’s success this season.

Aroldis Chapman began last year suspended and was traded in July, so he mostly earned a 1.4 WAR in about two and a half months on the team. Andrew Miller was the best reliever, with a 2.3 WAR in just over a half a season. Dellin Betances put up a WAR of 1.1. Luis Cessa and Ivan Nova both put up .6 WAR, splitting as starters and relievers. Chasen Shreve, Kirby Yates, and Jonny Barbato combined for a -.4 WAR.
Chapman and Betances are expected to duplicate their results. Tyler Clippard, Tommy Layne, Adam Warren, and Bryan Mitchell all came over late last season and combined for a 1.7 WAR. A full season could be much better. Chasen Shreve and Jonathon Holder are looking to establish themselves.

Overall, the major-league roster this year has an excellent chance of improving from last year 8-10 wins on the stat sheet. Whether the stats can translate to the field, will determine if the team is in contention for at least a wild card berth.

The Prospects

2016: Aaron Judge, Jorge Mateo, Gary Sanchez, James Kaprielian, Domingo Acevedo
Sanchez was historic. Judge made the majors. Mateo had a down year. Kaprielian was injured. Acevedo had a solid season.
2017: Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier, Blake Rutherford, Mateo, Kaprielian.
Top three are all new to the organization. Kaprielian is healthy. Mateo has matured.
Edge: Going to be hard to top what Sanchez did, but certainly possible
2016: Wilkerman Garcia, Dustin Fowler, Rob Refsnyder, Ian Clarkin, Jacob Lindgren
Garcia struggled. Lindgren was injured and is out of the organization. Refsnyder’s made the majors but his days seem numbered. Clarkin and Fowler were solid.
2017: Justus Sheffield, Aaron Judge, Chance Adams, Acevedo, Miguel Andujar.
These prospects are on the rise in the upper levels of the system
2016: Slade Heathcott, Tyler Wade, Luis Torrens, Brady Lail, Bryan Mitchell
Heathcott and Torrens are out of the organization. Mitchell in the majors. Wade on the verge of being in the Bronx. Lail struggled.
2017: Wade, Albert Abreu, Dillon Tate, Dustin Fowler, Jordan Montgomery
Expect to see Wade, Fowler, and Montgomery in the majors before long. Tate and Abreu are power arms.
2016: Mason Williams, Chance Adams, Drew Finley, Hoy Park, Jonathon Holder
Holder and Williams made it to the majors. Adams had a fantastic year. Finley and Park progressed.
2017: Clarkin, W. Garcia, Donny Sands, Dietrich Enns, Chad Green
Sands and Garcia will look to continue to develop. Green, Enns, and Clarkin all figure to spend time in the majors if they are healthy.
Edge: 2017
2016: Thairo Estrada, Luis Cessa, Abiatal Avelino, Ty Hensley, James Pazos
Cessa was a part of the Yankees rotation. Estrada and Avelino had solid seasons. Hensley and Pazos are out of the organization.
2017: Park, Estevan Florial, J. Holder, Williams, Trey Amburgey
Holder and Williams will see time in the majors. Amburgey is looking to rebound from injury. Park continues to develop. Florial may very well develop into a top 5 prospect.
Edge: 2017
2016: Cale Coshow, Austin DeCarr, Ben Gamel, Vincente Campos, Amburgey
Gamel won International League Player of the Year before being traded away. Campos was also traded. Coshow, DeCarr, and Amburgey were all slowed by injuries.
2017: Kyle Holder, Freicer Perez, Billy McKinney, Nolan Martinez, Dermis Garcia
McKinney and Martinez are both new to the organization. Holder, Perez, and Garcia all had good seasons last year.
Edge: 2017
2016: Andujar, Nick Rumbelow, Tyler Austin, Leonardo Molina, Johnny Barbato
Rumbelow was injured. Barbato and Austin advanced all the way to the majors. Molina and Andujar had breakout seasons
2017: Jake Cave, Thairo Estrada, Nick Nelson, Nick Solak, Drew Finley
This could be Cave’s last chance. Estrada and Finley both are lower than last year mostly because of this year’s depth. Solak and Nelson are on the rise.
2016: Montgomery, Jeff Degano, Domingo German, K. Holder, Sands
Montgomery skyrocketed up the rankings. Holder and Sands also jumped. German reestablishing himself after injury.
2017: Kyle Higashioka, Yefrey Ramirez, Avelino, Luis Cedeno, Oswaldo Cabrera
Higashioka will see time in the majors. Ramirez, Avelino, Cedeno, and Cabrera all are looking to develop.
Edge: 2016
2016: Jordan Foley, Tyler Webb, Jose Mesa Jr, Nestor Cortes, Chaz Hebert, Chris Gittens, Gabe Encinas, Carlos Vidal, Dermis Garcia, Jhalan Jackson
The only one of these ten to improve his place on the list is Garcia
2017: Ronald Herrera, Taylor Widener, Rony Garcia, Nick Green, Erik Swanson, Molina, German, Jorge Guzman, Ben Heller, Gittens
Widener, Green, Swanson, Guzman, and Heller are all new to the organization. Molina, Gittens, and German are returning to the list from last year.
Edge: 2017

The Yankees’ farm system is ranked by ESPN and Baseball America as the second-best in the league. Their depth is always mentioned when talking about their prospects. These players are going to be spread throughout their entire organization.
There is a real possibility that all their affiliates are improved from their already good seasons they had last year.

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