With all the uncertainty surrounding the 2017 New York Yankees, second baseman Starlin Castro believes his squad is a winning team.
Starlin Castro’s first season with the New York Yankees was a rather turbulent one.
Beginning with the worst start New York had encountered since 1984 (8-15), the franchise sold their three biggest assets in Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Carlos Beltran at the trade deadline and basically threw in the towel on the 2016 season.
Castro was no help, as he slashed .256/.293/.395 in the first half of the season but as the second baseman surged throughout the second half of the year, the Yankees quickly followed.
Following the All-Star break, the 26-year-old slashed .290/.310/.486 with an OPS of .796 — over 100 points higher than his first-half OPS. Castro also ripped 11 home runs, one more than the amount he hit prior to the All-Star break despite playing in 21 fewer games.
While Castro, who is currently batting .400 in spring training, flew under-the-radar thanks to the Baby Bombers, he was a major reason why 2016 seemed like a dawn of a new era rather than an enormous failure. After the deadline, the Yankees went 32-26 including a near-perfect August that brought them from within one game of a postseason spot.
Yes, they did have Gary Sanchez‘s historic rise, but that was also a team without their dynamic closer, consistency in their rotation, an effective first baseman and a decent start from their powerful young right fielder.
As 2017 draws near, Castro isn’t looking at the “ifs” that encircle his club, but is considering what he witnessed at last year’s end as something that may transfer over into his second year in the Bronx.
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“I think we can surprise people,” Castro told NJ Advance Media. “I think if we keep together and we stay out of the injuries, I think we may surprise people … like we did last year. We were sad after all the trades, but after that, we played really good.”
The Yankees had a pretty solid offseason to help Castro’s optimism become reality. Chapman has been added back into the bullpen mix along with a middle relief unit that should make this year’s ‘pen much deeper than “No-Runs DMC.” Matt Holliday, coming off a 20 home run season, is a compelling addition to a club full of youngsters and Greg Bird, who is off to a tremendous start in Grapefruit League play, is back after missing the 2016 season.
If Aaron Judge figures things out and avoids the sophomore slump, there’s no reason not to believe this Yankees’ team can’t compete in a competitive American League in 2017.
“I think we’ve got enough to make it [to the playoffs],” Castro also said. “We go every day to compete. We don’t take a day for granted.”
A lot has to go right, but if Gary Sanchez proved anything from his historic surge it’s that these Baby Bombers may be too inexperienced to know any better. If the rotation holds its own and the immense potential of the offense is showcased, there’s no reason to believe this Yankees’ squad can’t sneak into the playoffs — even if it’s a mere Wild Card game appearance.