After that devastating lost against the Houston Astros in that one-game Wild Card, the New York Yankees are set to meet the Astros again for Opening Day on Monday, April 4th, and set are redeem themselves for the 2016 season.
We are almost there! Opening Day 2016 (which is basically Christmas to all baseball fans) is just around the corner for the Yankees and it's a relatively brand new team, with the same old questions.
Yankees added new toys: second baseman Starlin Castro, outfielder Aaron Hicks and the biggest name, closer Aroldis Chapman.
As for the old questions it's for the...older players. But some of those older players on this team are in the last year of their contract. These aging players are not just bench players. They're significant pieces to the team that need to be healthy and productive in order for this team to go anywhere, this season.
But then there's Yankee players who're in their prime, that will be pressured to perform. Because some of those players might have younger players ready to take their spot.
10. Brett Gardner
If there one predominant Yankee player, in his prime, who needs to produce this season, it's Brett Gardner.
Gardner was in a lot trade talks this offseason, where the Yankees seemed tempted to deal for a starting pitcher. They didn't find that pitcher or team to take him. But, they did acquire 26-year-old outfielder Aaron Hicks, which means if Gardner doesn't produce, the Yankees and Joe Girardi will not hesistate to play Hicks over him.
So there's gonna be pressure on Gardner to perform and stay healthy. Hicks is a young, switch-hitting, solid defending, speedy outfielder. Hicks could take either Gardner or Jacoby Ellsbury's job.
9. Aaron Judge
Any massive injury to one of the big bats, that'll keep them out for the season, Aaron Judge will replace them. Guaranteed.
Although...you don't want one of those big bats getting injured. I'd love to see Judge, but you don't wanna rely on a rookie to replacing a Carlos Beltran, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira. Even though Greg Bird did a fantastic job replacing Teixeira, last season.
I'd like to see Judge play with those guys at the same time, but if something happens, Judge will be up.
8. Carlos Beltran
Can Carlos Beltran put up one more solid year, at age 38.
With this being Beltran's last year with the Yankees, can he give the Yankees one more big year, at this age, while playing in the outfield. Maybe a lot to ask. But can he do it for one more season?
Beltran can still hit. Last season he had a solid year when he hit 19 homeruns and drove in 67 RBIs; could've had over 20-homers if he'd had a better April. His bad start to the season last year, may have stopped him from having - maybe - a 24-homer, 80-RBI season.
Him being in the outfield worries me. If A-Rod weren't on this team, Beltran would be the DH. And I think he'd better as a DH. He wouldn't be wearing and tearing his knees at this age.
Yankees, like a lot of the players, need Beltran to be big this season. He only had one homerun this spring, but I like the way he's been swing the bat.
7. Chase Headley
This guy needs to have a big year.
Chase Headley needs a 2012 season. In that '12 season, he had a career year with the San Diego Padres, when he hit 31 homeruns and knocked in 115 RBIs. I know that's difficult to ask, but at least a 20-homerun season.
And I think he's due for one those seasons. He's spent his first full season with the Yankees, got the ballpark feel, the media, what it means to win here and now he should be able to take it to the next level.
Although, there might be some pressure on Headley to perform. Yankees have Dustin Ackley on the bench, who can play the third base position and is younger. Also the Yankees have tested rookie Rob Refsnyder at third this spring. Even though it looks like they won't put him back there again, since he isn't polished at the position, but, Refsnyder is younger and this organization has made it clear that 'young and athletic' is the direction they're heading.
I expect Headley to have a big year, but if he doesn't, don't be surprised if Ackely becomes the full time third baseman, if Headley doesn't produce.
6. Luis Severino
Can Luis Severino end up becoming the ace of this staff?
Behind Masahiro Tanaka, Severino is the only pitcher that has the best stuff. And it's strange to say considering he's a 22-year-old rookie. But the kid has the mechanics and mentality to be the second best pitcher, or the ace.
If Severino and Tanaka can be what they're expected, that could be enough for the Yankees to be successful.
5. Ivan Nova
Either he's hurt or pitching the Yankees into the playoffs.
Ivan Nova has had a weird career with the Yankees. The guy is either on the D.L, due to serious arm surgery, or he's pitching shutouts in September.
C.C. Sabathia was named the 5th starter. It was between him and Nova. If something happens to Sabathia, Nova will replace him. On top of that, Nova can become a big part of this Yankee staff.
Nova, when healthy, has always been productive for the Yankees. Even late last season he pitched really well. He even pitched well against the Toronto Blue Jays. Since he came up the Yankees in 2011, you can say Nova has been a big time pitcher.
I would not be shocked if he ends becoming a major part of this rotation. Also, he's in the last year of his contract -- he's gonna wanna showcase what he can go to other teams who might interested in him in the offseason.
4. Mark Teixeira
Starlin Castro could end being so good for the Yankees, I can see him becoming the number three hitter in the lineup.
That's how good I think Castro will become. His swing reminds me a lot Edwin Encarnacion. And if you remember, when Encarnacion was with the Cincinnati Reds, he put up the numbers Castro was putting up now. Encarnacion started hitting homeruns and driving in 100 ribs in his fourth season with the Toronto Blue Jays. He found the touch in left-center field in the Roger Center.
Just like how Castro can find a wind stream in Yankee Stadium. There's no reason, at age 26, Castro can't become a bigger star in the Bronx. He's got the power and can hit ball to all fields. I can see scrapping some opposite field homeruns over that short porch.
You put Castro behind Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, and on front of Alex Rodriguez, that can be tough for any pitcher to pitcher around, if they're all going well.