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MLB Team Roundup: New York Yankees

Aaron Judge

Aaron Judge

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

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New York Yankees

2022 Record: 99-63

1st Place, AL East

Team ERA: 3.28 (5th in MLB)

Team OPS: .751 (4th in MLB)

What Went Right

The old saying goes that if a season doesn’t wind up with a World Series championship for the Yankees then it was a disappointment. The Yankees dominated the American League East, finishing seven games ahead of the Blue Jays and finishing with the second highest win total in the league behind only the Astros. Those same Astros would sweep the Bombers in the American League Championship Series and go on to win the title, leaving the Yankees searching for answers as they scored just nine runs over their four games in the ALCS. Aaron Judge had a record-breaking season, crushing an American League record 62 home runs while slashing a ridiculous .311/.425/.686 with 133 runs scored, 131 RBI and 16 stolen bases. He led the league in long balls, RBI, runs scored, walks (111), on-base percentage, slugging and OPS. Jose Trevino emerged as an All-Star behind the plate and secured the Platinum Glove as the top overall defender in the American League. Anthony Rizzo and Giancarlo Stanton each eclipsed the 30-homer plateau – though they did so with unsightly batting averages. Matt Carpenter found new life as a 36-year-old with the Yankees, slashing a monstrous .305/.412/.727 with 15 homers in just 154 plate appearances. Nestor Cortes Jr. proved that his 2021 campaign was no fluke, registering a minuscule 2.44 ERA and 0.92 WHIP over 158 1/3 innings. Luis Severino returned from the injured list and gave the club 100 stellar innings over 19 starts. Clay Holmes emerged as one of the most dominant late-inning bullpen arms in all of baseball – recording seven victories and 20 saves.

What Went Wrong

Obviously, getting swept in the ALCS and scoring only nine runs in the series is going to leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouths. That wasn’t the only thing that went wrong over the course of the season though. The club’s attempt to get by with Isiah Kiner-Falefa as their starting shortstop didn’t work out as planned – as he eventually got benched during the postseason. Josh Donaldson had a miserable first season in pinstripes, slashing a woeful .222/.308/.374 with 15 homers in 132 games. Joey Gallo was a black hole at the plate for half a season before being dealt to the Dodgers at the trade deadline. Aroldis Chapman was an unmitigated disaster for the majority of the season – posting a 4.46 ERA and 1.43 WHIP across 36 1/3 innings. He missed time due to a strange infection that he got after getting a tattoo, he was eventually ousted from the closer’s role and then abandoned his team completely for the postseason. Frankie Montas was supposed to be a major upgrade to the starting rotation after he was acquired from the A’s at the deadline, but he wound up posting a cringe-inducing 6.35 ERA and 1.54 WHIP over 39 2/3 innings in his eight starts with the team. Marwin Gonzalez – who was supposed to be a key contributor off the bench in a utility role – posted an abysmal .576 OPS in 207 plate appearances.

Fantasy Slants

** Aaron Judge was an absolute fantasy superstar during the 2022 season – turning into a complete five-category monster with one of the greatest all-around seasons of this generation in his walk year. The question now – is how do we value him heading into the 2023 season? The power is going to be there – regardless of what jersey Judge dons for the 2023 season – though playing his home games outside of the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium would ding his overall home run total at least a bit. The biggest surprise of his magical 2022 season though was the 16 stolen bases that he chipped in after having swiped 15 bases over the previous four seasons combined. The likelihood is that he’ll revert to being a 5-7 stolen base type of guy, though again that could fluctuate depending on the overall strategy and aggressiveness of the manager that he winds up playing for. One thing is for certain – Judge will not be going at a discount in 2023 fantasy drafts. His early average draft position sits at pick five overall – and he has gone as high as the second overall selection.

