The New York Yankees have plenty to be excited for when pitchers and catchers report in exactly two weeks.
Then again, it seems the Yankees are already in spring training mode. Several players, including captain Aaron Judge, are already working out in Tampa. One thing’s for sure, nobody wants a repeat of 2023. Going 82-80 again is not an option.
We’re also coming up on prediction season, when too many armchair managers at various outlets all play the same old carnival game. Look into the crystal ball of baseball stats and try to predict the future. Cue the 2022 Blue Jays seething again about the “movie” that never was.
Granted, playing this sort of coulda/woulda/shoulda game is part of the job, as you devoted readers are well aware. The offseason has slowed and the Yankees seem done making moves (for now).
There’s still a lot riding on this season and the Yankees are already locked in. Let’s predict some of what we can expect from the Bronx Bombers in 2024.
Giancarlo Stanton rebounds. No Yankee needs a bounce-back year more than the former National League MVP. Injuries had Stanton looking like a shell of himself the last two years, even as an All-Star in 2022. Stanton hit .202 over that stretch and appeared in just 211 games.
But now, thanks to a slimmer physique, voices within the organization seem confident Stanton can return to his powerful form. They should hope so, given the four years and $118 million left on his deal. That said, being in better shape and having extra protection in the lineup should mean Stanton having at least 20 homers by the All-Star Break.
And then gets traded at the deadline. Surprise! This one is definitely something of a reach, especially given Stanton’s close friendship with Judge. However, the Yankees traded for a year of Juan Soto and have a shot at re-signing him next offseason. That likely means moving some money off the books if general manager Brian Cashman is confident he can get his man.
Unfortunately, this leaves Stanton as something of an odd man out. Remember, switch-hitting star Jasson Dominguez should return from Tommy John surgery sometime this summer. If Stanton is even remotely effective, why not try and offload him for bullpen depth and cover a portion of remaining salary?
Otherwise, the Yankees risk paying way too much for, eventually, a platoon player.
Carlos Rodon is a Cy Young finalist. The $162 million man was equal parts Carl Pavano and AJ Burnett in his first New York season. The big lefty never got his legs under him due to a storm of injuries and posted an awful 6.85 ERA in just 14 starts. He’s since joined Judge early in Tampa and reportedly looks slimmer.
Rodon is a prime comeback candidate not only because of dropping some extra weight, but because there’s nothing wrong with his actual pitches. His Stuff+ on both his fastball and slider are respectively 113 and 124, well above the average baseline of 100. So long as Rodon stays healthy, improves his pitch selection, and keeps on top of his mechanics, he’ll be in line for a comeback year behind ace Gerrit Cole.
Juan Soto slugs 40. It’s impossible to not get excited about Juan Soto taking the field in pinstripes for the first time. The 25-year-old is entering his contract year under the best circumstances, too. His lefty power swing is ideal for Yankee Stadium, especially batting in front of Aaron Judge.
Speaking of Judge, Soto was surely paying attention to him in 2022, when the Yankee captain slugged 62 homers and earned an MVP trophy. This year will be no different for Soto. He knows he’s in line to make some serious money next winter. Soto already hit a career-high 35 home runs with San Diego last year, but only 12 in spacious Petco Park.
This doesn’t mean Juan Soto will enter Yankee Stadium and set more home run records. However, hitting a healthy 40 seems within reach on his road to free agency.
Will Warren debuts. The Yankees do a good job developing young pitchers and 24-year-old righty Will Warren, the team’s No. 8 prospect, is turning lots of heads. ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel listed Warren as No. 69 in his Top 100 Prospects for 2024. Warren split last year between Double and Triple-A and posted a 3.35 ERA in 27 games (25 starts), adding 149 strikeouts in 129 innings.
This matters because there are three certainties in life: Death, taxes, and the Yankees dealing with an injury in the starting rotation. Or, in 2024’s case, maybe shifting one of Clarke Schmidt or Nestor Cortes to the bullpen. If so, Warren could be an immediate impact arm in New York.
His fastball touches 97, but Warren’s best weapons are a crafty, spinny low-to-mid 80s slider and a two-seamer/sinker with mid-90s potential. Now add a curveball and changeup in his back pocket. Brian Cashman knows and loves college arms, so expect this former Southeastern Louisiana Lion to make an appearance or two in the Bronx soon.
The Yankees get back to the ALCS. I’m never one to make full-blown season predictions, so consider this me meeting halfway. Looking back at the last three years, the Yankees have had one good year borderline overachieving sandwiched between two in which they’ve woefully underachieved. That means a begrudging middle ground of a team that’s very good, but has to reach a little to be great.
These are the 2024 New York Yankees. They’ve improved the team immensely and head into the new season with less drama and fewer known unknowns. The lineup looks great on paper and new hitting coach James Rowson’s Swiss Army knife approach to players should be a welcome change over obsessions with launch angle.
There’s been improvement all around in New York, and very little in the rest of the AL East. This division is the Yankees’ to lose and they should absolutely get at least as far as the ALCS. Where they go from there, however, remains to be seen.
Oil the gloves, take some practice swings, and get John Fogerty ready, fans. In two weeks, we play ball.