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Friday, February 17, 2017

2017 FANTASY BASEBALL SPRING TRAINING REPORT: NEW YORK YANKEES

By Michael Wong

Tampa, Fla.--The 2017 New York Yankees are an interesting paradox in terms of the team fully embracing a rare youth movement not seen here in over 20 years, while also claiming they are very much a contender for the postseason.  What is not up for the debate is the massive farm system the Yanks have put together after unloading Ivan Nova, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman last summer.  That and some other issues are on the table as we look ahead to 2017 fantasy baseball:

1.  Speaking of the youth movement, can Aaron Judge and Greg Bird stop striking out enough to be worthy of usage?  That is the ultimate question when it comes to both as Judge and Bird are free swingers who can hit the baseball a mile when they make contact.  The challenge seems to be even bigger for Bird who has to come back from missing all of 2016 with injury.  Judge meanwhile put up a ridiculous 44.2 K/9 rate last season and the .179 average was hideous.  Meanwhile Bird opened eyes by cracking 11 home runs in just 178 at-bats in 2015 but he too whiffed a ton (29.8 K/9).  The arrival of Chris Carter complicates things for Bird as well and so both these guys can't be counted on as anything but late round fliers.

2.  Can Masahiro Tanaka make it through yet another season with a UCL tear in his elbow?  It is amazing that Tanaka still has not succumbed to Tommy John surgery as he has now pitched with the partial tear in his elbow for two-plus seasons.  In fact Tanaka is excelling despite the injury as he put forth a 3.07 ERA and won 14 games in 2016.  Still underneath the surface you can see how the UCL is hurting Tanaka as his K/9 rate has gone from 9.31 as a rookie in 2014 all the way down to last year's mediocre 7.44.  Throw in the AL East challenges and Tanaka should be drafted as your SP 3 and nothing more given the risk.  Considering his ADP is currently that of an SP 2, you are encouraged to take a pass here.

3.  The back end of the Yankee rotation looks quite scary huh?  The Yanks are having an open competition for TWO rotation spots as they look at Chad Green, Luis Severino, Adam Warren, and others.  Severino is the one that stands out of course as it was only 2015 when he came up and opened eyes to the tune of a 2.89 ERA and 8.09 K/9 rate as a rookie.  Amid heightened expectations, Severino was a disaster in the Yankee rotation last year as he began 0-6 with an ERA north of 7.00 and was sent to the minors twice.  Severino did excel in the bullpen but the Yanks want him to try and start again in 2017.  Ultimately Severino needs to develop better secondary stuff as he can't rely on his heater as a starter.  The lack of a third pitch in particular make it a strong possibility Severino will end up in the bullpen again.  Don't chase him this time around.

4.  Just how much of a disaster is Jacoby Ellsbury now?  An epic one for sure as GM Brian Cashman no doubt stays up at night wondering what in his right mind possessed him to dole out a seven-year deal to the oft-injured and quickly fading outfielder.  With four more years still to go on his deal, Ellsbury will be put out there as the team's leadoff guy again but the fantasy baseball outlook has sank drastically to OF 3 status.  Now a very old 33, Ellsbury hit just .263 last season and stole just 20 bases.  Ellsbury needs to post a good average and at least 30 steals to be a decent weapon in our fake game but don't hold your breath there.  Avoid him at all costs this season.

5.  What are the chances Gary Sanchez goes down as grossly overdrafted this spring?  There is at least a solid chance of that happening as Sanchez is the latest "IT" player that everyone wants which causes his draft price to soar past where it should.  Listen there is no denying the fact that Sanchez was the epitome of a hitting monster when he was called up last season; hitting 20 home runs in just 229 at-bats.  As incredible as that performance was, Sanchez still stuck out in a very high 24.9 percent of his at-bats and September was very ugly as he batted just .225 for the month as opposing pitchers began to get a book on his strengths.  We have been on record saying that Sanchez is quite overrated this season and a .265 average is very possible to go with the 20-30 home runs power.  Those are terrific numbers but maybe not worth a third round pick.


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