Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Finally, Opening Day has arrived, and with it comes five bold predictions for the New York Yankees in 2018.

Spring Training is finally over and the first pitch for the New York Yankees season opener is so close that you can almost taste it.

Finally, you can put to bed all the miscues and missed opportunities of last year and replace them with visions of October glory as so many around the game have conjured up for this new and dangerous version of the Bronx Bombers.

When you have a batting order that includes last year’s National League MVP and the American League’s Rookie of the Year; a Luis Severino-headed quality starting rotation to go along with potentially the best bullpen in baseball, anything less than a trip to the Fall Classic would deem this season an unsuccessful one.

Similarly, while it might seem an insurmountable task to come up with “bold” predictions for the team that is expected to come out on top, we here at Elite Sports NY have you covered. Here are five bold predictions for your debating pleasure.

Gray Skies Will Be Blue

1. Sonny Gray Will Have the Best Season of His Career


When Brian Cashman finally pulled the trigger on the deal that saw New York send off three prospects for Sonny Gray last July, I thought that the Yankees had all but punched their ticket to the Fall Classic. While that wasn’t the case, an offseason full of work with both pitching coach Larry Rothschild and backstop Gary Sanchez will prove to be invaluable this season for Gray.

Having spent his entire career in offensively-challenged Oakland, Gray’s best season was back in 2015, his age-25 season. The Vanderbilt product tossed 208 innings to the tune of a 14-7 record, with a 2.73 ERA, a 1.08 WHIP and 169 strikeouts. Even with the decline of the “win” statistic in the eyes of baseball statisticians everywhere, the guy has never won more than 14 games in a single season.

The position of catcher was seemingly a revolving door in Oakland from year to year. so, it has to be a major comfort factor for Gray now that he will be pitching to the same guy for the next two years guaranteed. Additionally, Rothschild helped shape Yankees ace Luis Severino into the Cy Young candidate he is today. There is no reason that the pitching guru couldn’t help Gray hone in his talent and take him back to the top of the rotation kind of guy that the righty once was.

And it’s going to happen this year–Gray will get that elusive 15th win, and that 2.86 K:BB ratio will certainly improve as Sonny puts together the season of his life.

New York Yankees

Holy Homers

2. Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez will combine for 150 home runs.

Last year the three sluggers combined for 144 long balls, albeit for different ball clubs. That number, 144, was 16 more than the San Fransisco Giants’ team total of 128 and just seven shy of matching the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 151.

The league average a season ago for home runs by a team was 204, a mark the Yankees bested by 37 without Stanton.

This season those three will be in the same lineup, creating a Murderer’s Row that we haven’t seen… maybe ever.

The transition to the Bronx for Stanton will be a smooth one, Judge is going to do his thing and Sanchez, well, you’ll just have to keep reading to see how big of a 2018 season he is going to have. Regardless, this never-seen-before three-headed monster will combine to bash at least 150 long balls this season. Stick that on your tee and smoke it.

Never Say Never, Except Now

3. Aaron Judge won’t match his 2017 production

To understand just how historic and impressive Aaron Judge’s 2017 campaign was, all you have to do is look at the numbers.

The 6-foot-7 superhero blasted 52 home runs, knocked in 114 runs, scored 128 runs while sporting a ridiculous slash line of .284/ .422/.627. Not to mention, Judge walked 127 times and walked back to the dugout 208 times after striking out.

Asking him to replicate those numbers in 2017 simply isn’t realistic.

He could certainly hit more than 52 home runs—I think he actually has a shot at Roger Maris’ team-record 61. Driving in 114-plus runs might be tough hitting second in the order, but scoring 128 times is a possibility with Stanton and Sanchez behind him.

While he might equal or best one or two of those numbers, he’s not going to meet them all—especially while sporting a .422 on-base percentage.

Judge is a once-in-a-lifetime talent and last season was one that we may never see in our lifetime again. Here’s to hoping the big guy proves me dead wrong.

A Knight in the Mid-Summer Classic?

4. Didi Gregorius will make the 2018 All-Star Game.

With guys like Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Corey Seager and Trea Turner, there is almost an embarrassment of riches at the shortstop position in Major League Baseball today. When you throw in names like Xander Bogaerts, Jean Segura and add the fact that Manny Machado has made a position switch from third back to shortstop, an All-Star selection for a guy like Sir Didi may seem like nothing more than a pipe dream.

Last year, the AL representatives at short were Carlos Correa and Fransisco Lindor. It was Lindor and Xander Bogaerts in 2016 and Alcides Escobar and Jose Iglesias in 2015. The fact still remains that the AL has only trotted out two shortstops in each of the last three All-Star Games. But Sir Didi is absolutely ready to take the next step forward and assert himself into the top 10 at the position, even if MLB Network’s The Shredder failed to include him in their latest edition of “Top 10 Right Now”.

Gregorius hit a combined 22 home runs from 2013-15. In his last two seasons in the Bronx, he’s hit 45. The newfound power and ability to lift the ball in the air when pulling it has allowed him to become one of the best shortstops in the game.

Not only can a knight successfully take over for a legend at shortstop as Gregorius did, but he can also make an All-Star team when everyone else is counting him out. It’s what Sir Didi’s best at—silencing the naysayers.

MLB

El Gary, El Mejor 

5. Gary Sanchez will be the 2018 AL MVP

Over the past 42 years, a catcher has won the Most Valuable Player Award just four times: Thurman Munson in ’76, Pudge Rodriguez in ’99, Joe Mauer in ’09 and Buster Posey in 2011. It’s almost been a full decade since a catcher has won the award in the American League, so we’re due for another one anytime now.

El Gary is going to be that guy.

Sanchez raked last year, sporting a .298/.345/.541 line with 33 home runs and 90 RBI. His 33 dingers set an all-time record for the New York Yankees and tied him with Carlton Fisk for third place on the all-time home run list for catchers in the history of the American League. And Sanchez did all of this while missing over a month due to injury.

Can you imagine if he would’ve stayed healthy? He would have definitely bested Pudge Rodriguez’s 1999 mark of 35 homers (tops in AL history) and more than likely would’ve crushed Javy Lopez’s all-time mark of 42 (2003).

Sanchez came into camp noticeably more fit, noting that he spent the offseason working out to become a better defender behind the dish.

Not only will Sanchez improve upon the 13 errors he made on the defensive side of the ball last year, but I believe he is the guy most hurlers will forget about after having to face the bash brothers of Stanton and Judge. Additionally, he has been hitting behind the two of them all spring and has thrived in his new batting role.

Sanchez will become the single-season all-time home run leader for catchers this season when he belts 45 bombs, drives in 130 runs and leads his pitching staff to the best team ERA in baseball. All of these improvements and accolades will lead to Sanchez being the fifth catcher in the last half-century to win the MVP Award.

Let the debating begin.

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