** Another intriguing player heading into the 2023 fantasy draft season is Yankees ace Gerrit Cole. The right-hander was the consensus top starting pitcher off the board heading into last season’s fantasy drafts, and while he didn’t necessarily deliver a profit from that position, he was still awfully good. Cole somewhat quietly led the league with 257 strikeouts over 200 2/3 innings while posting a 3.50 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. Expect that the huge strikeout totals will continue in 2023 while Cole should once again be in line to win plenty of games for a Yankees club that should once again be favored to win the American League East. After two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani, he’s once again one of the top two starting pitchers off the board in early 2023 drafts – though he has fallen to around pick 16 overall as opposed to the top half of the first round.

** As alluded to above, the continued ascension of Nestor Cortes Jr. was one of the biggest drivers of the Yankees success during the 2022 season. The 27-year-old southpaw picked up right where he left off after his breakthrough 2021 campaign, going 12-4 with elite ratios and a 163/38 K/BB ratio across 158 1/3 frames in his 28 starts while getting elected to his first All-Star squad. He isn’t going to come cheaply in fantasy drafts heading into 2023 – sporting an average draft position around pick 115 overall, which makes him the 45th pitcher (32nd starter) off the board.

** Which version of Clay Holmes should fantasy managers be expecting heading into 2023? For the first half of the 2022 season, the 29-year-old right-hander was one of the most dominant relievers in all of baseball – posting a minuscule 1.31 ERA, 0.87 WHIP and 44/9 K/BB ratio over 41 1/3 innings. The second half was a completely different story though, as injuries and ineffectiveness led to a 4.84 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and 21/11 K/BB mark across 22 1/3 frames. He’ll enter the 2023 season as the club’s unquestioned closer – though with the Yankees bullpen expected to be loaded once again he’ll need to perform in order to keep that role. He’s currently being drafted as the 17th closer off the board in early fantasy drafts – right around pick 140 overall. Given the immense upside that he flashed in the first half of 2022, he could wind up delivering ample profit from that draft spot.

** When will top prospect Anthony Volpe arrive? Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told reporters at the general manager meetings that the 21-year-old will be given an opportunity to compete for the team’s starting shortstop job during spring training. Volpe slashed .249/.342/.460 with 21 homers, 65 RBI and 50 stolen bases across 132 games between Double-A Somerset and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre during the 2022 campaign. With his dynamic blend of power and speed, he has the potential to make an immediate impact in fantasy leagues. Fantasy managers in early drafts aren’t expecting Volpe to break camp with the big league club, as his average draft position currently sits around pick 400 overall. If the Yankees wind up passing on the top shortstops available on the open market and give Volpe the job to start the season, his draft stock would surge.

Key Free Agents

Aaron Judge, Anthony Rizzo, Matt Carpenter, Jameson Taillon, Zack Britton

Team Needs

First and foremost, it seems almost critical that the Yankees re-sign superstar outfielder Aaron Judge. Judge turned down a $213.5 million extension offer from the Yankees earlier during the 2022 season – and the bet on himself absolutely paid off. He’s now expected to land a deal in excess of $300 million. It’s a price the Bombers have to be willing to pay to keep the 30-year-old slugger in pinstripes. The rotation looks to be in good shape – with Cole, Cortes, Severino and Domingo German returning, that leaves just one spot for the Yankees to fill on the open market. They could make a big splash and go after one of the elite free agent hurlers, or they could wind up playing it safe by bringing back Jameson Taillon. The most interesting position to watch for the Yankees this offseason is shortstop. They’re not going to roll Kiner-Falefa out there again – nor will they shift Gleyber Torres back over to the other side of second base. The Yankees could decide to pursue the quartet of elite shortstops on the open market (Trea Turner, Dansby Swanson, Carlos Correa and Xander Bogaerts) and they could absolutely benefit from an upgrade at the position – though with Anthony Volpe waiting in the wings, they may not feel the need. It’ll be interesting to see how desperate they get in that pursuit if Aaron Judge ultimately signs elsewhere. The Yankees will also look to bring back first baseman Anthony Rizzo, though they’ll have plenty of competition for his services on the open market as well.