Horoscopes
Columnists
Like Us On Facebook

Yankees and Mets Spring Training Recap/Season Preview

BY TROY MAURIELLO

SPORTS EDITOR

 

 As the Yankees and Mets head back north to begin their seasons in April, both of New York’s teams will be relying on a heavy backbone of youth to carry them in 2017

But while the Mets young stars, spearheaded by their imposing pitching staff, have already established themselves as major league talents, the Yankees will rely on some youth that may still be waiting in the wings.

 That Bronx youth comes in the form of a farm system currently ranked as the second best in the MLB right now, behind only the Atlanta Braves. Prospects such as shortstop Gleyber Torres, outfielders Clint Frazier and Aaron Judge and pitchers James Kaprielian and Justus Sheffield all are currently top 100 prospects that could see time in the majors in 2017.

Those farm hands are joined by the likes of Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird, both of whom have impressed fans, scouts and Yankees coaches alike in limited major league action.

Gary Sanchez

Sanchez exploded on the big league scene, quite literally, for the Yankees near the end of 2016. In just 53 games and 229 plate appearances, the 24-year-old catcher slugged 20 home runs and drove in 42 runs. This earned him a second place finish in American League Rookie of the Year voting, despite playing less than one-third of the season.

“I think Gary has the perfect makeup for New York,” Alex Rodriguez said on Sanchez. “He’s got a flair for the dramatic, but he’s got a very, very slow heartbeat. He’s extremely confident, and that’s rare for a player that age.”

Greg Bird

Bird’s 2015 performance in a similar amount of action was nearly as impressive as Sanchez’s one year later. The first baseman recorded 11 home runs and 31 Runs Batted In, despite playing in just 46 games. There were high hopes for Bird heading into 2016 before he tore his labrum in his right shoulder and was forced to miss the entire season.

    Now with Sanchez and Bird projected in the Yankees Opening Day lineup, fans will get a taste of what this hopeful two-man wrecking crew can accomplish. And if this spring is any indicator of future performance, opposing pitchers may be in for a long season.

As of March 24, Bird has hit .432 in Spring Training with a team-high six home runs and 11 RBI’s. Sanchez hasn’t been far behind, hitting .375 with four homers and a team-leading 13 RBI’s.

Bird and Sanchez will be joined by a group of mostly familiar faces in the Yankees lineup this season. With Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann all retired or playing elsewhere, it will be new addition Matt Holiday’s job to lose at designated hitter.

 Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner will still patrol the outfield and the top of the batting order, but with each of them now 33 years old, younger replacements could be waiting in the minors.

 The infield will remain in tact from 2016 with Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro up the middle and Chase Headley at third, although Gregorius will miss at least the first month of the season after a suffering an injury at the World Baseball Classic.

 “You look at a guy like Tyler Wade, who has played very well,” Manager Joe Girardi said on a possible replacement. “But I’ll look at anybody.”

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi talks to the media before a baseball practice at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun 2012)

 However the question mark for the Bronx Bombers, as it always seems to be, will be their starting rotation. With Dellin Betances and the recently re-acquired Aroldis Chapman in the bullpen, the Yankees should have no issues closing out games, but getting the ball to those two may prove difficult.

Masahiro Tanaka

Masahiro Tanaka, quietly one of the game’s best pitchers over the past few seasons, will be the ace of the Yankees staff. If he can remain healthy, he should be one of the better pitchers in the American league.

“He’d find something wrong in a perfect game,” Girardi said on Tanaka, who has yet to allow an earned run yet this spring.

 But following Tanaka are a ton of question marks. CC Sabathia saw something of a career renaissance in 2016, as his 3.91 ERA and 1.32 WHIP were each his lowest since 2012. Can Sabathia, who turns 37 in July, repeat those numbers once again?

 Michael Pineda will be the Yankees third starter, and some combination of Luis Severino, Adam Warren, Bryan Mitchell and Chad Green will fill in the rotation’s final two spots.

 “There will be plenty of innings,” Girardi said. “It may be a situation where a couple of them are piggybacking one day and then you flip them the next game.”

With the Yankees appearing to be in quasi-rebuilding mode for 2017, the Mets will have a chance once again to make New York orange and blue for the first time arguably since 2006.

CC Sabathia

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a shocking run to the World Series in 2016, the 2016 Mets battled through starting rotation injuries and a pedestrian starting lineup to make an, albeit short, playoff appearance.

But now, with their starting rotation in tact and all key offensive players returning, the Amazin’s appear to be going for it all in 2017.

Leading that rotation will be a top four of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob DeGrom, Matt Harvey and Steven Matz, all of whom battled injury in 2016 but appear to be healthy heading into Opening Day.

Those four, when healthy, can match up with any pitching staff in baseball, and they give the Mets a great chance to retake the National League East crown from the Washington Nationals.

 “I think the strength is there,” Harvey said regarding his return from injury last season. “I feel great in between starts, not getting sore at all, doing my long toss normally.”

Jeurys Familia

 A stellar back end of their bullpen only adds to the strength of the Mets pitching staff. Both Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia were outstanding last season, contributing to a 3.58 staff ERA that was good for third in the MLB.

Familia, however, will likely be suspended for the first 30 games of the season after domestic violence allegations in the offseason. Although no charges were brought against him, the closer can still be suspended by the MLB. This similar situation occurred with Aroldis Chapman prior to last season, and he was given a 30-game suspension.

The concern for the Mets once again will be the production of their starting lineup. Their 671 runs ranked 26th in the MLB last season, with their .246 batting average ranking 25th and their .316 on-base percentage 23rd.

Those pedestrian offensive numbers just will not cut it for the Mets in 2017, especially if they expect to contend with National League offenses such as the Cubs, Nationals and Dodgers.

Yoenis Cespedes

 The backbone of that offense will be outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who signed arguably the most well deserved contract of the offseason when he inked a four-year, $110 million deal to stay with the Mets in November.

 Cespedes absolutely carried the Amazin’s offense in 2016. He led the team with 31 home runs, 86 RBI’s, a .354 on-base percentage and a .530 slugging percentage, and his .280 batting average tied for the team lead. His goal in 2017? To be the first Met to win an MVP Award.

“That’s what I want,” Cespedes said to the NY Post via translator. “These are things that I’ve always thought about. It’s any ballplayer’s dream.”

Jose Reyes

Jose Reyes returned to New York and nicely stepped into a role at third base after David Wright went down early in the season. He, along with 2016 acquisitions Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker, all over-performed last season.

 

Asdrúbal Cabrera had arguably the best season of his career in 2016 and locked down the starting shortstop job, while Walker played well through the first few months of the season before a back injury in August put him on the shelf.

Asdrúbal Cabrera

 The Mets will need better, less injury-plagued seasons from catcher Travis d’Arnaud and Lucas Duda in 2017. Both of them will be in the Opening Day lineup and must return to their 2015 forms if the Mets offense is going to improve.

“It’s too early to start writing lineups, but as we all know, if Travis does what we hope he can do, he’s going to be in there,” Manager Terry Collins said on d’Arnaud.

The same cannot be said for David Wright. “Captain America” is currently battling a shoulder injury after a neck injury ended his 2016 season. Wright wasn’t expected to be much more than a platoon player in 2017, but even that role may be in doubt.
With youth movements currently taking place in both the Bronx and Queens, the future looks bright for both the Yankees and Mets. However whether or not 2017 will be a memorable year for baseball in New York City remains to be seen.

Comments