The biggest question entering the off-season was whether or not the New York Yankees could hang on to superstar Aaron Judge. New York decided to lock in the 2022 American League MVP to the largest free agent contract in major league history with a 9-year deal worth $360 million. The San Francisco Giants tried to lure the mammoth slugger back to his hometown but some last-minute negotiations by the Yanks convinced their star to stay in the Big Apple. Bringing back first baseman Anthony Rizzo and adding a big arm to the rotation in Carlos Rondon make the Yankees the team to beat out of the A.L. East. New York Yankees World Series Odds have NY +650 moneyline
Infield: All-Star catcher Jose Trevino led the majors in pitch-framing metric, giving pinstripe hurlers a decided edge with the umpires. Trevino (.671 OPS 11 HR) isn’t Gaby Sanchez with the bat but the Gold Glovers’ defense puts him among the elite backstops in the bigs. Rizzo’s left-handed stick seems to be a perfect fit for the short porch at Yankee Stadium, notching 32 dingers with a .871 OPS. Gleyber Torres has a solid glove at second base and was able to break out his slump at the plate with 24 homers. Shortstop Oswald Peraza is a rangy defender that got hot at the end of last season but provides little power. Peraza could get displaced by top minor league prospect Anthony Volpe who has 20/20 potential. 37-year-old third baseman Josh Donaldson is a sound defender on the hot corner but now has a slider speed bat with a strikeout rate of 27.1%. Utility man D.J. LeMahieu (3.0 WAR, .734 OPS) is likely to platoon often for Donaldson and Torres.
Outfield: Aaron Judge (.311 AVG 62 HR 131 RBI) became the face of major league baseball with a Barry Bonds-like blend of power and pitch selection. Judge is also an outstanding defender with a cannon for an arm and enough range to play center field. Speedy center fielder Harrison Bader can steal bases and defend however he makes only average contact at the plate. Left fielder Aaron Hicks was a major disappointment with a .642 OPS and is likely to split time with Oswaldo Cabrera. Injury-prone designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton can still tear the cover off the ball when available with 31 homers in only 110 games.
Starters: New York’s rotation is in the top-5 entering the season with four starters capable of being All-Stars. Pinstripes ace Gerrit Cole (3.50 ERA 1.02 WHIP 257 K’s) doesn’t have quite the same stuff that he had a few years ago but remains dominant with his rising 98-mph gas. In one of the biggest moves of the off-season big southpaw, Carlos Rondon (2.88 ERA 1.03 WHIP 11.9 K/9) signed a six-year $162 million contract to be the #2 man behind Cole. The fastball/slider specialist has had durability issues but his lofty 5.4 WAR rating last season ranked 30th among all players. Luis Severino has been a little wild since surviving Tommy John surgery in 2020 however his stuff remains lively (96.3 MPH avg fastball). 2022 All-Star lefty Nestor Cortes (12-4 W/L 2.44 ERA 0.92 WHIP) is a master of deception with different windups, arm slots, and deliveries. “Nasty Nestor” throws a pedestrian 91-mph fastball but is able to brilliantly keep hitters off-balance with a deep arsenal of pitches. Frankie Montas (NYY stats 6.35 ERA 1.53 WHIP) has hammered after being traded from Oakland but a filthy splitter gives the Dominican upside if he can adjust to playing in the Bronx.
Relievers: Husky right-hander Clay Holmes (2.54 ERA 20 SV) takes over the closer position with future Hall-of-Famer Aroldis Chapman signing with Kansas City. Holmes is a groundball specialist with a boring 97-MPH sinker that is nearly impossible to hit in the air. Setup man Jonathan Loasiga (4.13 ERA 1.95 BB/9) throws harder than Holmes and has plus off-speed stuff that he knows how to locate. Tommy Kahnle (2.84 13 APP) has relied primarily on his changeup because of a balky elbow but can still run it up into the upper90s. Middle relief workhorse Wandy Peralta (2.84 ERA 103 APP) is reliable and draws weak contact with his fading changeup.
MLB Picks: The Yankees were outclassed by the Houston Astros in the ALCS but the re-signing of their best player and the addition of Rondon puts them on par with the Astros talent-wise. Head coach Aaron Boone has come under scrutiny for some questionable in-game decision-making but has the backing of GM Brian Cashman and owner Hal Steinbrenner. Judge’s supernatural output should cover up for a sub-par bottom half of the order to keep pace with the Astros. Bet the Yankees to win the American League pennant at +230.