How far will offseason flurry empower Yankees for a power surge in 2024?
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The remnants of the disappointing 2023 season continue to linger in the Bronx, but the New York Yankees are resolute in drowning out those echoes with the resounding roar of a revitalized offense. The discontent-filled season, marked by Aaron Judge‘s absence and lackluster hitting, acted as a clarion call for change. In a post-mortem press conference, Judge unequivocally conveyed the need for a transformation.
Enter Juan Soto, the most sought-after bat in baseball, leading the charge for change. Soto’s arrival signifies a strategic pivot, a potent remedy for the offensive struggles that plagued the team in 2023. Enduring a season with a wRC+ and OPS ranking among the lowest in the past decade, the Yankees were yearning for firepower, and Soto brought a nuclear payload.
Yankees’ hope ride high on Soto
Soto’s track record speaks volumes. Since his remarkable debut at 19, even his “worst” season marked a 43% improvement over the average MLB hitter. He is a formidable force at the plate, a slugger with an on-base percentage that rivals the league’s highest.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone has already outlined his plan, envisioning Soto as the orchestrator in the second slot and Judge, the reigning home run king, wielding his bat in the third position. It’s a blend of power and patience, a dynamic duo that could leave opposing pitchers breathless.
The ZiPS projections from Fangraphs paint an enticing picture. Both Soto and Judge are expected to finish among the top five in OPS+, promising an offensive spectacle for the Bronx faithful. With Judge projected for a monstrous 34 home runs and a 5.5 WAR, and Soto showcasing an impressive 5.5 WAR performance of his own, the Yankees may finally possess the firepower to reclaim their throne.
General manager Brian Cashman, often a target for criticism, exudes confidence in his offseason maneuvers. “I believe we’ve made improvements,” he declared, echoing the sentiments of a Bronx hungry for redemption. “We’ve revitalized key areas, particularly the offense, and we’re thrilled about the possibilities.”
For the New York Yankees, the narrative of 2024 transcends erasing the bitterness of 2023; it’s a testament to showcasing that a reinvigorated offense, fueled by Soto’s brilliance and Judge’s ascension, can quell the skeptics and paint the Bronx with the vibrant hues of victory. The stage is set, the bats are poised, and the resounding roar of the Bronx Bombers is poised to echo once more.
Verdugo on left, stability replaces chaos
While Juan Soto commands attention as the star of the Bronx Bombers’ offseason upgrades, another strategic move has quietly fortified a vulnerable position: the addition of Alex Verdugo, providing stability to left field after years of uncertainty.
According to ZiPS projections, Verdugo is anticipated to be a reliable contributor, boasting a .268/.327/.419 slash line, 15 home runs, and 1.6 WAR. Beyond the statistical outlook, his presence addresses the glaring void that characterized left field in 2023.
The Yankees struggled significantly in left field last season, concluding with the fifth-lowest wRC+ and the poorest DRS in the league. A rotating cast of 10 players, including the likes of Oswaldo Cabrera (a promising rookie thrust into an unfamiliar role), Aaron Hicks (battling confidence issues), and a mix of veterans such as Greg Allen and Willie Calhoun, failed to offer stability or ignite the offense.
While Verdugo may not be a headline-grabbing addition, his arrival signifies much-needed reliability. His projected 106 OPS+ might not be eye-catching, but it stands as a notable 19 points higher than the combined output of all Yankees left fielders in 2023. This improvement, though seemingly modest, transforms left field into a legitimate everyday option, a marked departure from the instability of the previous year.
With Verdugo securing left field, the Yankees can establish a more robust offensive foundation. Freed from the burden of a perpetually unsettled position, the Bronx Bombers can now focus on unleashing the offensive prowess of Judge and Soto, assured that left field is no longer a vulnerability but a consistent source of production.
Grisham: Glove of gold or hidden bat?
While the headlines may be dominated by the offensive prowess of Soto and Judge, a pivotal offseason move for the Yankees quietly unfolds in center field with the addition of Trent Grisham. According to ZiPS projections, Grisham is anticipated to be a defensive force, projecting as a .219/.321/.406 hitter with an impressive 2.7 WAR, primarily attributed to his magical glove.
Positioned as the team’s fourth outfielder, Grisham is poised to inherit Harrison Bader’s role, flanked by Verdugo and Soto in the corners. However, the potential impact of Grisham should not be underestimated. Widely regarded as the Yankees’ best defensive outfielder, he possesses the ability to transform highlight-reel catches into routine plays. With injuries inevitable, his elite defensive skills ensure him substantial playing time.
ZiPS projects 537 plate appearances for Grisham, a seemingly high number for a fourth outfielder, but entirely plausible considering the unpredictable nature of the season. These at-bats would have ranked him as the fourth-most active hitter on the 2023 Yankees, underscoring his potential value.
