The New York Yankees have had contributions from all over the roster but the development of the Baby Bombers has been vital to their success.
Twenty-seventeen was expected to be a year of rebuilding an empire.
But remember: these are the New York Yankees we’re talking about.
Like all teams, the Bronx has seen its fair share of ups and downs, from the first day of Spring, through the dog days of Summer, all the way through fall baseball. But in the end, the Yankees have already clinched a playoff berth with a week of games left to go, and their 87-69 record is the fourth-best in the American League.
And when it comes to the reasons behind their 2017 success, there are a number of contributing factors.
After setting a team home run record last season, the double play duo of Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro have picked up where they left. As the shortstop has set career high’s in batting average, home runs, RBI and runs scored, the second baseman battled through injuries to make his first All-Star game in pinstripes.
Brett Gardner has been Brett Gardner. Matt Holliday was a great source of power before a trip to the West Coast zapped his season. Chase Headley has been tremendous for all but one month, Jacoby Ellsbury took a benching in stride and turned his season around and Todd Frazier looks like a lifelong Yankee even though he’s been with the organization for just two months. Most importantly, each veteran has displayed tremendous leadership skills throughout the year.
CC Sabathia has been the Yankees version of a renaissance man. Masahiro Tanaka struggled mightily over the first half of the year but has regained form. Sonny Gray has fit in seamlessly. Like Frazier, David Robertson has only been (back) in New York for two months but looks like the pitcher who spent the first seven years of his career with the franchise.
Veterans will always play an important part during a playoff push.
But no matter the results, the season was always going to be about the development of the Baby Bombers.
And they’ve been equally as important for the Yankees — if not more.
Aaron Judge looked lost virtually every time he was in the batter’s box after his promotion in August of 2016. After competing for and winning the starting right field job during Spring Training, the 25-year-old went from a strikeout machine to one of the faces of the game.
Like every young player, Judge’s rookie season has come with its ebbs and flows. But in the end, the 6’7″, 282-pound farmhand has handled himself as the top representative of the franchise, both on and off the field. He’s currently slashing .283/.418/.620, has the all-time rookie home run record with an even 50 and isn’t only a shoe-in for the AL Rookie of the Year award but is also a top nominee for the league’s most valuable player honor.
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Similar to that of Judge, Luis Severino looked far from the player who was touted as the organization’s top pitching prospect. After months of projecting as a top of the rotation arm, his struggles in 2016 had many believing he was destined for the bullpen.
But again, like Judge, Severino’s current campaign makes him look like a cornerstone of the franchise for the next decade. He’s allowed just 146 hits and 50 walks in 187.1 innings pitched while striking out 221 batters, sporting an ERA of 3.03 and a batting average against of .209 over that same span. He’ll likely be on the outside looking in when the Cy Young winner is announced, but he will be in the running. Plus, it’s all but a certainty that he starts in the Wild Card game.
Gary Sanchez was a phenom at the tail end of last season and made fans forget the Yankees waived the white flag on their year during the trade deadline. But because he hit 20 home runs and 42 RBI in just 53 games, it was hard to envision the backstop living up to the lofty expectations that come with the territory in New York.
Instead, Sanchez stepped up to the plate — both literally and figuratively — and created a dynamic one-two punch with Judge that will scare opposing pitchers for the next decade. Despite missing a month of the season, he’s still belted 33 home runs to go along with 89 RBI with a batting average of .283 and an OPS of .880. Does his defensive game need some seasoning? Sure. But his bat is well beyond its years, as evidenced by having the most home runs by a catcher in a single season in franchise history.
And the excitement of youth doesn’t end with Judge, Severino and Sanchez.
Chad Green went from a fringe starter to an emerging superstar as a reliever. Finding new life in his fastball, the 26-year-old has averaged nearly 14 strikeouts per nine innings and has a WHIP of 0.74.
Not many knew who Jordan Montgomery was before Spring Training but the southpaw won the final job in the starting rotation. His calm and cool demeanor will help him during his time in the big city and he’s expected to be a member of the starting staff for the foreseeable future.
Even Ronald Torreyes, 25, has grown into one of the best utility infielders in baseball due to his preparation and attitude. Plus, he’s seen as an important figure in the clubhouse due to his light-hearted personality.
If you ask the Yankees, they were always expected to compete this season — but no one knew their young, homegrown stars would also be their most important players.