|Yankees Catcher Gary Sanchez|
This season the New York Yankees enter with high hopes for their young prospects. They have a bevy of young bats and are hoping that pitching will come with it. Fans are high on what this team can be, but whether the team will come together is another question.
There hasn’t been this much buzz around Spring Training since 1996, and I think all baseball fans know how that ended. But there are some major differences with that team and this current team. One of the main differences, is pitching.
|Yankees Pitcher Masahiro Tanaka|
Pitchers like Andy Pettitte, Dwight Gooden and David Cone anchored a strong rotation that helped lead them to a championship. Cone battled injuries, but was big in the postseason and in the clubhouse. This group of experienced and talented pitchers are a stark difference to what the Yankees currently have.
The current pitching staff of the Yankees consist of an ace that isn’t consistent (Masahiro Tanaka), a second starter that can be brilliant, but face suspension just as quick (Michael Pineda), an over-the-hill former star (CC Sabathia) and two other pitchers that are as likely to be back in the minors as they are to get a quality start (Luis Severino and Bryan Mitchell).
This isn’t to say that this staff can’t be decent, but unlike 1996 where Andy Pettitte won 21 games, this staff will be lucky to have a starter sniff 15 wins. The Yankees have a great bullpen, but unless the starters can consistently get to the 7th inning without giving up a bunch of runs, the Yankees will struggle to come across wins.
The pitching is just the first difference, next is hitting. The current Yankees lineup has a lot of potential, but that’s where it stops. Fans have been drooling all offseason over Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Greg Bird and how good they can be. But they haven’t proven anything just yet.
|Yankees 1st Baseman Greg Bird|
Sure, Sanchez had the monster end of the year last season, and Bird was a noble fill in for an injured Mark Teixeira two seasons ago, but neither have done it for a full season. This group will show signs of life this year, and it will get fans excited, but it won’t be consistent enough to be the team many envision.
The most overlooked part of the 1996 Yankees was the unbelievable depth they had of quality hitters. The starting lineup gets most of the spotlight, but the bench played a big role with quality fill-in starts and clutch hits in key moments.
Players like Jim Leyritz, Darryl Strawberry, Cecil Fielder, Charlie Hayes and Luis Sojo all were just as important to that championship as any of the starters.
Now am I telling fans not to be excited about the future of the Yankees or the direction that General Manager Brian Cashman is going with building this team? Not at all. They have one of the best, if not the best, farm systems in all of baseball. That alone is reason to be optimistic.
The current Yankee team will show flashes, it will have win streaks, but there will be losses, and plenty of them. Fans must be patient and temper their expectations while watching the games this season. The future is bright for this team, but they must address their starting pitching before fans can even begin to imagine being in contention for another championship.