A Game 4 loss to the Boston Red Sox sent the New York Yankees home on Tuesday as they now look forward to a promising 2019 campaign.
The 2018 Yankees season was a disappointment.
As I depicted a couple weeks ago if the Bombers had not gotten to the American League Championship Series than this season would be a bust. Remaining firm in my stance, the 2018 Yankees were far from a success regardless of getting to the postseason for two consecutive years.
Yes, they did win a 100 games. Yes, they did break the record for the most home runs in a season (267). But, what they didn’t do is hit when it mattered most.
The Yankees 2018 kryptonite: runners in scoring position.
It is the main reason why they are where they are now. The 2018 season wasn’t a so-called failure but as mentioned, it was far from a success.
Now, they must look towards what should be an eventful 2018 offseason and a potentially promising 2019 regular season.
Therefore, let’s begin. Here are the five things that the Yankees can look forward to heading into 2019:
A clean bill of health and a full season of Aaron Judge
If there was a white knight for this Yankees’ bunch it could only be the honorable Judge, Aaron Judge.
Upon breaking his right wrist, Judge was getting to the numbers he posted just a season ago. Hitting .285 with a .947 OPS and 26 homers and 61 RBI, Aaron Judge was a man, once again, on a mission. On July 26 that all changed. Jakob Junis of the KC Royals threw a rising fastball, up and in, that directly hit Judge’s right wrist on leaving the slugger with a chip fracture.
Initially expected to be out for three weeks, Judge’s timeline became almost two months and he did not return to the field until Sept. 14.
But, once he got back, it did not take long for him to get back in the swing of things (no pun intended). He used the half month of September to get his timing and swing back to where it was. By the time the short-lived postseason came around, Judge was ready.
In the playoffs, Judge went 8-for-19 (.421) with three home runs and had an OBP of .500 with a 1.447 OPS.
For those questioning his wrist, I think it’s safe to say you can rest those concerns.
With 2019 months away, it will give Judge that much more time to rest it and get any necessary treatment he might not have gotten if he continued through a long 2019 October run. But ask Mr. Judge, and I’m sure he rather have a sore wrist at the end of October with a trophy hoisted in his other hand.
That pipe dream will need to remain on ice. For the Judge, the 2019 season can be another MVP caliber campaign after watching his shortened postseason this year.
A full year of a healthy Aaron Judge? As always, where should I sign up?
The growth of Miguel Andujar
Let’s be honest, Miguel Andujar arguably had one of the best rookie seasons in the history of the New York Yankees.
Of all Major League rookies, Miguel was third in batting average behind Jesse Winker of Cincinnati and Joey Wendle of the Tampa Bay Rays at a .297 clip. His 92 RBI led all rookies and his 27 homers were tied for the league lead. His .527 slugging was second to only Ronald Acuna Jr. of the Atlanta Braves.
The real separating factor was his doubles and overall extra-base hits. The 47 doubles he hit was third amongst all Major Leaguers. Not rookies; all Major Leaguers. He finished with 76 total extra-base hits.
Andujar had a memorable rookie campaign. His numbers likely will warrant the Rookie of the Year award for the American League with no questions asked. Dually noted, Shohei Ohtani’s magical dual-threat of a season was superb but, Miguel Andujar played in 149 games compared to Ohtani’s 104.
With all that said, there is one thing Miguel Andujar desperately needs to improve heading into 2019 and that is his defense. As of now, Aaron Boone has shown you he was not afraid to sit Miggy in situations that begged for sound, fundamental hot corner defense. The good news is that he is only a rookie so he has a ton of space to grow.
The bad news is this team is in a win-now mode heading into 2019. The Yankees front office is likely to give Andujar the benefit of the doubt, but with Manny Machado lurking in free agency, it makes for some interesting decisions heading into next year. Will they move Andujar to first base? Will they make him a full-time DH? Will they give him the shot to begin the year with a short leash?
Or will they splurge and sign Manny Machado?
One thing remains certain, and that is if Miguel Andujar wants a consistent starting role on this team, his defense needs to vastly improve.
Even though this really is a 2018/2019 time period, it is something that has been on the Yankees and the fans’ radar for a very long time. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, the class of the 2019 free agent class.
