With the 2022 seasons gearing up to begin on Thursday, I thought it would be fun to make some predictions on this year’s Yankee squad so we have something to look back at when the season comes to a conclusion. Below are five predictions I am making for this year’s Bronx Bombers.
The Yankees will finish Top-10 in DRS
Let’s start with the boldest prediction. Last year Fangraphs had the Yankees combining for an unfathomable -41 DRS which ranked better than only the Phillies. Of course, if you spent any significant time watching the team last year this isn’t a surprise. They were bad with the glove. It got so bad that the Yankees were playing DJ LeMahieu and Gio Urshela out of position at the end of the year just to make Gleyber Torres’ defense less noticeable.
The Yankees targets at the trade deadline last year and offseason this winter aimed to correct those issues. Gone are Clint Frazier (-11 DRS), Gary Sanchez (-11 DRS), Tyler Wade (-5 DRS), Luke Voit (-2 DRS), and Rougned Odor (-3 DRS). In are full seasons from former Gold Glovers Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo, as well as newcomers who have also won the award in Isiah Kiner-Falfea and Josh Donaldson. The Yankees are also swapping out offense for an all defensive approach behind the plate with Kyle Higashioka, Jose Trevino, and Ben Rortvedt.
I have these changes paying off, as the Yankees will jump at least 19 spots to finish Top-10 in combined DRS. For reference, the team that ranked 10th last year was the Dodgers with 36 DRS, meaning the Yankees would need a correction of about 77 DRS to meet that standard. That is no small feat, but I believe the Yankees have the personnel in place to do it.
Five players will finish with 10+ stolen bases
This might not seem like a lot until you realize the Yankees had just two players accomplish this last year. Only Tyler Wade and Gleyber Torres managed to crack double digits in thefts during the 2021 campaign. As was the case with the defense, if you watched last years Bombers at all you probably aren’t all that surprised. Speed and athleticism were clearly lacking, and the front office agreed deeming the team often unwatchable.
While we still won’t mistake this year’s team for the 1887 St. Louis Browns, I do think there will be some more diversity on the base paths. The Yankees hired Matt Talarico as the “Director of Speed and Base Running” which shows they are committed to being better. As a result, I have the Yankees registering five players in double digit steals. Who are the five?
- Gleyber Torres – Last season was Torres’ first with more than six stolen bases, but in a year where he is eager to re-establish himself I believe he will continue last season’s aggressiveness on the bases.
- Aaron Judge – This would be a first for Judge. In his rookie year he came close, swiping nine bags, but he hasn’t topped six since. In the linked article above he is mentioned as buying into the speed program, and in a contract year I have him setting a new career high in this category.
- Aaron Hicks – As most things with Hicks, this will come down to health. He has mentioned during camp his goal is a 30/30 season. While that may be a bit ambitious, I think 10 steals is within reach if he can stay on the field.
- Isiah Kiner-Falfefa – If Kiner-Falefa is healthy it would be an upset if he didn’t come close to the 20 swipes he put up last year. He is averaging 16 steals per 162 games in his career.
- Tim Locastro – Locastro might not get a lot of playing time. He didn’t even make the initial Opening Day Roster. But he is in the 100th percentile in sprint speed across baseball and holds the record for more consecutive swipes without being caught in major league history. Injury will strike and a replacement outfielder will be needed. I think he will pinch run enough and be in enough games late to crack double digits.
The Yankees have an All-Star second baseman
I am not ready to decide who it will be, but one of DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres will be representing the Yankees at the mid-summer classic. Both players are having encouraging springs. The Yankees need one, if not both, of these guys to bounce back if they want to have any shot of contending for a World Series. If either of them do, it raises the Yankees ceiling considerably.
For the Yankees, seeing LeMahieu bounce back would mean feeling more comfortable with the four more years left on his deal after this season. It would also mean the return of the Yankees metaphorical engine that propelled them forward in 2019 and 2020. For Torres a big year means getting back on track for a potential nine-figure deal in a couple years when he reaches Free Agency. Another down year and his long-term future with the Yankees is in doubt.
My prediction is at least one of these guys bounces back to a level that would earn them an All-Star nod. DJ and Gleyber performing at the highest level is crucial to the Yankees success. For all our sakes I hope this prediction comes true. Lackluster performances from both guys in 2022 would likely mean another disappointing finish to the year.
Giancarlo Stanton finishes Top-5 in AL MVP voting
I’ll admit this will be my third year in a row making this prediction. Maybe this is the time it will come true. Giancarlo seems to have finally rid himself of the undeserved ridicule from Yankees fans after a monstrous postseason in 2020 and multiple big hits last year. The 139 games he appeared in during 2021 were the most since his first season in pinstripes. He was healthy enough that he started playing the outfield again. Aaron Boone has said Stanton will continue to play the field a decent amount in 2022.
Outside of Aaron Judge, Stanton is arguably the most important Yankees hitter. As he and Judge go, so do the Yankees. So if Stanton can continue to mash the way he did a majority of last year while playing closer to 150 games, if you mix in the added defensive contributions, 2022 might be Stanton’s highest MVP voting finish since he won the award in 2018.
Chad Green doesn’t finish the year with the Yankees
2022 is Chad Green’s last year of team control before he becomes a free agent. He signed a one year, $4 million contract in his final go around in arbitration. By all accounts, Chad has been a great Yankee. He burst onto the scene in 2017 after converting to relief full time, posting a 1.83 ERA, 1.75 FIP, and 2.4 fWAR out of the pen. While he never matched that production, he has been a consistent force for the Yankees since, amassing a career 3.17 ERA, 3.31 FIP, and 7.5 fWAR total in pinstripes across 368.2 innings.
Despite that consistency it is unlikely the Yankees will re-sign him after this year. They have done a great job of developing bullpen arms in the past few seasons, and have replacements ready in Jonathan Loáisiga, Clay Holmes, and Mike King. They also have several other right handers in the pipeline with Stephen Ridings, Clarke Schmidt, Ron Marinaccio, and the newly acquired Miguel Castro occupying 40-man roster spots.
For all these reasons, I think we see the Yankees trade Green mid-season. We’ve seen this movie before. The Yankees traded Adam Warren while they were still in the race in 2018. They traded Luis Cessa and Justin Wilson to the Reds last July. Those trades aren’t apples-to-apples as Green is better than any of those pitchers, but relievers are a dime-a-dozen to the Yankees these days. If they can get value back and shave a couple million from the luxury tax while doing it, don’t be surprised if Chad Green concludes the season elsewhere.