Bader, Grisham’s predecessor, faced challenges with injuries and inconsistency, leading to his waiver due to offensive struggles, particularly against right-handed pitching. While Grisham isn’t expected to be a major offensive force, his projected 101 OPS+ already represents a significant improvement compared to the struggles of 2023, where only Judge and Gleyber Torres surpassed that mark.
The arrival of Grisham signals a strategic shift, emphasizing elite defense and depth alongside the raw offensive power of the team. He emerges as the X-factor, a human highlight reel with hidden offensive potential waiting to be unleashed. With Grisham patrolling center field, the Yankees aim to convert defensive brilliance into crucial victories, shaping a well-rounded team ready to reclaim the glory of the Bronx.
Stroman shores up Yankees rotation
While the dreams of a Cy Young award remained just out of grasp, the Yankees reinforced their rotation by adding the reliable arm of Marcus Stroman. According to ZiPS projections, he is expected to serve as a dependable #3 starter alongside Gerrit Cole and Carlos Rodón, presenting a notable improvement over Luis Severino’s struggles in 2023.
Bringing a combination of experience and consistency, Stroman boasts four consecutive seasons with an ERA below 4.00 prior to his recent injury challenges. Although ZiPS forecasts a slight uptick above 4.00 this year, Stroman’s proficiency in inducing ground balls necessitates a top-tier defensive infield to maximize his effectiveness. The exceptional infield defense of the Cubs, leading the league in OAA in 2023, played a pivotal role in Stroman’s past success.
The Yankees, who finished 12th in OAA last season, must contribute their part in providing robust support for Stroman. Despite the marginally higher projected ERA, Stroman represents a significant upgrade over Severino’s performance in 2023. The replacement of inconsistency with dependability marks a crucial step toward stabilizing a rotation in dire need of such reinforcement.
While Stroman may not be the Yankees’ envisioned Cy Young contender, his arrival firmly secures a vital piece of the puzzle. He brings a proven track record of reliability, a ground-ball strategy that demands excellence from his teammates, and a stability that the Bronx Bombers yearn for. With Stroman taking the mound, the Yankees can concentrate on unleashing their offensive prowess with increased confidence, knowing they have a dependable arm anchoring the heart of their rotation.
Brighter prospects, lingering shadows
The Bronx still bears the bitter aftertaste of the 2023 season, but the 2024 Yankees step onto the field with a rejuvenated lineup and rekindled optimism. The voids of the past have been filled, replaced by the dynamic presence of Juan Soto and a more well-rounded offensive juggernaut. Yet, lingering questions persist, akin to hushed whispers in the shadows, yearning for resolution.
On the surface, the improvements are evident. Soto’s addition transforms the offense, offering Judge a formidable ally and potentially dispelling the echoes of “below-replacement” bats. However, the specter of health remains an ever-present concern. The age of Stanton, Rodón’s historical health challenges, and Rizzo’s recent concussion issues cast troubling shadows. While the team’s depth has been enhanced, particularly on the offensive front, a worst-case scenario of injuries could still wreak havoc.
The pitching staff, anchored by Cole’s brilliance, grapples with its own vulnerabilities. Luke Weaver, designated as the sixth starter, is a gamble, with a limited sample size offering minimal certainty. Beyond him lies uncharted territory, with untested prospects like Warren holding faint lanterns in the darkness. The lack of reliable depth beyond Cole presents a stark reality, casting doubt on their resilience in the face of the inevitable challenges of the season.
Yet, hope perseveres in the Bronx. Should key players return to their peak forms, the rotation could ascend to lofty heights. ZiPS projections, though uncertain, suggest a potential win range of 86-90, enough for a playoff berth but possibly insufficient to conquer the American League East. The resurgent Orioles pose a formidable obstacle, even after a subdued offseason.
Nevertheless, the Yankees cling to their advantage: talent. ZiPS foresees two All-Star-caliber players and nine average regulars, placing them in the company of juggernauts like the Astros and Braves. On paper, at least, the Bronx Bombers are ready for action.
The potential growth of Anthony Volpe, a resurgent Stanton unleashing his power, and Rodón delivering dominant performances could all tilt the scales in their favor. Yet, turning a blind eye to looming injury risks and relying on potential comebacks constitutes a perilous wager.
Boone’s words linger in the air: “We have to handle our business on the field.” The 2024 Yankees teeter on the brink of greatness, but only if they can confront the shadows threatening to dim their dazzling potential. Whether they rise to the challenge or succumb to the weight of their history remains uncertain. The Bronx holds its breath, anticipating the answer to be inscribed in the flames of the upcoming season.
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