Aforementioned, the possibility of landing Manny Machado can be determined by several factors. One being the offseason growth of Miggy, but with the winter meetings starting way before any sort of Spring Training, the likeliness of Andujar winning any spot from now until December is unrealistic.
The other factor is the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are in the midst of a postseason run as they begin the NLCS starting today. If they go on to win a World Series, the Machado signing becomes more difficult.
Bryce Harper is the other hot commodity. For the Yankees, however, it would seem to be a forced marriage of disparity. Plus the assumed price to land him is not worth the Yankees effort.
There are a bunch of other talented position players and pitchers that would soundly round out this Yankees’ roster:
- Daniel Murphy (INF)
- Patrick Corbin (P)
- Dallas Keuchel (P)
- DJ LeMahieu (2B)
- J.A. Happ (P)
- Charlie Morton (P)
Figure the Yankees will be looking into the pitching market heavily this offseason. As it stands, Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka are the only sure-fire bets in the starting rotation with CC Sabathia, J.A. Happ, and Lance Lynn all set to be free agents.
Is Luke Voit a diamond in the rough?
Simply put, this Yankees’ team may have been playing visitor to the Oakland A’s in the recent Wild Card game if it weren’t for Luke Voit.
Voit came over from the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for the fan favorite [sarcasm] Chasen Shreve in the midst of the July trade season. In essence, his job was primarily to replace the type of player Tyler Austin was, a right-handed power-hitting first baseman that was a platoon role player, and one would be expected to go up and down from Triple-A to the Show.
Well, no one told Luke Voit that. Slowly but surely he made an impact on this Yankees team that no one will soon forget. He made the highly-touted Greg Bird an afterthought within the two months he was with the ball club.
But now a new full, fresh season is next on the agenda. The question is, can Voit be an impactful player in a full 2019 season?
He is 27 years old, so right away that’s a benefit. While with New York, he hit an astounding .333 with a 1.095 OPS to go along with his 14 homers and 33 RBI.
During the most important stretch of a season, Voit showed how valuable he was. For a player with his lack of experience and age, it says a lot on how he was able to perform when it really mattered most for the Yanks.
The only two things standing in his way are the possible opportunity the Yankees may still give to Greg Bird and the looming free agent class. Realistically if the Yankees don’t go out and get a high-priced corner infielder, then it is likely you see Bird, Voit, and potentially Andujar duke it out in Spring Training to see who wins the first base starting job.
For Luke Voit, it is going to be about maintaining consistency because as previously detailed, the 2019 New York Yankees are in a win-now mode.
After a sparkling Triple-A campaign by starter Justus Sheffield this season, the Yankees’ number one prospect is expected to be a big part of the 2019 plans.
The starting rotation as it stands is bleak. Just two starters from this 2018 team remain a guaranteed lock to be back next season. With those two being Sevy and Tanaka, the coaching staff has three spots to fill.
The Yankees figure to be active in the pitching market. The issue remains, how much viable talent is worth spending money on. Patrick Corbin you can bet will be number one on the Bombers radar, followed by former Yankee killer Dallas Keuchel.
Other names such as Charlie Morton and a re-sign of J.A. Happ will be on the mind of management as well, but they can easily have one spot filled with an in-house option.
Sheffield pitched to a 6-4 record and 2.56 ERA in Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre this season seems to be almost “ready” for his first Major League start. In 88 innings he accumulated 84 strikeouts and surrendered just three home runs.
His downside remains the location of his pitches. He currently relies on a 4-seam fastball, slider, and change-up repertoire. The southpaw is just 22 years old so an innings cap is likely to be put on him in his first season if he is on the roster by Opening Day.
Regardless, Sheffield seems to be ready and deserves his first show as a Major Leaguer. He had a taste of it already this past September when he appeared three times in relief situations.
The plan is to have him as a long reliable starter, and one that is a two or three-man in the rotation.
With 2019 several months away, patience is key. The Yankees and their faithful will have to wait for these things to take shape as the offseason kicks up after October ends.
The 2018 season was not a failure but it was not a success. It was a step back from 2017 and one that will leave Brian Cashman and Aaron Boone scratching their heads. Coming one win away from a World Series makes you believe when adding a hitter like Giancarlo Stanton it would propel you to that next step.
For the 2018 Yankees, it didn’t.
And now 2019 is all one can look forward to.